People spend a fortune trying to “improve” the air quality in their homes. They buy fabric sprays, air fresheners, candles, special vacuum cleaners, and expensive purification machines. Unfortunately, most of the candles, plug-ins, and sprays just make things worse. They don’t eliminate odors; they simply mask them. As for the expensive machines, many don’t work and those that do are usually only required for people with allergies so severe that the slightest bit of allergen can make them sick.
For the rest of us, there are plenty of free and low cost things we can do to improve the air in our homes. Here are twelve ideas to get you started.
Open The Windows
This is the simplest way to improve the air in your home. When a house is shut up, odors and allergens accumulate. You need to allow fresh air to circulate. Sure, the outside air isn’t pure, but studies have shown that most outside air is cleaner than the air inside most homes. Everything in your home from furniture to drapes to carpet gives off gasses that contaminate your air. The only way to get rid of them is to let fresh air circulate. It’s especially important to bring in fresh air if you buy new furniture, carpet, or drapes, or paint or wallpaper your home.
Turn On A Fan
If cooking and bathroom odors are a problem, turn on the fan over the stove or in the bathroom rather than spraying air fresheners. The fan will suck the smells out.
Change/Clean Air Filters
Your air filters are great at trapping dust and allergens as they blow through the house. When they get full, though, their effectiveness is reduced or eliminated because they’re clogged up and can’t trap anything else. Change them regularly or buy the washable kind and wash them out regularly. If you do something to your home like add new carpet or do some construction, change them more often because there are more particles in the air than normal.
A simple clean up can do wonders for your air quality. Dust is in the air and it settles on furniture and in the carpets. Thoroughly clean your house, and don’t forget the baseboards, blinds, and under/behind furniture. Empty your vacuum or change the bag frequently to keep maximum suction and prevent “blowback” from a full bag/canister.
Clutter attracts dust, mold, and mildew. The less junk you have piled around, the fewer problems you’ll have. Sell, toss, or donate the stuff you no longer use and reduce as much clutter as possible.
Shoes track in all kinds of pollutants including dust, dirt, animal fecal matter, fertilizers, and pesticides. Leave your shoes in the garage, on the porch, or in a designated area by the door. Wear slippers or “house only” shoes inside (and remember to never wear them outside).
If you smoke, do it outside. If you have guests who smoke, insist that they take it outside.
Skip Artificial Fragrances
Air freshener sprays, plug-ins, and candles actually hurt more than they help. Most release known toxins and carcinogens into the air, even though those chemicals are not required to be listed on the product label. If you need fragrance in your home, place some sliced lemon on a plate in the kitchen, or place freshly cut pine branches in a vase.
Skip Commercial Cleansers
The scents from those commercial cleansers and detergents are really just chemicals. While you may think the smell means you have a clean home, what it really means is that you’ve released a lot of chemicals into the air. Switch to homemade cleansers which use staples like baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils.
Get Some Plants
Plants act as natural air purifiers by helping to remove toxins from the air. If you have kids or pets, get non-toxic varieties. A good nursery should be able to help you choose.
Clean Your Pet’s Bedding
If you have pets, wash and vacuum their bedding regularly, as well as the areas where they spend time. This will keep odors, dander, and fur problems to a minimum.
Deal With Moisture Immediately
Moisture leads to mold, so if you have any leaks, burst pipes, or rain damage, deal with it immediately. Run a fan or open the window in the bathroom when showering to keep mildew and moisture in there to a minimum. If you need to hire a professional service to clean up major damage, do so because if you let it go your house may become uninhabitable.
Improving the air quality in your home shouldn’t mean buying lots of expensive fragrances and gadgets. Simply opening a window and changing how and how often you clean will make a huge difference.
(Photo courtesy of Orin Zebest)