When we hear about pollution, we typically think about the spaces outside our homes. But, studies have shown that many homes have levels of pollution that are worse than outdoors. In fact, the EPA has stated that the levels of indoor pollutants might be 2-5 times higher than the pollution levels outside your home. Some of the leading sources of this pollution are common household products that most of us use all the time! These pollutants can affect us in a number of ways, and these include a degradation in your IAQ. Let’s take a look at five household products that affect your IAQ and how you deal with this problem.
- Household Cleaning Products
Many common household cleaning products have scented ingredients to make them more marketable. On the packaging, you may notice terms such as “pine fresh” or “tropical scent,” but these ingredients can degrade your IAQ. Over time they can release airborne particulates that are toxic and harmful to your health. Many of these “cleaning products” are designed to mask obnoxious odors, and they don’t provide much cleaning power for your home. As an alternative, you can research how to make your own cleaning products using store cupboard ingredients such as water, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and regular baking soda, You may be surprised at the effectiveness of homemade cleaning products, and they are cheaper too.
- Paint Products
Everyone enjoys a fresh coat of paint to spruce up a tired old space, but they can release toxic chemicals. Paint can emit Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) gases in your home and where you store your old paint cans. Of course, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t use paint when decorating, but there are smarter ways to use paint. Always look for paint products that contain lower levels of VOC and don’t leave old paint lying around. Keep a small pot for touch up jobs, but larger quantities of paint should be disposed of in a responsible manner.
- Air Fresheners
A single air freshener product can contain dozens or even hundreds of different chemicals. The chemicals used can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people that often notice these types of problems before the rest of us. Some typical responses to air freshener use, include headaches, asthma attacks, coughs, sneezing, and difficulty breathing. An air freshener is typically used to mask underlying odors, which can often be removed with better cleaning techniques and more regular cleaning. If you do enjoy different odors in your home, look for a cleaner and greener alternative or consider making your own scents using natural oils. There are many ways to impart a new scent throughout your home without resorting to chemically charged air freshener products.
- Aerosol Sprays
Many aerosol spray products, including hairspray, cleaners, and fresheners, can have a negative effect on your IAQ. Using aerosol sprays releases toxic gasses that add to indoor and outdoor pollution when they are eventually released from your home. Making the switch to a less harmful alternative product has become much easier in recent years. There are now many companies that have greener products that are good for your home and the wider environment.
- Scented Candles
Let’s face it; there is something magical about a candle flame, and candles can impart a warm ambiance that is hard to replicate. But, scented candles can release alarming quantities of formaldehyde into your home that can seriously affect your health. If you want a scent to spread through your home, consider using a dedicated oil burner and some high quality essential oils. If you want that candle light, don’t use scented candles, use a soy or beeswax based candle instead.
5 Ways to Improve Your IAQ
There are many ways to improve your IAQ. Here are five of the most popular and effective options.
- Bring Some Nature Indoors
Plants naturally release oxygen that boosts the IAQ, and many provide a natural scent for your home. Some of the best options include an Aloe plant, a rubber tree, English ivy, bamboo palms, and the snake plant (which release oxygen at night). If you want a natural scent in the bathroom, consider a lemon grass plant that you can gently brush to release a zesty fresh odor.
- Keep the Floors Clean
Regular vacuuming, mopping, and brushing will help you to control the spread of dust throughout your home, If you place doormats at each entrance, you can trap a lot of outdoor dirt and dust there, and regular washing will keep them clean and ready for use.
- Crack the Windows Every Day
Many homes don’t have great breathing characteristics because they are designed to insulate your home. This is great when you want to save energy, but it’s terrible for your IAQ. When your windows stay shut, the same air is constantly circulated throughout your home, and over time, it becomes stale and unhealthy. Try to crack open the windows for 10-15 minutes each day, even if the weather is cold outside. A daily influx of fresher air will have a dramatic effect on your IAQ.
- Change or Clean Air Filters Every Month
The primary purpose of a standard air filter is to prevent particulates from entering your HVAC system and damaging sensitive components. But, if you invest in an air filter with a higher SEER rating, it can trap some harmful contaminants. As the air filter traps these particulates, they will accumulate and clog the filter. This can lead to a number of problems such as overworked heating and cooling equipment and, eventually, system failure. If you have disposable air filter change them at least once per month, and if you have a filter that can be cleaned, wash it thoroughly. If you have pets in your home, you may want to change your air filter more frequently.
- Invest in Air Purification Technology
There are a number of air purification systems, such as mechanical air filters, electronic air cleaners, and UV light systems, designed to purify indoor air. Each system has its pros and cons, and it’s a good idea to talk to your local certified HVAC specialist before making a final decision. They can help you to choose the best air cleaning system to meet your needs and improve your IAQ.