air-quality

How to improve the air quality in your home

Find out essential tips on how to improve air quality in your home. Learn about ventilation, air purifiers, and testing for a healthier home.

Catherine Collins
January 2, 2024
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These days, we tend to spend a lot of our time indoors. Unfortunately, the air in our homes can contain various pollutants, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), harmful gases, and even things like toxic mold. That’s why it’s important to learn how to improve air quality at home. Here are several practical strategies you can use to do just that and hopefully help prevent future health problems.

Pollutants that may be harming your air quality

The following is a list of common indoor air pollutants and the dangers they pose:

  • Particulate matter: This is the most common pollutant and Includes dust, pollen, and pet fur. While these tiny particles seem harmless, they can be harmful to people with respiratory conditions. Regularly dusting and cleaning, plus increasing your airflow around the house can help reduce particulate matter in the air.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Not many people realize that some household cleaners and paint contain VOCs, which can be detrimental to your health. If you have products that contain these, use them only while wearing a mask and with good ventilation.
  • Allergens and mold: Mold grows in damp environments, like in your bathroom. It can also pop up if you have an unexpected leak in your home. Meanwhile, allergens come from the outdoors. It’s a good idea to take your shoes off when you come inside and use air purifiers if you suffer from environmental allergies. Otherwise, allergens and mold spores could cause allergic reactions and serious health issues.
  • Harmful gases like radon and carbon monoxide: If you’ve never checked your house for radon, consider it. Radon is a natural radioactive gas that poses lung cancer risks. Carbon monoxide is a more commonly known risk. If you’ve been meaning to install carbon monoxide detectors, it’s imperative to do so as soon as possible.
  • Wildfire smoke: One emerging concern is that wildfire smoke contains harmful gases and particles. If you live in an area with frequent wildfires, sealing your home and using air filters during smoke events can help.

7 ways to improve air quality in your home

Here are seven other ways to improve the air quality in your home.

1. Ventilate your home

Ventilation is the process of removing indoor air and replacing it with fresh, outside air. This can reduce the pollutants inside your home and improve humidity. Here are some of the best ways of improving ventilation in your home.

  • Open windows and doors: Opening windows and doors, even for a few minutes, promotes airflow and helps bring outdoor air in. Obviously, this isn’t a good idea when there’s high pollution outside, or you’re in a heavy pollen season.
  • Use exhaust fans: You probably have exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. Be sure to turn them on after a shower or after cooking to help prevent mold growth and reduce particulate matter in the air.
  • Installing mechanical ventilation systems: If someone in your home has health issues, you can also install mechanical ventilation systems, which is a costlier option. Options like Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs) and Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) provide consistent, controlled ventilation in homes with tight seals and can help your home be more energy efficient.

2. Invest in air purifiers and filters

One of the best ways to improve the air in your home is also one of the simplest. Use an air cleaner such as an air purifier or air filter. These machines are perfect for filtering out all the pollutants from your indoor air spaces. They are especially helpful for those with allergies or respiratory issues.

Types and functions of air purifiers

  • HEPA filters: These are highly effective in trapping airborne particles, HEPA filters capture 99.97% of tiny particles, including dust, pollen, and mold spores. Note, however, that they don't neutralize gases or odors.
  • Activated carbon filters: Carbon filters are great for adsorbing odors and gases, like VOCs and smoke, but ACFs are less effective for particulate matter.
  • UV-C purifiers: These target airborne germs, including mold and viruses, but are less effective against other pollutants like dust.

Look for a good MERV rating to help you decide on what air filter is best for you.

Filtering wildfire smoke

If you live in an area prone to wildfires, it’s especially important to have proper filters in your home. The gold standard is HEPA filters because they are effective at filtering smoke particles. To get the best results, be sure to match the purifier size to your room size and regularly replace your filters.

air-quality-home

3. Limit and control humidity

Why proper humidity is essential

If your house has too much moisture in it, that can lead to mold and attract pests. Conversely, if your home is too dry, it could aggravate respiratory issues and cause skin irritation.

Tips to manage humidity

  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas: In moist areas like basements, dehumidifiers help reduce the air's moisture and prevent mold growth.
  • Use humidifiers in dry conditions: In dry climates or during winter, humidifiers add necessary moisture, aiding skin hydration and making breathing easier.
  • Watch for moisture to prevent mold: Fix leaks quickly in moisture-prone areas to keep your home dry and mold-free.

4. Leverage houseplants 

Using houseplants is a practical, natural way to improve indoor air quality.  Here are some of the best plants for better air quality, known for their air-purifying capabilities.

  • Areca palm
  • Lady palm
  • Bamboo palm
  • Rubber plant
  • Dracaena
  • Egnlish ivy
  • Dwarf date palm
  • Ficus
  • Boston fern
  • Peace lily
  • English ivy

Of course, plants can also enhance your home’s aesthetic and sense of tranquility—a win-win.

5. Minimize indoor pollution sources

In addition to purifying the air, you can improve bad indoor air quality by removing the sources of pollution. Here are some of the most effective strategies:

Choosing low-VOC or VOC-free household products

  • Paints: Opt for paints labeled as ‘low VOC,’ ‘No VOC,’ or ‘Zero VOC.’ These paints contain fewer volatile organic compounds and contribute less to indoor pollution​​.
  • Cleaning Products: Select cleaning products marked 'low' or 'no VOCs'. These contribute less to indoor air pollution in general. You may want to replace detergents, air fresheners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, carpet cleaners, and varnishes, as these tend to be the worst culprits.

Proper storage and disposal of chemicals and paints

  • Storage: Store all chemicals in well-ventilated areas, like your garage. Keep them tightly sealed away from direct sunlight and heat sources. This prevents gas leaks and reduces indoor air pollution​​​​.
  • Labeling: Label all containers with the chemical name and hazard information. This will not only help you understand the dangers inherent to each one but should also reduce your risk of accidental exposure.
  • Ventilation: Always ensure proper ventilation when handling chemicals indoors - you can do this by opening windows or using fans.
  • Disposal: Dispose of unused or expired chemicals properly at a hazardous waste disposal facility. Avoid pouring them down the drain or throwing them in the trash.

Regular cleaning and vacuuming

  • Dust and pet dander: Regularly clean and vacuum your home, especially if you have pets. This reduces the accumulation of dust and pet dander, common sources of indoor pollutants.

Reducing indoor smoking

  • Smoke from tobacco and vapes: Avoid smoking indoors. Over time, the harmful pollutants will stick to the walls and ceiling, causing yellowing.

6. Practice regular home maintenance

Regular home cleaning is crucial for maintaining good air quality. Here are some cleaning tasks to include that might not be obvious.

  • Change HVAC filters: Perhaps the most important cleaning task for maintaining good air quality is changing HVAC filters. You should regularly replace the filters in your HVAC system. Dirty filters circulate pollutants and allergens throughout your home.
  • Clean air ducts: Dust and debris can accumulate in air ducts, affecting air quality. Cleaning them periodically improves airflow and reduces potential contaminants.
  • Inspect for leaks or mold: Check your home often for water leaks and signs of mold. Moisture control is essential for preventing mold growth, one of the most dangerous air pollutants.

Staying on top of these regular maintenance tasks should greatly help with air quality.

7. Test your air quality routinely 

After doing all the above, don’t forget to test your air quality regularly. Here’s how to test the air quality in your home.

  • Use mold tests to identify mold spores in the air.
  • Use VOC and chemical test kits to detect harmful emissions from household products in the air.
  • Use radon test kits to check for this toxic gas in your home.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors for early carbon monoxide warning. 

Final thoughts

It’s important to have good air quality in your home, especially if you or someone in your family has allergies or respiratory issues. Use the tips above to learn how to improve air quality in your home naturally by improving ventilation, using air purifiers and filters, managing humidity, adding air-cleaning houseplants, reducing sources of indoor pollution, keeping up with home maintenance, and regularly testing air quality. These actions should help create a healthier living environment in your home.

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