If you’ve ever walked into your home after a week’s vacation and been hit by a wall of unpleasant odor, you might just have an indoor air quality problem. Lots of factors can contribute to it: cooking odors, pets, excess moisture levels, smoke, lack of ventilation, and contaminants like mold, mildew and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Stale, stinky air is a dead giveaway that something in your home isn’t right. Most people will reach for a candle or air freshener to mask the odor, and hope for the best. But just because you can’t smell the problem doesn’t mean it’s not still there.
We say…get rid of the odor at its source! Don’t settle for air that’s simply scented with fragrances — get your air into tip-top shape where it’s clean, crisp and the first thing people notice when they walk in. And yes — there are ways to accomplish this that don’t require harsh chemicals or repeated visits from cleaning services. Here are our favorite ways to makeover your indoor air!
Open those windows!
Unless the weather or pollen count doesn’t permit, opening a window is a great way to increase air circulation in your home. Granted — it gives outdoor pollutants a chance to enter your home, but indoor air is actually 2 to 100 times more polluted than what’s floating around outdoors, anyway, so intermittently opening the windows can do you — and your home’s air — some good. Modern homes are built to be more air-tight — which is great for reducing leaks and drafts, but it also means that all of the undesirable things in your home tend to stay there, since there’s no way for them to cycle out. An open window gives them a chance to do just that.
Vacuum the right way, with the right machine
Yep — there’s a right and wrong way to vacuum, especially when you’re talking about bettering your indoor air quality. Think about it: you’re removing particles, dust, insect parts, food particle and other undesirables from your home environment. This naturally helps things smell and look cleaner, so it’s best to take your time. The slower you vacuum (and the more passes you make over each area) the more likely you are to remove those contaminants. And make sure you’re using a vacuum with a sealed HEPA filter. This ensures that what you’re removing from your floors and carpeting doesn’t blow back out through cracks or spaces in your machine. Once it’s sucked up, it’s out of your house for good!
Those bathroom fans aren’t just for ambient noise
No — they actually serve a purpose! They’re designed to suck the moisture out of bathrooms, most of which are located in interior rooms of a home. If that’s the case, and there’s no window to throw open to circulate the air, condensation forms on the walls, floor and ceiling and can lead to mold and mildew. Mold means your house can smell musty, and if anyone has an allergy to mold or mildew (and it’s a common irritant) that’ll affect how they feel when they’re in your home. Consider running a small dehumidifier to take care of the moisture that the vent fan misses.
Go easy on the chemicals
If your cleaning supply closet looks more like a high school chemistry lab, then you might be blasting VOCs into the air of your home, all in the name of getting things cleaner. Conventional wisdom has always dictated that the more cleanser we use (and the more heavy-duty it is), the cleaner our [fill in the blank] will be. Truth is, most common household cleaners — along with other things that rely on chemicals or artificial fragrances — pump an awful lot of fumes into our indoor air supply. Again, since most modern homes are built to be air-tight, those fumes and chemicals have no way of escaping or dissipating. They’re there, stuck in your air supply, for infinity! (Okay maybe not that long.) Ventilation can help with this, but so can rethinking your idea of clean. Many times, natural cleansers like vinegar, baking soda, lemon, ammonia and steam do just as good a job at sanitizing a surface, while dramatically cutting down on the fumes and chemicals off-gassing into the air.
If there were ever a reason to trade in your fake ficus for a real one, it’s this: having real plants indoors can help contribute to improved indoor air quality. Ficus plants (the real ones!) are known for their gas-absorbing and antimicrobial abilities — they can even remove formaldehyde, one of the most potent VOCs, out of the air. According to an article on The Greatist, “…plants absorb some of the particulates from the air at the same time that they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen through photosynthesis. But that’s not all—microorganisms associated with the plants are present in the potting soil, and these microbes are also responsible for much of the cleaning effect.” But be sure not to overwater your plants — this can create a breeding ground for mold, and mold is definitely not good for air quality!
None of your beeswax
If you’re a candle aficionado, and love burning them for the cozy ambience they bring to a room, the best thing you can do as far as your air quality is concerned, is avoid paraffin candles. Paraffin candles are made from petroleum, and release its byproducts into the air. A smarter option is beeswax candles, as they burn clean and bring ionizing properties to the air, which can neutralize other harmful pollutants.
Rethink your paint
Sure, paint’s one of the cheapest and fastest ways to totally change the feel of a room. And depending on what kind of paint you’re getting, it can also be one of the fastest ways to introduce VOCs into your home. According to Good Housekeeping, many paints release trace amounts of gases for months after application — even though they appear to be fully dried and the smell is gone. These gases are VOCs, and they can include highly toxic chemicals like formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Look for low-VOC paints, varnishes and other chemicals instead. They’re becoming more and more popular as an option at home improvement stores.
Invest in an air purifier
Air purifiers have come a long way. As technology has advanced, so have air purification options, and some offer a real advantage for homes that are dealing with stale air, odors and reducing allergens. We love our Beyond Guardian Air, because it’s the only air purifier on the market that uses an exclusive combination of technologies, including ion generation, a better-than-HEPA filter, Photocatalytic Oxidation and our proprietary ActivePure Technology. Using no chemicals or ozone, ActivePure Technology can destroy up to 99% of contaminants in the air and on surfaces — making your home (and the air inside your home) cleaner and fresher than you ever imagined.