Homes are our safe havens. Be it a house, an apartment, or a dorm room, they protect us from the natural elements, as well as give us a sense of security and comfort after a long day’s work or play. We grow in our homes, raise families and pets in our homes, and enjoy our homes. But they are a breeding ground for harmful allergens, toxic chemicals, and other dangerous pollutants that can affect our lives heavily, or scarier, get worse over the course of time.
Many Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that ordinary activities such as cooking, heating, cooling, cleaning, and redecorating can cause the release and spread of indoor pollutants at home. The EPA also says that studies show air in homes can be even more polluted than outdoor air. Impure air can lead to a variety of health problems including asthma, headaches, fatigue, chronic sensitivity through repeated exposure, respiratory diseases, and even cancer in some extreme cases.
Achoo Allergy lists many aggravating causes of impure air. These pollutants include appliances that use combustion sources (like fireplaces, water heaters, dryers and stoves), building materials and furnishings, household cleaning and personal care products, radon, pollen, lead, animal dander, mold and mildew, dust mites (typically from carpet, upholstered furniture, and bedding), tobacco, formedahyde (adhesive or bonding agents in plywood paneling and carpets), carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and hundreds of others.
Winter is an especially sensitive time for indoor air pollutants because windows and doors are closed shut for months on end. With no fresh air circulating, your home re-filters the same dirty air.
No need to freak out just yet – even if your household and personal hygiene upkeep is sincerely appalling. Many of these pollutants are unavoidable, like pets and upholstered furniture, but luckily here are seven easy ways to significantly increase the purity of your air.
1. Use non-toxic cleaning products (no VOC)
There is less ventilation in the winter, meaning that your toxic cleaning products will hang in the air and on your counter surfaces. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products that are safe for yourself, your family, and your pets.
2. Vacuum and change bedding often
Change your bedding every two weeks (at least) and try vacuuming two or three times a week. You’ll probably find you get less sick and have less allergies.
3. Purchase a Himalayan salt lamp
Himalayan salt isn’t only a wonderful addition to your diet but comes in the form of a lamp too. The crystalized salt is heated by a small bulb inside that releases negative ions, which are known to neutralize pollutants in the air. It’s both a fantastic nightlight and will help clean the room.
4. Open a window when you cook
When we cook with a gas stove, it emits nitrogen dioxide and when combined with sunlight, produces ozone, E. Neil Schachter, MD, the medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He says the gas is so irritating that at higher levels can cause wheezing in people who don’t have asthma. His advice? Keep the kitchen window open or turn on the fan hood to avoid nitrogen dioxide buildup.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to have your gas jets cleaned annually so the gas burns cleanly.
5. Regularly open windows in winter – or at least run your ceiling fans
Keep the airflow going by slightly propping your windows open in the winter. Do this when you’re cleaning or cooking to let fresh air come in and circulate. If you can’t bear the freezing temps, turn a ceiling fan on to circulate the stagnant air. During the workday, you can leave your windows open so cold air is circulating through your home all day.
6. Keep your humidity level around 30% to 50%
If you want to check the exact humidity level of your home, purchase a hygrometer at your local drugstore. If your humidity is over 50%, get a dehumidifier. Other ways to keep humidity levels low is by using proper ventilation in damp places like showering. Open the windows so mold and mildew don’t grow along your windows or floors.
7. Buy a house plant
Remember the love fern scene in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? (Don’t lie, you do). Houseplants aren’t always viewed as the most masculine thing, but the benefits of these hard-to-kill plants can be crucial. Plants purify air because they absorb some of the particles from the air when they take in carbon dioxide, which is then processed into oxygen, according to an article from Greatist. And don’t worry, this doesn’t require colorful flowers placed in a vase; in fact, there are some pretty masculine plants that could fit well into the corner of any home. Some good houseplants include, spider plant, dracaena, bamboo palm, heart leaf philodendron, aloe vera, and English palm.