13 Ways to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution (Backed by Science)
When you think of air pollution, indoor air likely isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, it’s probably affecting you more than you realize.
Pollutants can be introduced to your home in a number of ways. Some are carried in from the outside by family members or drafted in by the wind. Others originate inside the home. These pollutants include pet dander, smoke from cooking (or smoking) and chemicals from cleaning products.
No matter their origin, indoor pollutants can have an impact on your health and happiness. They can exacerbate asthma or other chronic lung conditions and give you symptoms like congestion or excessive sneezing.
While it’s impossible to rid your home of air pollution completely, there are several things you can do to help keep your air clean. Here we’ll cover some ways to prevent air pollution from accumulating in your house, or feel free to skip ahead to our handy infographic below.
1. Bathe Pets Regularly
Ten to twenty percent of the population are allergic to pet dander. Despite that high number, 67 percent of households have at least one pet. While there are numerous benefits of pet ownership, pets can be the source of many allergens.
Bathing your pet regularly can help reduce the number of allergens that travel in from the outdoors on the backs of your pets. It can also help cut down on the pet dander that accumulates on their skin!
2. Change Your Air Filters
Air filters collect all of the pollutants and allergens that run through our air conditioning systems. In fact, studies show that installing an air filter can help reduce indoor allergens by 70 to 95 percent.
However, these filters work best when they are switched out regularly. Most filters need to be changed monthly, although you can also buy filters that will last three or six months.
3. Use a Doormat
Dusting off your shoes before you enter the house can help keep external air pollution from making its way indoors. The EPA suggests using mats to trap soil, pollutants and moisture when you are entering the house.
Another report found that the majority of dirt in buildings is tracked in on people’s shoes. According to the EPA, 85 percent of this dirt can be prevented from entering the building if entry mats are properly designed and maintained.
4. Use Kitchen Exhaust Fans
You may not realize it, but cooking can be a large source of indoor air pollution. These pollutants can come from heating oil, fat and other food ingredients at high temperatures. Another source of pollutants can be self-cleaning ovens (gas or electric) when they burn away food waste.
Exhaust fans can cut down on this type of indoor air pollution immensely. Depending on the style and installation of your exhaust fan, it can remove between 10 and almost 100 percent of food-related indoor pollutants.
5. Don’t Smoke Indoors
Smoking indoors has a number of adverse effects. Aside from the well-known consequences of contact with second-hand smoke, environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to impact air quality significantly.
One study found that non-smokers living with indoor smokers typically have pollution exposure levels over three times higher than what the World Health Organization reports is safe. If you live with someone who smokes, require them to smoke outside of the home.
6. Vacuum Often
Keeping your home clean is one of the most straightforward ways to keep away indoor air pollutants and vacuuming your floors on a regular basis is a large part of that. Using a vacuum frequently keeps your floors free of dust mites, pollens, pet dander and other dirt that might be dragged in from the outside.
Experts recommend that you vacuum carpets and area rugs once or twice per week. However, the United States Product Safety Commission recommends those with severe allergies or asthma leave the house while it’s in the process of being vacuumed. The process can temporarily kick more pollutants up into the air!
7. Open Some Windows
This one might seem contradictory, as opening a window will let outside allergens and pollutants into your home. However, opening your windows from time to time can allow fresh air to move through the house.
It’s advantageous to open the windows when indoor air pollution is generated (for example, if you are using harsh chemicals). Of course, use your best judgment when timing this and pick a day that’s neither too hot nor too cold to air out your home, if possible.
8. Dehumidify Your Home
It’s important to make sure that there are no sources of significant humidity in the home. Be sure to pick up all damp clothes or towels and fix any leaks that may occur. You can also buy a dehumidifier.
By removing the moisture from indoor air, a dehumidifier can help minimize the potential for mold and other pollutants that flourish in humidity. These appliances are especially helpful to put in damp areas like the basement and bathrooms.
9. Don’t Mask Odors
While it might be tempting to cover up unpleasant odors with air fresheners, they can emit potentially hazardous chemicals. Even if they are labeled as organic or green, they can be harmful to humans, especially if used in an enclosed space.
In fact, 20 percent of Americans report adverse symptoms from the use of indoor air fresheners. To be safe, always use air fresheners in an open area, and if necessary, open a window to ventilate the house.
10. Remove Carpeting
The long-held belief that carpeted flooring holds mold, mildew and other indoor air pollutants has been recently reviewed. Researchers found that not only is carpet still responsible for poor indoor air quality, but it can hold on to these indoor air pollutants and re-release them into the air when disturbed.
For the best air quality, carpeting should be removed in favor of hard surfaces such as wood or concrete flooring.
11. Minimize Clutter
Clutter in the home can actually reduce the quality of the air and should be kept to a minimum whenever possible. If left undisturbed, clutter can harbor dust allergens, indoor pollen, mold spores and chemical pollutants.
You should rid your home of clutter by discarding dust-collecting items, cleaning your home and organizing your possessions in boxes. From there, keep surfaces sanitized and dust-free!
12. Remove Your Shoes at the Door
When you enter a building with your shoes on, all of the dirt and dust that is trapped on your shoes comes indoors with you. If you want to improve the air quality in your home, consider removing your shoes at the door.
A recent study found that unhealthy herbicides can also be tracked in on shoes, which can expose family members to more chemicals than eating unwashed fruits and vegetables.
13. Wash Bedding Weekly
We bring in tons of outdoor allergens on our bodies, hair and clothing. If you have pets, they likely bring in even more. For this reason, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends washing your bedding often. Once a week should be sufficient to keep dust and debris from building up.
Follow these tips and you should have less indoor air pollution to worry about. Of course, keeping yourself, your family, your animals and your environment clean will ensure the finest air quality and the health of your loved ones.