Did you know that the air inside your house is 2 – 5 times more contaminated than the air outdoors? And that’s bad. High pollen counts and high humidity are only two reasons that so many people are closing their windows. This makes the air quality even worse.
And with the improvements in air-tight windows, seals, and doors, the levels of fumes from VOCs (volatile organic compounds), dust, second-hand cigarette smoke, and mold can build up to unhealthy levels.
VOCs can not only worsen allergy and asthma symptoms but also cause headaches and fatigue. Additionally, radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is the second-leading cause of lung cancer, can also build to dangerous levels.
Here are some frugal, easy ways to naturally clean the air in your house. Most cost nothing or very little, so they’re friendly on your budget.
Open the windows: If you don’t suffer from severe allergies, then let the fresh air in. This is one easy way to dilute the stale air in your home. Open the windows for 10-15 minutes a day. Avoid those very high humid days since that can raise your risk of mold in the house.
Vacuum…slowly: I’m guilty of this myself. I’m like a speed demon with a vacuum. Dust absorbs VOCs and radon and can be a leading source of these pollutants, so it’s important to remove dust. To effectively remove dust, vacuum slowly.
- Vacuum twice weekly.
- Step outside to remove the bag. Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can grow inside the bag, and if you change it inside, the cloud of dust can release these bacteria (not to mention the dust) back into your home.
Run the bathroom fan: Bathrooms by nature are moist, mold growing breeding grounds. The fan draws moist air out and reduces mold growth. Breathing mold spores can cause coughing, chest tightening, and itchy eyes. This is especially bad if you’re asthmatic or allergic.
- Also run the fan if you’re using any high vapor product, like fragrances, nails polish, hair spray, or cleaning solution.
- Remove mold by using a simple bleach solution. Mix 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Be sure to run the fan or open a window while you work.
Change your AC filter: Get in the habit of changing out your filters once or twice yearly, and check them 4 times annually. Keep your furnace clean.
Stop using your fireplace: Colorado has wood-burning restrictions with good reason. Wood smoke can severely pollute the air. Burning wood looks pretty but emits harmful toxins that worsen breathing problems.
- If you burn wood, use a stove that meets EPA standards.
- Gas fireplaces can leak nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, so be sure they’re fully vented to the outside.
Buy a plant: Ficus plants and others are great at absorbing formaldehyde and other potent VOCs from the air. For a complete listing of VOC absorbing plants, read Plants to Clean the Air.
Test your home’s humidity levels: High humidity = high mold. Your humidity levels should be between 30-60%. If it’s more than that, buy a dehumidifier. On the other hand, too low of humidity can cause breathing problems, so you may need to buy a humidifier. And remember to keep them clean.
Other options that cost more money
- Clean your air ducts: Hire a company to thoroughly clean your air ducts of accumilated dust and crud.
- Buy HEPA vacuum filters: HEPA (high efficiency particle accumulator) filters are specially made to capture any particle that are 0.3 micrometers or larger. Or buy a new vacuum that has these filters already built into the machine.
- Buy low VOC paint: Your paint on your walls continue to release harmful VOCs for up to a year after you paint. Low VOC paint is a bit more expensive but worth it for the health benefits.
- Air purifiers: There’s little proof that air purifiers help with respiratory symptoms, but even so, Americans spend a whopping $350 million each year on the machines. Save your money and open your windows.