Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

air1It might surprise you to hear that the air inside your home is often dirtier than the air outside. That’s because indoor air is made up of outdoor air plus all the pollutants and allergens generated from cleaning products, pets, dust, smoke, and so on. Fortunately, you can improve indoor air quality in ways that do not cost a small fortune.

Get the Dust Out

Dust – a major irritant – includes lint, bacteria, pollen, plant and mold spores, pet dander, etc. You can reduce dust particles in the air in a number of ways.

1. Clean or replace the furnace filter every three months. Thick-media filters, such as the five- and six-inch pleated type, last longer than regular filters and filter better too. Of course they are more expensive.

2. We all create an invisible dust cloud just walking through our homes. While a high-quality furnace filter will reduce dust, frequent cleaning and vacuuming is also necessary, but only if your vacuum cleaner is up to the task.

3. A poor-quality vacuum cleaner can also create dust clouds. Consider a high-quality, portable vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filtration system. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air filter.

air2Take Control of Humidity
High humidity levels in your home can significantly contribute to mold and dust mite growth. Dust mites, however, are a fact of life; you cannot eliminate them entirely. But you can decrease their numbers as they only thrive in humidity levels above 50 percent. Ensuring the humidity in your home is not higher than 50 percent could diminish dust mite growth. Here are a few ways to address humidity:

1. Buy an inexpensive hygrometer to measure the indoor humidity level.

2. Ensure that your clothes dryer vents to the outside and that bathroom and kitchen fans should direct shower, bath and cooking moisture outside.

3. Fix basement leaks and deal with condensation issues.

4. Air conditioning systems and dehumidifiers can also remove moisture from the air. Keep in mind that dehumidifiers use a great deal of electricity and don’t provide any cooling. Make sure you deal with obvious sources of moisture first.

air3Reduce Chemicals in the Air
The chemicals we use in the home contribute significantly to poor indoor air quality. Here are four tips to take control of the chemicals in the air:

1. Get rid of products you no longer need, such as old paint cans and other open and half used toxic chemicals and poisons.

2. Opened bottles and jars of cleaning products should be contained in an airtight bin. Consider using less toxic and more environmentally friendly cleaning products.

3. Dry-cleaned clothing spews chemicals into the air. If possible, remove the plastic and hang the stack of dry-cleaning outside for a few hours before bringing it into the house.

House Plants that can improve indoor air quality
Certain house plants can remove pollutants from the air. In the study NASA and ALCA tested primarily for three chemicals: Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Trichloroethylene. Formaldehyde is used in many building materials including particle board and foam insulations. Additionally, many cleaning products contain this chemical. Benzene is a common solvent found in oils and paints. Trichloroethylene is used in paints, adhesives, inks, and varnishes.

air4While NASA found that some of the plants were better than others for absorbing these common pollutants, all of the plants had properties that were useful in improving overall indoor air quality. For example, English ivy, gerbera daisies, pot mums, peace lily, bamboo palm, and Mother-in-law’s Tongue were found to be the best plants for treating air contaminated with Benzene. The peace lily, gerbera daisy, and bamboo palm were very effective in treating Trichloroethylene.

Additionally, NASA found that the bamboo palm, Mother-in-law’s tongue, dracaena warneckei, peace lily, dracaena marginata, golden pathos, and green spider plant worked well for filtering Formaldehyde. After conducting the study, NASA and ALCA came up with a list of the most effective plants for treating indoor air pollution.

The recommended plants can be found below. Note that all the plants in the list are easily available from your local nursery.

1. Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’, heartleaf philodendron
2. Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
3. Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’, cornstalk dracaena
4. Hedera helix, English ivy
5. Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant
6. Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’, Janet Craig dracaena
7. Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’, Warneck dracaena
8. Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
9. Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos
10. Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’, peace lily
11. Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
12. Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
13. Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm
14. Sansevieria trifasciata, snake plant
15. Dracaena marginata , red-edged dracaena

Improving air quality in the home is a goal that is easily attainable. Start with the little fixes and then undertake the more complex remedies as needed. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to improve the air you breathe!

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