Indoor Air Quality: What To Know

Do plants improve indoor air quality? Read this article to find out!

Air pollution is a huge concern in today’s world, and it makes sense. After all, an outing in the forest is much more invigorating that walking beside a road of idling cars. But, when we think of air pollution, most of us don’t consider the pollutants inside our homes. Indoor air quality suffers when we don’t take the proper precautions. In this article, I will explore the facts and myths about cleaning the air in your home!

Why Should I Care About Home Pollutants?

We spend a lot of time indoors. In fact, researchers claim we spend, on average, 90% of our time inside buildings, cars, and other structures.

This means we have to care about indoor air quality in order to protect our lung health and mental health. Our energy levels and digestion can also be impacted by the quality of air in our home.

Do you remember the last time you spent the entire day outside? Do you remember feeling content, exhausted, and sleeping fantastic?

Clean air is essential to good health, but not everyone has clean air to breathe. In our own homes, there are several ways we can make a difference.

Pollutants That Damage Indoor Air Quality

If you are a plant mom, like me, then you probably have heard of VOCs or volatile organic compounds. In a NASA study, they tested the ability of plants to remove these compounds, like formaldehyde, benzene, and other pollutants from the air.

So what exactly can pollute the air inside your house or office?

  1. Smoking: this really requires no further explanation. Any type of smoke in an enclosed space is awful for our lungs, causes discoloration of the area, and impacts air quality. If you smoke, it is best to do so outside.
  2. Dampness, leaks, and mold: moist environments lead to mold, and mold produces spores. This is especially harmful to those with allergies, asthma, or other lung conditions.
  3. Chemical cleaners and aerosols: many household cleaners have chemicals added to them, including bleach and fragrance. Some people choose to switch to natural disinfectants and cleaning supplies, but you can open a window or turn on a fan if you don’t want to leave bleach behind.
  4. Paraffin or gel candles: paraffin is made from petroleum, which releases many pollutants when burned. Moreover, scented candles can release harmful toxins and aggravate allergies.
  5. Plants: while plants are touted as air cleaners, those with allergies should be cautious. Lilies are some of the worst offenders when it comes to pollen residue, and they are deadly to cats.
  6. Lack of ventilation: naturally, without ventilation, carbon dioxide and pollutants will pile up. If your house or bedroom feels stuffy, try to open a window, dust, or turn on a fan to get that air moving!
  7. Pet dander, dust, and other particles: everything, from dead skin cells to pet fur, can accumulate on surfaces of our home. Soft surfaces, like beds or carpets, will accumulate much more debris over time.

Gas stoves, improperly ventilated laundry, and many other appliances can also damage indoor air quality if they are not properly maintained or attached.

Clean Air & Clean Homes

So how can we clean the air in our home?

Firstly, clean your house regularly. Vacuum, dust, and remove messes that can cause unnecessary odor or create particles. Harvard Health recommends vacuuming once to twice a week and changing bedsheets regularly.

Indoor air quality can be improved by regularly cleaning your house and bed sheets.
Photo by Volha Flaxeco

If plants are a trigger for you, keep them outside, clean the leaves, and ensure you are watering them properly so they do not grow their own mold.

Change filters of various heaters, fans, vacuums, and more to ensure they are effectively filtering the air you breathe.

If you are burning a candle, open a window, or try buy beeswax or soy wax candles instead, as they burn clean! Some people also advocate for using essential oil scented candles (instead of those with artificial fragrance), but be cautious. Pregnant women, children, and animals, can be adversely affected by the volatile compounds in essential oils.

Open windows regularly, if only for 10 minutes at a time, to breathe the fresh air in, and let the stale air move outside. If you are cooking something particularly smoky, like bacon, or cleaning a room, you can also open a window to limit the build-up of soot and various gases.

I Thought Plants Improved My Indoor Air Quality?

We’ve probably all heard this before. It is pretty basic biology, after all. One of the amazing things that plants do is convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, and oxygen is what we breathe. Right?

While this is true, plants are not quite as superpowered as we were led to believe when it comes to cleaning the air.

Plants do clean the air. That is true. But, the reality is that a single houseplant cannot clean all the air in your living room at an effective rate. In fact, opening a window or using an air purifier is much more effective when it comes to cleaning the air we breathe.

Now, as a self-proclaimed Plant Mom, I am not telling you not to fill your house with as many plants as you can. To live in a greenhouse is my only true goal in life! Plants have wonderful impacts on our mental health and stress, as a stylistic choice, and are a great way to teach responsibility. Moreover, plants can improve sleep quality and mood.

Simply put, don’t expect your plants alone to give you the fresh air you need to breathe.

Humans evolved in the open air, before half the fumes we inhale now even existed. We need fresh air and time outdoors. We also need to be aware of the various ways we are damaging our indoor air quality.

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