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9 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality at Home

Air is the most basic component of our health. The best of us can’t survive more than a few minutes without it (please don’t try). The quality of outdoor air and its pollution gets lots of attention in the media. According to the EPA, however, indoor air is typically two to five times more polluted than outdoor and can be worse than that in many cases. We know how frustrating it can be to live with persistent odors, respiratory problems, or headaches, and we hope these articles can help you find and treat them. Whether its mold, chemicals, pollen, or just a dusty air filter, we want you to breathe easy.

Following up on Air: Part I, Part II of this two part series will look at nine things you can do to improve your air quality at home.

1. Protect Yourself
Simple things like changing your HVAC filter regularly can have a big impact on cleaning the air in the home. It can also take strain off the fan and prolong the life of your system. If you’re already a pro at changing yours every month, try upgrading to a higher-grade filter to capture smaller particles. Another option is to have your ducts checked and cleaned. There may be things trapped in your ductwork or leaks that allow outside air into the ducts and your living space.It may be helpful to get an extra air purifier like Austin Air. These are true, HEPA-certified air cleaners, capable of removing smoke, dust, pollen, gases, and chemicals (including formaldehyde) down to 0.3 microns in size. That includes 99.97% of all airborne particulate.

2. Don’t Get Burned Out
Old furnaces, boilers, stoves, ovens, or anything powered by combustion (fire) can create a carbon monoxide (CO) problem. CO is a very dangerous chemical and should be taken seriously. The best way to control carbon monoxide pollutants is to make sure combustion appliances are installed and maintained by reliable professionals and properly used. A UL-listed CO monitor should also be installed.

3. Choose Your Wood Wisely
When it comes to flooring and furniture, even cabinets, urea- and phenol-formaldehyde in the wood and adhesive are known carcinogens as well as some of the most commonly used ingredients in building products. Anytime you are bringing a wood or wood composite material into the home, try to verify that it has no added urea formaldehyde.

4. Clean Up Your Cleaning
If it’s time to make a big change to the quality of the air in your home, it’s time to look in your cabinets and swap some of those cleaning products for something a little easier on the system. None of your cleaning products should contain formaldehyde, petroleum-based solvents, ammonia, or VOC’s. The problem with all of those things is how quickly they evaporate from the cleaner itself and into the air, which means you end up breathing it rather than cleaning with it. As you run out of your existing cleaners, try replacing them with an alternative by Better Life, Branch Basics, AFM, Nelly’s, or one of the other options you can find here at TreeHouse. We have products for your floors, kitchen counters, laundry, or anything else in the home.

5. Get the VOC Out!
Old paint can be another contributor to poor health in the home. You probably can’t notice after it’s dry, but most paints continue to give off chemicals like ethylene glycol and formaldehyde for years after they are applied to the walls. Putting a fresh coat of a zero-VOC paint like Dunn Edwards or Mythic can cover up that old paint and prevent those chemicals from contaminating your living space. American Clay is another option for finishing your walls that can help absorb odors and regulate humidity to make the home cleaner and more comfortable.

6.Getting Buggy with It
Nobody (normal) likes bugs crawling around their house. However, most things that are toxic to bugs and insects are also toxic to people. Either avoid pesticides altogether, or use those that are tested and shown not to harm people and pets. Period.

7. Put Down Some Roots
Bring plants into your home. Indoor plants can both remove toxins from the air and produce fresh oxygen. Plus, being around nature is good for you.

8. Air It Out
Just following some best practices is a great way to keep you and your home in good health. If something asks to be used “in a well-ventilated area,” open up a few windows to create a breeze.

9. Practice Prudent Avoidance
While pollutants commonly found in indoor air are responsible for many harmful effects, there is considerable uncertainty about what concentrations or periods of exposure are necessary to produce specific health problems. Because there is so much we don’t know, TreeHouse tells people to practice prudent avoidance. In other words, if you don’t know what it does, and if you don’t have to bring it into your home, why would you?

You’re Not Alone
And remember that there are a lot of people trying to change the way things are made and sold. Organizations like GreenGuard, LEED, and the Indoor Air Quality Association are a few that are working to stop hazardous chemicals from entering the home and taking steps to help you determine what is in the products that you purchase. It is unfortunate that we have to deal with problems like these, and there are larger issues at play to have led us to where we are now, but products are improving by both becoming safer to use and more effective. We have enough options now that we don’t have to choose a safe and healthful home over a clean and beautiful one.