11 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality — And 2 You Can Skip

Research shows that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors — and that most homes have more than one source that contributes to indoor air pollution. Common culprits include combustion sources like natural gas from your stove, formaldehyde emitted from certain kinds of pressed wood furniture and fumes from cleaning products. The good news is there are steps you can take to improve things.

11 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Get a Radon Test

Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that’s present in soil. Long-term exposure to radon can cause lung cancer, which is why it’s so important to test for radon in your home and invest in a radon gas mitigation method if your house has elevated levels.

Consider Getting an Air Quality Test for Your Whole Home

In addition to testing radon levels, a whole-home air quality test will also check levels of other harmful gases like carbon monoxide as well as allergy triggers like mold, mildew and dust.

Properly Weatherize Your Home

A well-weatherized house requires less energy for heating and cooling. That reduces the amount of combustible materials like oil, kerosene, wood, gas and coal polluting your home’s indoor air quality. Three projects that can help include sealing your windows, improving wall insulation and installing weather stripping and door sweeps.

Take Air-Polluting Projects Outdoors

Whenever possible, tackle any air-polluting projects like painting, staining and paint stripping outside. If that’s impractical, open windows and run exhaust fans to expel the fumes.

Consider Buying an Indoor Air Purifier

There are whole-house air purifiers and others sized for individual rooms. Here’s helpful information about the best air purifiers for every room.

Stop Smoking Indoors

Tobacco is a major contributor to indoor air pollution in many homes. If you smoke, do so outdoors. Or even better, consider kicking the habit altogether.

Be Careful When Remodeling

Before starting a project, think about choosing materials such as low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint and wood products that have low or no emissions. If you’re hiring contractors, make sure they’re on board with your plan.

Keep Humidity Levels in Check

Too much moisture in the air encourages mold and mildew growth. A hot shower is the most common culprit, so make sure to run the bathroom fan 10 minutes before, during and 20 minutes after showering.

Run Your Kitchen Exhaust Fan

Cooking fuel sources such as natural gas produce fumes that contain respiratory irritants like nitrogen dioxide. The actual process of cooking food also produces pollutants in the form of fine particles and organic chemicals. That’s especially true if you fry, broil and cook at high temperatures. Run your kitchen fan before, during and after cooking to cut down on cooking fumes.

Dust Frequently

Dust is a common irritant that’s easy to remove by regularly laundering linens in hot water, cleaning pillows, using anti-allergenic pillow covers, dusting and running the vacuum.

Choose Safe Cleaning Supplies

Many household cleaning supplies contain harmful air-polluting chemicals, ammonia and bleach. Avoid releasing these chemicals into your home by never mixing certain cleaning products and reading labels to avoid products that contain VOCs, fragrances, irritants and flammable ingredients. An easy way to do this is to look for the Safer Choice Label on cleaning products — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awards this designation to products that are better for you, your family and the environment.

Factors That Don’t Improve Indoor Air Quality

Airing Out Your House

While some experts recommend opening windows to clear out indoor air pollution, a recent study revealed that it’s not as effective as you might think.

Having Houseplants

Sorry to break it to you, but research shows that houseplants do little to purify your indoor air. (They’re still a great way to spruce up a room, though.)

Amanda Prischak
Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer based in Erie, Pennsylvania.