Spending More Time at Home? 5 Tips for Ensuring Safer Air Quality

Summer usually means more time spent outdoors, enjoying fresh air and getting in touch with nature, whether that be from your back deck or on a boat at the cabin. But with hot, humid temps and recommendations for continued social distancing, we’re spending more times in our homes than is typical. That’s why ensuring the safety of your home’s air quality is key.

We tend to think of air pollution as a strictly outdoor issue, but the truth is that poor indoor air quality can lead to allergies, respiratory issues, and infections in some immunocompromised people. Everything from pet dander and synthetic fragrances from cleaning products to pollutants tracked in from outside and off gassing from new furniture can contribute to less-than-ideal indoor air.

That’s not a means to scare you—but it is a reason to pay attention to what’s going on in our homes, especially as we spend more time inside. Let’s talk about some easy tips you can start doing today to ensure safe indoor air quality.

1 . Create a Green Cleaning Kit 

Green cleaning your home is easier when you have everything you need on hand—and since many nontoxic items can be repurposed for different cleaning needs, assembling a “green cleaning kit” is a sound, long-term investment in your eco-conscious home. Though we’ve been conditioned to think otherwise by marketers and big brands, we don’t need a different cleaning product for every room in our house.

You can upcycle items you already have, like white vinegar (the miracle worker!) and essential oils (or citrus peels) blended in a mason jar to create an instant, nontoxic surface cleaner you can use for up to a month. Or, learn more about safe cleaners in our green cleaning deep dive.

2. Buy (More) Plants 

Consider this tip permission to indulge your burgeoning inner botanist. Houseplants act as nature’s air filters, and they also bring the calming elements of nature indoors—a win win for anyone interested in green cleaning their home.

Check Craig’s List for “rehoming listings” for second-hand plants, especially for peace lilies, snake plants, and English ivy for easy-to-care-for plants that will help you breathe easier. 

3. Opt for an Organic Weave Rug 

Cleaner air quality, safer spaces for bare feet and paws, sustainable production: Opting for an organic weave rug is a beautiful investment in green cleaning your home. You know that new carpet smell? It’s actually the smell of chemicals and leads to off-gassing. There are chemicals used in cleaning the raw materials, dyeing the fibers, and in the cleaning/mothproofing finish of most rugs.

And, while “natural fiber” wool and cotton rugs are readily available, the way they are marketed can be misleading: Though they are called natural, there’s no guarantee that they’re free of harmful chemicals used in production. On the other hand, certified organic rugs are guaranteed to be free of chemical additives found in conventional rugs, including chemical dyes, mothproofing chemicals, cleaning agents, stain treatments, and more.

If you’re looking to make the long-term investment in an organic weave rug, look for the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) Certification (and check out our recs for linens, furniture, and more household items that are safer). This will ensure you can trust the raw materials, cleaning solutions and production of the rug—and that’s better for your home and your health. 

4. Detox Your Laundry Routine

Conventional laundry detergents can expose us to some of the most damaging toxins in our homes through both inhalation and skin contact—there’s a high exposure rate to whatever’s in your detergent because you’re wearing your clothes, sleeping on your bed sheets, and using your towels, all day, every day.

Plus, washers and dryers create indoor air pollution by emitting fumes throughout your home. And what’s in those fumes? Potential carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting, and birth defect causing chemicals like 1,4 dioxane and synthetic fragrance. So, if you’re looking to make a big impact in your home’s air quality, start with your laundry detergent.

The easiest way is to choose a safer product that avoids potentially hazardous chemicals. Start here, with our green cleaning tips.

5. Swap Out Your Air Filters

You HVAC air filter in your home is an easy to forget about indoor air quality warrior. It helps filter out allergens, toxins, and other particles from seeping into the air of your home. Changing these up every 90 days (if you have no pets and no common allergies) is a great way to stay safer in your living space. If you have a pet, every 60 days is a better bet. Have more than one pet or bad allergies? Every 30-45 days could help with allergy and respiratory symptoms.

If you’re in an apartment or shared living space where you don’t have control over changing air filters, consider an air purifier. It’s an investment that can benefit your health over the longterm.

Indoor air quality is a big deal, especially as we spend more time indoors in our modern world (and in pandemic times). Paying attention to what you can do to keep yourself healthy and safer doesn’t have to be hard—it just requires a little effort and awareness and you’ll have your home cleaner in no time.