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As more people are turning to natural living practices in their homes, one query that comes up is how to naturally clean the air in your home.
I admittedly never seriously thought about purifying the air in my home until we moved into our current home. We bought a pre-owned home with a lot of carpet and a prior owner who clearly liked using a lot of potpourri and air fresheners. Although the carpet looked clean, I sensed it contained a lot of dust and other unknown particles.
We got a couple of Levoit HEPA Air Purifiers shortly after moving in. We noticed the air seemed much cleaner afterwards, and they definitely kept musty odors at bay (and in the case of my daughter’s guinea pigs, kept that room from stinking!). The air seemed less dusty.
However, the main culprit seemed to be the carpet and other upholstery in the house. Removing the curtains that the prior owner left behind removed a lot of the potpourri smell from the house, and removing the carpets drastically improved the air quality in the house in the form of less nightly sniffling.
Long story short, we took different measures to improve the air quality in our house, because we knew the air quality wasn’t great (as evidenced by the red light on our air purifiers constantly indicating poor air quality!). However, many people may live in homes with equally or even more polluted air without thinking about it. This article gives ideas on how to naturally clean the air in your home for starting points.
Indoor Air Can Be Worse Than Outdoor Air
Although most people probably picture a hazy cityscape when asked to think of “polluted air,” indoor air is actually way more polluted. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that the level of air pollutants indoors is up to 5 times (and occasionally up to 100 times!) higher than outdoor levels. Your house is basically a container of trapped and concentrated air contaminants.
Thus, your home is not necessarily your sanctuary when it comes to breathing in clean air. That’s why it’s important to learn how to naturally clean the air in your home to try to reduce the levels of indoor air pollutants.
What May Be in Your Home’s Air
Common culprits for air pollution in homes include gas appliances, which can emit carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde. These substances can especially congregate indoors if you don’t use an exhaust hood for cooking or have adequate ventilation.
Also, if you use scented household or personal products (e.g. scented detergents, air fresheners, soaps, lotions, etc.), then these fragrances can emit toxic compounds (i.e. volatile organic compounds [VOCs]) that accumulate in the air. Studies have shown that the VOCs that scented products emit have no safe level and can lead to adverse health effects, including respiratory illness.
(Our article, 10 Simple Tweaks for a More Natural, Organic Lifestyle, mentions more specific adverse health effects that can result from using certain household and personal products.)
As discussed earlier from our personal experience, carpeting is also a common culprit for indoor air pollution. Carpets can trap dust, dirt, allergens, and other contaminants that can cause adverse health effects like asthma or respiratory infections. The tightly packed structure and layering of most carpeting prevents people from ever thoroughly cleaning and removing substances trapped inside and under carpeting.
Lastly, another common culprit of air pollution is dander and other allergens from pets or pests. With the latter, some areas that are prone to rodent invasions can harbor mouse allergens and such, which can cause or worsen asthma.
By no means is our list of potential indoor air contaminants all-inclusive, but just some examples to give you thought on the matter.
Regardless of the source of pollution, studies have recognized elderly individuals and children are most vulnerable to the health consequences of indoor air pollution because these populations tend to spend more time indoors. Also, children breath at a more rapid rate than adults, so breath in more air and everything in it.
Thus, if any of your household spends a lot of time indoors (particularly with COVID driving more people to shelter at home!), then you should consider options on how to naturally clean the air in your home to make the environment healthier.
5 Practical Options: How to Naturally Clean the Air in Your Home
1. Air Purifiers
As mentioned earlier, we got two of these Levoit HEPA Air Purifiers after moving into our current home, because the air seemed so stale and dusty inside. We set the to automatically kick on whenever they detected contaminants, so they would often kick on in the room with my daughter’s guinea pigs, whenever we cooked anything particularly smoky in the house, or when we left the back door open on windy days.
Also, interestingly, the purifier in our carpeted loft would kick on whenever someone briskly walked through the room or when the kids ran around in there, suggesting that our movements caused dust and debris to release from the carpet into the air.
However, this study points out the the effectiveness of portable room air filters may not extend beyond the rooms in which they are placed. Thus, we picked the two rooms in our house that received the most traffic or seemed to need the most filtering. To filter your whole house, you’d either need portable filters in multiple rooms or a whole house HVAC filtration system.
2. Vacuum and Clean Regularly
Unless you sprinkle carpet cleaner or deodorizing powder over your carpet beforehand, vacuuming is another option for how to naturally clean the air in your home. As you’ve probably gathered by now, carpets and rugs are major sources of harboring allergens, dust mites, and other debris and contaminents.
One study showed that vacuuming carpets and upholstered furniture, and then steam cleaning them afterwards, drastically reduced allergen levels in the room. Also, washing bedding weekly and using protective covers on mattresses and pillows.
Ideally, if you have extreme allergies or respiratory issues, you should get rid of your carpeting and upholstered furniture entirely, but I understand that can be easier said than done!
3. Have Lots of Houseplants
Many sources list houseplants as a natural remedy on how to naturally clean the air in your home. Plants gained their reputation as air cleaners after a NASA study promoted the idea.
Further studies have shown that while plants can absorb substances like formaldehyde and mercury from the air, lots of ventilation can limit their effectiveness in cleaning the air in your home.
Also, different plants absorb different types and levels of air contaminants, so you would need a large number and variety of plants in your home to notably clean the air. You can see one list of the top 10 houseplants for cleaning the air here.
4. Use Natural Air Fresheners and Cleaners
Air fresheners are still very much in vogue in many households, particularly in bathrooms. Whether you want to offer it for guests or for yourself when company is over, I can understand why people keep air fresheners in the bathroom. (Side note: Unfortunately, our house does not have air fresheners in the bathroom, but we generally don’t mind if guests stink up the guest bathroom!)
Also, I can understand why most people still use fragranced products, like household and personal products (e.g. detergents, lotions, shampoos, soaps). Most products sold in stores contain perfumes or fragrances. You will see these ingredients listed on product labels.
However, many people genuinely don’t know how harmful these fragranced products are. This study notes how two-thirds of the population at the time were not aware that fragranced products emit hazardous air pollutants, but that over 60% of these people would not use fragranced products if they knew.
If you must have air freshener in your bathroom, essential oils or charcoal air purifying bags are safe alternatives. For household cleaners, you can buy safe, natural cleaners like Puracy or make your own. (You can check for other “safe” products with minimal toxicity on sites like EWG.)
Reducing the sources of air pollution in your home will logically reduce the amount of air pollution in your home. Thus, switching out your products is one option on how to naturally clean the air in your home.
5. Increase Negative Ions in Your Home
Studies have shown that increasing negative ions in the air can reduce allergens, dust mites, and other contaminants like viruses. For this reason (among others), Himalayan salt lamps have grown in popularity, despite conflicting evidence on their efficacy. (See our article, Do Himalayan Salt Lamps Work? 2 Popular Health Benefits of Himalayan Salt Lamps Examined, for a more thorough discussion of negative ions and salt lamps.)
Final Thoughts on How to Naturally Clean the Air in Your Home
If you want to purify the air in your home to the highest degree possible, you’d have to invest in whole house filtration systems, and would ideally pair them with portable air purifiers in different rooms. You would also maximize by employing the other methods discussed in this article.
However, most people don’t or won’t go to those extremes, so the next best thing is to try to remove as many contaminants as possible by keeping your house clean and avoiding the use of household or personal products that emit pollution and hazardous substances into the air.
Just do what you can to keep you and your family healthy. Any step can help!