No matter how hard you work to keep your house clean, it seems there is always something else to tidy up, wipe down, vacuum, or sweep. And with parties, get-togethers, and more, keeping things tidy can be particularly tough during the holiday season.
Maintaining a clean home can feel like a full-time job, especially if you’ve got kids and pets in the mix. And even after a deep clean, your house still has a dirty little secret: it’s full of all kinds of potentially harmful stuff you can’t even see.
Bacteria has a habit of hunkering down in your kitchen, bathroom, in your couch, and worst of all, in your bed (gross).
And then there are allergens that live in your carpet and upholstery. We’re talking about molds and pollens that you can’t necessarily see, but that can have a very real effect on your health.
That’s just the start of the invisible enemies of clean that live in your home. One of the most harmful are pollutants that exist in the form of gases and chemicals.
Did you know that air pollution inside your home can be up to 10 times greater than the pollution outside? That’s because pollutants get trapped inside your home and build up over time.
What Pollutants Live Inside Your Home?
The EPA says that the top 5 air quality issues in America are all indoor air quality problems. And 96% of houses in the U.S. have one or more air quality problems.
Poor air quality in your house can lead to serious health issues: heart and lung problems, cell damage, asthma, emphysema, cancer, bronchitis, and more.
The definition of an air pollutant is broad. But in your home, it may include radon, viruses, products of combustion, VOCs (volatile organic compounds from burning wood, coal, cigarettes, and even from making a slice of toast), pesticides, and moisture.
Too much moisture in your home can foster bacteria, mold, and mildew growth, and agitate asthmatics. But maybe the most problematic issue with excess moisture in the home is that it can accelerate off-gassing.
What Is Off-Gassing?
Off-gassing is typically associated with that “new car smell.” In the home, off-gassing typically occurs when you bring new pieces of furniture into the house.
Couches, tables, mattresses, and more are often made with some synthetic materials that are prone to release compounds into the air over time.
Other sources of off-gassing include floorboards, insulation, plywood, and general construction materials. Paint on your walls, finishing coats on furniture, cleaning products, and glues are all off-gassing culprits, too.
Exposure to these chemicals poses a real threat to your health. Studies have linked off-gassing chemicals and other indoor pollutants to over 180 diseases.
Fortunately, there are ways you can keep your house truly clean by clearing out these pollutants and minimizing their effects on you and your loved ones. Here are 9 tips for how to detoxify your home so you can rest assured that it’s both clean and safe for your health.
1. Open Your Windows as Much As Possible
The reason indoor air pollution can get particularly bad is simple: lack of ventilation.
Opening the windows in your home for 10 to 15 minutes a day and kicking on a few fans can go a long way to minimizing the effects of pollutants in your house.
In a place like Boulder County it can be too cold in the winter to keep your windows open — unless you feel like paying to heat the whole neighborhood! When you can’t open the windows, you need another plan of attack. That brings us to our next few tips.
2. Fight Pollutants with Plants
Plants are nature’s air purifiers. They soak up toxins and disassemble them so we can breathe clean, healthy air.
Filling your home with house plants is a great way to keep your air clean. Plus, they make for great natural decorations.
Some powerful air purifying plant species include English Ivy, snake plants, spider plants, aloe vera, dragon tree, and Chinese Evergreen.
3. Invest in an Air Purifier
An air purifier circulates air in your home through a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. These filters are designed to trap most air pollutants that are living in your home, resulting in clean, fresh air.
The best air purifiers on the market? Try models by Rabbit Air, Dyson, and Honeywell.
For a little extra purification power, place a few salt crystal lamps around your home — some studies show they can help clean the air. And at the very least, they make for a comforting touch.
4. Use the Exhaust Fan in Your Kitchen
When you cook on the stovetop or in the oven, you could be releasing different chemical compounds from the heating and burning of foods and oils.
The simplest way to make sure these don’t hang out in your house is to turn the exhaust fan on in your kitchen. This is typically built into the underside of the microwave that hangs over your oven.
Another tip is to keep an eye on your cooking habits — if your heat is so high on your stovetop that it makes your cooking oil produce smoke, you’re cooking with too much heat.
Instead, pre-heat your pan at a medium- to low-temperature, and then add oil to the pan. Always keep the temperature of the oil in check to minimize smoking.
Different oils have different smoke points as well, so keep that in mind when cooking. Canola oil, for example, starts smoking at around 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit, olive oil around 400 degrees F, and vegetable oil at about 430 degrees F. Avocado oil clocks in with the highest tolerance, hitting its smoke point at 520 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Lose the Air Fresheners
Any type of synthetic air freshener like a spray, a plug-in, or a scented candle can introduce harmful pollutants into your home. The same thing that makes these products smell so nice is what makes them potentially hazardous.
Skip out on artificially-scented products and stick with natural ones like soy-candles with natural ingredients and essential oils or herbal potpourri.
6. Get a Dehumidifer
Excess moisture can cause an increase in off-gassing. If you live in an especially humid climate, you can get rid of the moisture with a dehumidifier.
Basements anywhere are prone to holding moisture, so it’s almost always a good idea to keep a dehumidifier downstairs. In some parts of the country, the natural humidity in the air is very high (that’s one problem we don’t have here in Boulder, Colorado), in which case you may want more than one dehumidifier to keep moisture levels in your home under control.
Beyond minimizing pollutants, a dehumidifier is also great for keeping molds and mildews in check, improving the comfort of your home, and decreasing potential long-term damage to paper and metal goods in your home.
7. Clean Your Chimney
If you have a fireplace, then no doubt you like to use it during a long, cold winter. But keep in mind that burning wood releases tiny particles that can pollute the air in your home.
A clean chimney will increase the efficiency of your fireplace, and ensure that most of the compounds released when burning wood go up and out of your home rather than staying inside.
An annual cleaning from a professional chimney sweep will keep your chimney in good shape all year long. Need a chimney cleaning? We do that »
8. Keep Your Carpets Clean
Your carpets are like a sponge for bacteria, allergens, and air pollutants. And when you walk on them or play on them with your pets or kids, you can release these back into the air and breathe them in.
The best way to avoid this is to keep your carpets clean with regular vacuuming. Invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter to increase the effectiveness.
Pair weekly vacuuming up with an annual professional carpet cleaning to get pollutants out of your home and to increase the lifespan of your carpets! Need a professional carpet cleaner? We do that, too »
9. Minimize Use of Contaminating Products
Last but not least, the best way to keep air pollutants out of your home is to avoid introducing them in the first place.
Whenever possible, follow the guidelines below to minimize air pollution in your house:
- Stick to products made with organic, all natural materials and ingredients
- Choose hardwood over particle board for floors and furniture
- Use paint that has no VOCs or is rated as “low-VOC”
- Avoid carpet if possible
- Buy organic cotton sheets, curtains, etc.
- Use natural cleaning products — Read our guide on 10 natural homemade cleaners »
Clean More Than Your Home This Christmas
Getting rid of air pollutants is essential to protecting your home environment, which is especially importing during the holidays, when your house is sure to be full of family and friends.
But you can also take steps this Christmas to care for the entire environment.