How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

by Nyamka Bayanmunkh in


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I love my new home but air quality needed some improvement.  My bedroom window faces the south, so it doesn't get much sunlight resulting in dampness. There is also no ventilation, so air quality was muggy. We opened the windows to circulate fresh air regularly but that only solves the problem for a short period of time. High humidity is not pleasant and can lead to mould issues. Since a big chunk of the day, at least 10 hours day, is spent at home it is integral that a home feels comfortable and not a possible health hazard. Here is what I did to improve the air quality in my home.

1. I moved my aloe vera from the outside into my bedroom

Initially, my aloe vera plant was outside, but somehow it wasn't thriving so I brought it in and put it in my bedroom. Ever since moving it in humidity is no longer an issue in my room. Before it was so humid sometimes the window collected water droplets. That hasn't happened since the aloe moved in with me.

Indoor plants oxygenates indoor air, making it fresher and healthier. It's also pleasing to look at green and living things.  Plants can also to reduce more serious air pollutants like benzene (common sources inks and gasolene), formaldehyde (common in cleaning products, personal care products, and carpets), trichloroethylene (used in drycleaning, lacquers, and varnishes), carbon monoxide, xylene (commonly used as a leather solvent) and microbial pathogens.This is pretty handy since I live in the city with lots of cars. Even if you live in low pollution areas chemicals are released from particle boards, glass insulation materials and varnishes from furnitures. It seems indoor plants can make every home a better place.  Here is a list of  top 15 plants for the indoors. I think my next purchase is going to be some pink Azaleas for the living room and a snake plant for the bathroom.

N.B. If you have children and pets make sure to get plants that are not toxic when ingested. Aloe vera is a winner because you can eat the gel (I put it in smoothies and salads, it tastes like chives) and apply it topically on burns and insect bites.

2. I leave a gap in the window.

During warm weather times, to help with the ventilation, I always leave a small gap in the windows. In winter, when the heater is turned off, we open all our windows and doors once a day to circulate some fresh air without being cold and increasing our energy bill.

3. I also use fresh smelling organic essential oils every now and then.

My favourites are peppermint, lemongrass, and lavender. Peppermint is refreshing, lemongrass is energising and lavender is calming. Sometimes I drop few drops of peppermint oil, or pine oil on the wooden posts of my bed it makes me feel like I am sleeping in a forest. Depending on what your mattress is made up of  you can drop it on the four corners of your mattress too. Make sure the essential oils aren't syntheticly produced or have been topped up with synthetic fillers, it defeats the purpose. So read those ingredient labels. I noticed all the respectable companies list their ingredients, so if a product doesn't list their ingredients I don't give them my dollar. 

4. I have a Himalayan salt lamp next to my bed

The lamp smells similar to how the sea smells, salty and fresh. It also helps me gauge how humid my room is, as the humidity is attracted to the salt. I hardly see any signs of humidity anymore. It also looks very pretty and pink!

5. I use bincho-tan (Japanese white charcoal)

For dark and closed areas like my built in wardrobe I use bincho-tan, a very dense but light charcoal. As it is very dry it the moisture particles are attracted to it. I read about it here, as it's effects as an air freshener and  wanted to test it out. It's basically a very hard charcoal made from oak. Binchotan is used in water purification systems and for cooking. I place it in my what use to be a noticeably damp wardrobe. It works very well. I can't put a plant in a dark wardrobe so the bincho-tan does the job. Every month I put the charcoal out in the sunlight  for a few hours to make it dry it out. They are relatively inexpensive and I got mine from a very cool specialty Japanese store that specialises in Japanese food and knives.

6. I use less toxic cleaning products and personal care products to help with the air quality.

This is tip doesn't help with the dampness but improves the overall air quality. While there isn't much we can do in the short term with certain environmental pollution, we can do a lot with what we put on our skin, what we eat, what we use in our homes, and what we put down in our drains. In the short term we can reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals that come from sources close to us and within our control.

I make my household cleaning spray from vinegar, water, lemon and some essential oils. Sometimes I use baking soda. These things work just as well as their commercial counterparts and I don't get headaches from the smells of synthetic perfumes and other whatnots. This way I avoid the confusion at the supermarket when choosing greener products, since so many products are 'green washed'( green washing is when an organisation use environmentally friendly programs, words, and/or pictures to deflect attention from their environmentally unfriendly activities).  Words like natural , or organic are used often in 'greenwashing' but things can be organic, derived from natural sources and still be toxic. Labelling laws on cleaning products here only require the companies to list the active ingredients, leaving us with no idea what other substances are in there. One good thing is they are also required to state whether the product is hazardous, dangerous, or toxic. If it says any of these warnings you can be sure that there is a better option in the market that's not also a poison (or you can make your own).

My last tip is for the car, not technically indoors but you still breathe when you are in the car so here we go.

7.Open your car window as soon as you get into the car to get rid of the stale air.

If it's been hot and sunny, the heat from the sunlight makes the dashboard hot and  fumes  are released by the leather and plastics of the dashboard, seats, and carpet.  Also, wipe down the windshield with a damp cotton towel every now and then,  because if the gases are released and they can't escape, it builds up in the windows. I think this may be one of the reasons cars smell strange.

Know any other tips on improving air quality? Let me know in the comments. How do you keep your home smelling fresh without any toxic chemicals? Also, for those with a green thumb what are your favourite indoor plants, and why? 

With love and a chestful of fresh air,

Nyamka.