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Tips to Improve Air Quality at Home: What to Avoid

Tips to Improve Air Quality at Home: What to Avoid

How many hours do you spend indoors? According to research, 90% of people stay indoors for an average of 22 hours a day. This makes it all the more important for us to follow tips to improve indoor air quality at home, which can have positive effects on our health and wellbeing.

What is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is simply the measure of how clean the air is in the area where we live, work, or play. A lot of things can influence IAQ, including the following.

  • The ventilation system or how the air moves in and out of the building.
  • Our ability to open windows.
  • Equipment and furniture that might release chemical pollutants, such as formaldehyde.
  • The chemicals produced by the activities happening indoors.
  • Pollutants entering the house or building.
  • Other materials like cleaning supplies and art materials are used indoors.

And because we understand the importance of keeping the air clean at home (especially when we have kids), we often take measures to improve it.

tips to improve indoor air quality at home

For instance, many people now take delight in using diffusers to “inhale the benefits” of essential oils. Others choose to light scented candles to relax.

Of course, there are also instances when we use fragrances and disinfectant sprays to get rid of bad indoor smell.

But did you know that these activities could potentially do more harm than good?

Tips to improve indoor air quality at home

Common Things That Can Harm Indoor Air Quality and How to Use Them Correctly

When not properly used, the following materials can lead to health problems of varying degrees.

Examples of these health concerns are asthma attacks, dizziness, dry eyes, nasal congestion, nausea, and fatigue.

Here’s how they can affect our health and the tips we can follow to improve indoor air quality at home while using them.

Benefits of Air Purifying Plants

Disinfectant Sprays

Because of their ability to “kill viruses and bacteria”, many people tend overuse disinfectant sprays.

However, please note that disinfectant sprays and other aerosol products (like insect killer sprays) release “volatile organic compounds”.

VOCs, according to reports, contribute to the development of chronic respiratory problems, allergy, and headaches.

Tips on Using Disinfectant Sprays (And Other Aerosol Products)

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. In their containers or bottles, sprays often include directions such as the correct distance between the nozzle and the surface or the amount of time (usually in seconds) you need to spray on the surface.
  • Spray only when necessary. If the surface doesn’t need cleaning, don’t use the spray, just so it will “smell good”.
  • Remember that being clean is not about how the surface or air smells. As much as possible don’t use fragrant products. Air fresheners, for instance, are “concentrated sources” of air pollutants.
  • Unless directed otherwise, open some windows when spraying.
  • After spraying on surfaces, wipe it with damp cloth to “rinse off” particles that may float in the air.
  • Check for products that contain pine, or those that are citrus and lemon-scented. These particular products have terpenes, which could produce formaldehyde when they react to smog.

Diffusers with Essential Oils

Diffusing essential oils is an emerging trend here in the Philippines. But what are its effects on IAQ?

In one study titled, The effects of evaporating essential oils on indoor air quality, the researchers used three of the most popular essential oils: Tea tree, lavender, and eucalyptus.

While evaporating the essential oils, they measured the levels of the following compounds:

  • Indoor Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs)
  • Particulate matters
  • Antimicrobial activity on airborne microbes

Results showed that:

  • There was an increase in the levels of indoor carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and TVOCs.
  • The antimicrobial activity against the airborne microbes was only noted in the first 30 to 60 minutes of evaporating the essential oils.
  • There were “high emissions” of various chemicals in the terpene family.

Essential Oils: All You Need to Know

Tips on Using Essential Oils

  • Remember that each essential oil is different and some 100% EOs may result in respiratory symptoms, especially in patients with asthma and allergies.
  • Take measures to clean and maintain your diffuser, especially since water can harbor microbes.
  • Don’t diffuse essential oils hours on end. Many experts say you need to take regular breaks in between use, with each diffusion only lasting for a maximum of 30 minutes.
  • Only diffuse oils in a well-ventilated area.

tips to improve indoor air quality at home

Scented Candles

And, of course, we have the use of scented candles, which is a simple and inexpensive way to relax or set the mood. But how does it affect indoor air quality?

In Denmark, where lighting a candle is a common household activity, researchers wanted to know if the candle smoke could negatively impact a person’s health.

Their study led them to discover that 60% of ultra-fine particles in Danish homes come from burning candles for just 2 hours a day.

But, what are these “ultra-fine” particles?

Ultra-final particles (UFPs) are nanoparticles that are so extremely tiny they can penetrate our lungs. And while we still need more studies to confirm how exactly these nanoparticles are affecting our health, some research already suggests that it’s “effective in irritating our body’s defenses”.

So it’s best to cut back on lighting scented candles, until we know more about how it could affect our long-term health.

Tips on Lighting Scented Candles

  • Use scented candles in moderation.
  • Always light candles in a well-ventilated area.
  • Choose candles made from soy or beeswax. These are found to produce less indoor pollutants than paraffin wax candles.

Once again, remember that scented air doesn’t necessarily mean clean air. The best tips to improve indoor air quality at home are to keep our homes clean, invest in some plants, and to let the fresh air in.

Learn more about Respiratory Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

What is indoor air quality and how is it affected by cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting? https://wspehsu.ucsf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FactSheet_AffectIndoorAirQual.pdf Accessed September 28, 2020 Cleaning Supplies and Household Chemicals https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/cleaning-supplies-household-chem Accessed September 28, 2020 The effects of evaporating essential oils on indoor air quality https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1352231006009939 Accessed September 28, 2020 3 Common and Dangerous Essential Oil Mistakes https://info.achs.edu/blog/aromatherapy-essential-oil-dangers-and-safety Accessed September 28, 2020 Our homes are filled with soot nanoparticles from candle flames https://sciencenordic.com/chemistry-denmark-environment/our-homes-are-filled-with-soot-nanoparticles-from-candle-flames/1390377 Accessed September 28, 2020 What You Need to Know Before You Light That Next Candle https://www.besthealthmag.ca/best-you/health/news-candle-smoke-could-be-as-toxic-as-cigarettes/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20Danish%20Lung,kg%20of%20candles%20every%20year!&text=Additional%20research%20from%20the%20U.S.,harmful%20to%20your%20respiratory%20system. Accessed September 28, 2020
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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Nov 25, 2020
Fact Checked by Dr. Jeannette Daquinag