During the long cold months of the year, I find that houses can get stuffy, and nothing drives me crazy like living in a stuffy house. But not only do I like my house to smell fresh and inviting, but I also am concerned about the very real problem with indoor air pollution. Since most of us spend a lot of our day indoors, breathing in clean air should be a priority! So today I thought I would share some of my tips for natural ways to refresh your house, fight indoor air pollution, and make it smell inviting!
What is indoor air pollution
But first, a brief word on what indoor air pollution is. The term refers to any chemical, biological, or physical contamination of the air in or around buildings and structures. In industrialized countries this contamination usually involves pollutants from tobacco smoke, mold, allergens, bacteria, viruses, radon, formaldehyde, asbestos, mercury, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
What causes indoor air pollution
Indoor air can be contaminated in many ways, and the sources may be either natural or manmade. Pollutants such as mold can result from moisture, animal dander, or plant pollen. Allergens, bacteria and gases such as radon are also naturally occurring. However, much of our indoor air pollution is caused by humans. Second-hand smoke is a common source, as is carbon monoxide which can come from tobacco smoke, space heaters that use fossil fuels, furnaces, and auto exhaust. VOCs come from a wide range of manmade sources, including paints and paint strippers, cleaning supplies, pesticides, glues, permanent markers, and office equipment such as copiers and printers.
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While some issues (such as serious black mold issues) absolutely must be dealt with by a professional, and others are best directly dealt with by life-style choices (giving up smoking and using natural cleaning products), the everyday variety of our indoor pollution can be fought effectively at home with some pretty simple solutions. Here are seven ways to fight indoor air pollution, refresh your house, and help it smell great!
Fight indoor air pollution by airing out the house
I know, I know, I know, it costs to reheat your house. But I think it’s worth it for a couple reasons. One, it really does refresh your house best and most quickly (unless, of course, you live in a really polluted area). Second, some studies have suggested that our “indoor” pollution beats outside pollution hands down. One of the issues is our airtight windows that allows very little air flow. Airing out your house here and there can really help with that.
Fight indoor air pollution by switching to natural enzyme-based air freshers
One source of indoor air pollution is air freshers. Not only do they add pollution to your indoor air, but I find them ineffective. There is an easy solution to this problem however, simply switch to a natural enzyme-based air fresher!
I know this bottle has a picture of a dog on it, but I promise it’s not just for pets! This natural enzyme spray not only does amazing things with food stains on your clothes (or pet/child accidents on your floor) but it also refreshes your furniture too! The enzymes in it effectively eliminate odors at their root cause, and eat away at stains. I used it to clean up a used armchair that we bought and was really happy with the results. I also will give my bed a quick spray down with it when I am putting on new sheets. I find that it really helps refresh furniture by removing the odd little stain or the funny smells old furniture can start getting.
Enzyme treat air odor
Along the same line, this air freshener doesn’t mask smells, but rather tries to eliminate the source of it through enzyme. I highly recommend it!
Photo Credit: Amazon.com
Fight indoor air pollution and odor with activated charcoal
Activated charcoal is amazing. I wrote about our experience using activated charcoal to prevent and treat the stomach flu here. It works because it is an highly absorbable material. Another great use for it is odor fighting with these bags of activated charcoal. Put one in each room and it will start absorbing off house odors for a fresher house. You can also buy small versions for your refrigerator or closets, etc. I am really excited to try these as they have gotten great reviews (and I never found the old baking soda box in the refrigerator effective).
But it does so much more than just keep odors at bay! From their Amazon description:
“Moso air purifying bags, made of linen and filled with bamboo charcoal, absorb unpleasant odors and dehumidify the air. The porous structure of the high density bamboo charcoal helps remove bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens from the air and absorbs moisture, preventing mold and mildew by trapping the impurities inside each pore. The Moso air purifying bag has been scientifically proven to reduce the amount of formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and chloroform gases emitted from everyday items such as paint, carpeting, furniture, air fresheners, chemical cleaners, rubber, and plastics. Toxin free, the bags are safe to use around pets and children. The bamboo charcoal rejuvenates when the bags are placed in sunlight once a month. You can reuse the bags for two years.”
If that’s not amazing, I don’t know what is!
Fight indoor air pollution by switching to beeswax candles
I love, LOVE, beeswax candles. They give off a light honey-ish scent that is delightful. I switched to them after I found out that regular candles are a big source of unhealthy indoor pollution, and I’ve loved them ever since! I think that candles help give a peaceful, inviting, and romantic atmosphere to a room as well. The interesting thing about them is that they also have a purifying effect on the air in your house! How amazing is that? 100% beeswax candles give off negative ions when burned, which neutralize bad positive ions such as allergens, dust, and air borne toxins. So instead of a negative impact on your air quality, beeswax candles help improve them! To make them also gently scent your room, drop a couple drops of essential oils into the warm wax around the flame. It’s a lovely way to infuse a room with scent. (Suggestions: Peppermint, Cedar, or Orange go well this time of year). I really adore the big dipper beeswax candles, but I have to say this 80 hour candle also caught my eye! I do try to get candles with a lead-free wick as well.
Fight indoor air pollution with salt lamps
Salt lamps are these funky, but beautiful lamps made out of salt pieces (they can have a more rustic look or a modern look,) . These not only fit in well with a natural décor, but, like beeswax candles, produce negative ions, thus improving air quality, fighting indoor pollution, and helping keep your house odor-free. I have a small one myself, but it’s on my wishlist for Christmas to get a larger one.
Fight indoor air pollution with house plants
If NASA used plants to keep air clean in space, we can down here on earth. Plants are amazing air filters. There are numerous studies showing their air purifying benefits (everything from airborne fecal matter, VOCs, to indoor ozone). When talking to a indoor gardening expert, I was told that you basically are looking for plants that grow quickly, as they best purify the air. Possibilities include the following: aloe, spider plant, gerber daisies, snack plant, golden pothos, chrysanthemum, Red-edged dracaena, weeping fig, azalea, English ivy, warneck dracaena, Chinese Evergreen and many more. Just make sure that if you have children or pets that you buy plants that are not toxic to either. A few generally considered safe to children and Pet safe plants include the spider plant, grape ivy, fiddleleaf fig, and ponytail palm.
Naturally Scent your house with Stovetop Potpourri
And finally, this is an amazingly effective way to naturally scent your house! The enzyme air freshers don’t actually scent your house, but this will do a much better job than a toxic chemical air fresher.
One of my mom’s favorite tricks for making a home smell inviting was to put together this warm stovetop potpourri that made cinnamon and citrus waft through the house. It’s the type of thing that makes you think of homemade pies, and baking, and herbal chai teas. Studies have shown that cinnamon’s scent helps us concentrate and stay alert, which is just what I need when keeping track of preparations for a big meal, so it provides benefits to guests and the cook! It’s the perfect thing to have going on a gloomy cold day, or to use when welcoming guests into your house for a holiday meal. And it couldn’t be simpler to make.
1 orange, sliced (or peel of one orange)
1 lemon, sliced (or peel of one lemon)
2-3 cinnamon sticks
About 4 cups of water
Put all of the ingredients in a medium pot, and bring to a simmer. Turn to very low, and keep warm (just make sure you check on the water level here and there).