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How to Improve Air Quality without Breaking the Bank
Do you have asthma? Weak lungs? Terrible recurring allergies that folks side eye in the grocery store? Then you could benefit from improving your home air quality.
But how? Some solutions (dusting) are obvious, while some (losing the scented candles) aren’t. We’ll walk you through our ideas, and you can pick what works for you.
Improving indoor air quality only goes so far. If following these suggestions doesn’t help your respiratory problems, you may need to take more drastic measures. Those might include getting an inhaler, staying indoors on days with excess smog or wildfire smoke, or even moving to a climate with lower pollution levels and more fresh air.
1. Put an air purifier in your bedroom
Do you wake up with a gunky throat, then feel progressively better throughout the day? Try sleeping with an air purifier. This handy-dandy device will clean the air in your bedroom so you don’t suffer while you sleep.¹
Just make sure you change your air purifier filters as recommended—otherwise, you could create more problems for your lungs, not fewer.
2. Change your filters
The ventilation system in your house comes equipped with air filters, which you should change frequently. For most people, that’s once a quarter, although it can vary based on your living situation.²
Typically, your air filter is in a metal box called an air handler that’s housed in an out-of-the-way spot, like an attic, basement, or utility room.³
3. Stop smoking indoors
If you’re in the habit of smoking indoors, you should move your smoke breaks outside.
Smoke can get embedded in the wallpaper and carpets, aggravating your respiratory system long after you’ve stubbed out the cigarette. It can also get in your clothes—so even if you smoke outdoors, we suggest changing your outfit immediately.
We also suggest refraining from vaping or smoking marijuana indoors. You might even want to reconsider lighting that wood-burning stove. The more smoke-related activities you move outside, the better for indoor air quality.
5. Air out your house
It’s a good idea to open your windows every now and again. Sometimes trading old, stale air for fresh air makes a world of difference.
Just check the air quality where you are so that you aren't worsening your indoor situation.
6. Prevent and remove mold
According to the CDC, you don’t want to live with mold.⁴ Prevent it by running bathroom fans when the shower is on and cleaning up spills, leaks, and floods. If you live in a humid climate, get moisture absorbers for areas with little air flow, like closets and basements. Consider picking up a dehumidifier if you’re often battling wet or humid weather.
If you see mold developing, remove it immediately or hire someone else to remove it for you.
7. Look out for lead and asbestos
If your home is older, you may not know what’s lurking in the walls and ceilings. Substances like asbestos and lead can cause severe negative health effects (and not just to your respiratory system).
If you aren’t sure that your home is lead- and asbestos-free, we recommend investing in some tests. You can contact professionals to take care of it, or you can try home tests like this one.
8. Run a fan while cooking
If pepper makes you sneeze or you’re just sensitive to strong smells, make sure you run the stove fan while cooking. Plus, your overhead fan will keep your stove cleaner: win-win!
When cooking, always pay attention to what’s on the stove.
For instance, if you boil enough straight vinegar, you’re making something called acetic acid that you don’t want to breathe or even touch.⁵ Or, if you let a nonstick pan cook empty or at a too-high temperature, it can start releasing toxic fumes.⁶ Neither of these things will do any favors for your home’s air quality.
Similarly, don’t mix cleaning products—you might end up with some dangerous concoctions.⁷
10. Ditch the candles and fresheners
If you have a sensitive respiratory system, scented candles and air fresheners probably won’t help.
Try going without for a while to see if it reduces indoor air pollution and helps your lungs. If you see a significant improvement, you might want to make this a permanent change.
11. Consider outdoor pers
Want a pup or kitten? If you already have a hard time breathing, we don’t recommend getting one. (We don’t even recommend a hypoallergenic dog. Sadly, hypoallergenic pets may not be any better for you than regular ones.⁸)
But if you’re dead set on adding a furry friend to your household, consider getting an outdoor- or garage-only pet. That way, you can enjoy some of the benefits of pet parenting without taking respiratory risks.
If you think you might be suffering from poor air quality, here are some steps to improve the air in your home.
- Put an air purifier in your bedroom: Purge the air while you sleep.
- Change your filters: Keep your air conditioner and heating system clean.
- Stop smoking indoors: That’s one less pollutant in your home.
- Dust and vacuum frequently: Don’t let dust mites accumulate.
- Air out your house: Freshen things up a bit.
- Prevent and remove mold: Your lungs will thank you.
- Look out for lead and asbestos: These toxic substances are bad news.
- Run a fan while cooking: Just in case the smell is aggravating you.
- Buy some plants: Recycle your carbon monoxide into fresh oxygen.
- Ditch the candles and fresheners: Some of these scents trigger allergies.
- Consider outdoor pets: Keep the pet dander outside of your home.