Healthy Home Hacks is a series where I show you how to create a healthier space for your family, using high and low tech solutions!
Okay, a lot of the information out there on indoor air pollution can be a little fear-mongering (or applies to extreme situations, like buildings contaminated with lead or asbestos).
Still, you and your family might benefit from a little air clean up, since it is true that “indoor air can be even more polluted than the air outdoors,” according to the American Lung Association.
Things like VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from paint and furniture and allergens like dust and pet dander are pretty common, and banishing them from your living space is a good idea. This is especially true if anyone in the family has asthma or serious allergies.
Ready to breathe better? Here are a few simple hacks for healthier air.
Invest in an Air purifier
While most won’t be able to grab germs, air purifiers like HEPA filters can deal with dust, pollen, and pet dander. And studies have shown they’re associated with easier breathing in people who suffer from asthma.
Dyson’s Pure Cool Purifier and fan removes 99.97% of pollutants and allergens with it’s glass HEPA filter (which doesn’t let mold and bacteria grown on it (like a paper one can), and because it has a fan, it’s moving the air around the room (and not just cleaning the air around it).
I also recently checked out this Lasko air purifier at the Housewares Show and loved its design as well as it’s ability to “wash” the air of smoke, odors, dust, allergens, fumes, VOCs and more. Plus a remote control comes in handy if you want to adjust things from across the room (the Dyson model above has one too).
I have also spent some time testing the the Molekule (above)— an air purifier that goes an extra mile to zap pollutants with UV light. I loved that it was beautiful and quiet. While it’s more expensive than a typical HEPA, the company says its own research shows it effectively captures smaller pollutants that most filters miss, like bacteria, viruses, black mold, and those VOCs.
Check out this self-cleaning water bottle, Larq, that also uses UV light to purify your water.
Pro tip: Some HVAC systems offer built-in HEPA filter technology so the air in your entire house will be consistently purified— look into whether yours does, and make sure you keep replacing/cleaning those filters!
Maintain your humidifier
Humidifiers and Dehumidifiers (depending on where you live!) are more about moderating the moisture in the air than they are about cleaning it. But if you keep one running and don’t maintain it, it can become a breeding ground for mold and bacteria, which it will then spew back into your air (#gross). Some high-quality models like Dyson’s will keep the water clean their own (again, using UV technology), but if you’re not sure about yours, check the manufacturer’s instructions on the regular maintenance required.
At the Housewares Show a few weeks ago, I saw a new humidifier I’m excited about, the Habitat (available for pre-order now). It’s app operated (works with Alexa too), and linkable to other units, so you can have multiples running in different bedrooms so the whole family can experience optimal air quality at once. Plus it has “intelligent” features, like turning off when it senses you’re not in the room, or when the room reaches your desired humidity. It also monitors the water freshness, because you don’t want to spray moldy water into your home, right? Right.
Choose Low or No-VOC Paints
You won’t need tech for this one, but it’s important. VOCs include a long list of chemicals, and they’re associated with real health issues, from short-term headaches and nausea to damage to the liver and central nervous system. Paint is a major source of VOCs, but there are now tons of low-VOC and no-VOC options at the store. Make choosing one a priority next time you give your space a refresh.
Check for Lead
Lead is a highly toxic metal that can cause lots of health and neurological problems. It used to be used in paint to make paint more durable, but of course we now know how bad an idea that was. Lead paint isn’t a risk to your health when it’s on the wall— but becomes dangerous when it chips off, ingested, or when it’s inhaled as dust. Kids under six are especially vulnerable because lead is easily absorbed into their growing bodies and can wreak havoc on their development, brains organs and all. If your home was built before 1978, or is near a freeway or busy roadway where long-term exposure to leaded gasoline exhaust is an issue, you definitely want to test your paint.
The Environmental Protection Agency provides a directory of lead testing professionals in your area if you want to have your home’s paint tested, but a more affordable step might be to get a DIY swab test. A good place to use the test are anywhere children spend a lot of time, like playrooms or bedrooms, or any surface that children can chew or wear, like stair railings, baseboards, banisters and porches.
Cultivate your green thumb
Plants might just be the most amazing home accessory you can buy. They act as beautiful decor, and there’s significant research that shows they can actually make you happier. And there’s also evidence (from NASA!) that they’re really good at removing pollutants from the air. It’s unclear exactly the effect they will have in your home based on factors like the amount of space and how often the air is circulating in and out, but seriously, why not?
Your plants can even do double duty with these cool tech solutions to growing herbs and veggies: they’ll just be scrubbing your air and producing herbs for your dinner at the same time. (Thanks, guys.)
Do you clean your air at home? Has it made a difference in your asthma or allergies? Let me know in the comments.