Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, the quality of the air you breathe can have a big impact on your health. Studies have tied poor outdoor air quality to lung cancer, strokes and heart disease. In fact, air pollution causes 3.3 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
However, the air inside your home is typically even more polluted than the air outside, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says. And research shows we spend most of our time indoors, which is all the more reason to start cleaning our indoor air.
There is a myriad of reasons your indoor air can be polluted. Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings and electronics, can release pollutants more or less continuously, according to the EPA. Other sources, like smoking, cleaning or renovating, can release pollutants intermittently. Unvented or malfunctioning appliances can release potentially dangerous levels of pollutants indoors (which is why it’s so important to have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home).
And if you think spraying scented air freshener will clean your air, think again. That scent is a form of indoor air pollution, and most air fresheners just release more potentially harmful chemicals into your home. And the health issues caused by those chemicals cost about $340 billion a year in treatment and lost productivity expenses, according to a 2016 study published in The Lancet.
Read on for some tips on improving your indoor air quality without the use of chemicals.
1. Open your windows. It’s the simplest (and cheapest!) thing you can do to improve your indoor air quality. Open your windows for even just five minutes a day to alleviate the accumulation of harmful air pollutants in your indoor air.
2. Spruce up your décor with houseplants. Having indoor houseplants can help improve indoor air quality, according to a study published by the American Society for Horticultural Science. For example, spider plants are effective at reducing benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene. (Here are 14 more houseplant suggestions.)
3. Opt for essential oil diffusers. Some essential oils, like tea tree oil, have antibacterial properties and can be added to homemade household cleaners or even applied topically to your skin to treat a small cut. But did you know these oils also can reduce airborne bacteria? Essential oils like eucalyptus, clove and rosemary have been proven to help reduce the number of dust mites in your house, too.
4. Opt for beeswax candles. Bear with me on this one, because it’ll get a little scientific. The reason particles float in the air around us is because they are positively charged ions. The air is cleaner in the woods, or near a waterfall, for example, because nature creates negative ions, which bind to the positive ions, causing them to be heavier and fall to the ground. Burning pure beeswax candles artificially creates this phenomenon indoors, cleaning the indoor air.
However, burning any kind of candle still sends soot up into your air. To avoid that completely, consider LED candles, which will pollute the air less and reduce the risk of a fire.