Thursday, January 24, 2013

10 Ways to Breathe Easier

Let's talk about air quality. 

Why? I mean, it's not like I'm writing from Beijing, right?

It's a bigger deal than you might think, especially in the winter when you spend more time inside. Did you know that the air outside of your house is probably cleaner than what's inside?

This is actually true for most of the US, despite what you may be thinking about smog. Think of all the stuff floating around inside your house: dust, fumes from cleaning products, paint, synthetic fragrances. . .maybe mold, pesticides, foam and insulation that continually emits chemical fumes. . .(see the EPA for a more comprehensive list.)

I bring this up, because you never know when air quality's going to become a problem for you. I lived 23 years on this planet with carefree, unaffected lungs. Breathing problems? What are those?

And then last summer I choked. 

I didn't what was bothering me --still don't, actually, though it's subsided a lot. At the time, I thought it was the raging wildfire season we were experiencing in Colorado. Then they put out the wildfires, and I thought maybe the pesticides sprayed inside my apartment were the problem? (Pretty sure they gave me hives, anyway.) They ought to have dissipated by now, though, so maybe I'm just allergic to my apartment in general. It DOES develop dust quicker than anywhere else I've lived. Could there be mold?

So, you see, indoor air quality problems can be tricky to pinpoint.

What can a poor, frugal breather do??

First, if you know or suspect you're living with a severely toxic problem (toxic mold, for instance,) take action right away, whether this means educating yourself and hiring professionals to deal with it immediately, or making different living arrangements until you can get a handle on the situation.

If your position isn't that dire, here are some simple ways to improve your indoor air quality.


  1. Dust and vacuum, dust and vacuum. (In that order, so you can vacuum up the dust you disturb.) Vacuum mattresses, upholstery, and curtains oftener than you think they need it. If your vacuum uses filters, follow the manufacturer recommendations for cleaning or replacing them.
  2. Open your windows for 15-30 minutes a day (if air quality permits.) YES! Even in the winter. This will do a world of good. Open all the doors and turn on all the fans, too, to speed up the ventilation process. (You may wish to turn off your heat while you're doing this, so you're not just blowing it out the windows.)
  3. Speaking of ventilation, make sure all fans and air filters in your home are maintained or cleaned properly.
  4. Invest in houseplants. I have heard "6" tossed around as the magic number of houseplants to purify a home's air, but of course it has to depend on square footage, too. NASA suggests 15. The Peace Lily is supposed to be particularly potent--even affecting mold spores!
  5. If you buy a piece of furniture with that nice "new" smell, consider letting it ventilate outside for awhile if weather permits.
  6. Consider switching from store-bought cleaning chemicals to homemade, natural alternatives.
  7. If you DO keep chemicals around (cleaning, painting, pesticides, whatever,) keep them in a closed off area, or even the garage.
  8. And if you DO use said chemicals, use them in a well-ventilated area.
  9. If you are irked by unknown allergies and congestion, a HEPA air purifier may help, especially in the bedroom. Make sure you read all the fine print and get the real deal and not just something that says "HEPA-type".
  10. Essential oils (especially tea tree and eucalyptus) can also help. Diffuse them by boiling a few drops in a pot of water or add them to vinegar to make a disinfecting room spray.

Do you notice the air quality in your house? 
Share your tips!

Shared at:



It's a Hodgepodge Life: Hodgepodge Friday // The Thriftiness Miss: Weekend Wonders // Liz Marie: "Clean it!" Link Party //