The air in my house is dirty.
The air in your house is dirty.
The air in the White House is dirty.
The air in the Big Blue House is dirty.
Are you seeing a pattern yet?
The EPA says that the air in our homes can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside.
Most of us worry about the air circulation on a plane. The air is being sucked up and pushed right back out, spreading through all the passengers. The same concept applies in your home, just on a slightly larger scale. Most HVAC systems aren't pulling in outdoor air, they're recycling the air already in your home. We can unknowingly pollute our home's air with cleaning chemicals, personal care products, and synthetic materials. Our pets produce dander which clings to items in our homes. First, this is a vital reminder to be mindful of what products we choose to bring into our homes. Second, open allllll the windows!!
My little family consistently follows a few guidelines in keeping pollutants out of our home. There is always more we can do, but these are easy steps we hold ourselves accountable to in our home.
1. Shoes OFF at the door
I won't lie, I never thought about this a ton until we had a baby.
And then our days were spent lying on the floor a LOT.
I started thinking about the things we could step in and carry into our home and on our floors, where our daughter was playing, and crawling, and rubbing her face. On top of that, our home came with carpet that is currently 23 years old and hopefully soon to be replaced. No need for any extra crud in that carpet!
The University of Arizona completed a study looking at bacteria on shoes and found that, there was an average of "421,000 units of bacteria on the outside of the shoe and 2,887 on the inside. Some of the bacteria found on the shoes included: Escherichia coli, known to cause intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis and diarrheal disease; Klebsiella pneumonia, a common source for wound and bloodstream infections as well as pneumonia; and Serratia ficaria, a rare cause of infections in the respiratory tract and wounds." (PS, washing the shoes got rid of all fecal bacteria & 90% of other bacteria, so wash your shoes!!) (PPS, don't put your purse or backpack on the public restroom floor.)
Our guests are always considerate and understanding when asked to take their shoes off, and at this point it's second nature to us. I feel better knowing whatever we stepped on outside is not being tracked through our home.
2. Natural cleaning products
First off, we are being kind to the environment outside our home by using products that last longer and use less packaging as a result, and that don't pollute waterways with chemicals. This page from the EPA discusses environmental and health concerns. They are transparent in saying that "the actual risks from these chemicals at typical exposure levels are often uncertain, and in many cases are probably low. Regardless of the expected risk levels, however, reducing the intrinsic hazard of a product is a desirable pollution prevention objective as part of decisions that also take into account other important product attributes."
Some concerns the EPA lists include:
In addition, I feel safer using natural products around my daughter. I have fewer cleaning products cluttering up my home. We use vinegar, Thieves cleaner, and Norwex products to handle almost all of the cleaning in our home.
3. Essential oils, no candles
Meik Wiking shares in the Little Book of Hygge that "studies have shown that lighting just one candle fills the air with more microparticles than traffic in a busy street. A study undertaken by the Danish Building Research Institute showed that candles shed more particles indoors than either cigarettes or cooking."
This study in Florida found that, "Scented candle usage indoors may cause high levels of respirable soot, with risks to occupants for both acute and chronic health effects, including an increased risk of cancer."
Even if you don't use essential oils to combat health problems such as trouble sleeping, stress, or an upset stomach, you can probably agree that they smell good. Even great. You've got options for however you're feeling. I diffuse a relax blend before bed, an orange oil in the mornings, and a sugar cookie scent when I'm cozying up during winter. I'm not worried about any sort of open flame, and I know I'm keeping the air in our home just a little bit cleaner. I am very wary in choosing oils that are pregnancy safe, nursing safe, and kid safe. We use Plant Therapy, and their company is very transparent and very adamant about using oils wisely.
4. Replacing air filters often
Air filters are vital in keeping higher air quality in your home. Consider who is in your home. Pets? Children? People with allergies? Any of these factors- or any sort of combination- increases how often you should change your filters. Pets come with dander and fur, and more pets produce more allergens, so replace more often. Children have respiratory systems that are still developing, so replace more often. People with allergies need allergens and pollutants removed from the air, so replace more often. We get new filters in our Amazon subscribe and save order, so I'm never concerned about not having enough when it's time to change them. I also make sure keep 'replacing air filters' on my Google Keep to do list, and every two months I'm reminder to take care of it. I know some people write the date when a new filter is put in, but be honest, how often are you opening up the vent cover to see if it's time to replace your filter? Just these two quick steps make it much simpler in keeping the air in our home cleaner.
5. Opening windows
By now I bet you're getting the feeling of just how dirty the air in your house is. Even with all our good efforts, contaminants are still coming into our homes. I'll be honest, only that giant bottle of Treseme hairspray can tame these post-baby flyaways. We shed skin, our pets shed dander, our products release gases. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that "In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities."
Opening your home's windows allows outdoor air to circulate and move some of those pollutants outside, so they're not at such high levels in your home. 5 minutes a day is a good minimum, but if the weather allows, shoot for 15-20 minutes. On those gorgeous spring and fall days, our windows stay open during most daylight hours!
There is always more work to be done in reducing the pollutants & toxins in our home. However, starting here gives me peace of mind and a stepping stone for the next choices we can make in simplifying the chemicals and pollutants that are in our house.