Penney Poyzer, known as the “Queen of Green” has spent the past 20 years practising a clean air policy in her home in a bid to keep her family healthy. Penney had an interior air quality test done on her home - not surprisingly, her home came out with an A grading - what would a test on your home reveal?

We spend time and money trying to eat healthily and being careful of what we put into our bodies. But have you ever stopped to consider how the interior air quality of your home could be affecting the health of your family? Factors including chemicals, smoke, damp and mould all contribute to poor air quality and have an impact on health, so it makes sense to really understand the causes and how you can treat them.

1 Cut out smoke

Open fires and wood burning stoves and candles emit harmful particulates both in your home and to the atmosphere, which affects your neighbours. If you do decide to splash out on a wood burner, only purchase an efficient model, such as Ecodesign ready. Only use the cleanest fuel, such as dry wood instead of wet wood, or low-smoke, low-sulphur fuel instead of coal. Many so-called “smokeless fuels” contain petroleum coke. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and ventilate your entire house immediately if you smell any smoke while using your appliance. Make sure your appliance is serviced regularly and your chimney is swept twice a year. The best way to keep your indoor air clean is to use a cleaner form of heating if you can.

2. Monitor humidity and ventilate your home

With the right products, you can monitor the humidity of a given area and ensure that no mould grows there. Ideally, a humidity below 50% will help to prevent the build-up of mould, which grows readily in areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. An easy, quick and free way to improve the air quality of a home is simply to keep windows open wherever and whenever possible, ensuring healthy circulation of air. Regularly clean surfaces and walls in bathrooms and kitchens - these are the main areas for the build up of mould, Remove mould using a non-toxic method such as steam.

3 Carry out an audit of items you use to clean your home and your personal care

Look at ALL the cleaning and personal care products you use in your home - how many of them carry a warning regarding toxicity? I use vinegar, sodium bicarbonate and good old fashioned hot soapy water. Aerosols should be cut out or used by an open window. Exposure to chemicals from aerosols could cause skin reactions, aggravate allergies and exacerbate respiratory and heart problems.

4 Open Windows When You Clean

Cleaning tends to stir up a lot of the dust, bacteria, dander, and other toxins or allergens that have settled in your home, which can actually make your indoor air quality worse. When you clean, open some windows to help remove these culprits.

5 Vacuum Often, Using a HEPA Filtered Vacuum Cleaner

Many toxins and allergens accumulate in dust and carpets. Vacuum often. If you have a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner, this can help prevent the toxins and allergens from being recirculated back into your home. HEPA filters are known to filter out 99.7% of all airborne particles, so they’re very effective at filtering toxins, dust, and other allergens out of the air. Make sure to clean or replace the filters in your vacuum cleaner regularly.

6 Mop or Steam Hard Floors Regularly

Mops pick up dust and pollutants that vacuuming and dusting might miss or leave behind. Make sure to use a non-toxic soap in your mop water.

Steam cleaners are also available for hard floors. They are a great alternative to mopping, as they use hotter temperatures, which can also help kill bacteria and allergens without needing any soaps or cleaners.

7 Avoid Harsh Cleaning Products and synthetic air fresheners

Many cleaning products contain harsh solvents or emit odours. Opt to make your own natural cleaners, or buy 100% natural cleaners. Scented candles and other air fresheners release chemicals into the air and can be especially harmful to children and other vulnerable groups. Avoid using air fresheners, or opt for natural fresheners like essential oils in a bowl of water. Some houseplants may be good at eliminating airborne toxins. Keeping several throughout your home may help keep your air clean and provide additional oxygen.

8 Use 100% Natural Personal Care Products

Toxic gases can be released from chemicals and artificial scents in personal care products like shampoo, deodorant, soaps, perfumes, co lognes, and other personal care products. Use 100% natural, unscented, and non-aerosol varieties whenever possible. For products like nail polish and nail polish remover, make sure to use them in well-ventilated areas if at all possible.

9 Wash New Clothes Before Using/dry cleaning

New clothes can contain a host of toxic chemicals used in either the manufacturing process or to treat the clothing to help make them stain or wrinkle resistant. Make sure to wash clothing before putting it away or wearing it. The dry cleaning process uses a chemical called perchloroethylene (PERC). This chemical can evaporate from the cleaned item into your home. Exposure to this chemical can affect your central nervous system and cause other health effects. If possible, air out your dry cleaning before bringing it indoors. Or try to find a “green” dry cleaner that doesn’t use toxic chemicals.

10. Take care when decorating

Any MDF products like cupboards, panelling, or flooring could release formaldehyde or other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If you decorate, make sure to choose products with minimal formaldehydes and VOCs. After you install, be sure you ventilate your home well by regularly opening windows until the “new” smell dissipates. Do this as well for plastic shower curtains, new carpet, and anything else you can smell after installing. DIY products such as paint and vanishes can contain VOCs which are extremely toxic and “off-gas” long after the smell has gone. Choose paints marked with a “low VOC” label. There are many products on the market which are more eco and human friendly.

Further Reading

Open fires and wood burning
Home ventilation
Home cleaning
Personal care products
New clothes
Formaldehyde