Skip to content

Question of the Week: How do you protect the air inside your home?

2009 July 20

We spend a lot of our time indoors, and the quality of the air indoors can even be worse than what’s outdoors. But building or upgrading a home with improved, cleaner air features can help reduce health risks. Share what you do!

How do you protect the air inside your home?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

54 Responses leave one →
  1. Jackenson Durand permalink
    July 20, 2009

    To protect the air inside my house, I always trying to keep my windows open also, avoiding to overloading my room more specifically. More space in a house allows a better penetration of CO2 and avoids confiscation of the O2 breathing something leading to shortness of breath even death sometimes. I am not a House owner yet. When the time will come I should create a “green house”.

  2. Susan Lignell permalink
    July 20, 2009

    I have air purifiers in my house. They are not ordinary run of the mill air purifiers that you can just go buy a Wal-mart. I have a purifer that has a new technology known as ActivePure (RCI -Radiant Catalytic Ionization), that is develeoped by EcoQuest International.
    The technology is based on NASA research, ActivePure (RCI) has been proven in laboratory testing at Kansas State University to reduce MRSA, Avian Flu, e-coli, other bacterias, yeast, molds, fungi etc.. by more than 99 percent in 24 hours on surface areas. This has enormous implications for reducing exposure to infection causing germs.
    Active Pure inactivates germs in my home environment 24 hours a day.
    My 8 year old son has not been sick for 2 years, ever since we got our Fresh Air purifier.
    Because of our great success with our indoor air quality I have family and friends who now also own Fresh Air purifiers.
    Because I believe in the technology with their air purifers I became a distributor for EcoQuest Inernational.
    Our son came home from school this last Spring very upset about the Swine Flu – the teacher had told his class about the virus. I was able to reassure him that we had the very best air purification system out there. If it could keep him healthy and kill all the bad bugs out there like the Avian Flu then it would kill the Swine Flu (EcoQuest is testing our NASA inspired technolgy against the Swine Flu). So we immediately ordered him a Fresh Air Buddy to hang around his neck (his very own individual air purifier) in case there was a pandemic.
    Our indoor air purification has given our family peace of mind that we have very good indoor air quality and that we are protected against infection causing germs.
    There is more information on ActivePure.

  3. avsbluesky permalink
    July 20, 2009

    I open the windows to let in the fresh air but more importantly I make my own natural household cleaners (vinegar, baking soda, water, ect.). “Air freshners” just pollute the inside of our homes so instead I just add a few drops of my favorite essential oil to some water to freshen the air.

  4. a coxton permalink
    July 20, 2009

    R C I. RADIO CATYLITIC IONIZATION IS BY FAR THE BEST WAY TO HAVE A HEALTHIER INDOOR INVIRONMENT. THE IONOC PRODUCT PRODUCED DESTROTS 99.999% OF THE MAJOR BACTERIA STRAINS THAT CAUSE ILLNESS AND GERM TRANSFERRENCE. INCLUDING THE NEW PANDEMIC THAT “THEY” ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT H1R1 SWINE FLUE,AND I HAVE THE REASERCH TO PROVE IT. MOST IN THE KNOWING ARE AWARE THAT THE MAJOR CAUSE OF ECONOMIC LOSS IS CAUSED BY “SICK BUILDING SYNDROME” THAT RAISED ITS UGLY HEAD IN THE EARLY 80’S WHEN DRASTIC MEASURES WERE PUT IN PLACE TO LOWER ENERGY USE WHEN THERE WAS A “GAS” CRISIS.WINDOWS ON BUILDINGS WERE SEALED OF FROM OPENING LIMITING FRESH AIR CIRCULATION. ONE SICK PERSONS SNEASE COULD INFECT AN ENTIRE FLOOR OF WORKERS BY CIRCULATING THROUGH THE INDOOR AIR VENTING CIRCULARTORY SYSTEM.

  5. Christian permalink
    July 20, 2009

    One of the best ways to improve indoor air quality is to stop using toxic cleaners! There are several options out there for us nowadays.

    Carpets, paints, cabinetry, building glues, caulk are all contributors to our bad indoor air, because they release voc’s into the air, long after the house is built. Ever smelled that new house smell, that’s voc’s. A new house should be as close to odor free as possible.

  6. Christian permalink
    July 20, 2009

    And house plants can improve our indoor air quality as well, a quick search on the internet can give you an idea of the plants that remove the most impurities.

  7. Wesley permalink
    July 20, 2009

    By replacing and keeping clean your air filter. You can also use a specialized filter to keep out: germs, pollen, dust and other stuff!

  8. sophia permalink
    July 20, 2009

    from a filter a filter sucks up the dirty air and cleans it and cools it of and blows it through the vent

  9. dan permalink
    July 20, 2009

    -Do not smoke in the house.
    -First thing in the morning open the windows to let some fresh air in.
    -Do not use air freshener spray, they polute not refresh the inside air.
    -Do let the day lithe inside do not live in dark enviroment. ( promote the growth of fungi and bacteria ).
    A very good friend are some nice plants.

    Dan.

  10. Scott Powell permalink
    July 20, 2009

    We are in the indoor filtration business. I’ve seen and sold many different varieties of filtration filters and devices. We now have filters that will last up to year that are modified to fit existing a/c systems. These filters are a MERV 12, up to a 96% dust spot efficiency, with a .05″ resistance on the air handler.
    Working great.

  11. Les Pace, CEM, CDSM, LC permalink
    July 20, 2009

    Indoor air must be controlled when sealing up a home for energy conservation. mThe easiest ways are: introduce outside air based on CO2 levels and an automatic outside air damper into the return air system; fireplace to have its own cimbustion air for out side but must have a control damper, over range vent hood needs to have outside air introduced into the hood area to help reduce the removal of conditioned air and aid in removing cooking odors, air conditioning system should have a balance test to ensure comfort throughout, and ceiling fans to prevent air stratification.

  12. Betty permalink
    July 20, 2009

    Dan and Christian make excellent points. I will add a few.

    The best – and cheapest – thing you can do for your health, indoor and outdoor environment is to stop listening to advertisers who insist that everything in you, your clothes and your house must smell of something other than just good ole fresh air. All these products do is pollute the air and cover up other odors. Contrary to advertising and popular belief they do not eliminate them. One the easiest things you can do is to stop using not only toxic cleaners and air fresheners, but to also stop using scented detergents and all fabric softeners. It is designed to never go away and clings to everything! As previously noted there are many excellent products out now that don’t pollute the air, water and you. Some really cheap ones are plain old baking soda and borax. To soften you fabrics ad some vinegar to the rinse or throw a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer.

    Finally, never use pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides indoors – or even outdoors because eventually it winds up in the house!

  13. Linda permalink
    July 20, 2009

    I must chime in with Betty, Dan, and Christian — the best thing you can do to enhance indoor air quality is to do *less* to it. Over the years, I have become more and more sensitive to the fragrances used in various products ranging from soaps and colognes to dish detergent and floor cleaner. At this point, if I want something to smell nice but *don’t* want a migraine, I use natural essential oils to add fragrance (to my unscented, all-natural, eco-friendly laundry soap, for instance). There’s nothing like inhaling a brief sniff of some lovely floral fragrance only to be immediately side-lined by a tremendous headache. Mostly, I’m happy to enjoy air without any added embellishments other than those nature provides.

    In defference to my lungs, and those of my 14-year old cat who also has asthma, I use HEPA filters on my heat pump and change them monthly–that seems to have made a large difference. My vacuum cleaner also gets HEPA-filtration bags, so that the dust, etc. doesn’t just get moved around the house. I would open the windows to let in more “fresh” air, but as we live on a dirt road, that doesn’t really help as much as you’d think, especially if the weather has been dry; the clouds of dust and pollen that come in with the breeze are just too much to cope with … but at least it isn’t clouds of diesel exhaust.

  14. Johnny R. permalink
    July 20, 2009

    If the human population keeps growing and producing more tons of air pollution, there won’t be enough oxygen in the air to keep anyone alive, no matter how we filter it. Reduce the population and recycle 100% of all waste and garbage, or go extinct.

  15. Sebastian Eilert permalink
    July 20, 2009

    Some very good points already made so far. Good filters and consistent cleaning / changing of filters is vital. Monitoring CO2 certainly help and letting fresh air is also great. In South Florida, opening the windows now during summer brings other issue with it, such as high humidity and possible mold growth transmitting into the inside.

    If you can afford it, a humidifier or enhanced filter system with the air conditioning is a great option. The most important component for fresh is simply, as stated, to create less bad air in your home or office. Changing your cleaners to non toxic versions is a must and certainly does not diminish any cleaning capacity. If you can go as far as making your own, even better. There are many options out there to make it better.
    Also, the home fragrance actually is a bad idea. Ultimately, the oils that get airborne will hurt your health and have a negative effect on the overall air quality. Plants are great and natural herb potpourris have worked wonders for me. My favorite is a combination of lavender and cilantro. It also helps with mosquitoes in our climate…

    Cooking with fresh ingredients also contributes to a clean air environment. Usually the fruits and herbs used will linger in the air and help to naturally scent the house. Think of the smells you are looking for anyway… cinnamon and apple, fresh baked cookies , rose or vanilla.

    Great question. Looking forward to see what else is suggested.

    Village Green Man

  16. Albert Donnay, Env. Health Engineer permalink
    July 20, 2009

    The air inside most American homes is much more polluted than the air outside. To reduce indoor air contamination, I recommend the following when doing home inspections:

    INSTALL if you don’t already have:
    ========================
    □ Carbon monoxide detector with digital display (CO is the most common form of toxic poisoning in America!)
    □ Stainless steel liner in your chimney to prevent toxic combustion gases from leaking into your home
    □ 24/7 exhaust fan in attached garage if used to store vehicles
    (required by Int’l Mechanical Code but ignored by most builders)

    ELIMINATE if you still have, do or use:
    ==========================
    □ Wearing outdoor shoes indoors
    □ Smoking indoors
    □ Gas appliances that are not vented to the outdoors, especially ovens, ranges, space heaters and gas log fireplaces
    □ Burning wood in fireplaces unless the fireplace is fitted with tightly sealing glass doors (which you should always close at night before going to bed to prevent backdrafting as the chimney cools)
    □ Air “fresheners” of all kinds especially in nurseries and vehicles
    □ Paint stripping, oil painting, welding and other toxic hobbies
    □ Herbicides and pesticides (if they must be used, replace sprays and loose powders with boric acid and baited traps)
    □ Moth Balls □ Fabric softeners □ Dry Cleaning

    REPLACE:
    □ Gas water heater with sealed combustion or electric model
    □ Gas range and oven with electric model
    □ Wall-to-wall carpet (which continually collects and releases dust, dirt and other airborne contaminants) with hardwood, bamboo or cork floors. If you must have rugs, use area rugs made of natural fibers and take them outside to clean them.
    □ Scented candles with unscented candles
    □ Scented cleaning products for use on household surfaces, clothing, and personal care with unscented products
    (look for those advertised as “perfume and dye free”)
    □ Products in a pressurized spray cans with products in manual spray pump bottles
    □ Furniture and cabinets made of glued composite woods (which off-gas formaldehyde) with hardwoods, metal and/or glass (which do not)
    □ Non-HEPA vacuum cleaner with HEPA vacuum (and use it!)
    □ Regular HVAC filter with high efficiency (MERV 12) filter

    Albert Donnay, MHS

  17. Mardi VanEgdom permalink
    July 20, 2009

    We change the AC filter every month and each day we open the window and put a fan in it facing outward for awhile to blow stale air out. I have asthma and he has allergies and yet both of us smoke, so we have to try to keep the air as clean as possible, especially since we live in a 225 sq ft apartment!

  18. Gary Hydock permalink
    July 20, 2009

    We subscbibe to PME or PM Engineer Magazine as this publication talks about indoor air quality and many other usefull topics related to indoor heating and cooling as well as the testing methods.The one thing you should know in advance is that thay are big fans of Radiant heat , Solar thermal , Geo thermal , and other things that have been used over seas for the last 75 years or so. Some web sites to check out , PMEngineer.com , Healthyheating.com and GCSRadiantheat.com as you will be amazed at what you will find. Also PMEngineer is
    a FREE Subscription.

  19. Margaret L Soderberg, MD permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Living in the Los Angeles area, I am aware that we have a high level of particulate matter in the air (2.5 microns and less that escapes smog checks on vehicles). I recommend a high quality aircleaner–a HEPA type–there is a product that self adjusts to the level of particulate matter in the air. In this area of the country the air is not “fresh” and it is best to keep the windows closed.

  20. Timonie permalink
    July 21, 2009

    We do a number of things at our house to protect the air:

    – Never park cars in the attached garage
    – Do not use of pesticides/herbicides/fungicides/fertilizers that could be tracked into the house
    – Use door mats to wipe our feet
    – Remove our shoes
    – Have no carpets except for one area rug
    – Vacuum with a HEPA filter
    – Use simple water for most cleaning and use environmentally friendly cleaning products
    – Do not use perfumes or hair spray, which can contain harmful phthlates http://www.safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=420
    – Air out furniture before bringing it inside
    – Use no-VOC paints

    Thanks for encouraging folks to share ideas for improving indoor air quality!

  21. Jeffrey permalink*
    July 21, 2009

    We just renovated our house, and we did everything we could to protect indoor air quality:
    – zero VOC paints (amazing stuff – be sure you get paints that have no VOCs in either the base or the colorant; paints that simply say “no smell” might still have VOCs)
    – low VOC caulks and adhesives
    – new cabinets aired out for a few months before being installed
    – the HVAC system will have an energy recovery ventilation system that forces fresh air into the house (necessary because we have blown foam insulation that seals the house against air leaks)
    – all of our floors are hardwood or bamboo, with only a couple of area rugs.

    We also don’t smoke and don’t let anyone smoke in the house.

  22. Anonymous permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Hi !

    Many people love spending most of their time in their homes. The air inside can be more harmful to your family’s health than the air outdoors. If anyone is ill at your home it will definitely pollute indoor air and can make them feel worse.

    I think many families have pets and furry pets cause problems for some people. Pets can make asthma and allergies act up, especially if you keep them in sleeping areas.

    New furniture, carpets, and building products may give off chemicals that were used in the making. Some of these chemicals can harm people, especially children.

    With Regards
    Amrita

  23. Druz permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Today’s ‘sealed’ houses are the problem. They do save us on the electric bill, but they provide an environment which concentrates pollutants which may harm us.

    Keep the inside of the house clean; but it shouldn’t smell like a hospital or a vet’s office. Change AC filters often. Don’t smoke inside.

    Spend more time outdoors. In Florida, where summers can be stifling, being outside helps you adjust to the natural climate, and clears your lungs, helps you lose weight, etc.

    Most importantly, trust in Jesus Christ to keep you healthy.

  24. sharon permalink
    July 21, 2009

    In order to cut down on indoor pollutants we:
    got rid of our old low pile shag carpet,
    bought no pile, lovely commercial carpet,
    dust more often,
    do not allow smoking,
    try to keep fan blades clean,
    *if the indoor environment is minimalist in nature it’s easier to keep dust down.

  25. Min En permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for sharing about ActivePure. Otherwise, I would not have known of it, even though I am an air purification enthusiast.

    I use the Sharp Plasmacluster Ion Air Purifier at home. It has done wonders for my morning sinus problems.

    I bought it after some fairly extensive research which I have documented at my Ionic Air Purifier Blog at /.

    Another very important factor for using the said air purifier was the claim (backed by third parties) that the technology effectively eliminates 99.9% of the avian flu virus H5N1.

    As it turned out, Sharp had also demonstrated way back in 2002 that plasmacluster ion technology destroys the H1N1 virus. As to whether this makes it also effective against the current AH1N1 strain, I am still researching.

    Meanwhile, I should alert all readers that my enquiries with the US NIOSH and other parties interested in protecting against the effects of a pandemic reveals that they will NOT sanction any particular air purification technology until and unless there has been independent scientific peer reviews. The scientific studies commissioned by the manufacturers do not count as such, being seen as marketing exercises.

    Until a truly scientific peer review is done, it is up to individuals like us to research and share our findings and personal anecdotal experiences so that others can make informed choices in improving indoor air quality.

    Thanks!
    Min En
    The Ionic Air Purifier Blog, By A User, For All Users

  26. Min En permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Hi Albert,

    What excellent advice!

    Even though I am a believer in using air purification technology, to the extent that I have a blog of my findings, the very first step to indoor air quality must be to tackle the pollutant sources.

    To cite the old cliche. prevention is better than cure.

    Thanks,
    Min En
    The Ionic Air Purifier Blog, By A User, For All Users

  27. bitsy permalink
    July 21, 2009

    Lots of house plants, infact get lots of plants growing everywhere you can in any space you have, outdoors have a mixture of green and flowering plants, just encourage butterflys, and the rest of the wildlife will follow.

  28. Luis Visani permalink
    July 21, 2009

    I have never thought about it. My house does not have any equipament to purify the air inside and i dont have any idea of one.
    I think is very important keep the house clean of the germs and particles but i’m just used to clean the roof, furniture, the ground and the yard. If someone have other ways to improve the air inside my house, please answer me.

  29. Willians Andrade permalink
    July 26, 2009

    In the residential environment we can improve the indoor air cross ventilation to keep the windows open and still allow the entry of sunlight to the sterilized environment.
    Maintenance and cleaning the filters of air conditioning equipment also contribute greatly to improving the air.
    Prevent accumulation of unnecessary things in the house, using an easy to clean decoration avoiding the retention of dust.
    Where possible improve the aeration of the kitchen to avoid the retention of odors throughout the house.
    This are some procedures that help to maintain air quality inside your home.

    WAENG – RIO DE JANEIRO – BRAZIL.

  30. Alexander permalink
    July 30, 2009

    I think it is imortant for protecting the air inside your home is:
    a) open the windows several times at the day for exchange the air and reduce the humidity
    b) old furnitures, which made with glue, can contain formaldehyde
    c) use environmently friendly, mild cleaner
    d) clean your house regular with an hepa vacuum for reducing house dust mites and toxic molds (eg Aspergillus fumigatus)
    e) prefer mineral paints
    f) do not smoke in your house

    Alexander – Germany

  31. September 30, 2009

    So when are you checking out Johnny?:)

  32. Arlene Wise permalink
    October 17, 2009

    Where can a person buy a Fresh Air Buddy?? I would like to buy one if not too expensive and can find one.. drugstore or just where?/ I work in a school lunchroom and when there are a lot of germs it seems that they think blowing the germs all around with two ceiling fans is killing the germs and after they start that it seems like more and more are out sick and I do think this is a part of spreading germs. Also as the students place their soiled lunch dishes onto the counter for the dishwasher she has another osicllating fan going across the stack of dirty eating tray like dishes and along beside this are the waste barrels being filled ith scraping off the trays and paper trash . Aren’t they stupid or I am to think blowing fans over germs worsens the situation?/

  33. Michelle Vaughn permalink
    October 29, 2009

    Luis,
    You can visit http://www.ecoquestintl.com to see the products they have to offer. They have a whole house purifier called the Fresh Air, please check it out. Please feel free to give me a call at 314-805-4126 if you have any questions. Susan Lignell, in a post at the top of this page explains the ActivePure technology, it is truly amazing.

  34. John Patterson permalink
    January 14, 2010

    I make sure to get adequate fresh air into the house everyday. We also replace out our filters in our vent system regularly. We have taken the extra step to install carbon monoxide detectors just to be on the safe side.

    Also, check out this link about having an energy efficient home. Which is just as important as keeping the air clean inside.

  35. Raj permalink
    January 16, 2010

    Use lampe berger diffuser

  36. Radu permalink
    February 7, 2010

    I am very interested in R C I. RADIO CATYLITIC IONIZATION sold by Volara, if it realy get rid of the mold in house wherever it may be, or mold spors in the air. Righjt now I have a nasty odor in my laundry room located in basement that makes me sick and disperate. I don’t see where it is really comming from. I believe is something hidden in the upstairs floor but to see I need the demolish the floor with hardwood which is a costly job. The upstair floor was treated by a contractor in the basement but no results the bad smell is the same.
    Does anyone know if the air purifier mentioned by the A. Coxton here or by Suzan Lignell above really kills the mold? The specification says “Yes” but I need to doublecheck from someone who have used this device for killing mold. My loco distributor of these purifiers tris to convince me that is good killing mold. If this is true, why this method is not largely publicized to get rid of the mold?

  37. Gary Hydock permalink
    May 6, 2010

    NEVER BUILD A HOME WITH FORCED AIR HEATING. IF YOU HEAT IT RIGHT YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO FORCE ANYTHING.

  38. Henry permalink
    July 27, 2010

    Hi,

    We keep lot of plants inside the house so that it converts carbon to oxygen.

    It’s always a good idea to let in sunlight, make a back-yard plantation, cultivate shrubs and vegetables for own use (so that you reduce the frequency of going to stores) and using eco-friendly paints and furnitures. Clean energy websites will help

  39. John permalink
    August 5, 2010

    Choose sustainable, low-emitting cabinets and flooring, replace drafty windows with efficient ones, find efficient plumbing (such as 2-mode flushing toilets, install solar panels for electricity, and get eco-friendly furniture .

  40. Diane http://www.yeastintolerance.net permalink
    September 7, 2010

    Use an ionizer! It is best to filter the viruses in the air! Also, proper ventilation. Make sure to open the windows to let air circulate. Let sunlight in to kill whatever germs there are.

    Diane

  41. Furniture permalink
    October 18, 2010

    Thanks for sharing these useful information! Hope that you will continue doing nice article like this. I will be one of your loyal reader if you maintain this kind of post!This is one of the best post I found so far. The contents are very good and very informative. Thanks, this is really cool.

  42. Jerome permalink
    October 22, 2010

    make sure your house is dry on the right places, or else molds or any thing that loves moisture will multiply in your house which could trigger allergic reactions. even your toothbrush could be affected if you are not careful enough. keep the house well ventilated without using too much electrical appliances.

  43. Arita Parfum permalink
    October 26, 2010

    first when painting house consider a lead-free paints…open windows during the day to let in fresh air…put potted plants just be sure it doesn’t give up spores which is bad for those allergic…these tips are much better than putting air freshener or perfumes which is chemical-laden.

  44. http://www.shopvacuumcleaners.com permalink
    November 10, 2010

    a simple thing to say just open the window so fresh air come in and bad air come out its a matter of neutralizing the air we breath. cleaning the surrounding is the best way to maintain the air

  45. Dexter permalink
    November 10, 2010

    Letting your windows open is one way to maintain the air inside your room. you dont need to use some extra fumes but let the bad air comes out.

  46. Erna permalink
    December 14, 2010

    Just Don’t smoke inside a room :)

  47. Jim Murray permalink
    January 1, 2011

    I use a HEPA Filter on my vacuum to contain allegens. Jim Murray

  48. David permalink
    January 4, 2011

    Just let your window open to allow air to come in.

  49. CT Chimney Repair permalink
    July 27, 2011

    Pollutants from fireplaces and wood stoves, without providing specific outdoor air venting can be drafted back into the house – particularly in tightly sealed homes.

  50. Australian Painters permalink
    August 22, 2011

    Great, what an informative blog. Everything here are so nice.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS