I’ve always had an appreciation for places and things that smell good. The only thing better than a freshly scented space is one that also has good air quality.
The quality of the air you breathe is something to be concerned about, especially if you have health issues such as asthma or allergies. Air pollutants in your home can aggravate and worsen existing health issues. Aside from things like mold and hazardous materials used to build our homes, toxic ingredients can be present in certain items we buy such as household cleaning products.
According to the EPA, “Indoor concentrations of some pollutants have increased in recent decades due to such factors as energy-efficient building construction (when it lacks sufficient mechanical ventilation to ensure adequate air exchange) and increased use of synthetic building materials, furnishings, personal care products, pesticides, and household cleaners.”
Toxic Household Cleaning Products and Air Fresheners
I remember back in the day when I would stock up on plug-ins, lasting air fresheners and heavily scented candles. I used them religiously. You could literally smell the inside of my home before you got to the front door. I was so proud when guests would arrive and comment on how wonderful my house smelled.
For some reason, most of us grew up thinking that if our house didn’t smell like a gallon of bleach or full can of air freshener, it wasn’t clean. So, we continuously laced our homes with strong chemicals and masked nasty odors with toxic air fresheners. The problem with many of these products is that while they temporarily cover orders, they’re also the direct cause of many health problems.
If certain air fresheners you use are toxic, trust that certain health issues may eventually arise due to inhalation. You could also risk those chemicals entering your bloodstream via skin contact.
In the past ten years or so, I have switched things up for the better. As I got older, I started to have severe sensitivities to strong scents– perfume included. With each spray and plug-in replacement, I began to notice an increase in severe headaches, difficulty breathing, and skin irritations.
After doing some research, I realized that most of the chemicals (some of which I could barely pronounce) were the reason I could no longer tolerate using many of my favorite products. I began to stroll right past the air freshener sections in grocery stores. Now I’m more concerned about the freshness and cleanliness of the air I breathe rather than how sweet it smells.
My allergies have been horrible since moving to Alaska. There is definitely something floating around here, and although I can’t control the air outside my front door, I can certainly do something about the air quality inside.
So how do you freshen the air in your home without endangering your health? There are a few ways.
It’s important to note that just because something may not be toxic to humans, does not mean they aren’t harmful to animals. Also, almost anything used excessively can be toxic. As for products and practices that are safer, here are my picks.
7 Methods to Safely Treat the Air in Your Home
Get Some Plants
Select houseplants are great at combating indoor air pollution. About 30 years ago, NASA, along with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) conducted the Clean Air Study project. This study suggested that in addition to absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing it as oxygen through photosynthesis, certain indoor plants have a natural way of removing toxic agents from the air. So not only do plants provide a beautiful, calming environment, they may also help you and your family breath a little better.
You don’t have to transform your home into a jungle, but keeping a few essential plants around can be beneficial. Here are a few to consider:
English Ivy-this is a vine that doesn’t require much sunlight. It’s excellent for absorbing formaldehyde which is a chemical that’s present in floorboard resins and synthetic carpet dyes.
Snake Plant-A personal favorite of mine, the snake plant thrives in low light and absorbs carbon dioxide. It’s effective at ridding the air of formaldehyde and benzene.
Areca Palm-In additional to being beautiful, this plant is considered to be the most efficient at purifying the air. It’s also safe around cats and dogs.
You can read more about the Clean Air Study project here.
Studies have shown that humidity levels in homes should be between 30%-60%. English Ivy plants absorb humidity while the Areca Palm increases humidity.
Use Air Purifiers
There are a variety of air purifiers available on the market, and they cleanse the air in different ways. I’ve used two from Rabbit Air for years, and I’ve been pleased with their performance. If you are interested in purchasing a good air purifier, make sure to research the ones that will best serve your needs. This source explains how some of them work.
Burn Beeswax Candles
100% beeswax candles are clean burning meaning, they do not contain lead like a lot of other candles, and they burn with almost no smoke or scent. They are also hypo-allergenic and safe for people who have allergies. These candles purify the air by releasing negative ions into the atmosphere.
Use Essential Oils
I use essential oils in a few different ways. For the air, I use them in a diffuser or mixed them with baking soda which I then place in an open glass jar. The ones that I reach for the most are the citrus oils such as orange or lemon. Eucalyptus oil is another favorite. I’ll typically combine a few drops of orange and eucalyptus oils to create a refreshing, inviting scent. Use with care as some essential oils should be avoided if you are pregnant and some are also toxic for pets.
Clean With Vinegar
Often, the air in your home may smell foul because of soiled counters, dirty trash cans or bathrooms that need a little TLC. You should also know that carpets, rugs, sofas, and chairs are also magnets for nasty bacteria and unpleasant scents.
White vinegar is not only good for cleaning those areas, but because it’s a natural liquid, there’s no risk of releasing dangerous chemicals into the air. It’s also tough on mold, as it not only gets the surface but penetrates porous materials to kill mold at the roots–unlike bleach. Don’t worry if you don’t like the smell of vinegar; the scent disappears once it dries.
Cleaning air ducts and vents regularly will help with clean air circulation. After vacuuming, make a simple cleaning solution with vinegar, water and a few drops of your favorite essential oil, then use it to wipe down vents.
Use Orange/Lemon Peels
There are a few things you can do with citrus fruit peels to add a lovely scent into the air. My favorite ways are crushing them in the garbage disposal or boiling them in a saucepan on the stovetop.
Buy Green Air Fresheners
If you must use an air freshener, try one that doesn’t contain harmful ingredients. There are plenty available. I believe that since consumers are becoming more health-conscious, manufacturers are pushing out better options. My all-time favorite is anything by Mrs. Meyer’s.
If you are experiencing serious health issues such as allergies or headaches, consult your physician and do a check for toxic chemicals in your home.
All the best, always.