Five Ways to 'Clean' the Air in Your Home

Photo:  Shutterstock (Shutterstock)
Photo: Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

There are lots of tips out there—and here on Lifehacker—about how to clean everything in your home, from your toilet to your fireplace to your couch cushions. The stuff in your home gets dirty and needs to be maintained to keep it in good working order, but the same is true for the areas where there is no stuff. Your air can be dirty, too, and that can make your allergies worse. Here are five ways to make the air in your environment as healthy as possible.

Be choosy with your cleaning products

You might think pumping aerosols and spritzing chemicals all around your home will make the air cleaner. Be careful with this approach and don’t just Lysol your breathing space willy-nilly. As noted by Live Science, “nasty ingredients” in some cleaning products can lead to headaches, fatigue, and eye or nose irritation—all of which is counterproductive when you’re trying to improve the quality of your air.

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Household products can unleash volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and a 2018 study in Science showed that some products release way more VOCs than previously estimated. Your best bet is to spend some time—and maybe a little extra money—sourcing “natural” cleaning products. Here’s a handy guide to help you find good ones, but in the meantime, expect to use a lot of baking soda, vinegar, and borax. And read the ingredients list on the “natural” cleaners you find at the store carefully—look for fragrance-free, Green Seal-certified products, and avoid aerosols generally.

Be choosy with your plants, too

The internet loves to tell you that plants can filter and clean your air, but these claims are more than a little dubious, as Lifehacker has explained before. There’s no harm in having a bunch of plants, since they do boost oxygen levels within your home, can possibly reduce stress, and overall make your space a prettier and happier one (provided you don’t kill them immediately).

The idea that a bunch of plants will “filter” your air, no purifier needed, is overblown, but plants actually can help clear the air in one practical way: by collecting dust. Some plants collect dust better than others; here are the best choices to reduce airborne dust around the house:

  • Rubber plant

  • Pygmy date palm tree

  • English ivy

  • Spider plant

  • ZZ plant

  • Dripping guanyin

  • Bamboo palm

  • Peace lily

  • Ferns

These plants are great at collecting dust, but you still need to dust and clean the the plants themselves. Think of them like a Swiffer pad: After you swipe it around the floor, you need to clean the pad too, or the next time you use it it will already be caked with grime.

Ventilate your space

Crack your windows every once in a while—even when it’s cold—to let fresh air in and release any built-up pollutants that have accumulated from, say, cooking or cleaning. Don’t take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to you vents, either; those suckers need to be cleaned. Here are simple ways to clean your air vents—and don’t forget about the exhaust fan in your bathroom.

Consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned every three to five years, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. There’s only so much you can do on your own to battle the grossness that is accumulating deep within the bowels of your home.

Get an air purifier

Lifehacker’s own Senior Health Editor Beth Skwarecki recommends an air purifier, and has seen a decrease in her asthma symptoms since getting one, so if you’re on the fence about something that sounds like it might be a placebo machine, look into it. True, there’s no conclusive air purifiers will really improve your symptoms, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence. If you do decide to pick one up, want to make it uses a HEPA filter.

Attack any mold quickly

Mold can crop up in a lot of places, so keep a close eye on anything damp. Your washing machine, tub, and even wood anywhere in your home can be a breeding ground for the stuff. Get rid of it fast—using the cleaning guides linked in the preceding sentence—to keep yourself from developing allergy-like symptoms.

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