8 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality in Your Home

Looking for ways to improve indoor air quality in your home?

If you’re sensitive to allergens, you might notice that indoor air quality in your home tends to gets worse during the winter.

One reason for this is because people generally keep windows closed during cold weather.

A decrease in ventilation and increased reliance on heating systems often results in an accumulation of indoor allergens like dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores.

How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

To protect you and your family from dust and allergies, here are 8 way to help you improve the indoor air quality in your house or apartment:

Use these tips if you’re experience mild to moderate indoor air quality issues.

If symptoms don’t go away, or if you suspect more dangerous problems like radon, carbon monoxide, asbestos, lead, or mold, contact environmental health and safety professionals like Green Orchard Group for indoor air quality testing.

1. Keep Your Home Clean

Let’s start general: regular cleaning is the first step for improving general air quality problems.

We recommend vacuuming at least once or twice a week in order to prevent a buildup of dust, pollen, pet dander, and other indoor air pollutants. This is especially important if your home has wall-to-wall carpeting or large area rugs.

Bed sheets — which accumulates dust and dust mites — should also be washed once a week with hot water.

Window curtains and drapes are another overlooked source of dust and odors. You should give them a thorough cleaning every 3 to 6 months.

Excess clutter creates more surface area that traps and holds dust and allergens, so try to reduce clutter as much as possible.

Lastly, take off your shoes. According to the EPA, one way that outdoor air pollutants enter buildings is from people inadvertently tracking soil and dust inside on shoes and clothing.

2. Vacuum Carpets and Rugs

Did you know that carpeting acts like a pseudo-air filter? Not cleaning them frequently is a common culprit of musty indoor air, according to the American Lung Association.

The fibers that make up your carpet or area rug attracts and traps dust, dirt, pollen, mold spores, dust mites, pest allergens, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, and other particles. All of these build up on your floor without you knowing, creating a reservoir of indoor air pollutants.

Research shows that poorly maintained carpets can release significant amounts of these particles into the air just by a person walking across it, or during other daily activities.

If you’re suffering from poor air quality at home, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter attachment to clean carpets and rugs at least 1-2 times per week.

If you have a large carpeted areas, it’s a good idea to have them professionally steam cleaned at least once a year. This involves using a specialized machine called a carpet extractor to deep clean the particles and debris that have accumulated deep in your carpet.

3. Check Air Filters and Ducts

Air ducts are another place that commonly accumulates dust, debris, and mold spores. If the dirty air enters your living area, you or your family may experience unusual or unexplained symptoms related to indoor air quality.

You should regularly check and change your air filters to see how quickly it gets dirty at different times of the year. Air filters are relatively inexpensive and most should be replaced every 2 to 3 months. Here’s how to change your air filters at home.

As for cleaning your air ducts, which is a job that requires a trained professional, the EPA recommends doing this if:

  • You see or suspect substantial mold growth in the ducts.
  • The air ducts are infested with rodents or insects.
  • The air ducts seem to be clogged with excessive amounts of dust or debris.

4. Prevent Mold

Mold has a big impact on indoor air quality. We’ve written a lot of articles about mold and what causes it, which all boils down to moisture control.

Indoor mold grows in the presence of excess moisture, often in the aftermath of a leak, flood, or frequent condensation. Once it grows, mold releases spores and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that can circulate the air and cause a variety of health symptoms.

To prevent mold, control the temperature and humidity in your home. If needed, get a dehumidifier to help keep indoor relative humidity levels below 50%.

If you notice areas where moisture or condensation builds up, or if you experience a water leak or plumbing issue, address these issues as soon as possible.

5. Control Pests

Pests are another important source of allergens. Aside from being gross, their bodies, shells, droppings, and saliva can exacerbate allergies and cause respiratory problems at home.

They also bring dust and other harmful pollutants from outside into your home.

The problem is so significant that New York City passed the Asthma-Free Housing Act (Local Law 55), which specifically requires landlords to actively keep their tenants’ apartments free of pests (and mold).

Common household pests that negatively impact indoor air quality include:

  • Mice and rats
  • Cockroaches
  • Bed bugs
  • Ants
  • Termites

Talk to your exterminator or local pest control professional to determine how to address existing pest problems.

Steps you can take to prevent pest infestations at home include:

  • Sealing cracks, crevices, and holes
  • Storing food in sealed containers
  • Using garbage cans with tight-fitting lids
  • Removing clutter

6. Be Careful with Indoor Plants

A very common myth is that indoor plants help improve air quality. After all, plants produce oxygen and should purify air, right?

Unfortunately, that’s wrong. Research shows that plants have next to no effect on indoor air quality.

Although they can naturally remove VOCs from the air, they do so at such a slow rate that it’s negligible. To reduce VOCs enough to impact air quality would require about 10 plants per square foot.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy indoor gardening. They offer plenty of other benefits, like reducing stress and enhancing décor.

However, make sure that you’re maintaining them properly — otherwise, indoor plants may become a source of mold and pest problems, which can negatively affect indoor air quality (as discussed above).

7. Improve Ventilation

Let fresh air in.

Increasing the amount of fresh outdoor air coming indoors lowers the concentration of indoor air pollutants that contribute to bad air quality.

During the colder months, you should still open windows from time to time — even for just 5 minutes a day — to allow fresh air to move move into your house.

Other ways to improve ventilation include:

  • Opening windows and doors
  • Operating window or attic fans
  • Running window air conditioners with the vent control open
  • Using kitchen fans to remove cooking fumes
  • Using bathroom or laundry room fans that exhaust outdoors

8. Use an Air Purifier

Air purifiers, or air cleaners, are devices that sanitize the air and filter out pollutants, allergens, and dust. Consider placing them in commonly used areas of your home, such as living rooms and bedrooms.

There are many types and sizes of air purifiers available that you can use at home. They usually consist of multiple filters and a fan that circulates air through said filters.

The effectiveness of air purifiers depend on how well the filters can capture pollutants from the air and how much air the fan can draw in per minute.

In particular, ionic purifiers are great at capturing irritants and improving the indoor air quality in your home. We also recommend looking for ones that use HEPA filters, which are considered the gold standard for indoor air purifiers.

About Green Orchard Group

Green Orchard Group is an environmental health and safety firm based in New York City. We have over 25 years of experience as specialists in mold and indoor air quality services.