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How to improve your home’s air quality

Daniel Couglin / 11 September 2017 ( 22 July 2019 )

Take a look at eight ways you can improve the air quality at home and help protect your health.

Spider plant
Houseplants like spider plants are excellent pollution-busters

We all know that air pollution is bad for us, but many people aren't aware that it can have an impact on their cardiovascular health. A major study revealed that both short and long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of heart disease. On top of affecting cardiovascular health, poor indoor air quality has been linked to asthma, COPD and even lung cancer, according to the British Lung Foundation.

The average person in the UK spends a staggering 92% of their time indoors, so the quality of the air you breathe at home is crucial. Plus, allergens and toxins tend to concentrate in enclosed spaces, which makes it all the more important to ensure the air in your home is as pure as possible.

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Banish smokers outdoors

It probably goes without saying, but cigarette or cigar-smoking in the home should be a no-no. In addition to the toxic first or second-hand smoke you inhale, smoking creates insidious third-hand smoke – toxic particles that cling to surfaces and affect your health long after the cigarette or cigar has been stubbed out.

The best advice if you're keen to improve the air quality at home is to ban the habit indoors completely and restrict all smoking to the outside.

Is your home making you ill?

Invest in an air purifier

Research from the US has shown that you can significantly improve the air quality in your home and reduce the risk of heart and respiratory illnesses by using an air purifier. Look for a product that boasts a HEPA filter and ideally, a carbon pre-filter for extra-thorough filtering.

The best budget brands include HoMedics, Vax and Dimplex. If you have more money to spend, opt for the Gucci of air purifiers, a super-quiet smartphone-controlled BlueAir, or one of Dyson's bladeless models.

Stock up on pollution-fighting plants

Houseplants are excellent pollution-busters, absorbing harmful particles such as benzene and formaldehyde, and literally filtering the air in your home. Think of them as all-natural air purifiers.

If you'd like to know which plants are most effective, you're in luck. NASA has compiled the definitive list. 

Its round-up of the best include:

  • weeping fig
  • aloe vera
  • spider plant
  • common ivy

7 ways plants can transform your home

Improve your home's ventilation

Inadequate ventilation can drastically worsen the air quality in your home by trapping concentrated allergens and pollutants indoors and increasing or decreasing humidity to unhealthy levels. Keep a good airflow going by opening windows often. You may also want to think about installing window frames with trickle vents, which help ventilate a room without lowering the temperature too much.

Consider snapping up a humidity monitor. The ideal relative humidity in a UK home should be around 50%. Overly moist air encourages mould growth and dust mites, while extra-arid air can irritate the lungs and exacerbate asthma, so you may want to consider buying a dehumidifier too if the air at home is too muggy, or yes, you've guessed it, a humidifier if the air is too dry.

Dehumidifier features explained

Remove your shoes at the door

If you knew what your shoes could potentially drag in from the outside world, you'd remove them every time you entered the house. Your footwear can pick up everything from bacteria-packed fecal matter to toxic lead dust and harmful pesticides.

The last thing you want to do is drag these nasties around and contaminate your home, so try to make a habit of leaving a pair of slippers near the front door that you can change into when you enter the house from the outdoors.

How to clean a rug

Vacuum at least once a week

Carpeting can harbour all sorts of unpleasant things that can adversely affect the air quality in your home. Dust mites thrive in carpets and rugs, and the dirtier your carpets and rugs get, the more likely they are to contain particle pollutants, mould spores, pet dander, and so on.

To minimise the dust and dirt, vacuum the whole house at least once a week. And don't forget to give upholstered furniture the once over with the vacuum cleaner, too. High traffic areas and areas where your pet sleeps may require more frequent hoovering.

How to choose the best vacuum cleaner

Groom your pets often

Even short-haired pets shed plenty of hair and dead skin cells, affecting the air quality in your home and increasing the allergen levels in the environment. Regular grooming will reduce the amount of hair that gets trapped in your carpets and help keep the air indoors cleaner.

You can use a special pet brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to cut down on the elbow grease, or invest in a specialist pet hair vacuum cleaner. Otherwise, snap up a decent de-shedding tool or curbed slicker brush.

Tips for grooming your dog

Use low-VOC products

Many common household products and paints leach volatile organic compounds (VOCs) over time that may have a detrimental effect on your health, particularly if you're hypersensitive.

These tiny particles are gradually released into the air, worsening the air quality in your home. If you can, only use low VOC products or restrict your use of products that contain these chemical nasties to a bare minimum.

Is cleaning damaging your health?

Eco-friendly cleaning products

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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