Clean Air at Home

Speaker:Vittoria Vecchiarelli
Written by: Sheena Jain & Esha Jain

Considering our ice cold winters and snowstorms, it is no wonder that Canadians spend more than 90% of their time indoors. But are we really aware of our indoor air quality and the harmful toxins that exist within our homes? Not to mention, the health risks that can occur from being exposed to these agents?

Although not always visible to the naked eye, some of the air contaminants present within our homes include mold, dust, tobacco smoke and fumes. These toxins can get into our household air when we participate in such activities as cooking, cleaning and showering or can be released into the air by the presence of certain items within the home including hairspray, paints, glue, carpets and furniture. The amount of indoor pollutants is further increased by inadequate ventilation and smoking inside, in addition to the gases released from household consumer products/appliances. These agents can cause breathing difficulties, irritate the eyes, nose and throat, worsen pre-existing conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema, asthma and allergies as well as cause cardiovascular issues like heart attacks and heart failure. Children in particular are at far greater risk of acquiring health issues from exposure due to having only partially developed bodies, breathing in more air than adults as well as having their fingers in their mouths more often.

Although we may notice that symptoms improve within a few minutes or hours after leaving pollutant infested areas, there are different precautions that can be taken to reduce the amount of contaminants that exist within our homes. 5 simple, low cost steps that can be taken to ensure cleaner air at home are outlined below:





- Mold grows when there


 is too much moisture in


  → i.e. showering,

   cooking, flooding and


- Mold can grow on anything

 that holds moisture:

  → i.e. fabric, drywall,

            cardboard, etc.

Keep all surfaces at home as dry and clean as possible:


- Keep relative humidity between 30-50%

 Closer to 30% in winter months

 Closer to 50% in summer months

- Turn on fan or open window before

  showering and a few minutes afterwards

- Turn on fan or open window when cooking

  on stove

- Wipe water droplets off bathroom tiles,

  windows and other surfaces where water can


- Clean up floods immediately and dry area

 completely. Throw away all items that cannot

 be fully dried

- Get rid of clutter in home

- Make sure air vents at the back of clothes

  dryer is connected to the outside of home or


Mold in area <1m2

- Scrub with water and mild detergent as soon

 as they are seen

- Dry area quickly and completely

Mold in area >1m2

- Discuss how to fix problem with landlord if

 tenant or a professional if home owner




- Dust can include a mix of:


 toxic chemicals, pollen, pet

 dander, allergens, dust mites

 and other pollutants

- Products (i.e. furniture,

 electronics) slowly breakdown

 into dust

  →Therefore if products are

      made with toxic material,

      the dust will be toxic as well

- Clean floors (i.e. tiles, hardwood) with a


 damp cloth and vacuum carpeted areas at

 least once a week

- Clean surfaces with a damp cloth

- Take off shoes and wipe pets’ paws at the

 door to reduce dirt and dust from entering


- Get rid of clutter to reduce dust and make

 cleaning easier


-  Dry mop/cloth does not get rid of dust

   It pushes dust back into the air




- Turn on fan or open a window when frying,


 sautéing or grilling food

- Turn on fan or open a window when cleaning

 and using products like nail polish or

 hairspray and craft materials like glue and


- Make sure air vents are not blocked by

 objects such as furniture to maintain good air


- Make sure appliances (i.e. gas stoves,

 heating and cooling systems) are working


- Check ventilation systems and replace/clean

 the filters and fans often


- May want to open windows when traffic is

 less heavy to avoid being possible source of

 outdoor air pollution around home

- Never use barbecue or portable fuel-burning

 camping equipment inside home or garage to

 avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

- Ensure carbon monoxide detector in home

 and check that batteries are working




- Cleaning products that release


 toxic chemicals into the air

 and on surfaces include

 cleaning sprays, liquids and

 powders, drain cleaners and

 air fresheners

- Use non-toxic cleaning products more often.


Consider using non-toxic alternatives (i.e.

baking soda and vinegar) instead of

commercial cleaning products

 → Non-toxic fragrance air freshening options


     1) Mix water with few drops of essential

          oils in spray bottle and spray in air

     2) Simmer cinnamon & cloves in water on


- Avoid products like cleaners that come in   

aerosol spray cans

  → These can leave chemicals in the air longer

  → Instead use other types of products        (i.e. powders and hand pump creams)

- Wear gloves and turn on a fan or open a

 window when using chemical cleaning





- Tobacco not only gets into the


air we breathe but also gets

trapped in furniture, fabric,

carpets, toys and clothes

 →Can stay on these things in

     home and get pushed

     back into the air for weeks

- Tobacco smoke can also stick

  to hands, skin and hair even if

  smoking outdoors

- Make home smoke-free. Do not allow


 anyone to smoke indoors

- Smoke outside and wash hands after

- Set up an outdoor smoking area away from

 doors and windows so others are not


As demonstrated, taking simple precautionary measures can essentially have a large effect on the greater scheme of things when it comes to reducing pollutant exposure within our homes. Making a conscious effort to clean our indoor air can have significant effects on improving our overall health and ensuring a better quality of life.




  • Other than taking the precautionary measures mentioned above, are there any other methods that can be used to naturally clean indoor air?



Beeswax Candles- Unlike regular paraffin candles, pure beeswax candles


 have no scent and do not emit smoke

   → Therefore unlike traditional candles, beeswax candles

         do not release toxins into the air

- Beeswax candles release negative ions into to the air.

 These ions bind to the surrounding toxins, thereby  

 removing pollutants from the air

- Remove common allergens (i.e. dust and dander) from

  the air

    → Therefore especially beneficial in individuals with

         asthma and/or allergies

Salt LampsMade from Himalayan salt crystals and works as an air purifier


- When lit, lamp emits negative ions into the surrounding

  atmosphere, removing toxins from the air and  

  neutralizing them

- Naturally clears air of allergens (i.e. smoke, pet dander,

 pollen and other air pollutants)

- Dilutes odors within the air, allowing for easier breathing

   →Reduces and improves asthmatic symptoms

Bamboo Charcoal- When linen Moso air purifying bags are filled with


 bamboo charcoal, they absorb unpleasant odors and

 dehumidify the air

   →Also proven to reduce the amount of formaldehyde,

       ammonia, benzene and chloroform gases emitted by  

       various products (i.e. paint, carpet, furniture, air

       fresheners, chemical cleaners, rubber and plastics)

- Bamboo charcoal’s porous structure also assists with

 removing bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens from

 the air

- Absorbs moisture and traps impurities within their pores,

 thereby preventing the build-up of mold and mildew

- Can also remove bathroom and car odors

Purifying Plants- Purifying plants absorb harmful chemicals and other


 pollutants (i.e. benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene,

 toluene, xylene and ammonia)  found in the surrounding

 air, in order to produce oxygen

- According to NASA, Peace Lilies are the most dominant of

 all the air purifying plants



  • Can making your home more energy efficient and protecting your home from bad weather conditions, contribute to the indoor pollution problem?


Making your home more energy efficient by sealing up cracks and openings and reducing the natural air flow through the house can contribute to the indoor air pollution problem. A tightly sealed home will have relatively higher levels of humidity, interior mildew and molds as well as frequent condensation on windows and stale air. The Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp (CMHC) has also reported that houses tightly sealed for energy efficiency are unable to off-gas chemicals. Since the chemicals are unable to go anywhere else, they end up building up within the home.

Additionally adding storm windows, weather stripping/caulking can further increase the concentration of indoor air pollutants already present within the home.



  • What are the different types of air purifiers and which pollutants do they remove from the air?



HEPA Filters


(High Efficiency Particulate Air Filters)

- Small pet dander particles


- Dust mite residue

- Pollen

Carbon Filters- Cigarette smoke


- Fireplace fumes

- Formaldehyde

- Volatile Organic Compounds

   → (i.e. paint fumes, carpet glues, new building

         material etc.)

- Pet odors

- Kitchen odors

Pre-Filters- By trapping larger particles before they reach the


 main filters of the air purifier, pre-filters are able to

 extend the time between filter cleanings/changes

 and maintain air purifier’s functionality and




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3)    Mama, Katie - Wellness. "How to Naturally Clean Indoor Air | Wellness Mama."Wellness Mama®. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017. <>.

4)    "Questions About Indoor Air Quality?" National Ag Safety Database - National Ag Safety Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.<>.

5)    "Top 4 Ways to Purify Air at Home Naturally." Lung Institute. N.p., 16 June 2016. Web. 21 Mar. 2017. <>.