The air inside our homes should be just as fresh as the air outside, but that can be a challenge to achieve if we’re keeping the place closed up, for example, when we’re using air-conditioning in summer or containing warmth in winter. Poor air quality, helped along by all sorts of things (cooking, heating emissions, chemicals, mould and dust), can affect our health. Tackling some of the causes ensures we can breathe a little easier! We’re sharing some tips.
Closed rooms becomes stuffy. If that same room has a gas heater or new paint, carpets or furniture, it’s also likely to contain a range of undesirable gases. Air rooms during the day and open windows whenever possible to improve ventilation and help reduce any indoor air pollutants.
Extractor fans are a must in the kitchen, laundry and bathroom. They help to remove gases, they create airflow and they minimise moisture, which keeps mould in check. Extractor fans in the bathroom help reduce moisture, but must be installed by a licensed electrician. In bathrooms and laundries, it’s a good idea to have your fans hardwired to turn on with the lights.
When you’re selecting products for your home (paints, carpet, cushions, cupboards, etc.), read the label and product descriptions for details on formaldehyde and VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can be present. If there’s no information about the product, check the company’s website.
“When you walk into a freshly painted or renovated house, often the odours you’re picking up are due to VOCs coming from the materials,” says Josh Plautz of Dulux. These odours usually diffuse over time and gradually disperse. Low-VOC paints are becoming increasingly common. “A low-VOC coating is formulated to avoid the use of VOCs, meaning they won’t be present in the first place,” explains Josh.
If you’re buying a new vacuum cleaner, pick one with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter, suggests David Furniss of the National Asthma Council Australia. “This traps nuisance dusts and materials, and potentially reduces asthma and allergy triggers,” he explains. “Vacuum all floor surfaces regularly.”
Use microfibre cloths to dust surfaces, especially those often-forgotten spots like windowsills and the tops of skirting. Eliminate dirt and dust from hard floors with a slightly damp mop, or try a steam cleaner for chemical-free cleaning. Regularly clean or replace filters and screens in vacuums, rangehoods and extractor fans. While feather dusters tend to stir particles up into the air to settle later, electrostatic dusters attract and trap dirt, resulting in better air quality.
Granulated moisture-absorbing products are a simple and effective way to reduce damp and humidity in areas with poor air circulation, such as wardrobes.
Items like bedding and towels can harbour dust mites and dust mite allergens. Make sure they’re laundered at least once a week, and use a hot wash cycle, particularly if you suffer from allergies.
Indoor plants not only look wonderful, they can also help remove pollutants, a fact that has been backed up by NASA, which has studied plants to better understand how to improve the air quality in indoor spaces! Try peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii), Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’ (Dracaena deremensis), golden cane palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens), Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata ‘Bostoniensis’) or rubber plant (Ficus elastic).
Or need a hand keeping them alive? Take note of our top 12 air-purifying plants and tips on how to grow them.
Photo Credit: Sue Stubbs and Alejandro Sosa 3D
Asbestos, lead-based paints and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber are health hazards you need to look out for when renovating older homes. These substances can easily be disturbed when renovating and exposure to them can cause a range of life-threatening diseases and conditions including cancer. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page.
When following our advice in our D.I.Y. videos, make sure you use all equipment, including PPE, safely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check that the equipment is suitable for the task and that PPE fits properly. If you are unsure, hire an expert to do the job or talk to a Bunnings Team Member.