Clear the air: how to beat air pollution in your home

how to purify indoor air
Samantha Simmonds,-Digital Writer

Breathe easy thanks to our top tips, tricks and technology to purify the air in your house

In these dark days of winter, we spend most of our time sweltering in train carriages, peeling off layers in stuffy air-conned offices or cocooned in our centrally heated homes. We barely see the outdoors, let alone breath in the fresh air. Which is a problem, because experts say poor-quality air inside your home could compromise your health. And there’s literally no getting away from it – according to recent reports, the air inside our homes is about three-and-a-half times as polluted as the air outside.

‘You can’t see it or smell it, but “modern” air pollution is the greatest threat to our health,’ says Stephen Holgate, professor of immunopharmacology at Southampton University, who advises the Royal College of Physicians on air quality.

That’s because indoor air carries outdoor pollutants like ozone and vehicle emissions. Due to windows, air-con and central heating systems, it’s estimated that 60-80% of the pollution outside our homes finds its way in – on top of smoke, dust, mould and toxic chemicals given off by everything from the paint on your walls to the carpets on your floor, cleaning products and even cosmetics. ‘Household dust has been found to contain phthalates from shampoos and plastics, and phenols from paints and cleaning products,’ Stephen explains. Looking for the best air purifiers for dust, mould and all those other nasties? You’ve come to the right place.

Stock up on houseplants

Plants are nature’s air purifiers. According to a NASA study, Scindapsus Aurea, also known as devil’s ivy or pothos, can remove toxic pollutants from the air. Not much of a gardener? Don’t worry: this plant is easy to care for. It doesn’t even need direct sunlight – perfect for offices.

Ideal for the bedroom, the Sanseveria or snake plant can absorb 107 dangerous pollutants from the air. And it’s as low-maintenance as you could hope for – simply water it once a fortnight. 

The striking Monstera Deliciosa or Swiss cheese plant might require a little more time and attention, but the rewards are worth it. Pop it in a well-lit spot and water it once a week and it’ll absorb formaldehyde while helping to humidify dry air.

Or why not make a statement with a cluster of purifying plants? The Little Botanical Purifying Plant Bundle includes two different types of Sansevieria, as well as a Ficus Benjamina, also known as the weeping fig. Together, they’ll work to transform forgotten corners of your home while cleaning the air you breathe.

Pure and simple

Air purifiers filter irritating particles and toxic gases out of the air, nixing allergy symptoms while helping to future-proof your overall health. Look for a home air purifier with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter to remove ultra-fine particles like dust, smoke, mould, pollen and pet dander, and an activated carbon filter to capture harmful gases. Up the ante by investing in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove fine particles from carpets and furniture – and remember to turn your cooker hood or extractor fan on when you cook.

Your home air cleaner can also double up as a fan or heater. Breathe easy and keep cool with an air purifying desk fan – perfect if you’re after a portable purifier you can use at home and take to work. The portable Dyson Pure Cool Me Personal Purifying Fan has an activated carbon filter as well as a glass HEPA filter, and can even deliver air quality reports to your phone. Too hot one minute, freezing cold the next? The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Fan Heater Air Purifier removes 99.95% of microscopic allergens and pollutants while heating or cooling a whole family room. Nifty.

Drying out?

If the air in your home is lacking in moisture, your skin, hair, nose and throat can dry out. Cue coughs, colds and allergy symptoms. A decent humidifier can revitalise skin and hair, relieve scratchy throats, soothe itchy eyes and even stop snoring. Regular nosebleeds, static electricity and peeling paint or wallpaper are all signs you might benefit from one. 

Humidifiers add moisture to dry air, hydrating skin, moisturising airways and creating a barrier against colds and flu. They can also help you to monitor and maintain humidity in little ones’ rooms, easing stuffy noses and congestion.

But how wet is too wet? According to experts, it’s all about hitting the sweet spot between 30% and 50% humidity. Go over 60% and mould, mildew and dust mites will thrive. This can spell bad news for your health: moulds and fungal spores release toxic chemicals that irritate the respiratory system. 

Got water stains or black spots appearing on your walls or ceilings? Condensation on your windows? Try a dehumidifier. They suck excess moisture out of the air, putting the brakes on condensation, mould growth and damp. 

Main image: Getty Images

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