What Is Indoor Air Quality?

Woman with arms folded behind her head and eyes closed relaxing on her couch at home.
Indoor air quality, also referred to as IAQ, measures how clean the air of your home (or any building) is for human occupation. Indoor air quality is influenced by levels of potentially harmful pollutants, pathogens, and airborne irritants like dust that trigger asthma or allergy symptoms.

Regular cleaning plays an essential role in maintaining excellent indoor air quality in your home. But what else should you know? Let’s cover the ABCs of IAQ.

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

High levels of harmful chemical compounds negatively impact indoor air quality. These pollutants are both manufactured and naturally occurring, and they are often brought into the home in household products. Then they can become trapped, due to poor ventilation.

The common sources of indoor air pollution are:

  • Appliances that burn fuel (including gas stoves)
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Carpeting and upholstery
  • Modern building materials such as treated wood
  • Outdated building materials like lead paint and insulation with asbestos
  • Household cleaning chemicals

Natural outdoor pollutants can also affect your home. Radon, for example, is a natural gas emitted from the soil. This gas can enter your home through minute cracks in your home’s foundation or window seals. Over time, this compound can damage lung tissue and is linked to lung cancer.

What About VOCs?

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are an especially harmful category of indoor pollution. VOCs are gaseous emissions from many commercially available household products. VOC levels are 10 times higher indoors than outdoors and can negatively impact your family’s health in the short and long term.

The most common sources of VOCs are:

  • Paints and varnish
  • Household cleaners
  • Air fresheners
  • Pesticides
  • Printers and copiers
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Markers and highlighters

Keep reading to learn what you can do to mitigate the effects of these substances.

What Are the Signs of Poor Indoor Air Quality?

It’s hard to ignore poor indoor air quality for long. It may cause immediate symptoms like:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Itchy nose, eyes, and throat
  • Skin irritation
  • General fatigue

Long-term exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to respiratory disease, cancer, and heart disease.

What Is an Effective Way to Improve Indoor Air Quality?

The most effective way to reduce the risk of indoor air pollution is to address likely sources of harmful chemicals. One way to do that is to ensure combustive appliances and their exhaust ports are properly sealed. You may also inspect your home furnishings for warning labels about potential hazards like treated wood or fabric and consider replacing anything that’s a large risk.

Here’s how to improve indoor air quality in other ways:

  • Prioritize ventilation. Open windows to let fresh air in and stale air out. This isn’t always convenient, due to weather, pollen levels, or outdoor pollution. Still, make a point to crack the windows when conditions allow.
  • Avoid using scented candles. Those sugar-cookie-scented candles add a delicious ambiance, but the combination of smoke and artificial scents could be a risk of VOCs.
  • Clean carpets and rugs consistently. The fibers of carpets and rugs can become filled with organic pollutants and irritants like dander, dust, and hair. Vacuum your carpeting often, and consider using a carpet shampoo every 6 months to a year to remove the worst soil and dust deposits.
  • Dust often! Dusting is one of the easiest ways to limit airborne irritants. While it won’t impact the presence of VOCs, it removes common irritants that can trigger allergy or asthma symptoms.

Some Cleaning Products Are Bad for Indoor Air Quality

Certain popular cleaning products contain dangerous chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene, and others. Spray cleaners can potentially aerosolize these chemicals and increase the risk of inhalation. Cleaning agents can be even more damaging when mixed. Bleach, for example, can create gaseous ammonia and other airborne toxins when mixed purposefully or accidentally with certain cleaners.

Check the labels on your cleaning products for warnings or any compounds noted here. Then you can improve indoor air quality by limiting or eliminating questionable products.

Related Topic: How to Make Your Own Green Cleaning Products

Breath Clean, Live Clean

Give your family and yourself a clean, safe, and comfortable home by addressing potential causes of indoor air pollution. Be sure to open your windows to provide much-needed ventilation, and make sure dusting and floor-to-ceiling cleaning are a part of your home cleaning checklist. Need a hand? Trust the professionals at Molly Maid to craft the personalized cleaning plan you need to keep your home—and indoor air—immaculate. Call us or request an estimate today.