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How to cleanse your home of indoor pollution

Ventilation is key

Unsplash / Alexandra Gorn
23 March 2021

Tackling indoor pollution can be difficult, particularly now when we spend so much of our time at home. But what steps could we be taking?

Jennifer Earle lives in Newham with her husband and their 18-month-old daughter. She became concerned about indoor air pollution when she was pregnant.

While the family live on a fairly quiet road, Jennifer started to notice grime on indoor window sills. “I’ve always found pollution disturbing but I began to be worried because of my baby and her tiny lungs,” she says.

Jennifer, who had pneumonia as a child, is planning to install an air conditioner with a purifier in the kitchen. Most purifiers are designed to capture small particles such as pollen and dust but can’t catch gases such as those that accumulate after cleaning. There is little evidence to suggest purifiers can improve your health, but allergy or asthma sufferers may find them helpful.

Ventilating your home, especially after cooking, is crucial says Jonathan Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

“We are all sealing our homes up [to be more energy efficient] but the problem with that is the pollutants have nowhere to go,” he notes. “In countries like Germany it’s common to open all the windows every day and aerate your home totally and then close them again. It’s a good way of clearing the build-up of pollutants.”

When it comes to choosing cleaning products, the best approach is to simplify: use just a few products so that you are exposed to a smaller range of chemicals, spray close to surfaces and then wipe down with water. AirRated aims to help building owners and occupiers with a simple accreditation system — the AirScore — for indoor air quality.

Francesca Brady, CEO of the tech start-up, has a few more suggestions for how to reduce pollution at home. She says: “Choose eco-friendly cleaning products, like Ecover, and minimise the use of air fresheners and incense which pollute the air with VOCs (volatile organic compounds). If candles are a must, buy brands that use natural ingredients like soy or beeswax.”

VOCs are airborne chemicals that are found in everyday products and materials. These have been linked to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, fatigue and headaches.

She also suggests using low VOC paints to decorate your house such as Farrow and Ball.