Most homeowners spend a considerable amount of time and money keeping their homes clean and fresh. While cleaning is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy home, the products you use could be doing more harm than good.
Many cleaning products contain harmful ingredients. These harmful ingredients can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can be even more dangerous, causing kidney and liver problems and even cancer.
Part of the problem with indoor air is how efficiently modern homes are built. Designed to reduce heating and cooling costs and increase energy efficiency, modern homes are usually well-insulated. Due to modern construction methods, most houses are air-tight, locking in indoor pollutants and giving them no way to escape. In some cases, the indoor air quality can actually be worse than air pollution levels outside the home.
What are VOCs?
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are emitted as gases from a number of household cleaning products. When inhaled, they can many short-term and long-term adverse effects on the body. Concentrations of VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. Sometimes as much as ten times higher.
VOCs, Cleaners and Air Quality
These common household products can increase VOC levels in your home.
Candles and Air Fresheners
Many homeowners use air fresheners and scented candles to help their home smell fresh, clean, and more inviting. Americans spend billions of dollars annually on these scented products.
While these products can make your home smell clean, they can do real damage to your home’s air quality. Most scented products contain VOCs and other chemicals that can have serious effects on your family’s health.
Instead of air fresheners or scented candles, choose all-natural products. Consider diffusing essential oils as a replacement of harsh air freshener sprays. There are also non-toxic candles made from natural soy or beeswax that won’t contribute to poor indoor air quality.
All-Purpose Cleaners and Detergent
Many standard household cleaners contain harsh chemicals like ammonia and potassium hydroxide. These chemicals can have nasty effects on your health, contributing to eye and skin irritation and breathing problems.
Detergents can also have high levels of VOCs, especially if they contain added fragrance. Always look for VOC-free alternatives when possible.
Although a tough cleaner and disinfectant, bleach is a harsh chemical. Not only does bleach contain harmful VOCs, it also contains sodium hypochlorite. This chemical can cause serious respiratory and circulatory problems.
If you use bleach as a disinfectant, consider a more natural solution like white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
Any cleaner that comes in an aerosol can contribute to indoor air pollution. All aerosol products contain VOCs and other chemicals that help speed up the drying process and increase coverage area.
While a new coat of paint can make your home more attractive, paint, paint thinner, and oil-based stains all contain VOCs. The problem doesn’t end when the paint dries, either. Paint can continue to off gas VOCs for weeks or even months after application.
To reduce VOCs, always read labels. Choose a non-toxic option or a paint labeled as “low VOC.” When applying any paint or stain, be sure the area is properly ventilated.
Consult the Professionals
If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, you can contact a local HVAC professional. These professionals offer a variety of products and services that can help improve your home’s indoor air quality and keep your family breathing easy.