Did you know there are mobile apps to monitor the air quality of many cities around the world? Cities like Beijing, Paris and Salt Lake City issue warnings when the air quality reaches a critical level. In extreme cases, children are not allowed outside. In many instances, car traffic is regulated and the use of public transportation is strongly recommended. Most of us know that fossil fuels in our cars and factories is polluting the air outside, but did you know that the air in your home could be just as dangerous as — or even more dangerous than — the air outside?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air quality in your home is often two times, sometimes up to a thousand times, worse than the air outside. While this is an alarming idea, there are several natural air purifiers you can use to improve indoor air quality. For those looking to enhance the effects of their electronic purifiers, simple things like keeping air purifying plants and changing daily habits can make all the difference.
AIR PURIFYING PLANTS
What could be more natural than plants? Most people know that plants help clean the air and that without trees we wouldn’t have enough clean oxygen to breath. The importance of nature and wildlife is more relevant than ever, so it makes sense that plants in the home might help improve air quality just as it does outdoors.
NASA published an impressive study in the late 1980’s about using plants to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) introduced into a fiberglass “Biohome” and later into test chambers. The results showed that indoor plants can dramatically reduce VOCs in less than 24 hours. This study took place in a controlled environment, so while the results are not entirely conclusive, there are many advocates for air purifying plants and the NASA study theory.
Having certain plants in your home is generally considered to be effective in absorbing various chemicals from the environment and of course emitting delicious fresh oxygen. Plants like Aloe Vera, which are already regarded as medicinally beneficial, are supposed to assist with removing chemicals such as carbon monoxide and formaldehyde from the air. The Snake Plant also removes these chemicals naturally.
In addition, the Spider Plant helps improve your sleeping environment by producing most of its oxygen at night. There are several other plants with known air purifying qualities. Most are easily maintained though some can be toxic to pets. So, be sure to check up on the options before deciding which plant is best for you. We discuss the uses and variety of plants in our post about the best air purifying plants for your home or office.
Do you use a water purifier? If you do, chances are that its filter contains charcoal. Many electronic air-purifiers also use activated carbon. Charcoal has been used for thousands of years to clean water, heal wounds, and remove poisons and toxins from the body. Not all of these uses are backed by science, but the fact that charcoal is able to absorb a large amount and a variety of compounds remains. Bamboo charcoal in particular is notable for air purification. It has become immensely popular in recent years and can be bought in decorative bags to place around your home.
Nagaoka University of Technology in Japan published an article entitled “Science of Bamboo Charcoal: Study on Carbonizing Temperature of Bamboo Charcoal and Removal Capability of Harmful Gases” which detailed the positive results of an experiment on bamboo charcoal. According to the study, bamboo charcoal can adsorb chemicals such as formaldehyde, toluene, and benzene. Because bamboo charcoal is so porous, air and water particles are easily able to flow throughout the pores. The charcoal then traps and cleanses the particles as a result.
In addition to the natural air purifier elements, bamboo charcoal has many other helpful uses for around the house. It is an incredibly renewable substance, making it a wonderful alternative to wood and contributing to rainforest protection. It is also a natural deodorizer and air freshener. Removing various chemical elements and smog-related toxins makes it easier to breath. It can reduce moisture in the air which is why some people choose to place a bag of bamboo charcoal in their closet or basement. Charcoal bags are less effective than mechanical air purification but do create subtle improvements. And yes, if you want to clean your water as well as your environment, bamboo charcoal is a multi-purpose purifier.
One of the most effective ways to purify the air in your home or office is to change your habits and monitor your surroundings. Eliminating various pollutants from your home and keeping your environment as clean as possible is one of the most important things you can do for purified air.
According to the EPA, banning indoor smoking, reducing the use of strong chemicals, and — most importantly — providing ample ventilation will reduce bacteria, odor, mold spores, and VOCs faster than any other type of air purification. Even too many knick knacks and random objects can collect a thick layer of dust which will ultimately add to a less than ideal environment.
Basically, you want to keep toxic products in the garage and all other areas of your home as clean as possible. Make sure your HVAC systems, windows and doors are properly ventilated as this is particularly important when it comes to mold and mildew.
People who suffer from allergies may need to use caution when ventilating their homes, however. Pay attention to what the environment is like outside of your home before encouraging air flow. If it’s high season for allergies or even if there is a smoker wandering outside, keep a tight hold on your exits before letting the outdoor air in. Instead of just opening a window, an allergy sufferer could place an allergen reducing filter in a small window and use an exhaust fan to push air out of the home. Finally, while having pets is a wonderful thing, it is vitally important to clean and keep the pet dander at a minimum.
While there are many benefits to natural air purifiers such as plants and bamboo charcoal, there are also a great deal of myths surrounding objects that allegedly enhance or clean the air.
The Himalayan Salt Lamp, for example, is widely heralded as a natural air purifier. It is supposed to release negative ions, thus neutralizing pollutants. This claim probably comes from the fact that certain air purifiers use static electricity to take particles from the air. A salt candle, however, cannot produce negative ions because it is not capable of producing enough energy. While it may look pretty on your mantle, it does nothing to improve air quality. Or at least there’s no evidence we’ve seen to prove the contrary.
Beeswax candles are another product sometimes passed off as an air purifier. While it is true that they give off very little smoke or scent, they are also incapable of releasing negative ions. Because they are on fire, beeswax candles will still result in carbon dioxide and carbon bioproducts. They are therefore still adding negative elements to the atmosphere rather than eliminating them.
THE NATURAL CONCLUSION
There are a number of natural methods of air purification out there, each with its own set of pros and cons. Most natural air purifiers are cost effective but are not as truly effective as you’d hope when it comes to reducing dust or allergens.
The best approach is a combination of the different purification methods. Start by going to the EPA website and learning more about the most efficient ways of ventilating your home. Try placing a Snake Plant in your bedroom, a Peace Lily in your kitchen, or a Red-edged Dracaena in your office. Place a bag of bamboo charcoal in the cabinets where you store chemicals or cleaners. And most importantly, keep your environment clean and well-ventilated so that nothing builds up or allows molds and mildew to flourish.
Using all of these methods will have less maintenance costs than most traditional electric air purifiers and will keep your house natural and green. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a truly effective way of improving the air quality of your home, a mechanical air purifier is the way to go. In the end, the best case scenario is always to combine the natural methods with an electric air purifier to create an optimal environment.