At Moms Clean Air Force, we focus a lot of attention on outdoor air quality. But what about the air we breathe about 90% of the time – the air inside, particularly in our homes or cars?
What’s the best way to keep indoor air safe and healthy?
When the weather’s mild, you can open the windows and let fresh air in. Not so during cooler months.
Whatever you do, please don’t start spraying air fresheners, and don’t hang those little fragrance-filled trees or baubles from your car’s rear view mirror. Air fresheners are often filled with synthetic chemicals like phthalates. Multiple exposures of phthalates over time, even at very low doses, have been linked to a multitude of developmental problems.
Other fragrances may trigger allergic reactions, like rash, headaches, and breathing problems, as we reported here.
Who needs any of that?
1. Take out the trash. At least in my car, one of the biggest sources of nasty smells is food that has fallen between the cracks of the seat cushions or gotten kicked under the front seats. At home, rotting food can also stink things up. In the car, keep a trash bag handy that you can dump every time you get gas in the car. Make kids take their trash out of the car with them and take it right to the trash can. At home, often the biggest odor source is the trash in the trash bin under my kitchen sink. I now put almost all food waste in a compost bin with a tightly fitting lid that sits outside my back door. If you don’t compost, wrap food waste in a couple of layers of newspaper, put it in your trash bag, and don’t wait too long to put the bag in your trash can outside.
2. Wash things down. Rather than spray toxic chemicals around your home or in your car, use hot soapy water to wipe down surfaces. In the car, this means getting into the indentations around the door handles, cup holders, and side slots. At home, focus on the kitchen counter, stove top and oven, and around your trash can, where food may have accidentally fallen.
3. Use baking soda to absorb odors. Keep a box of opened baking soda under the kitchen sink and in the refrigerator. You can also upcycle a small plastic margarine tub or glass jar. Poke holes in the lid, fill it about half full with baking soda, and place it under the front sea so it won’t spill but will still be able to absorb odors.
4. Keep things dry. Mold may develop where surfaces get wet and then not dry out properly. Make sure to dry floors, rugs and carpets thoroughly if they get wet. If necessary, use a hair dryer to dry out wet carpeting either at home or in your car. Don’t leave wet towels to moulder in a laundry basket or on the bathroom floor, either. Hang wet towels up on a rack where they can dry out between use, or put them outside to dry out. As long as there’s sunshine, they’ll dry, even if it’s cold outside.
5. Clean up after pets. If you have a litter box for a cat, or if you keep rodents like guinea pigs and hamsters, their litter can get quite stinky. Clean the litter box a couple of times a day if you need to, and put the dirty litter outside in your trash can. You may also need an air purifier, especially in a small room. If you let your dog up on your furniture, put down a waterproof barrier so the smell of the animal won’t pervade the cushions.
6. Simmer potpourri or make sachets. If you want to add some fragrance to your home, gently simmer a concoction of apple cider, apple skins, orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and all spice. Or make a sachet of pine needles, lavender, mint, or other herbs and give it a rub every now and then to release the oils that contain the fragrance.
7. Open the door for just a few minutes and run a fan. The back room where I keep my cat’s litter box inevitably gets smelly, no matter how diligent I am about cleaning out the box. Every so often I have to open the back door, let in some fresh air, and run the ceiling fan to move out the odors.