How to reduce indoor pollution and improve air quality

A friend of mine has had asthma all her life and in recent years it has gotten worse. During hayfever season she is using steroid inhalers several times a day.

Last time I was at her house we took a look around and I shared some advice about indoor air pollution.

The most shocking thing for her to hear was that the Environmental Protection Agency now estimates indoor air can be two- to five-times more polluted than outdoor. It’s a real wakeup call about how we take care of our homes isn’t it?

While I’m not fortunate enough to own top air quality monitoring equipment there are many things you can do at home to help you and your family enjoy better health.

Here are some of the things we’ve done together:

Air Fresheners

One of the first things I noticed was the smell of my friend’s home. It was a concoction of chemical smells being released by plug in air fresheners at intervals throughout the day.

Air fresheners work by coating the inner walls of the nose with a chemical to block the olfactory nerve, or they overpower the scent you want to mask with another potent fragrance.  We looked closely at one brand and found the words “‘deliberately inhaling the product may kill’ Wow! Makes the smell of cooked cabbage and wet dog a bit more bearable doesn’t it?

If the air outdoors is less polluted than indoors; the best form of air freshener is to open the windows! I also introduced my friend to some essential oils; ones that can be particularly calming and helpful to asthma sufferers; which she is now enjoying instead.


While I’ll happily live in harmony with my cobwebs my friend is a bit of a cleaning fiend.

She has a three dogs and two cats so understandably wants to keep pet dirt and smells to a minimum.

She buys into all the myths that we need harsh toxic, antibacterial products to be safe. We ditched her chemically-laden products and I introduced her to more eco friendly ones. I’m yet to get her to try bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar – one step at a time, right?!


Due to her menagerie my friend has laminate flooring downstairs, but in the past three years she admitted she’d never taken her rug up to clean; she’s just vacuumed it.

I convinced her to take it outside and give it a beating on the washing line; she was shocked at how much *stuff* came out of that rug – dust, fur and goodness knows what else. After we got out the loose dirt we steam cleaned it.

The Institute for Total Carpet Hygiene (ITCH) states ‘if you haven’t washed your carpet in the last 12 months you can be sure that lurking deep in the carpet fibres will be bacteria, fungus, chemicals, dead skin, dust, food particles, germs, pollen, grease, grit and dust mites. If neglected, these particles will work their way deeper into the carpet and may contribute to health problems including allergies, asthma and emphysema’.


There are five members in this household and they each take one or two showers PER DAY!

I explained how ventilating the bathroom was important to prevent mould and mildew build up and we swapped some of her harsh conventional toiletries for a greener brand.

Thankfully the back door is in the kitchen, so, as my friend cooks with gas, I encouraged her to have the door ajar when cooking to reduce fumes.


I’ve mentioned before how Research by NASA has shown that some house plants are effective in removing harmful substances from the air such as formaldehyde and benzene.

The recommendation is that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house.

My friend is now enjoying being surrounded by Peace lilies, bamboo palms and Gerbera daisy.

What about you – do you have advice to share about reducing indoor air pollution?