Yet again, air pollution is at an all-time high! And in our homes, we end up ‘growing’ pollution without even knowing it. Air pollution at home has two key factors: outdoor air seeping in with its bag of pollutants and indoor elements that add to the polluted air. India’s top experts, Kamal Meattle and Barun Aggarwal tell us how to clean or replace the pollution-generating elements in our homes so we can minimize the problem to the best of our ability. Most of this advice may seem bizarre, undoable, and even downright totalitarian. It may not suit your lifestyle and may seem like a challenge to achieve. But managing indoor air pollution is a daunting and complicated task. That being said, it is certainly doable.
1. Clean and clean some more
Cleaning our homes requires a lot more than just mopping and dusting the rooms. Don’t forget your curtains and upholstered furniture too. High traffic areas in the house may require more frequent cleaning. Investing in a vaccum cleaner is a good idea. Not only can these machines remove the most obstinate dust particles, they can also clean parts of furniture that may be difficult to reach with a broomstick or a dust cloth.
2. Declutter, because less stuff means less pollution
When it comes to minimalism, we need to learn from the Japanese way of life. They have always believed in beauty that is sparse and simple. Keep only what’s necessary because everything in our homes adds to the pollution levels. The fewer things you own, the lower your VOCs. And the lower the VOCs in your homes, the lesser the pollution and the better your health will be.The only key to a clean home is to keep it as sparse as possible.
3. Treat your bedroom as if it were a hospital room
Try to keep your bedroom as sparse as possible with only the bare essentials. Take a bit of inspiration from the Japanese and keep the furnishing minimal, with no carpets. Not only will it lower the level of pollutants, a clean room is proven to give you peace of mind and help you think and sleep better.
By breathing in fresh air for six to eight hours you are protecting your lungs for a considerable part of the day, giving them the added advantage to battle the pollutants when you finally step outside to begin your day. Don’t you want that kind of protection and leverage?
4. Always remove your shoes
In modern times, the tradition of leaving your shoes at the door is disappearing. Our shoes literally bring in the filth and muck from the outside world into our homes. Your footwear can pick up everything from bacteria-packed fecal matter to toxic lead dust and harmful pesticides. There is a reason why, especially in Indian homes, we have separate footwear, such as chappals, that we only wear inside the house. Do this sincerely and begin now.
5. Use any kind of varnish outside the house
Varnishes or any substance with an alcohol or sprit smell emit high levels of pollutants that can remain inside your house for at least a week. Step outside when using nail polish or nail polish removers. Or do it in the bathroom with the exhaust fan on.
6. Swap the usual cleaners for vinegar
Most cleaning products contain chemicals that contribute to poor indoor air quality. Research has linked once-a-week use of cleaning products with a 24 to 32 per cent higher risk of progressive lung disease Soap and water, or vinegar and baking soda can serve as inexpensive alternatives. Vinegar is a weak acid and a natural cleaning agent. Add between one-fourth cup and one-half cup to your laundry. You can use this in your washing machine too. Vinegar is also a good all-purpose cleaner for your kitchen and bathroom and works great for cleaning mirrors and windows. So swap your regular cleaners and disinfectants for vinegar and baking powder. It doesn’t get safer than that.
7. Pay extra attention to your carpets
Dust mites thrive in carpets and rugs and the dirtier your carpets and rugs get the more likely they are to contain PM, mould, dust, pet dander, hair, etc. When buying a new carpet, avoid ones with vinyl backing or ones that are glued on to the floor. These types of carpets release pollutants constantly. Instead, use carpets that are knitted rather than machine-made. The idea is to cut out as much plastic and adhesive as possible. Clean them regularly and vacuum them at least once a week.
8. Agarbattis emit PM 2.5; candles are just as bad
Since prayer rooms are an integral part of most Indian homes, you should light your agarbattis outside and stick them in a tulsi pot. If you must light these sticks inside the house, move your shrine near a window and keep it open when the stick is lit.
Candles are guilty of emitting VOCs as well, especially the perfumed ones that a lot of us like to use around the house. Remember, combustion and smoke is the same. There is no good smoke.