Natural ways to clean indoor air quality

Story by Meredith Coopman
Ever wonder why people are drawn to waterfalls, babbling creeks and rivers or waves crashing on the surf? Or why the air feels so fresh after a good old-fashioned lightning storm? It’s because all of those things produce negative ions. Negative ions are molecules that are naturally generated by moving water and electrical discharges such as lightning. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.

Positive ions, however, are frequently created by electronic devices like computers, TVs, microwaves, etc., and are capable of aggravating problems like allergies, stress and bad sleep. Negative ions can neutralize positive ions and help cleanse the air.

Hence the feeling of rejuvenation after a trip to the beach or a reason why people congregate at fountains.

So what’s with the science lesson? Sometimes the air inside can be more polluted than the air outside. Household chemicals, dust, pet dander, stale air, bacteria, mold and germs can all attest to the poor air quality indoors. These culprits often carry a positive charge, and can be neutralized by negative ions. The negative ions attach to the positive ions, which then makes them too heavy to be airborne.

Some simple and inexpensive ways to improve indoor air quality include:

Fresh Air Simply opening windows and creating cross ventilation for a few minutes a day can provide you with a dramatic reduction in indoor air pollution.

Air Filters The air filters in your heating and cooling system can help create healthier indoor air by capturing airborne allergens such as pollen, mold spores, dust mite debris, smoke, pet dander, and smog. Be sure to change them regularly to get the best benefits.

Remove Shoes Bringing in dirt, dust, and other contaminants from outside could impact the quality of your indoor air.

A Himalayan salt lamp

Regularly Clean and Replace Furnace and Air Filters This is an area that typically gets neglected.

Avoid Toxic Cleaning Products Find non-toxic alternatives to common cleansers.

Vacuum and Dust Regularly At least once a week, if not more. Try a bag-less filter model that doesn’t blow fine dirt and dust back into the air.

Manage Pets Shedding hair and cat litter can add to your indoor air pollution.

Plants Plants help contribute to your improved air quality by removing certain chemicals in the air. There are many, many plants to choose from. Some common, and easy to take care of, air-filtering plants include:

          Aloe Vera: Mostly known for medical uses like relieving burns, it’s also easy to keep alive and resembles a sculpture. Keep a plant in the kitchen for easy access in case of an accident.

          Palms: Hardy and easy to grow, palms filter formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide. They’re a great way to add a touch of nature to any space with their vibrant green color.

          Philodendrons: They filter xylene, a toxin found in glues and leathers, and need very little attention.

          Orchids: They may seem like a hard plant to care for, but they actually flourish on neglect. Orchids give off oxygen at night, so they’re great for the bedroom! They come in all different colors and varieties. An added bonus is that they’re pretty, too.

Himalayan Salt Lamps Salt lamps are hygroscopic, which means they absorb and attract water molecules from the surrounding air. Once attracted to the salt lamp, these microscopic compounds remain on the salt, not floating in the air where you can breathe them in. In order for the lamp to work, you must turn on the light inside. This generates a small amount of heat from the light source that enables the water to evaporate quickly, which produces a small amount of negative ions during the evaporation process.

It is said that the Himalayan salt lamps are quarried in the 250-million-year-old mines of the Himalayan Mountains and that they create many benefits of “salt therapy,” while promoting peaceful and calm relaxation, as well as more creativity and less stress. No two salt lamps are the same, so each one is unique and offers a comforting warm glow.

Beeswax Candles Paraffin candles are petroleum-derived and can release chemicals into the air. Pure beeswax candles, on the other hand, burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean the air by releasing negative ions.

Beeswax candles are often especially helpful for those with asthma or allergies, as they are effective at removing common allergens like dust and dander from the air.

Beeswax candles also burn more slowly than paraffin candles, so they last much longer.

Bamboo Charcoal This can have the same toxin- and odor-removing result in the air as it does in the water. Bamboo charcoal can absorb odors from all over the house, and it can even prevent the growth of harmful bacteria while emitting negative ions.
I have plants and salt lamps in almost each room of our house, as well as in my office, just in case there is some truth to all of this. What can it hurt and why wouldn’t I want to do my best to provide a safe and healthy environment for my family? They’re inexpensive and truly add to the décor and ambiance of our home and spaces. The salt lamps are used instead of nightlights in my kids’ bedrooms, and if I’m lucky, I remember to water the plants on a regular basis.

Meredith Coopman of Meredith Coopman Design Studio has a background in architecture and interior design. You can reach her at meredith@meredithcoopman.com.