Nobody likes a bad air day.
According to the EPA, we spend 90 percent of our time indoors — and that was pre-COVID-19 — where it turns out, the air quality is worse than what's outdoors. The average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths a day. Makes sense that you'd want those breaths delivering fresh air, which might be difficult when you live in an apartment that might have few windows, for example, or sits above a traffic-filled city street.
Your apartment has all kinds of indoor-generated pollutants created by cooking odors, pets, mold, bacteria — you get the picture. Then, of course, there are pollutants coming in from the outside through cracks in a building's foundation or around windows and doors.
Good ventilation will flush these out of your space, but it's more than just opening up your windows. You have to be intentional, banishing the bad air and bringing in good air from the right place. And this may not be something you have control over in an apartment.
First, make sure your landlord is changing out the air filters regularly. If not, get them to allow you to do this. It's your health, here. An air filter is going to block things like dirt and dust mites, pet dander and spores.
There's been a lot of talk about air filters blocking COVID. Without going into too much detail, just understand the following:
Here are some tips for maintaining good air circulation and remove stagnant, stale, pollutant-filled air.
You could remove odors and airborne contaminants with an air purifier, but do your research on which ones work best. They may not all live up to their marketing hype.
An air purifier sucks in air, swirls it through one or more filters and captures pollutants and particles. Clean air moves back into your living space. The size of the purifier you purchase depends on the size of your apartment or house. You'll also have to purchase filters and change them with some frequency. Prices vary, but you can find them for as little as $200 (plus the cost of filters).
You do have some control when it comes to air circulation, of course. Open the windows, and try for cross ventilation. That means if you've got two windows on opposite sides of a space, you can use a fan to bring air in from one side, move it across the room and out the other window.
And, if it's warm out, you can set up two fans, one in a window to draw in outdoor air and the other facing outward in an opposite window to expel the air. This will not only make the room feel less stuffy and make it feel cooler, but it may save on cooling bills.
Ceiling fans can help move air around, as well. And depending on which direction the blades are turning, they can help you keep your space cooler or warmer. (There is a switch on your fan to do this.)
When your heat is running in winter, clockwise-turning blades will draw air upward warming the air as it goes. In summer, with the blades going in the opposite direction, the fan will push air down.
Also, use your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to flush out the stale air. In the bathroom, the exhaust fan removes humid air (hopefully correctly vented to the outside), which makes the space feel cooler. It will also help reduce mold build-up, which can damage grout and tiles.
Your kitchen exhaust fan helps in myriad ways including removing potentially hazardous fumes built up from cooking — particularly if you have a gas stove. It also helps remove moisture odors and oils.
Turn on your fan whenever you cook, even if it's noisy. The health benefits are worth having to pause your conversation.
You know you've got a cocktail of cooking smells from your own dinners, plus what oozes in from the hallways. Then, there are the smelly gym shoes and whatever comes in on your clothes.
One way to remove bad smells and improve air circulation is to ban smoking, which leaves a residue on furniture and walls, as well as a lingering odor.
Also, you can use baking soda and vinegar to clean most things. They absorb rather than mask odors. Your space may smell like salad dressing for a little while but then the air will be fresh. You can toss baking soda into the garbage disposal, your kitchen trash, the refrigerator, the dishwasher — which all may harbor odors that seep into your space. If smells persist, talk with your landlord about bringing in a professional cleaner.
With winter on its way, you'll be spending a lot more time indoors. Do what you can to help yourself breathe easy in the coming months by improving the air circulation wherever and whenever possible.