Air Pollution in our Homes

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Interior Design Advice, Wellness Design

There are only three very basic things we need in this world to live: water, air, food. Everything else – including light (though our food does require this to grow) – is an added bonus. Air is probably the one we take the most for granted and when we think of polluted air we see smoggy cities and congested motorways. However, air pollution ironically is starting to be 2-5% higher inside our homes than outside.

As a child of the ‘80s when smoking in homes was readily accepted, including in the one I grew up in, I found it hard to think that things were getting worse. We no longer have those nicotine-infused walls, with the smell of smoke wafting out of the curtains every time you close them. Maybe I am very sensitive to the issue of air in our homes; my mother died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease when she was 65 and I am an Asthma sufferer, probably both due to those casual days of smoking. So, why the rise in pollution in our homes and what can we do?

Well, what is it that counts as air pollution? Dirt, dust, mould, chemicals, even plastics/polystyrene and electronics all contribute to the toxins in our air.


The rise of chemicals in our home products is probably why we are seeing the rise of indoor air pollution.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are now thought to be an even bigger environmental pollutant than car emissions. Even better, we are willingly bringing these bad boys into our homes all the time because they are so commonly used. A freshly decorated room will be emitting VOCs from the paint, the upholstery, the carpet and any melamine products (think flat pack). That “NEW SMELL” might not be as great as you think. VOCs are coming off our fridge freezers, household cleaning products, moth balls, air fresheners, some cosmetics, hair spray and perfume. Ever got that dry feeling at the back of your throat when spray cleaning your work surfaces? That’s those chemicals.

Obviously I am aware that turning your home into something new shouldn’t be killing you. LAKELAND paints now do VOC Free organic paint. It can take anywhere between 3-12 months for a new piece of furniture to finish “OFF GASSING”, as it’s known, into the atmosphere. As for furniture, if you can go antique and reupholster then you aren’t getting the heavy amount of VOCs that come with the glue in the frames and foam in new furniture. If you love box fresh home products, then keep new rooms well ventilated. It could be an idea to tackle renovation in the summer months when opening a window isn’t an issue.

For everyday products make the switch to less abrasive alternatives. Do you need moth balls in your wardrobe when a bag of lavender will work as well and smell so much nicer? Do you need an air freshener if you have fresh flowers? NEOM ORGANIC do amazing ranges of both organic reed diffusers and organic scented candles. Organic perfumes and cosmetics are on the rise and there is a whole new generation of household cleaning products hitting the market which are low in chemicals. We might not be able to be free of chemicals, but we can significantly reduce them.

Let air in

When Granny used to yell, “For God’s sake it wouldn’t do you any harm to open a window in here!” she wasn’t wrong. The air in our homes can become stale and all the in-house nasties can build up. The simplest answer is to throw open the windows and doors and let the air flow through at least once a day. Ilse Crawford, the design genius behind Babington House, extolled the power of throwing open a window in her book Sensual Home. 


Yep, we love these fellows and just keep on shouting about them here at Smartstyle Interiors. They work hard to detoxify our air and can help address the balance. They also help our mental health and they are such a simple addition to our homes! Check out our blog on Biophilic Design and if you are looking for a gorgeous pot to show them off then check out our blog post on Retro Planters.

When I came to cover the topic of air on the blog I have to say I was really shocked about the high pollution. Yes, I had read the statistics, but I never thought that that amount of chemicals could be going on in MY home. I didn’t think that they could be going down my throat or even worse down the wind pipes of my sons. Things will be changing here. Now excuse me while I go and throw open a window; I need to breathe!

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