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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Natural Air Fresheners

Indoor air pollution can be a big problem, having a major influence on the health, comfort and well being of building occupants. Poor air quality has been linked to problems such as Sick Building Syndrome and has been shown to reduce productivity in offices as well as learning in schools. Depending on the source of contaminants, individuals may be extremely sensitive and have great difficulty remaining healthy and balanced in an environment that contains numerous pollutants.

Read on to find out some of the natural alternatives to keeping your home, office, or indoor space smelling fresh, clean, and healthy.

Open the Windows
This almost sounds too simple to be typing, but how often do we see open windows these days? Let the fresh air in, allow the stale, polluted air out. Even if you can only do this for a short time every day, it does make a difference.

In homes without air exchange systems, open a window and run a central vacuum for a while to get fresh air in and stale air out. Or put a fan in a window drawing air out, and open another window to increase air circulation.

Baking Soda
An oldie but goodie, baking soda is economical, effective and healthy. Place an open container in an area that you want freshened and it will absorb the odours in that enclosed space. It does not need to be relegated to just the refrigerator and the cat's litter box.

This is a natural mineral, which absorbs odors and excess moisture in the air as well as heavy metals. It can be used as a general deodorizer and to combat mildew or mould. When used in refrigerators and freezers, it can reduce electricity cost by up to 12% by maintaining optimum humidity, and it helps keep food fresher. Zeolite is usually sold in packets that can be hung in strategic locations.

Because of the honeycomb structure, zeolite is able to absorb moisture and gas molecules that total about 65 percent of the weight of the zeolite itself. The material has virtually no fragrance, and it releases nothing as it absorbs other materials. A day in bright sunshine is usually enough to release the contaminants and restore the zeolite to working condition. Packets can also be recharged in a 200-degree oven for an hour. The low temperature will keep the plastic bags from melting. (Zeolite itself can withstand temperatures of 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit before it degrades.) Source it can be purchased from Environmental Home Center.

Simmerring Herbs & Spices
Simmer water and cinnamon or other spices on stove. Or another option is to purchase from the Thrift Store one of those miniature crock pot type devices for a few dollars. Plug it in and add your spices...it will send fragrance throughout the room you are freshening. In addition to herbs and spices, pure essential oils work well also...but they must be the pure essential oils, not an artificial fragrance.

Place Bowls of Fragrant Dried Herbs & Flowers in a Room
Not only does it look nice, it helps clear up the air. Lavender is wonderful for this, make sachet as well so a fresh fragrance can be released into small confined spaces like the closets and dresser drawers, an added benefit some will also ward off moths.

Household Plants
Plants are the great equalizer in helping with the inflow of oxygen into an area. Rather than relying on chemical-laden air fresheners, try floral scents from the source: fresh flowers! As for potted plants, Dr. Bill Wolverton conducted studies for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration showing that some houseplants can clear carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from indoor air.

For example, of the fifty indoor plants tested, the Boston fern was the most effective at removing formaldehyde and the peace lily worked best on acetone. Three types of palms — areca, lady and bamboo — received the highest overall ratings, which included ease of growth and maintenance, resistance to insects and amount of moisture released by the plant, along with ability to remove chemical vapors. See my earlier post Plants that Boost Indoor Air Quality to get a list of the most useful household plants that are up for this task.

One of my most favorite ways is to burn a natural incense in the house to re-energize or clear. A few of my favorites are sandalwood, palo santo, and cedar. Sage I save for clearing and smugding work. Be sure to use the real deal product, good natural incense and not a cheap knock-off that may be filled with toxins and chemicals.

Just by incoporating one or two of these suggestions you can go a long way toward revitalizing your enviroment's indoor air quality.