If you live in a busy city apartment, purifying the air in it can be quite the challenge. There are just so many outside factors that affect your air inside, you might think there’s nothing you can do about it. Some of the questions you might be dealing with right now might be:
- What if your neighbors smoke, have pets, cook all the time, or rarely clean their apartment? And what if it’s so bad, it’s affecting the health and cleanliness in your own apartment. Even if you complain to the apartment association (if you have one), that still might leave you to have to deal with the consequences yourself.
- What if you live in an area where the traffic creates so much smog in the air, you can barely open the door of your balcony?
- What if you live in an old building and are wondering about the chemicals in the walls, dust, rusty pipes, and health hazards that are poorly addressed and maybe even not up to code anymore?
- What if you just moved in and the odors of the last tenant or owner are still lingering? What if their second-hand smoke, pet dander or dust are still lingering in your apartment and won’t subside, no matter what?
There are clear actions you can take to clean up the space and to improve your air quality in your apartment. First, we’ll talk about actions you can take right now, and finally, we’ll talk about what you can do maintain your air quality and what you need to look out for in case you’re still in the process of looking for a new apartment to live.
How to Improve Air Quality in Your Apartment
There are many solutions that can give you cleaner air in your apartment. While you may not be able to control external factors, research has shown that indoor air can be more polluted that outside air. Although this is alarming, it also means that you have the chance to significantly improve an area of your life that you actually can control.
Change the Air Filter of Your AC Furnace
If you live a hectic city lifestyle, you might’ve forgotten to change out your air filter. Depending on the quality of the filter and the system in your home, your filter will more than likely need to be changed once every 3 to 6 months on average. Although, if you have allergies, there’s nothing stopping you from changing the filter every month if desired.
Air filters come in various sizes, so you must first know the size you’ll need. They’re typically one inch thick by default, although thicker filters are also sold. A thicker filter doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better, although this is often the case. The material used in the filter is important, as well as the number of pleats (which gives it a higher surface area to trap particles).
Air filters are given different ratings. The HEPA rating is trusted the most since its standards are set by the US Department of Energy. However, the MERV rating system by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). Whichever rating system you pick, the general rule is that the higher the number, the more particles the filter will be able to filter out.
Lower level filters tend to filter out larger particles like dust and carpet fibers, the higher level filters are typically those used in hospitals, as they’re able to filter out bacteria, allergens, and airborne droplet nuclei. The latter is great in busy apartments since it will be able to trap your neighbor’s tobacco smoke, smog from the traffic, and prevent the spread of disease in a tightly populated building.
Although this is an obvious choice, you need to make sure that the filter won’t block airflow and leave your air conditioning constantly running. A MERV rating of 13 is high, but it’s great if you’re surrounded by poor air quality or have allergies, trouble breathing or ill health. AirX offers a pack of 6 (check price on Amazon). It’s labeled as “health” since it’s on par with filters used in hospitals.
If you’re worried about reduced airflow, but still need an air filter that’s far above average, then a filter with a MERV 11 rating is best. It still traps allergens, dust, and debris, and works with busy families and pets. This filter is also offered by AirX as a pack of 6 (check price on Amazon).
Regularly Use Air Purifiers
Air purifiers are very potent when it comes to purifying the air. They can improve air quality significantly by fighting against odors, allergens, dust, mold, cooking fumes, pet dander and smoke coming from your neighbors. Air purifiers are a must for everyone, especially those with allergies.
Air purifiers are also a great way to help filter out dangerous carbon monoxide. However, you must still make sure your home has an active carbon monoxide detector to monitor sudden spikes in carbon monoxide that may come from leaks coming from your furnace, appliances, or chimney.
All these benefits sound great, but how do you choose the right air purifier?
First, you should choose one that uses HEPA filters, as those will be able to filter out particles regular air purifiers cannot like allergens. There are many air purifiers on the market, allowing you to even find one that’s specific to your exact need or allergy type.
Next, you’ll need to assess just how large of an area the air purifier should cover. It can be tempting to buy an inexpensive $40 air purifier, only to realize later that you need several of them to cover the same large space. It’s easier to maintain one filter that covers a large space than to have to maintain three filters that do the same thing. For this reason, whole house purifiers (or in your case, “whole apartment purifiers”) are becoming increasingly popular but can be expensive. Large room air purifiers seem to be the reasonable middle between these small area and whole house purifiers.
Most people don’t use air purifiers everywhere in their home. You’ll primarily want to buy one for your bedroom, and then add another one for the other areas where you spend the most time like the living room. Other things to consider is how loud or quiet the air purifier is, and how long it takes to purify the air. It’s better to buy an air purifier that can cycle the air multiple times per hour than one that’s taking twice as much or longer. This measurement is referred to as the ACH, or air change per hour.
I recommend the Hunter Air Purifier. It meets all the already mentioned criteria. It also contains a built-in bamboo charcoal system to help you eliminate odors naturally and ditch those dangerous air fresheners for good.
(The average air freshener releases over 100 volatile active compounds into a room’s air, of which 24 are toxic – read more about it here.)
Use Natural Methods
Sometimes improving air quality can be as simple as making one simple change, but if you live in a busy city apartment, you’ll achieve the most effective results if you combine as many methods as possible. The following tips on their own may improve air quality but will be most effective if combined with a good air purifier and new furnace air filters.
We’ve all learned it in school. During daylight, most plants undergo photosynthesis to give off oxygen. So by introducing plants into your home where you spend a significant amount of time during the day, you’ll be able to take advantage of this benefit. Some plants that have been shown to help improve air quality and even can remove harmful chemicals are:
- English ivy
- spider plant
- Chinese evergreen
- bamboo palm
- weeping fig
- peace lily
- barberton daisy
- Boston fern
- snake plant
- garden mum
- aloe vera
We know this information thanks to the Clean Air Study conducted by NASA, confirming that plants filter out volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, among others. You’ll find the plant that works best in your apartment. The larger the plant, the larger the leaves and the more effective it is at purifying the air. This is great but can pose a problem if the plant shoots up to 10 feet high and you only have 8-foot ceilings. Some plants on this list require special care, a specific amount of light, while others could be toxic to pets. Make sure to research the plant that’s right for you.
Consistent Natural Ventilation
Unless your building is surrounded by smoke and horrible outside air, open your windows and turn on the air fans. It might sound overly simple, but the problem is that this needs to become a habit. Poor air quality doesn’t happen in one day and for the most part, it won’t be solved in one day, either.
Make it a habit to regularly air out your apartment. It should even be a daily habit until your air improves. Speaking of habits, make sure to turn on the exhaust vent in the bathroom before you get in the shower to prevent moisture from building up and causing mold or mildew.
Clean with Natural Household Cleaners
Chemicals are a major contributor to poor air quality, so don’t make the situation worse by continuing to liberally use toxic chemical cleaners in your home.
Yes, you definitely want to clean your home as frequently as possible and go into detail. Instead of just cleaning the top of the toilet bowl, clean the entire bowl and the area around it. Instead of just vacuuming the floors, vacuum the spider webs on the ceiling, curtains, blinds, upholstery, and base boards. Clean the inside of your kitchen cabinets, window sills, take down the light fixture in your kitchen and clean out the bugs and grease that’s built up on it. Don’t just spread the dust around – wipe it off with a wet cloth or polish if possible to seal the surface.
But when doing all this, make sure to use natural cleaners. You can buy them already made or follow simple recipes to make your own. Start cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, clean of tartar, and other natural ingredients. Buy your own essential oils to create natural floor cleaners.
You don’t have to suffer from poor indoor air quality just because you live in a busy, populated city. Start with simple things like detailed cleaning with natural cleaners. Regularly open the doors and windows, if possible. Invest in a good quality air purifier that can cover a large area and uses highly rated filters. Buy an indoor plant that can remove dangerous chemicals in the air. Change out your AC furnace filters that also have a high rating and keep changing it regularly.