Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Air that You Breathe

Renter's have a special problem and that's air quality.  If you are a renter, the chances are great that you aren't the only person who has ever rented that space.  There have been others.  That brings up a multitude of questions.  Did the people before you own dogs or cats?  Just because your landlord doesn't allow pets....doesn't mean there weren't any living there. Also, just because a pet owner swears their pet NEVER has "accidents" in the house....doesn't mean they haven't.   Did the former residents smoke?  Again, just because the landlord says they didn' doesn't mean that's true.  Even if they didn't smoke, you can never be certain that their visitors didn't smoke inside the house.

Was the carpeting replaced before you moved in?  If it was, was the subfloor resealed? Was the space painted and if so what kind of paint was used?  Is there a chance that asbestos, lead based paint or oil based products were ever used in your space and that there might be a trace of it still?.  These are a likely possibility if the space you're renting is older.  How is the ventilation in your rented space?  If it's an apartment, the chances are you have fewer windows and the ones you do have are probably smaller and seldom opened.  

Bad air quality can not only cause a plethora of health issues over time, it can greatly aggravate existing health issues like asthma, COPD, allergies, even migraines and sinus infections.

How do you handle poor air quality?  The first thing to do is clean.....everything.  Maybe your landlord had the carpets cleaned before you moved in....maybe not...maybe they just vacuumed.  Best to err on the side of extreme caution and head down to the local hardware store and rent a carpet cleaner.  The thing to know about cleaning your carpets is that the water will soak into your carpet pad to some extent.  If that isn't allowed to thoroughly dry, mold will grow.  Now it's not going to be the horrible black mold that everyone is so afraid of, but it will be mold and any type of mold can cause an unattractive odor.  It can also aggravate your sinuses or asthma so the best thing to do after cleaning your carpets is to put out fans and make sure everything is dry.  

Once that's done, it's time to clean all the other surfaces no matter how clean you think they look.  Even if your landlord hired professionals to come in and clean it top to bottom, you still have to wonder what products they used.  Cleaning products like bleach and/or ammonia are super cleaning products in that they will kill about any germ that they come into contact with.  However, they are also not at all user friendly in that their chemical components can linger for days even weeks after they've been used.  While you're cleaning, don't forget the ceilings.  Remember smoke rises and the ceilings will collect it all.

Once your rental is spotless and you're feeling great about how clean it is, the next step to living a clean life is to get plants that actually purify the air.  Of course, you can buy an air purifier but how pretty is that?  

Plants are cheaper than purifiers, lower maintenance than purifiers, they don't wear out or break down and best of all, they're prettier than purifiers.  Some studies suggest that having plants in your house can actually help lower your blood pressure.

Let's look at some indoor plants that make great purifiers.

English Ivy

These plants are super easy to care for and control.  Because they're an ivy, they will trail. All you have to do is train them to trail where you want, or snip off the growth.  Kinda like giving your plant a haircut.  They don't require a ton of light or a ton of water.

The dense foliage of the Ivy absorbs formaldehyde - a chemical that is extremely common in the making of carpeting.  Formaldehyde is the most prevalent indoor pollution of them all and is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.

Peace Lilly

Some people call this plant the funeral flower.  This is another easy to care for plant that requires little light, little water and little maintenance.  I would recommend whenever you dust your furniture, to dust the leaves of this plant, while you're at it.  A thick layer of dust on any plant will prevent it from breathing and from absorbing pollutants.  I recommend putting a large dollop of olive oil or pure vegetable oil on a clean cloth or paper towel, then using that to clean the leaves of your plant.  It not only gets all the dirt off your plant but give them a shiny appearance.  Warning:  some plants don't like to have their leaves cleaned with oily products so google before you oil a plant if you have any doubts. 

This plant is one of the absolute best plants to have in every room of your house.  This hard worker gets rid of VOC benzene which is a carcinogen found in paints, furniture waxes and polishes.  It also sucks up acetone, which is emitted by electronics, certain cleaners and adhesives.

Lady Palm

The  Lady Palm is a hardy plant that can tolerate semi low light.  It's best to keep this one near a light source.  I have one that I've kept beside a floor lamp in my not at all sunny living room and it does fine.  This plant can get up to 6 feet tall but it is a very slow grower so you have plenty of time to figure out where to put it once it's that tall.

She is not only gracefully built and easy on the eyes, but she actually rids your air of ammonia which is a super villain of the respiratory system and is a major component of certain dyes, textiles and cleaners.

Boston Fern

The Boston Fern is such a beautiful plant.  However, it can be a picky plant and I've never had good luck with them.  I've known others who have tremendous success with them....but not me.  These plants have a need for constant moisture and humidity.

They are actually one of the best air purifiers known.  They remove formaldehyde which is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.  There have been studies that show this plant even removes toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic.

Snake Plant (aka Mother in Law's Tongue)

If you can't keep this plant don't need to have all.  This plant is so easy, it's crazy.  The only plant that is easier to keep alive is a plastic plant.  Once in a while dust the leaves and give it a small drink when the soil is dry.  That's it.

This is maybe the best plant for a small space.  It grows up - not out - and it tolerates low light or bright light.

This easy fella does his work at night.  During the night, he will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the room.  He's one to have in every room of your house - including the bathroom.  Put more than one in your bedroom for a boost of oxygen while you sleep.

To make him even more invaluable, he also sucks in benzene and formaldehyde. 

Golden Pothos

Every live plant that I've ever received from a florist has this little ivy in it.  It's a medium growing ivy, it tolerates low light or bright light, it can go long periods of time without just likes to be dusted from time to time.  If you don't know whether it wants a drink, look at the leaves....when it's really thirsty, the leaves curl up and begin to look wilted.  Give it a good drink of water, and they will unfurl and look good as new. Like the English Ivy, you can trim it if it reaches further than you'd like and it's easily trained.

The Pothos suck in formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and Benzene.  Triple threat with this one!  This plant can be found anywhere that live plants are sold and it is the cheapest houseplant around.

Wax Begonia

If you have a sunny location and want some color in your plant choices, this is the one for you.  It has lovely leaves that look as though they've been waxed and the plant comes in a variety of colors.

This beauty cleans benzene and chemicals produced by toluene, a liquid found in some waxes and adhesives.

Red Edges Dracaena 

Beautiful plant that can actually get up to 15 feet tall, loves a sunny location and is compact enough to fit into most sunny corners.  Moderate to bright sunlight.  Requires little water and you will love the red edges on each frond.

This plant will take care of gases released by xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, which can be introduced by lacquers, varnishes, and sealers.

Spider Plant

Another easy to care for plant.  You can use it as a hanging plant or in a pot atop a pedestal or table.  It is a prolific reproducer so if you want more of them, it's not necessary to go out and spend money on more plants.  All you have to do is wait until the plant grows "mini" spider plants at the end of it's leaves.  Pick one off and sit it atop some soil, it will root and grow.

This is a another plant that absorbs formaldehyde and benzene.  

Between the cleaning and these will have a super healthy indoor environment!

As always, enjoy your space!