Article - Reducing VOCs around your home

Reducing VOCs around your home

If you’re building a new home, renovating, or simply carrying out activities around your home – volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a really important thing to know about.

We create these carbon-based chemicals when we when we use woodburners, get drycleaning done, cook, use a photocopier, and when newspapers are produced. These compounds form a gas at room temperature, and are found in many of the things we use to furnish and decorate our houses – like paint, fabric and foam, cleaners, air fresheners, wallpaper, building materials and more.

Here are some of the common VOCs, what they’re used in and their potentially harmful effects:

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Inside our homes, VOC levels are between two and five times higher than they are outdoors, studies have indicated.

So it’s useful to look at ways to lower these levels:

  • Follow instructions on household chemical products, especially if it tells you to use it in a well ventilated area.
  • Consider VOCs when you’re buying things like furniture, mattresses and sheets. Think about mattresses made from natural materials and furniture from untreated wood. When you buy a new bed or mattress, air them well before use so they can off gas before you sleep on them. And try washing new sheets before you use them and dry them outside. It’s possible for new polyster/cotton sheets to have formaldehyde in them, so check labels and try to choose sheets that are free of formaldehyde.
  • Don’t smoke indoors and don’t let others smoke inside your home – it causes high levels of air pollution.
  • Only buy as much paint, cleaners and solvents as you need, that way you won’t need to store as much. If you need to store partially empty tins, keep the lights on tightly and store them well away from living areas.
  • Choose paint with low levels of VOCs per litre – aim for less than 150g of VOCs per litre or a non-VOC paint.
  • Keep your inside air dry and cool

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