How to Remove VOCs From Your Home

How to Remove VOCs From Your Home

How to Remove VOCs from Your Home
To improve indoor air quality

Indoor air quality is an important issue that many homeowners overlook. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are common indoor pollutants that can have negative health effects if exposure is high enough. The good news is there are steps you can take to reduce VOCs in your home and improve the air you and your family breathe.

What are VOCs?

VOCs are carbon-containing chemicals that easily evaporate at room temperature. Common household sources of VOCs include:

  • Paints, varnishes, and solvents
  • Wood preservatives
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Cleaners and disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Hobby supplies such as glues, adhesives, and permanent markers
  • Moth repellents and insecticides
  • Stored fuels and automotive products
  • Furniture made of certain pressed wood products
  • Tobacco smoke

When inhaled, VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system. Continued exposure increases risk of cancer and other long-term health effects.

Tips for Reducing VOCs at Home

Here are some practical ways you can reduce your exposure to VOCs in your home:

  1. Use household products sparingly. Only use what you need and follow directions carefully. Opt for products with low or no VOCs when possible.
  2. Properly ventilate. Open windows, use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans, and run your HVAC system to bring in fresh air. Ventilate well when using VOC sources.
  3. Seal containers. Store VOC-containing products like paints and cleaners in airtight containers. Dispose of them properly when finished.
  4. Add plants. House plants can improve indoor air by absorbing VOCs during normal photosynthesis.
  5. Consider an air purifier. Units with activated carbon filters adsorb and remove VOCs from indoor air.
  6. Clean with microfiber. Microfiber cloths trap VOCs so they can be washed away instead of evaporating into the air.
  7. Replace old flooring. Consider switching out old carpet and pressed wood with natural flooring options like hardwood, tile or linoleum.

Tackling VOCs by Room

Here are some VOC reduction tips tailored to common problem areas in your home:

Room Tips for Reducing VOCs
  • Use natural cleaners like vinegar, baking soda and lemon.
  • Opt for fragrance-free dish soap.
  • Ventilate when cooking and using appliances like the stove, oven and microwave.
  • Switch out aerosol hairsprays and air fresheners.
  • Store toiletries in closed cabinets.
  • Run exhaust fan during and after showering.
  • Use VOC-absorbing epoxies and latex-based paints.
  • Store fuels, cleaners and chemicals in sealed containers.
  • Keep garage door shut as much as possible.
  • Avoid mothballs and fragranced products.
  • Use low-VOC paints, furniture and flooring.
  • Don’t smoke or burn candles in room.

7 Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I know if I have a VOC problem at home?

Signs may include persistent odors, eye/nose/throat irritation, breathing problems, headaches and nausea. Many VOCs cannot be smelled at harmful levels. Consider getting a professional air quality test if concerned.

2. Which room is most prone to VOCs?

The garage is often the top source due to fuels, automotive products, paints, solvents and cleaners stored there. Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms also tend to have more VOC sources.

3. Do air purifiers really work for VOCs?

Air purifiers with activated carbon filters are effective at adsorbing VOCs. Look for units rated for at least 200 square feet of coverage for adequate VOC removal.

4. How often should I ventilate my home?

Aim to get 5-10 minutes of ventilation per hour either through open windows or HVAC system. Ventilate for longer when using VOC sources like cooking, cleaning or hobby projects.

5. Do houseplants actually remove VOCs?

Studies show plants can absorb some VOCs, but may only reduce levels slightly. They are more effective at removing CO2. Strategically place plants near VOC sources, but also ventilate.

6. Can VOCs cause cancer?

Long-term exposure to certain VOCs is linked to increased cancer risk. Benzene and formaldehyde are two VOCs classified as known human carcinogens.

7. How long after renovations should I ventilate for VOCs?

Paints, varnishes and new furnishings can off-gas VOCs for months. Maintain increased ventilation for at least 2-3 months after completing renovations or making major household changes.

Reducing VOCs and improving indoor air quality takes a multi-pronged approach. Combine source control, ventilation and air purification strategies to minimize exposure risks for you and your family. Consistent awareness of the VOCs in your home allows you to breathe a little easier.

Published by

Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @