One of the biggest challenges you can face as a renter is how to make your apartment feel like your own. It isn’t easy decorating and expressing your personal style while having to draw within the lines of the long list of rules on your lease. If you’ve gotten creative and figured out a few ways to change up the apartment’s aesthetic to make it feel like more like your apartment, you’re on the right track! There’s another way you can take control of your apartment like any homeowner beyond decorating, and it involves how healthy you choose to make your space.
What exactly do we mean by “healthy”? It’s less ambiguous than it sounds–there’s actually something very specific that you can focus on to make sure your apartment is a safe space to live, and this something is surrounding you right now: your air!
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see–but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.
So how do you make sure your apartment has air that’s healthy? In the same way that you can’t choose the color of the paint on your walls, you probably didn’t have much freedom with the type of HVAC system installed in your apartment complex, or whether or not the layout is designed for a healthy amount of ventilation–but don’t worry! There are plenty of ways you can decorate your apartment that will turn it into a space that feels like your own and is safe and healthy.
Add color with houseplants
Pantone’s color of the year is Greenery, and if you can’t splash the color directly on your walls, why not introduce it via a few houseplants? Interior landscaping is a win-win: while it’s a huge trend right now, it’s also one of the easiest and prettiest ways to keep the air in your home clean. We all know plants absorb carbon dioxide to help create oxygen, but there’s also a few popular indoor plants that go above and beyond:
Many of us take for granted that it is common to have chemicals in our air. Snake Plants work overnight to help absorb chemicals in the air, so they’re perfect for your bedroom.
Too much humidity in your apartment can cause dust mites and mold. Placing a few Boston Ferns around the house will help absorb extra humidity.
Dry air can irritate your eyes and skin–and make eczema significantly worse. Bamboo will help add much-needed moisture to your air to balance it out.
If your apartment is notoriously hot, use an Aloe Vera plant to help cool off.
Buy the right furniture…
It’s tempting to buy cheaper furniture if you’re living in a temporary space, but sometimes that can come at a cost. New furniture–especially wood-pressed and plastic furniture–contain chemicals known as VOCs, which evaporate into the air at room temperature. VOCs can leak from furniture into your air (also known as “off-gassing”) for months.
Instead, try to buy furniture with the Greenguard certification, or buy antiques–since they’ve had years to off-gas their chemicals.
…or if you DIY, do it right!
If you’re gunning for that statement piece in your living room, chances are you’ve considered a quick DIY project so you can have the exact type of furniture or wall art your apartment needs. Some DIY projects call for paint–or worse, spray paint!–and this is especially risky for your air, and your health. Paint contains a variety of VOCs, and furniture or art with fresh paint is the quickest way to bring VOCs into your home.
Luckily, VOC-free and toxin-free paint is available–and they’ll probably have the color you’re looking for.
Keep it fresh
One of the best ways to make your apartment feel more homely is to keep it smelling amazing, but pay attention to what you use! Try to stay away from scented candles and air fresheners, because they’re incredibly effective at poisoning your air with chemicals. When burned, scented candles release a cocktail of dangerous chemicals in the air, including benzene. The same is true for air fresheners, which are filled with phthalates, a chemical that is known to cause a variety of health problems.
A healthy way to keep your home smelling amazing is by diffusing essential oils–they’re all-natural, smell just as strong as candles, and come in a variety of scents. As always, make sure to check the ingredients list on the essential oil before bringing it home. If you’re missing the ambiance and glow of a candle, beeswax candles are a great substitute–they’re chemical-free and burn longer than scented candles.
Clean the right way
Sometimes something as simple as a deep-clean can make your apartment feel like your own–but be careful which cleaning products you use! We know that a majority of the trusted cleaning products we use to keep our home germ-free contain chemicals, but many of us assume they’re only dangerous if we accidentally swallow or make direct contact with them. The truth is, most common cleaning products contain VOCs that will linger in your air long after you’ve finished cleaning.
There are plenty of great alternatives to cleaning with chemicals–we broke down our favorites here.
Work with your landlord
Keeping the air in your apartment clean and healthy doesn’t have to be something you take on alone! Talk to your landlord about a few ways they can proactively help you keep your air safe.
One important way is asking your landlord to make sure the air filters in your vents are changed every three months–those filters are notorious for collecting dust, dirt, and mold that will be blown into your apartment. You can also ask your landlord a few questions about the apartment, such as when it was recently painted, which areas are more at-risk for mold, and when the carpet was installed to help you get a better gauge of where your apartment may need improvements to help you stay healthy.
When it comes to keeping your home healthy and safe, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style. If you want to really know what’s in the air you’re breathing, you can get started with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air and provides personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy.