The freedom of being able to hop in your car and go off on an adventure is one that teenagers and commuters alike dream of. When you’re stuck in traffic on the 401 or any other major Ontario highway day after day, the car may not seem so much like a vehicle to adventure but the highway to hell. While we often think about the indoor air quality of our homes as being paramount, the indoor air quality of our cars is actually an important thing to consider as well, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in it every day.
The obvious trouble with the indoor air quality of cars is that you’re likely on the road surrounded by other cars, which are all spewing toxic exhaust fumes. These fumes enter through your car’s air intake system can affect the indoor air quality, especially if you’ve set your car’s air conditioning to recirculate. When it’s hot outside (or when your car heats up idling in traffic), materials used in its construction can also affect the indoor air quality by releasing VOCs and other harmful chemical substances.
Things you bring into your car also have a big effect on its indoor air quality. Pet dander, old food, cigarettes, chemicals, pollen and other minute particles can all enter the indoor air quality of your car and get stuck, causing you to feel uncomfortable or ever ill whenever you enter. The trouble with indoor air quality pollutants in cars is that these irritants can get stuck in the system, where they either perpetuate the problem or, in the case of mold, continue to grow.
So what can we do to improve the indoor air quality of our vehicles?
- Just like our home’s furnaces have fans and filters, so too do most cars, and it’s important to change and clean filters regularly. As the first line of defence against poor indoor air quality, the filter does a lot of heavy lifting. Cleaning and replacing it regularly can help keep the air in your car smelling fresh.
- Another well-known indoor air quality pollutant in your car is cigarette smoke. Butt out and use that cigarette lighter to plug in a mini air purifier. These help improve indoor air quality by using negative ions to zap contaminants from the air.
- The most obvious way to improve the indoor air quality of your car is to open the windows! As a much smaller space, opening the windows helps refresh the entirety of your car in a much faster way than it does for your home.
- Having your car’s soft furnishings steam cleaned every few years is one way to remove some of the indoor air quality contaminants that could be hiding within the textiles. Believe it or not, mold, a problem common to leaky, damp basements, can also be causing you indoor air quality trouble in your car. Cars both new and old can have small leaks that may be causing moisture to enter, and once those doors are closed, the lack of fresh air flow can help mold take root. Steam cleaning will help remove surface dirt, but will also have an effect on mold growth in your car, and result in better indoor air quality.