How to improve the air quality in your bedroom (common pollutants, sources, and prevention)

A good night’s sleep can make a huge difference in your energy levels and overall health. However, it can be difficult to get enough hours each night. And even with sufficient sleep time, you can still feel weary.

Improving your sleep quality is the next step you can take to get the most out of your day. An important contributor to sleep quality is the quality of the air in your bedroom. Indoor air quality is generally much worse than outdoor air. The concentration of indoor air pollutants can be up to five times higher than outdoors according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States. (source)

Common bedroom air pollutants are fine dust, VOCs, and formaldehyde. These pollutants can cause several health issues such as fatigue, dizziness, headache, and irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat.

You can improve your bedrooms air quality in the following ways:

  • Clean more often, removing dust that can otherwise re-enter your air
  • Vacuum your carpet regularly
  • Use healthy, natural cleaning agents and do not combine any cleaning products
  • Run an air purifier with an HEPA filter that can also remove gases
  • Use an air quality monitor to detect harmful compounds
  • Air out the bedroom often, leaving windows open during the day
  • Prevent the introduction of harmful compounds
  • Maintain healthy humidity and temperature levels

At the end of this post, you can find an overview table of the common bedroom pollutants, preventive measures, and cleaning options.

Woman stretching in bed feeling great after waking up.
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Why sleep quality is essential

A study on children’s sleep quality and their school performance, published in the journal of sleep research, showed the importance of a good night’s sleep. This study concluded that sleep quality has a positive effect on school functioning. In particular, children were more receptive to the teacher’s influence, had a more positive self-image, and showed more achievement motivation. (source)

What are the effects of bad indoor air quality?

I remember we often woke up weary in our cheap old rental apartment in the middle of the city. We didn’t stay there for long, and when we moved to a newer apartment just outside the city, we found that we woke up much more energetic!

Although we didn’t change our habits or buy anything with regards to bedroom air quality, better ventilation, and cleaner outdoor air already made a noticeable difference.

Common air pollutants

Some of the more common air pollutants found in the bedroom are:

  • fine dust particles
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
  • formaldehyde

These air pollutants can come from many different sources such as drying paint, refrigerator and printer gases, and tiny dust particles.

Some pollutants can have immediate health effects, while others cause long-term adverse effects. Most air pollutants, however, are not noticeable at all. So it is easy to sleep on the fact that your indoor air quality can have a significant impact on your daily life.

The immediate effects of bad indoor air

Sometimes exposure to air pollutants can lead to immediate health effects. According to the EPA, these effects can be:

  • irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

Additionally, increased symptoms of asthma or any other illness may show up. Of course, the likelihood of these symptoms occurring depends on many factors, such as age and preexisting medical conditions.

These effects often last only for a short time, and removing the source or removing yourself from the source eliminates the problem. However, even if you identify that your irritated eyes might be caused by air pollutants, you do not always know the source.

What you can do immediately when you notice health effects that may be caused by air pollutants is to open doors and windows to air your house. However, when you suspect some health effects could be caused by long-term exposure, it is wise to take serious measures. Of course, it is best to prevent the health effects of bad indoor air quality by taking measures beforehand.

Long-term health effects

The Environmental Protection Agency states that long-term health effects of indoor air pollutants may show up years after exposure or after long or repeated periods of exposure. Possible long-term adverse health effects include:

  • respiratory disease
  • heart disease
  • cancer

Luckily, there are several good ways to prevent the long-term adverse health effects of indoor air pollution.

Three good habits to improve bedroom air quality

Regularly ventilate your bedroom

Ventilating allows outside air to enter and refresh your bedroom. This will carry away air pollutants and stop mold build-up due to condensation. Too much ventilation, however, makes it difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature.

To make sure your bedroom is always perfectly ventilated, you should consider purchasing an air quality monitor. An air quality monitor provides continuous data on the quality of your indoor air and makes sure you always know when to increase ventilation. At the end of this post, I discuss an excellent air quality monitor.

Vacuum regularly

By vacuuming often, you will remove fine dust particles that will otherwise become airborne. Fine dust particles easily enter the lungs and may cause long-term health effects.

Use natural cleaning agents

Surprisingly, cleaning agents are a source of air pollution. Exposure to compounds emitted from cleaning agents depends on many factors, including their composition and reactive chemistry. It is safest to use natural cleaning agents.

How to tackle the root causes of bedroom air pollution

How to reduce fine dust

Fine dust particles are really small dust particles. They are especially harmful since they can more easily enter your lungs compared to regular dust particles.

Indoor fine dust has many causes, including cooking, lighting candles, and outdoor air (coming from car exhausts). Unfortunately, there are no safe levels of fine dust.

You cannot entirely prevent fine dust from entering your air since it has so many different causes that cannot be eliminated. Therefore, to prevent high levels of fine dust, you can do the following things:

  • Clean more regularly. Especially your carpets and rugs. This reduces the chance of setteld dust to become airborne again
  • Eliminate the use of fire in the bedroom. Do not smoke or light candles
  • Run a HEPA filter air purifier to remove dust particles from the air. You can read more about HEPA filters in my article
  • Run an air quality monitor. This will tell when dust levels are too high so you can air out the house in time

Carpets and and their effect on fine dust

The relation between carpets and rugs and indoor air quality is an interesting one. Carpets and rugs trap dust particles that are kicked back into the air when you walk over them. Hereby, they contribute to a continuous increase of airborne dust.

However, since carpets and rugs trap dust particles, they can be a dust sink when vacuumed regularly. Hereby, they can potentially contribute to the removal of airborne dust.

Additionally, carpets and rugs can themselves be a source of dust and hazardous compounds since they wear out every time you walk on them.

If you are considering purchasing a rug, or already have a carpet or rug and want to replace it, I recommend considering buying a natural rug that does not contain hazardous substances.

Indoor air-cleaning carpets

Some carpets are specifically designed to clean indoor air. I had the fortune of hosting a presentation by a company that manufactures these products, and if I would buy a house and have some money to spend, I would go for the DESSO AirMaster carpet.

The DESSO AirMaster is one of the best carpets for cleaning indoor air. This carpet actively improves your indoor air quality by making sure fine dust will not re-enter the air once settled on the carpet,

According to the AirMaster brochure, ‘DESSO AirMaster is 8 times more effective at capturing and retaining fine dust than smooth flooring solutions. It is also 4 times more effective than standard carpet solutions.’

A study by Radboud University showed that fine dust was reduced by 60-90 % when only little activity took place in the room. Perfect for a bedroom! But even with a lot of movement, there was still a 30-40 % air quality improvement. (source) On top of that, a bedroom is relatively small, so it won’t be too expensive to lay some carpet.

How to reduce volatile organic compounds

Volatile organic compounds are mostly human-made chemicals that are emitted as gas from solids or liquid. Paint is the most common source of indoor VOCs. Other common sources of VOCs in the bedroom include cleaners, disinfectants, and air fresheners. Although ventilating helps in the short term, it is best to reduce the source of VOC emissions. Therefore, I recommend considering the following:

  • Use healthy zero VOC paint for your bedroom
  • Use healthy natural cleaning agents and do not combine them
  • Run an air purifier that can remove gasses, such as one with an activated carbon filter
  • Constantly run an air quality monitor that shows if you have high VOC levels. Then air out the house when you do

Reduce VOC emission with low VOC paints

Preventing VOCs is better than trying to remove them from your air. Since (drying) paint is a major source of VOCs, I looked at the availability of no-VOC paints. There are several low VOC paints available on amazon. However, there is an amazingly healthy zero VOC paint available that actually helps improve indoor air quality.

No VOC paint that actively improves your air

The best paint currently available is Airlite paint. This paint not only is a zero VOC paint but also actively reduces air pollutants.

Airlite paint is a zero VOC paint, meaning it has a VOC content of fewer than 0.1 grams per liter. That is more than 300 times lower than the limits set by European legislation (EU Directive 2004/42/EC).

Airlite paint is a cradle to cradle (C2C) gold-certified paint, meaning it has some of the highest standards on material health. All 22 chemicals in Airlite paint classify as either optimal or acceptable for use. No components classify as highly problematic or have an unknown identity or lack of toxicity information.

On top of its material health properties, Airlite paint is ASTM (American Standard Test Method) certified for mold and bacteria resistance. And, according to the European Union: ‘Airlite’s paints reduce [air] pollutants by 88.8% and eliminate 99.9% of bacteria and viruses from the treated surfaces. Airlite also reduces the energy consumption needed to cool indoor spaces as it reflects the hot component of sunlight, avoiding that rooms overheat.’ (source)


Formaldehyde is a common VOC in the bedroom and is a colorless, pungent-smelling gas. It mostly comes from insulation and building materials such as composite wood. Other sources are:

  • Cleaning products, fabric softeners and conditioners
  • Carpeting
  • Glues and resins
  • Tobacco smoke
  • A type of insulation called urea formaldehyde insulating foam UFFI)

Fortunately, formaldehyde-free cleaning agents and laundry care products are readily available.

Additionally, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the rate at which formaldehyde is released is increased by heat and may be affected by humidity. Therefore, maintaining moderate humidity and temperature levels can reduce exposure. (source)

The EPA advises air dehumidifiers to control indoor humidity.

Why and how to maintain healthy humidity and temperature

Good indoor air quality not only means low levels of pollution. Temperature and humidity levels greatly contribute to a healthy and comfortable bedroom. They also directly affect the quality of your sleep.


The optimal level of (relative) humidity is between 30 and 60 %. Within this range, you will have no symptoms related to dry or humid air unless you are especially susceptible to air humidity.

Steps you can take to reduce humidity are:

  • Open windows. The incoming outdoor air usually reduces relative humidity with 5 to 10 percent
  • Do not hang clothes to dry in the bedroom
  • Heat the room, this increases the ability of the air to hold moisture
  • Run a dehumidifier. This device actively takes moisture from the air

Steps you can take if you need to increase humidity are:

  • Place a plate or cup with water to evaporate
  • open internal door and windows if other rooms or the outdoor air hs higher humidity
  • Use a humidifier. A device that ads moisture to the air
  • Lower the temperature of the room. This will reduce the ability of the air to hold moisture


The optimal temperature when humidity is at a comfortable level is between 17 and 28 degrees Celcius (63 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit). Men are more comfortable sleeping at lower temperatures, while women prefer higher temperatures.

  • Men: 17 °C (63 °F) and higher
  • Women: 23 °C (73 °F) and higher

This temperature range assumes you are able to choose your bedding and can adjust the bedsheet covering of your body during the night.

I wrote a more in-depth article on how air quality affects sleep. You can find it here: Does air quality affect sleep? Yes, here’s how.

Air quality monitors

To make sure you are always aware of the levels of VOCs and other harmful substances in your bedroom, an air quality monitor is an excellent tool. An air quality monitor can measure airborne chemicals, temperature, and humidity, depending on the device.

I found a Norwegian company called Airthings, which produces excellent air quality monitors. They are easy to operate (just wave your hand in front of the device) and send their data to an app on your phone.

Discount on Airthings air quality monitor

By using this link to the Airthings wave Mini air quality monitor, you will get about 10% discount! The Airthings Wave Mini is a small battery-operated device that measures total VOCs, temperature, and humidity levels.

If you are willing to spend a bit more to be absolutely sure about your indoor air quality the Airthings Wave Plus is an excellent option. This air quality monitor not only measures VOCs, humidity, and temperature but also CO2 levels, air pressure, and radon. It is suitable for offices and homes and similar to the Wave Mini comes with an app that shows your latest data. By using this link to the Airthings Wave Plus air quality monitor you will get a discount of about 10%!

Overview of common pollutants and preventive measures

Table 1. An overview of common bedroom air pollutants, preventive measures, and cleaning options.

Common bedroom pollutantsPreventive measuresCleaning options
Fine dust– improve ventilation
– consider natural carpet and vacuum it often
– install an air quality monitor
– vacuum the room
– air out the room
– ventilate constantly
VOCs– use no-VOC paint
– improve ventilation
– install an air quality monitor
– air out the room
– ventilate constantly
Formaldehyde– use natural cleaning agents
– improve ventilation
– maintain moderate
humidity and temperature levels
– run an air quality monitor
– air out the room
– ventilate constantly