Stale Air? Time to Freshen Up

Amanda Paige

Five easy fixes to address stale air.

We’ve always emphasized the importance of going outside and “getting some fresh air.” But what about fresh air, inside?

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Have you ever been in a room where the air feels stuffy or has an unpleasant odor you can’t quite put your finger on? You may not have realized this problem has a name, or is even a problem at all, but more likely than not, that’s stale air you’re smelling.


Stale air occurs when indoor air hasn’t had enough fresh air circulating through it, and—you guessed it—this is typically caused by a lack of ventilation. Unpleasant as it is, when we start to smell stale air, what we’re actually smelling is an accumulation of airborne contaminants. And while you may not notice if the air is stale, you will definitely notice a difference once it’s fresh.

This is more of a concern today than ever. Why? Because prior to the pandemic, most of us spent about 90 percent of our lives indoors—which is already a shockingly high number. Last year, when commutes to work and rides school largely became unnecessary, and social distancing measures went into effect, the time we all spent indoors became even greater than that. As a result, we should be putting even more emphasis on keeping these indoor environments—where we spend so much of our time living and working—clean and healthy.

Stale air in and of itself might not be harmful, but a lack of fresh air in a room can cause air pollutants to build up, and that’s a problem. Pollution is another issue that we tend to think only impacts us when we’re outside, but according to the American Lung Association, poor air quality can have a significant impact on both our physical and mental health when we’re indoors too—a fact that is not widely publicized and surprises many people. A lot of common household items can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Carpets, for example, can trap pollutants like dust mites, pesticides, dirt, and dust, among other things, which can then become airborne from daily activities like vacuuming or even just walking on the carpet.

The good news? Stale air is easy to fix.

Five simple ways to remove stale air

This five-step routine is simple and quick, and it will make all the difference in freshening up the air throughout your home.


Open a window

First things first, open a window to let fresh air flow into your space! It all comes back to that clean outdoor air. This is the logical first step in getting the air inside to circulate. However, keep in mind that opening a window can invite humid air or outdoor allergens like pollen to fly in, so this is not the best long-term solution.


Change your air filter

Make sure you are regularly changing the air filters in your air and heating systems to ensure that clean air is circulating, and that the filters are capturing dust and debris rather than sending those no-good particles back into the air. This will also help keep your heater and air conditioner working properly and prevent the air from becoming blocked in their systems. If you can’t remember the last time you changed your air filter, it’s probably time for a new one!


Turn on a fan

Turning on a ceiling or floor fan is one of the easiest ways to make a difference in air quality and can keep air circulating throughout the room.


Use an air purifier

Air purifiers are great tools for times when you can’t open a window as often, like during hot or cold months. They help to remove contaminants from the air and improve overall air quality.


Deep clean your space

Routinely dusting and vacuuming can help you pull a lot of dust out of a room—and this is an important step since the dust that is left in a room can get stirred up in the air and create a musty scent. For more great tips on deep cleaning, check out this spring cleaning checklist.

Get some fresh air

Level up your fresh air routine by following these five smart tips.

- Vacuum slowly and thoroughly

When cleaning your space, vacuum slowly where you regularly vacuum. Then, take a few extra couple minutes to go back over your carpets and rugs very, very slowly. This will pull up lots of hidden dust that you missed the first time and will make the room feel much fresher.

- Use air fresheners throughout your home

These are tried-and-true tools for a reason: they’re the easiest and fastest way to noticeably freshen up a room. I personally love plugging in Febreze Light Small Spaces plugs in the Bamboo scent throughout my home to circulate a fresh, soft scent. (Check out this list of 25 tips to eliminate and prevent odors throughout your home for even more tips on getting your home smelling fresh!)

- Use a damp rag when dusting

There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re trying to dust a bookshelf or a piece of furniture just to wind up pushing the dust from one part of the surface to the other. Using a damp rag can help contain the dust so that it doesn’t get stirred up and circulate back into the air.

- Keep damp fabric out of the room

Be sure not to keep wet towels or clothing laying around, or even hanging, especially in rooms that aren’t the bathroom or laundry room. Damp items can quickly cause a musty, mildew-like smell—yuck! This is especially important to keep in mind for rooms that don’t get a lot of ventilation.

- Wash your linens and sheets regularly

This probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you think of purifying the air. But keeping your linens fresh is not only beneficial to those sleeping on them, it’s a great way to keep the air in your bedrooms fresh, too!

Amanda Paige

Article by Amanda Paige

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