Photo of a Man and Woman Wearing Dust Masks holding sign that reads "How is the air quality in your home?"

Do you find yourself coughing and sneezing a lot more than usual at home and don’t know why? Are you keeping a relatively clean house, but still find yourself experiencing allergy or cold-like symptoms?

If so, the air quality inside your home may be contaminated.

Many of us think that if we dust and vacuum regularly, as well as disinfect the surfaces around the home, then we are safe from particles that can cause us harm.

While this is generally true, sometimes a home may have more serious air quality problems than a general cleaning can’t fix. And, with toxic particles being invisible to the naked eye, you can’t always spot when you have a problem.

So, how can you find out if the air quality inside your home is bad, and if that’s what’s making you feel sick?

A simple home air quality testing kit or indoor air quality monitor is all you need and it will help solve the mystery of what is lurking around inside your house.

What Types of Pollutants Can Be Present Indoors?

First, though, let’s take a look at the types of pollutants you might find in your home.

Biological Pollutants

If you are facing allergic reactions as symptoms, you might have biological pollutants in your air like mold, pollen, dust mites, and bacteria.  Beyond getting your air tested, there are a few other ways you can see if your problem is biological. For example, mold can be found in very humid spaces (like your bathroom) and can smell musty.  

Chemical Pollutants

Chemical pollutants can include VOCs or volatile organic compounds. VOCs may not be a familiar acronym, but some familiar origins can include paint, cleaners, disinfectants, and stored fuels like gas and propane. VOCs can easily become gasses or vapors that float within your home if they are not stored properly.  VOCs can range in toxicity and short versus long-term problems. Some short-term issues can include headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. Long-term effects can look like kidney, liver, and central nervous system damage. There are ways you can test for these pollutants often in the form of test kits. 

Combustion Pollutants

Combustion pollutants are familiar to most individuals as it comes in the form of tobacco smoke and carbon monoxide. 

Tobacco smoke is a huge cause of lung cancer, even to those who do not smoke. Second and third-hand smoke (the smoke that can be found in walls, furniture, and more) can still negatively impact you even if a former tenant was a smoker. Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to headaches, dizziness, and ultimately death. Fortunately, tobacco smoke can usually be sniffed out with your nose. Carbon monoxide alarms are a common system found in homes. If you think your home has a combustion pollutants problem, it is best to address these immediately. 

What Are the Symptoms of Bad Air Quality In My Home?

Symptoms of bad air quality in the home can be both long and short-term. For short-term symptoms, the immediate effects can be varied depending on what the pollutant is. Differences in age, sensitivity, exposure amount, and pre-existing medical conditions can also have an effect when interacting with a pollutant. 

How Indoor Air Quality Testing Works

Home Testing Kits

It used to be that in order to test the quality of your air, you would have to invest a good deal of money into hiring an expensive professional tester to come and take samples from all over your house.

That person would then take those samples and send them into a testing facility, which would then mail back the results, and the tester would have to go over them with you.

Not only is that process very costly, but it also takes a long period of time to go through a middle man like this.

If you choose to use a do-it-yourself (DIY) indoor air quality testing kit, then you’ll not only cut down on the cost of sample testing, but also the amount of time that is involved with the process.

With a home kit, you take your own samples and then send them into the lab for direct processing.

Fortunately, there is no need to worry about any extra costs for testing, because most of the DIY kits include the lab fees in the price of the kit.

The results you get back are simple and easy to understand, and give you enough information to help you determine what pollutants are lurking around your home.

Indoor Air Quality Monitors

An indoor air quality monitor is an electrical device that measures the level of pollutants in the air. You simply plug it in, place it on a stable surface, and let the unit read the number of particles in the air.

The best indoor air quality monitors on the market can detect a variety of substances, including allergens, carbon dioxide, formaldehyde, ozone, mold spores, PM2.5, radon, VOCs, and more.

If you want a long-term solution for home air quality testing, then this is a good choice. Otherwise, you can perform an individual sampling of substances using a home testing kit mentioned next.

Why Should You Perform Indoor Air Quality Tests?

Even if you aren’t experiencing any odd health related issues that you may think are related to your home, it is still a good idea to test the quality of your air.

One of the major benefits you get from using a DIY home air quality testing kit is that you discover which types of contaminants you may be continually exposed to without even knowing it.

In this sense, knowledge is very powerful because it helps you determine what problems needs to be fixed before it has a chance to really damages your health.

By finding out what toxins may be in your home, you can choose to install a better air filtration system or move forward with an abatement process that removes the harmful elements.

How to Test Home Air Quality

There are a wide variety of ways for how to test home air quality, with many testing kits focusing on one particular area of concern.

Here are the most common types of kits available for you to use:

Allergen Test Kits

This type of kit is the most popular kind for indoor air quality testing. There are so many allergens that are wrapped up in the general category that can be tested for using an allergen test kit.

This includes pollen, mold spores, dust mites, fibers from fiberglass, skin cells and insect fragments.

If you want to test for fiberglass or dust mites specifically, there are special kits made for that purpose.

Mold Test Kits

Mold can develop in many different areas around your house, including in the basement, bathrooms, attics or carpeting. This mold can become toxic and cause major health problems.

Using a specific test for mold is an important step in improving the air quality of your home. If toxic mold is discovered, it is crucial that you take immediate steps to eradicate the problem.

Formaldehyde Test Kits

Formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen as declared by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is very dangerous to your health. This type of kit will assist you in determining if your home has harmful concentrations of it.

Organic Vapors Test Kits

This test will help you to detect more than 40 organic chemicals and over 50 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause harm to you and your family.

These vapors can cause a variety of symptoms that you may think are being brought about by something else. Common health effects include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, liver and kidney damage, and an increased risk of cancer.

Testing indoor air quality for organic vapors can reveal a lot about your environment.

Lead Test Kits

Lead poisoning is an issue that is often ignored until it becomes problem.

This heavy metal was used extensively in older homes for piping as well as old layers of paint on walls, and can be harming people in your house without you knowing it.

Using a lead test kit will help you to determine if you have an issue with lead in your home, so you can keep yourself and especially any children you have safe.

How Easy Is It to Use a Home Testing Kit?

Most testing kits follow a similar process that is quick and easy to follow. In most cases, you will just need to take these steps:

  1. After opening your testing kit, you will follow the directions for collecting air or surface samples from around your home. The kit will have all of the materials that you will need to collect your samples.
  2. Take your samples and package them in your mailing envelope that comes included in your kit, and send them to the laboratory. The testing fees will be included in the price of the kit.
  3. You will usually receive the results of your samples in 7 to 10 days after the testing is completed. This package will include a detailed report of the findings of the tests as well as specific suggestions on how you can improve these problems that they have detected. If you have further questions about the results, a contact number or email address is often included with the results.

As you can see, this combination of materials will give you all of the tools you will need in order to make your house a healthier place.

Purifying the Air Inside Your Home

After you receive the results of your air quality tests and discover which contaminants are inside your home, one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to clean up the air you breathe is with an air purifier.

If you do not have a plan in place to improve your indoor air quality, then you will find that health problems will continue to pop up over and over again until it gets cleaned.

An air purifier is a portable device that you can use in any room of your home. The most efficient type with a HEPA filter works in this manner:

  • A fan pulls air inside the unit
  • Air passes through a special filter that collects the harmful particles
  • Clean air is blown back into the room

This process of exchanging dirty air with clean air can happen anywhere between 4-6 times per hour. As the unit continues to run, the cleaner the air becomes inside the room.

The most ideal situation is the leave the device running throughout the day, so that if any harmful particles enter the room, then they’re immediately captured by the machine.

To learn more about air purifiers and how they work, you can check out our complete air purifier buying guide that goes over everything you could imagine about these machines.

Or, you can jump over to our best home air purifier page to see what’s available for your home.

Bottom Line

Now that you know how to test home air quality, it’s a great time to get started doing it.

The easiest way to keep yourself healthy and safe is by finding out what harmful toxins are lurking inside your home and then taking the steps to get rid of them.

As you learned in this guide, home testing kits of all kinds are widely available and an air purifier is a great product to help combat any airborne pollutant issues.

Hopefully, you’re now ready to take the next steps to ensure you have a cleaner, healthier environment inside your home that doesn’t make you feel sick.

Avatar for Katherine Dyson

About Katherine Dyson

Katherine is the lead Staff Writer. She conducts in-depth research and interviews with industry experts in order to produce a wide range of content for the site. Her main role is to write helpful articles that aid people who are seeking to improve their indoor air quality and comfort. (See Full Bio)