3 Natural Ways to Clean Indoor Air

Natural Ways to Clean Indoor Air

Did you know that indoor air can often contain more toxins and chemicals than outdoor air? Everything from mattresses to pots/pans to kids PJs can contain harmful chemicals in indoor air.

It’s best to reduce chemical exposure in any way possible, but in today’s chemical laden world, it is practically impossible to completely avoid harmful toxins. For the remaining chemicals in indoor air, there are some natural ways to help reduce your family’s exposure.

I’ve mentioned houseplants before and they are a great option for improving indoor air (read my full list of recommended plants here). We have about eight indoor plants and I’m hoping to add more soon. For those who don’t want the upkeep of indoor plants or can’t have them due to pets/kids/etc, there are some other natural options.

Besides indoor plants, these are my top three natural air cleaners (and I use all three):

Beeswax Candles

Regular paraffin candles are petroleum derived and can release chemicals like benzene,  toluene, soot and other chemicals into the air. These types of candles do more harm than good for indoor air quality and should be avoided.

Pure Beeswax Candles on the other hand burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean the air by releasing negative ions into the air. These negative ions can bind with toxins and help remove them from the air.

Beeswax candles are often especially helpful for those with asthma or allergies and they are effective at removing common allergens like dust and dander from the air. Beeswax candles also burn more slowly than paraffin candles so they last much longer.

I personally only use beeswax candles in our house. We buy them by the case and our favorites are:

Salt Lamps

Salt lamps are another natural way to clean indoor air. They are made from himalayan salt crystals and just like the beeswax candles, they release negative ions in to the air to help clean it. They are also a beautiful light source. The only downside…. my kids like to lick them!

The Himalayan Natural Crystal Salt Lamp also works as an air purifier. When lit, the lamp emits negative ions that fight against positively charged particles that cause you to feel stuffy and sluggish. The lit salt crystal clears the air naturally of allergens like smoke, pet dander, pollens, and other air pollutants. It dilutes odors so that you can breathe easier. People with asthma often find it helpful in reducing their symptoms. You can keep the lamp lit for as long as you like to maintain this purifying effect. (source)

We don’t do night lights in our kids rooms, but if we did or if we need a light source at night for reading, we use salt lamps. The natural orange glow doesn’t disrupt sleep hormones like fluorescent or blue lights do and I find it very relaxing.

We have an 8-inch salt lamp that we use regularly (it is also the most cost effective for its size, as the bigger lamps can get very pricey).

Bamboo Charcoal

Another natural air cleaning option I recently discovered is bamboo charcoal. I’ve talked about one of my unusual uses for charcoal before and we use a charcoal block water filter to remove toxins from our water.

Charcoal can have the same toxin-removing effect on the air. We use bamboo charcoal in burlap bags in our house. They work wonders for odor removal and removing toxins from the air:

Moso air purifying bags, made of linen and filled with bamboo charcoal, absorb unpleasant odors and dehumidify the air. The porous structure of the high density bamboo charcoal helps remove bacteria, harmful pollutants and allergens from the air and absorbs moisture, preventing mold and mildew by trapping the impurities inside each pore. The Moso air purifying bag has been scientifically proven to reduce the  amount of formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and chloroform gases emitted from everyday items such as paint, carpeting, furniture, air fresheners, chemical cleaners, rubber, and plastics. Toxin free, the bags are safe to use around pets and children. The bamboo charcoal rejuvenates when the bags are placed in sunlight once a month. You can reuse the bags for two years, after which the charcoal can be poured into the soil around plants to fertilize and help retain moisture. (source)

I’ve found that these are also great for removing odors from cars or from the bathroom (especially if you have recently potty-trained boys who don’t always have perfect aim!).

We use these Mosu bags in every room of our house.

How do you keep your indoor air clean? Share your best tips below!

There are natural ways to clean indoor air with beeswax candles, himalayan salt lamps and activated charcoal bags.

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Reader Comments

  1. Wow I really like the bamboo charcoal idea! Might get some!

    Are there any studies that prove that it’s working?


    • For the bamboo charcoal bags, I live in a place where heat is blasting dry hair constantly and I have to keep my humidifier on constantly to combat it. Would the charcoal absorb that moisture and make my room dry again?

    • I’m just wondering why no one has mentioned the value of using essential oil diffusers. Young Living has an oil called purification that is great for purifying the air. Totally pure essential oil and non toxic.

  2. Everytime I look at your site I’m always buying something, smh. I remember reading about how you play chants for your children at night, what cd is it

  3. Wow! This was very informative. Hoping to buy a few of these items. Thank you!

  4. would it be possible or cost-effective to make your own beeswax candles? and if you added scent (like a lavender essential oil) would that compromise the air cleaning effect? thinking about Christmas gifts!

  5. Excellent tips Katie! I never thought about trying bamboo charcoal to clean the air of toxins and odors before. I will have to try this for sure! Thanks!

  6. Don’t forget about plants, they’re a great way to green up the inside of your house and help purify the air. Some of the plants that scientists have found most useful in removing VOC’s include Japanese royal ferns, spider plants, Boston ferns, purple waffle plants, english ivy, areca palms, golden pothos, aloe vera, snake plants(great for low light corners) and peace lillies.

  7. Hi Katie thanks so much for this article. One question is where did you buy the salt lamps from?

  8. Katie – this is so informative! Does the salt “wear away” and need to be replaced? I’ve never heard of these before and am trying to understand how they work. Thanks.

    • I read a negative review on Amazon about these salt lamps sweating so much as they draw moisture from the air that the cord ends up sitting in the water (dangerous!) even if you put a saucer under it and that the salt collects around the bulb. Has that been an issue for anyone?

      • The salt does draw moisture from the air around it, but the comment you mention sounds extreme. The lamp is intended for use several hours a day which keeps it dry to the touch and prevents degradation to the salt. When not in use, in higher humidity areas, the care instructions recommend putting a plastic bag or something over it to keep it from collecting moisture. I use mine often and have never felt any moisture on it, much less puddles, and I’m in a very humidity area (florida swampland) with a poorly sealed house. I hazard a guess that the commenters household spilled a cup of water and no one would confess. Ha 🙂

      • I have had a salt lamp for many years, probably a dozen or so, and have never had a problem such as the one you describe. The only thing that I did notice is that if you don’t use it for a long period of time (3 months or more) the salt on the lamp dries up a bit and can flake off, so it is best to cover them with a cloth when you are not using them.

        Otherwise, I love it very much, it emits a beautiful glow and has these great benefits of cleaning the air too.

      • I have been using my salt lamps for 2 months with humidifiers about 50% of the time. I only turn the lamps off for sleeping. They have never been the least bit moist and always feel perfectly dry. No condensation at all. Hope this helps.

      • I read those same reviews and have identical questions……also, none of these choices are workable for someone who is living on a skinny budfet

      • I love love my orange glowing Himalaya salt lamps. I cannot live Without them. I have had zero problems. They go well with meditative/new age/soundscape music!

      • I love my salt lamp and have never had a problem with sweating or water. The only issue . . . and it is a small issue . . . that i have had is that the screws that hold the lamp to the base rust from the salt.

  9. Substances like chemical-based cleaners, air fresheners, scents and detergents can further pollute indoor air and contribute to poor indoor air quality. An easy way to reduce this type of indoor air pollution is to switch to non-toxic options for cleaning. It will be advisable to reduce harmful chemicals by using natural cleaning and beauty products. Or else you can also ask experts on Online USA Doctors.

  10. I use beeswax candles too, and I always have a few potted plants around. i didn’t know that about the Himalayan salt lamps though, that’s a new one for me.

  11. I actually got my son a salt lamp for Christmas and had no idea that it could help purify the air. I think I’m going to be buying one for every room now!

  12. Natural cleaning is coming more and more popular and I am glad to see that. My favourite natural cleaning tip is to use lemon and baking soda for scrubbing a stuck dirt.

  13. My boys lick our salt lamps too! LOL

  14. Natural cleaning is popular. but Bamboo Charcoal is efficient.

  15. I love your website!

  16. How bright is the salt lamp? My husband likes it dark when sleeping. Maybe I could burn it while at work?

    • Mine has a dimmer on it, so you can adjust to a pretty dim setting when desired and crank it up for more light/warmth.

    • Katie doesn’t recommend sleeping with any light at all, so you turn them off when sleeping. We run ours all day whether we’re home or not.

    • I have mine in my room on my night stand. The natural orange glow doesn’t disrupt sleep hormones like fluorescent or blue lights do from tv or cell phones. I am very sensitive to light while sleeping and this works great. I have it mainly as a nightlight to check on my daughter in her crib. There is a dimmer switch on mine and when its turned up all the way its actually fairly bright.

  17. I love every product recipe I have tried from you. Thank you so much for sharing. One question, for the air purifying products, do you get paid from vendors to receommend certain products or do you use/love them regardless?

    • It depends on the product. I only recommend products which I have personally tried, use, and recommend to friends and family without ever making a cent. I don’t do sponsored posts or giveaways, but occasionally will work with vendors to offer a discount to my readers if I feel the product is a good fit. Any affiliate links I post will be the same price (or less) when clicked on. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.

      • Have you tried making your own moso bags?

  18. Have you ever tried to make your own beeswax candles and add in essential oils? Thoughts?

  19. Please read the reviews of salt lamps prior to purchasing. There is a serious issue with water gathering both outside and inside the lamp, a potential for electrocution. The lamps are being investigated.

  20. Reading the 1-star reviews of these lamps on Amazon.com, and it appears that you need to take extra safety precautions with the lamps if you live in a humid climate. Otherwise, the risk of electrical fires is high.

  21. would you recommend hepa air purifiers? what bran works for you? Thanks!

  22. I recently purchased a salt lamp (through one of your links! 🙂 and I find that it doesn’t get as warm as I expected. Are the ions still released even if the warmth is relatively low? (It’s the kind of lamp that is a wire basket with smaller pink salt crystals piled in the basket…not the one solid lump of pink salt like you have pictured).

  23. Interested in salt lamps, but concerned about safety. What about dangers of ionization? Supposedly studies show even small ozone output is harmful to lungs. This is why I never got the ionizing air purifiers, and isn’t the salt lamp just an organic version of that? Any thoughts? Or better yet, sources? 🙂 Thanks.

    • Positive ions (which sound good but are bad) are what electronics like cell phones put out that are harmful. Negative ions (good) are what are put out by air purifiers like the salt lamps. These cancel the positive (bad) ions. Hence, purifying the air. Just had a quick minute, so you will need to look up sources 🙂

  24. I’m confused about some of these comments-what exactly did you try?

  25. Will other charcoal work the same? Does the kind you talked about in the article work any differently|?

  26. Will other charcoal work the same? I mean, if I bought some charcoal somewhere else and put it in a bag? These are just awfully expensive … Do you know what I would have to look for to make my own?

  27. I have a question about the salt lamps too. I have been reading that a lot of people have problems with them attracting water, thus creating risk for an electrical fire. Do you have any experience with this? I saw some candle holders that look like the same stuff. Would these do the trick with a candle in them? (I have no idea what actually creates the positive effect with the salt lamps).

  28. I just wanted to add another way to clean indoor air -I read a NASA study that was done sometime in the 90’s I think- that adding just one 10″ plant cleans a 100 sq foot room of toxins. Different plants use up different toxins so a variety is a good idea. As well as making sure you put the plants in the areas that you spend most of your time i.e. family room, bedroom, etc. Any plant that photosynthesizes will work. Some of the easiest plants to take care of are pothos, spider plant, ferns to name a few. I would recommend visiting your local garden center, preferably one with an dedicated staff and ask them for a plant suggestion. If you are don’t have a green thumb ask for the easiest plant to take care of (have an idea where you want to put it and be able to describe the light conditions (North/South/east/West facing, will it be near a window? shades drawn/open?)

  29. How long would you recommend having the salt lamps lit a day to help purify? We keep our sleeping space VERY dark, so having it during the night is not an option. Would a few hours in the evening hours during dinner, etc. work? Similar question with the candles: how often do you light them specifically for purifying the air? They are very expensive for a candle, so I plan to mostly keep these around for overflow after the plants and lamps. Thanks for the help! This is such a great resource!

    • I just keep the salt lamps on during the day (we sleep in pitch black darkness too) and use the candles when need, but rely mainly on plants and one salt lamp per room.

      • I have heard that the salt lamps need to be on all the time in order to be effective. Can anyone validate this?

          • But I don’t want any light in my room at night, and if I have to leave them on all the time to work effectively I don’t know what to do!

      • Have you heard of any ways of making your own salt lamps? Is it just a matter of heat on the salt?

  30. Can I add a few drops of essential oils on the salt lamp?

  31. I have a wax “tart” burner and I bought some beeswax bars. Would melting those (using a beeswax tealight) have positive effects? The beeswax candles I’ve bought at farmers markets are so expensive.

    • I am wondering the same thing!

  32. Just wondering what you think about Mountain Rose Herbs beeswax candles. Would you say they are the same quality as the ones you use? Do you use the Amazon ones because they are a better deal? Thank you! =)

    • They are great quality too… I just usually order the amazon ones because they are cheaper and ship faster 🙂

  33. Do you have a recommendation for a system to plug in (large or small)? We are using moso bags and have a house full of the right plants from the list. But the air is still bothering us. We’re concerned about closed windows going into a freezing winter.

  34. hi dear
    we are working on a project about air purification and we want to remove air Pollution
    we need your help.
    please tell us what we need to make salt lamps and bamboo charcoal or where can we find them in Iran !
    please answer.
    thank you…

  35. What should I use in a basement that is not light enough for plants, and has a mildew smell.
    Love your site. Have bought many of the products suggested. Just made the shampoo, cant wait to try it!!
    Thank you for all of these ideas!!

  36. This charcoal bags look great! I will be buying some of them. My kids have allergies and asthma, and our apartment doesn’t have much windows so indoor air quality is key. I have to stop reading this blog, I want to buy everything recommended!

  37. Several people have asked about controlling the smell from dampness. I have been using these ever dry passive dehumidifiers for years and have found them to be wonderful.


    I also had a salt lamp in upstate New York where it would get very humid in the summer. That was the only time I had trouble with water pooling. I just made sure to use a rag soak up any pooling water. Since I kept it by my computer to help negate the effects of the electrical omissions, it was simply a matter of paying attention. If I was going away I just turned it off. I have had mine for about 10 years and finally the electrical parts corroded. I’m planning to use it with a tea light candle now.

  38. a) There seems to be a consensus among the more scientifically inclined of the interwebz, that the beeswax candle ion claim is unfounded.

    b) Burning wood to produce charcoal, and hence presumably polluting the atmosphere, in order to then use that charcoal to purify the atmosphere in your home seems… silly to me.

    • I’d like to see more comments like this and more debate about the veracity of some of these claims, instead of people enthusiastically commenting on how many of these products they bought off Amazon.
      It’s fine to try something that has possible health benefits even if the science isn’t conclusive but that doesn’t mean we can’t thoughtfully examine and document whether any positive changes occur in a more rigorous way.

      Too often I see people try to justify their purchases, rather than finding ways to measure if VOCs in their home have actually gone down or not.

      Less consumerism and more critical thinking please, ladies.

  39. Hey, Katie!! My little girl has asthma and suffers from some pretty bad allergies. Her ears fill with fluid and then she can’t hear well at school and….you get it. I just bought a Himalayan salt lamp for the room where she plays. I didn’t want to put it in her room during the night because I prefer her room to be dark. Would putting a moso bag in her room help with her allergies/asthma the way a salt candle can?

    • They may help, and it’s a relatively inexpensive experiment if they don’t work.

  40. Can I use a humidifier at the same time as a salt lamp? Does the salt lamp take too much needed moisture out of the room, especially in the winter months?

    • I was wondering the same thing about the charcoal bags as well!

  41. I was wondering if flame less beeswax candles have the same purifying properties? I’m not big on using candles, but would use frameless ones if they worked! Thank you!

  42. I love these ideas! One caution for people with cats is that they may want to lick the himalayan salt lamps (which could be harmful to them), so people with cats should probably put such lamps where their cats cannot get to them.

  43. hi, love the site. i have a question that has been debatable. we have salt lamps in every room. i heard you should never turn them off. is this bad for children at night. should i unplug them at night

    • We do. We keep one on in the hall so they can see if they need to visit the bathroom at night, but they don’t have lamps on in their rooms.

  44. I absolutely LOVE all of your posts Katie! You have helped empower me to transform our health and our home, for that I am forever grateful. Thank you!

  45. Hi. I’m looking to buy at salt lamp. What kind do you have? I have looked on Amazon, and have read a zillion reviews, but it seemed a bunch have a problem with lights burning out, faulty wiring, cracked stuff etc. I kind of like the lots of rocks in a basket. Has anyone bought those?

  46. Hi, I love your post. I was wondering, will melting the beeswax in a crockpot have the same effect as burning a candle??

  47. Are these candles safe for someone with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)? I read on the Amazon page that they have a scent of honey.

  48. I don’t know if this is the right post to ask this question…we are planning on doing some remodeling (kitchen remodel, painting in living room) and I am newly pregnant. When would it be safer for the baby for us to do this? First, second, third trimester, or after the baby is born? I hate that we have to do this and I realize that no time is ideal.

  49. Hi, every body
    well i see only ladies around (Mama)
    I was searching for the Salt Lamp for my mother in law actually i was having one as a decore pcs early and i through that out because i thought its just a Rock but thanks Katie after reading this I know what is the Salt Lamp. I ordered 4 pics for my Home Sweet Home.

  50. Beeswax candles huh? They sound so funny! Yet do amazing things! Think I’ll give them a shot if I find one of those.

  51. Any ideas as to places to buy salt lamps in the UK that ISN’T Amazon?

  52. Hi!
    I love my salt lamp but I was recently tagged in a post on FB that basically said that any salt lamp with a 2-prong plug is ‘very dangerous’ as 2prong types do not have a trip-wire (safety/earthing wire) in-built; that is the claim anyway. I am very nervous to keep using mine as I have a7 month old who has just started crawling. Would you be able to dispel these rumours for me!!? I would hate to have to use it only as an ornament!
    Thanks 🙂

  53. I have just subscribed to your blog. And I’ve been going over different subjects and I am truly amazed at how awesome your blog is. So glad I found you.

  54. You are AWESOME, Wellness Mama!

  55. Remember that all smoke (including from beeswax candles) is toxic to human lungs. It is not the content of the smoke, but rather the size of the particulate matter. Visible smoke means that although the particulate matter is small enough to be inhaled, it is still large enough to become imbedded in the moist linings of our lungs. All smoke is toxic, with woodsmoke particularly damaging due to the “sharp edged” nature of its particulate matter. Water vapours are much safer.

  56. My scientist husband refuses to believe that there are any positive benefits to salt lamps. Do you know of any literature that I could show him? Preferably scientific studies!! That would shut him up!!!

  57. Hello there. Does anyone know if the bamboo charcoal would counteract the benefits of an essential oil diffuser? My boyfriend has horrible allergy and asthma problems so I want to get him a natural air purifier but he does use a diffuser quite frequently. Can anyone help me out with any info or experiences regarding this? Thanks so much.

  58. I have a himaladen salt lamp for the first time . Never have used one. My husband has copd, has had quadruple bypass heart surgery in 2008 and he sees a Cardiologist, a pulmonary doctor, has had 2 shoulder surgery, his gallbladder removed and takes heart thinners, blood pressure meds, and meds for his cholesterol . I would like to know if it would be good to use this lamp or would it cause him complications.? Also if I used it , where would I place it and do I keep it on always or what? Thank you

  59. Thanks for the article. I have been researching Beeswax candles and the salt lamps for a few hours. I get mixed reviews on the lamps. What do you think of those who say the testing of the lamps show there is not enough negative ions to make a difference?

    The Beeswax idea I like. We have been using those candles (we make our own) for a few years now.

  60. I think the best way is to use a humidifier with essential oils

  61. Great ideas! My son was kicking his aunt’s salt lamp at Christmas, but I still want one 🙂 good to know he’s not the only kiddo who thinks they are delicious. We have a vicks air purifier and it’s time to buy a new filter. The filters seem pricey, and the salt lamp looks like a more natural and beautiful solution. Thanks!!

  62. Very interesting! My husband discovered some months ago that he has asthma…and we have 2 cats. What do you think it would work better to help remove cat dander from the air: the salt lamp or the charcoal bags? TIA

  63. Do you think these things would work for a musty smelling boat? The cabin area smells very musty, looking for a solution.

  64. Hi Wellness Mama,

    Question which is better metal cup vs plastic cup tea candles?

  65. Hi everyone,

    There seems to be a lot of confusion here and I hope to clear a few things up. First, no I’m not a scientist and I did not do any special research on this topic to back up what I’m going to say. But I have a fair bit of life experience so please bear with me for a moment.

    First, I think what Katie was trying to highlight is how to “clean” the air in which you live. And this is done from different angles. You have the plants (which breathe in carbon dioxide – and breathe out oxygen) which is good for you, especially if you sleep with your windows closed or live in an area that is high in pollution (like me who lives in Cairo, Egypt); and you keep your windows closed.

    Second, the salt lamp is to clean your air from electro smog. If you don’t know what that is, you really need to research this. We are surrounded all day every day by smog we can’t see or smell – but feel. And the effect it has on our health is enormous. The salt negates that. Now, it’s not the lamp, that just looks cool. It’s the salt that is important here. The pink salt (no matter where it came from – the Himalayas or from Austria) is what is important here as it still has all the minerals and properties that natural salt should have. So it’s completely fine for your kids to want to lick them. It’s actually good for them! We should all be exclusively using pink salt to cook as it’s not bleached of everything good our bodies need like the white stuff they sell as salt at the supermarket. Anyway, salt is a kind of crystal and its effects will show, no matter if the lamp is turned on or not. (My brothers in law are stone masons and I learnt a thing or two about stones and crystals from them).

    Now, I’m not sure about that charcoal bag. I think Katie was trying to show that the toxins that fly around in the air can get filtered out with this method. I personally have never heard of it before, but I imagine it could work. Activated charcoal seems to be working with drawing the toxins from food poisoning, so why not? And I think the candles also fall in this category of cleaning your air.

    I hope this helped some of you with the confusion.

  66. Download the Air cleaning plants app from Google Play Store. This app includes the list of various air cleaning plants with the knowledge of plant height, temperature, watering it needed and the places ideal for them to keep them at home and offices to make the clean fresh surrounding.


  67. Hi- do you still use these products to purify the air and outside smell?