VOCs: What Causes Them and How to Deal with Them

Common Causes of VOCs

VOCs are both human-made and naturally occurring. They are extremely common and are found practically everywhere. To manage and maintain healthy and comfortable VOC levels, it helps to know what the most common indoor VOC sources are.

Products in the home

  • Paints and protective coatings
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Building materials such as ceiling tiles, adhesives, and wall boards
  • Personal care products such as colognes, perfumes, nail polish, nail polish remover, and rubbing alcohol
  • Cleaning materials such as glass cleaner, dishwashing detergent, and laundry detergent
  • Paint stripper or adhesive remover
  • Deodorizers, moth balls, and air fresheners
  • Upholstered furniture and carpets
  • Refrigerants and fuels

External factors

The quality of air inside of your home can be affected by the air around it. If you live on a busy street, pollutants from heavy traffic can add to VOC levels in your home. Other factors such as living near a factory or refinery, or even living in an apartment next to the building’s smoking zone can all contribute to VOC concentration.

What can I do to reduce my VOC levels?


It’s important to have proper ventilation. If you are using cleaning products, adhesives, or paints it’s a good idea to open a window. Also, since VOCs slowly evaporate off of many things that will always be in your home or office, such as carpeting, it’s not a bad idea to ventilate once in awhile even if you aren’t actively using products that produce VOCs.


Materials that cause a lot of indoor pollution should be stored away from living and working areas. Make sure that heavy VOC contributors such as paint are stored outside of the home or tightly sealed in a garage if possible.

Air purification

Some air purifiers can improve your air quality, especially if you have one that targets VOCs specifically (e.g. an activated carbon/charcoal pre-filter). If you have an air purifier, make sure to check the filter(s) regularly. Plants can have some effect, but not much unless you are maintaining a dense forest inside.


Using perfumed substances, cleaning products, or other VOC contributors occasionally isn’t a bad thing. However, excessive use can contribute heavily to VOC pollution. For example, burning a scented candle once in awhile is fine. Doing it daily can contribute heavily to the pollution in your home. The same goes for many of the materials listed above such as adhesives and cleaners.

It’s impossible to avoid all VOCs and all indoor air pollution. However, by making conscious choices about ventilation, the materials and products you use, how often you use them and where you store them, you can drastically reduce the levels of VOC pollution in the air.

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