Your garage is one of the most multifunctional spaces in your home.
Some days it’s a workshop, storage shed and carport. Other days it’s an entertainment space or man cave.
But besides all the multifunctional benefits of garages, they also have a downside that most people are unaware of.
Their potential for poor air quality.
Your garage can do a lot, but it’s not powerful enough to maintain its own air quality.
That’s up to you – what you use it for, how you clean it, what you store there etc.
It can be easy to associate the garage with the outdoors. But in reality, most garages are actually attached to the home. Making them an extension of the house rather than a separate, outdoor workspace.
So while you may think your garage air quality doesn’t matter, we’re here to tell you otherwise!
If not taken care of properly, the air in your garage and home can become hazardous to your health.
What Are Some Common Garage Air Pollutants That Usually Go Unnoticed?
If a can of spray paint says “do not use indoors”, where do you take it?
If you’re like most people, the correct alternative would seem to be the garage – right?
Spray painting in a contained space, like your garage, can actually be quite dangerous!
Much like your house, your garage needs sufficient ventilation to keep the air clean and healthy.
Otherwise, harmful chemicals and pollutants can pile up – harming your health and home!
Let’s explore some of the unexpected threats to our garage air quality below.
Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants
Almost everyone uses their garage at least partly (if not solely) for storage. This keeps chemical products out of the way and, allegedly, safe from our lungs.
But that’s not necessarily the case.
If not sealed correctly, chemical products can emit toxic gases. And without proper ventilation, these gases either,
a) Become trapped in your garage, or
b) Seep into your home.
Not only does this make your garage air quality dangerous to inhale, but it puts your entire house at risk of air pollution too!
Below are some of the products that can emit these types of harmful gases:
- Weed control
Pool Maintenance Products
- Cyanuric acid
Home Maintenance Products
Vehicle Maintenance Products
- Motor oil
- Vehicle cleaners
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide
Smoke and carbon monoxide are two very dangerous pollutants. And both are quite common in your garage.
So don’t start your car on a chilly morning before opening your garage door just yet!
You might want to read this first.
All combustion and fuel-burning equipment/products can emit toxic gases. And two of their most common emissions include carbon monoxide and benzene.
Both these gases are dangerous, making your garage a health hazard.
But that’s not all!
Both these gases, carbon monoxide and benzene, can also seep into your home.
In fact, according to a study by Health Canada, homes with detached garages have elevated levels of benzene.
Another study shows that 5-85% of the air leaking into homes actually comes from the garage. And it doesn’t come empty-handed!
That’s why we’re told never to let our car idle in the garage! Or to only rev up our yard maintenance tools when we’re outdoors.
- Lawn Mowers
- Weed Whackers
- Snow Blowers
- Chain Saws
- Portable Generators
- Gas Lanterns
- Portable Stoves
If you use your garage as a woodworking space, keep reading!
The process of woodworking releases and suspends tiny, inhalable dust particles in the air. And when breathed in, these wood dust particles can harm our health for several reasons.
First, suspended wood dust in the air can cause irritation to the skin and eyes.
Second, if the wood dust is small enough, it can penetrate and damage your lung tissue. This can cause irreversible lung damage, making it very difficult for your respiratory system to function.
Third, specific wood treatments, like glue, resin and formaldehyde, can emit harmful toxins into the air. This then puts your health at even further risk.
Causes of Wood Dust Exposure:
5 Easy Ways To Improve Your Garage Air Quality
Can you reduce the risk of poor garage air quality?
Below are 6 practical and affordable ways to help ensure your garage is safe and breathable.
1. Increase ventilation in your garage.
The #1 solution to improving the air quality of your attached garage is to install garage ventilation.
And in our recent indoor air quality and home renovations post, we learned that increasing ventilation can help dilute chemical concentrations.
This includes the toxic chemicals found in:
- Cleaning products
- Building materials (i.e. formaldehyde in wood products).
Ventilation is also key in the removal of harmful gases like carbon monoxide and benzene from your garage air.
Practical methods of increasing ventilation include:
- Opening a window
- Installing ceiling fans
- Installing sidewall exhaust fans
2. Seal and store household chemicals properly.
Most homeowners end up filling their garage to the brim with half-empty paint cans, wood stains and other solvents.
Does this describe your garage?
These containers usually enter your house with no issue at all. But they never seem to leave. Instead, they sit in your garage for that elusive “someday-down-the-road project”.
The problem with this habit of keeping half-finished containers is if these containers aren’t correctly sealed or stored.
If they are not sealed or stored correctly, they can emit toxic chemicals into the air.
When preparing household chemicals for storage, always remember to:
- Label each item clearly.
- Reseal chemical products in their original containers.
- Double-check that the container is completely sealed.
3. Move chemical-containing products to a detached shed.
Storing chemical-containing products away from your home is vital for your health. This includes gasoline, oil, fuel-burning equipment, landscaping products etc.
In most cases, homeowners and car owners use these products quite frequently. Which means they are commonly left unopened or carelessly misplaced.
Store these products in a detached shed rather than your attached garage. This will prevent harmful chemicals from drifting from your garage and into your home.
4. Keep smoke and carbon monoxide out of the garage.
As mentioned above, smoke and carbon monoxide are dangerous pollutants. And they should never enter your airways.
To avoid contaminating your garage air with these pollutants, remember to:
- Never smoke in your garage.
- Never operate fuel-burning equipment in your garage.
- Never let your car idle in the garage.
5. Move woodworking projects outdoors.
Your garage is likely where you store extra wood supplies and woodworking equipment. In fact, you probably do most of your wood processing – sanding, cutting, routing etc. – in the garage.
But, as previously mentioned, wood dust is a serious indoor air quality concern. And it can drastically harm your health.
Avoid spreading inhalable wood dust in the garage by moving your woodworking projects outdoors. We also recommend wearing respiratory protective equipment (RPE) whenever you work with building materials and/or wood processing equipment.
For More Practical Home Indoor Air Quality Tips, Follow Along!
At Shipton’s CleanAir Solutions, we strive to provide homeowners with practical, affordable and effective indoor air quality solutions.
And our hope is always that you not only take these tips into consideration but that you implement them in your everyday life – for better, cleaner air.
Want more advice on how to improve your indoor air quality? Stay in touch!
Check back in with our biweekly indoor air quality blog! And don’t forget to give us a call at (905) 544-2470 if you have any questions along the way.