• Homes have chemical concentrations from sources such as cooking oil and hair spray
  • Researchers tested whether opening windows can really reduce the chemical levels
  • The chemical levels dropped when the windows were opened but came back again
  • In some cases, the chemical levels returned in just over eight minutes 
  • Opening windows is still important when doing tasks such as cooking or cleaning

Can the simple act of opening the windows at home really help flush out the built-up chemicals indoors? The researchers of a new study found that the effect of opening windows lasts for just a few minutes.

Chemicals At Home

Our homes have chemicals in the air, whether from hair sprays, cleaning products, cooking oil fumes or even scented candles. Often, when the home is feeling a little stuffy, homeowners open the windows with the idea of letting the “bad” air out and letting fresh air in but, does this simple trick really work?

Researchers tested the hypothesis using a model home that is part of the House Observations of Microbial and Environmental Chemistry field campaign. For the study, the researchers asked volunteers to mimic real-life activities in the house then threw the windows of the model home open for a period of time then closed them again. Measurements of the 19 different air contaminants were taken before and after opening the windows.

Interestingly, although the chemical levels dramatically dropped when the windows were opened, the chemical levels actually returned to the original concentrations within minutes once the windows were closed. In fact, in some cases, it only took a little over eight minutes for the chemicals to reappear at nearly the same levels as before.

Although researchers are not certain why this happened, it is possible that it was because there were already chemicals clinging to the walls, on furniture, and on other home surfaces. Once the windows were closed again, it is possible that the air concentrations that got flushed out were replaced by the chemicals being released from the surfaces and onto the air.

How the chemicals end up on the surfaces and then get released into the air, however, is still a mystery but, research team members are already looking into it.


To try and lower the chemical concentrations, the researchers mopped the floors with vinegar and also cleaned surfaces with ammonia but, the chemical concentrations only became higher for a period of time.

Although the study shows that opening the windows at home does not completely flush out chemicals from the air, keeping the house well ventilated is still good practice, particularly when cooking or cleaning to prevent high concentrations of chemicals indoors.

So far, it is still unclear whether such indoor chemical concentrations can actually make people sick but, there are scientists already looking into how the chemical concentrations at home may affect the occupants.

The study is published in the journal of Science Advances.

People sometimes open their windows with the idea of flushing out chemicals within the home environment. Pixabay