Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released, or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. They may not always be detectable by smell, and smelling is not a good indicator of health risk.

What are VOCs?

VOCs are gaseous chemicals released into the air from a variety of substances. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs are emitted from certain solids or liquids. They are released as a gas into the air, which creates significant problems with air quality.

VOCs include a variety of chemicals, and they can create both short and long-term health problems. Concentrations of VOCs are often higher indoors, as the chemicals are not able to dissipate into the atmosphere but are instead kept inside.

Common Sources of VOCs

Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. They are found in a wide array of products, many of which are used in our homes. The concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors, which can lead to short- and long-term adverse health effects.

Paints and Varnishes

Paints and varnishes are a common source of VOCs. These products contain organic solvents that can release VOCs while you are using them and, to some degree, when they are stored. For instance, when you paint a room, the fresh paint smell that lingers is actually the VOCs being released into the air.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Products

Cleaning and disinfecting products often contain VOCs. These products are used daily in our homes, and each use can release VOCs into the air. For example, when you clean your kitchen with a disinfectant spray, the strong smell that remains is due to the VOCs.

Hobby Products

Hobby products, like paints for models, can also contain VOCs. These products are used less frequently, but they can still contribute to the overall VOC levels in your home. For instance, if you enjoy building and painting model cars, the paint you use can release VOCs.

Moth repellents and Air Fresheners

Moth repellants and air fresheners can also release VOCs. These products are designed to release a scent into the air, and that scent is often carried by VOCs. For example, when you use a moth repellant in your closet, the smell that remains is due to the VOCs being released.

Dry-Cleaned Clothing

Dry-cleaned clothing can contain VOCs as well. The chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process can remain on your clothes and be released into your home. For instance, when you bring home a freshly dry-cleaned suit, the distinct smell it has is due to the VOCs.

Health Impact of VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are not just common; they are also potentially harmful to our health. The effects of these compounds on our health can range from mild to severe, depending on the level and duration of exposure.

Immediate Effects of VOCs

The immediate health effects of VOCs can include irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Imagine walking into a freshly painted room or a space where strong cleaning products have been used. You might experience a stinging sensation in your eyes, a runny nose, or a scratchy throat. These are your body’s immediate reactions to the VOCs in the air.

In addition to these irritations, VOCs can also cause headaches and nausea. Have you ever felt a bit dizzy or had a headache after cleaning your home? That could be your body reacting to the VOCs released from the cleaning products.

Long-Term Effects of VOCs

While these immediate effects are uncomfortable, they usually subside once you’re no longer in the presence of the VOCs. However, prolonged exposure to VOCs can lead to more serious health problems.

Long-term exposure to VOCs can damage the liver and harm the central nervous system. This is because some VOCs are fat-soluble and can accumulate in the body over time, leading to organ damage.

Perhaps most alarmingly, some organic compounds have been linked to cancer. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the VOCs in your environment and take steps to reduce your exposure.

Reducing Exposure to VOCs

While it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate exposure to VOCs, there are steps you can take to reduce it:

  • Increase ventilation when using products that emit VOCs.
  • Do not store opened containers of unused paint and similar materials within the home.
  • Use household products according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Dispose of unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
  • Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

By being aware of the health impacts of VOCs and taking steps to reduce exposure, you can help improve the air quality in your home and protect your health.

Air Purifiers for VOCs: A Must-Have for a Healthy Home

When it comes to maintaining a healthy indoor environment, air purifiers play a crucial role. While high-efficiency air filters are excellent for removing particulate matter, they may not be the best solution for your home, especially if your house is littered with volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are a common issue in many homes, and unfortunately, an air purifier with HEPA filter-based media is usually not enough to combat them. This is because VOCs are gaseous substances, and HEPA filters are primarily designed to capture solid particles. So, what’s the solution? You need an air purifier that uses a different technology. Specifically, you need activated carbon.

Activated carbon is a type of carbon that is processed to have small, low-volume pores. These pores increase the surface area available for chemical reactions, making activated carbon highly effective at trapping VOCs. The carbon particles in an activated carbon filter absorb VOCs as the air passes through, thereby effectively removing them from the air.

Choosing the Right Air Purifier for VOCs

When it comes to choosing an air purifier for VOCs, there are several factors to consider. You’ll want to look at the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR), the type of filter technology used, the amount of activated carbon in the filter, the maximum room size the purifier can handle, the weight of the unit, and of course, the price.

To help you make an informed decision, here’s a comparison of three popular air purifiers that are effective at removing VOCs:

Best OverallFor Tight BudgetsFor Large Spaces
ModelIQAir HealthPro PlusMila Air PurifierAustin HealthMate
Filter TechnologyHyper HEPA and V5-CellH13 HEPA and The Critter CuddlerHEPA and Activated Carbon
Activated Carbon5 lbs0.84 lbs27 lbs
Max Room Size450 to 1125 sq. ft.1000 sq. ft.750 to 1500 sq. ft.
Weight35 lbs18 lbs47 lbs

Remember, the best air purifier for you will depend on your specific needs and circumstances. Consider the size of the room where you plan to use the purifier, the level of VOCs in your home, and your budget. By choosing the right air purifier, you can significantly reduce the levels of VOCs in your home, creating a healthier and safer environment for you and your family.


VOCs are a common and dangerous pollutant in our homes. They can cause a variety of health issues, from minor irritations to serious conditions like cancer. It’s important to take steps to reduce the levels of VOCs in your home. One effective way to do this is by using an air purifier that uses activated carbon technology. The IQAir HealthPro Plus, Mila Air Purifier, and Austin HealthMate are all excellent choices for reducing VOCs in your home.

Remember, the best way to protect your health is to limit your exposure to products and materials that contain VOCs. If you think you may be having health problems caused by VOCs, try reducing levels in your home. If symptoms persist, consult with your doctor to rule out other serious health conditions.

For more information on air purifiers and how they can improve your home’s air quality, visit our website.


Hey there, I'm Kevin, editor of Xievo. I'm passionate about air purifiers and providing accurate information to help readers make informed decisions. In my free time, I love hiking and experimenting with air purifiers in my own home. Thanks for visiting Xievo!