We need to breathe in order to live. While even not-so-good air filled with stinks will keep you alive, it's not that pleasant. And air that's filled with fumes will subject you to a barrage of toxins and other nasties that can build up in your system and lead to long-term damage.
What you shouldn't do is listen to all those ads that promise fresh air that smells like a garden filled with exotic flowers if you buy Product X. Product X is probably filled with artificial fragrances, which contain a range of things that are ghastly for your body, starting with allergy triggers and ending with hormone disrupters. So what can you do to clean the air and have some breathing space in your own home?
* Give up smoking. You've seen the ads and you know what you're doing to your body and to the bodies of those around you. You also know about that horrible stale smell that gets into carpets and furnishings and takes years to go away. Giving up is possible. Perhaps this year you should not spring your home (hire a professional domestic cleaner if you want to) but spring clean your body and quit the ciggies.
* Use natural home cleaning products. These give off far fewer foul smells and fumes (the only one that gives off strong fumes is alcohol). Also, because the base product used in natural home cleaners smells neutral, perfumes and fragrances don't need to be added unless you want to. Commercial cleaning products often have a vile-smelling base, so heaps of artificial fragrances get added to cover the pong.
* Find an alternative for using air freshener in the loo. Suggestions for a fresh-smelling loo range from keeping a window fractionally open most of the time, lighting candles or striking a match after you have communed with nature, regular toilet cleaning and making your own air freshener. You can make your own air freshener by blending half a pint of vinegar with half a pint of water plus about 20 drops of essential oil of your choice. Shake together and store in a spray-top bottle. This doubles as a glass and mirror cleaner, and can be used as a mild disinfectant for cleaning the loo itself. Enhance the germ-killing potential of the vinegar by using a disinfectant essential oil such as tea tree or lavender.
* Sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the rubbish bin (below the bag that you probably use as a bin liner). This will absorb the smells. Also avoid putting organic material in the rubbish bin – compost it instead.
* Dust makes air musty and hard to breathe. It can also bring on asthma attacks. Vacuum regularly to get rid of dust, and change bedding regularly. Dry the sheets and blankets in the sunshine or at least outside in the wind to ensure that as many dust mites as possible... bite the dust (or don't bite it and starve, in this case).
* Install and use extractor fans to get rid of smoky smells in the kitchen and steam in the bathroom.