Regulars and Shorts

Love Your Lungs: The Awair Air-Tracking Device

By Jane Lyon

CATALYST has fun with the Awair air-tracking device.

AWAIR looks like a minimalist digital clock radio with the phrase “know what’s in the air you breathe” written on the side. Here at CATALYST we were curious to learn what this little device was actually capable of.

Awair tracks temperature, humidity levels (to watch ozone count), chemicals, dust and carbon dioxide. Wherever you put it, it can monitor what’s in the air and tell you if there’s anything invisible that might be affecting your health and safety. Awair needs to be plugged in, but it can be moved around your house or office or wherever there is an outlet.

We took our Awair around the CATALYST office and got different readings in various rooms. Readings are presented as both a small bar graph and as a color-coded overall score from zero to 100 (100, color-coded green, is healthy while 0, color coded orange, is unhealthy).

Here, we linked the Awair box to my iPhone through an app—it’s very simple, you can connect through Google, Facebook or even just your phone number. Now we could watch the bars going up and down as we moved the device around. The main room got a score of 80, which is kind of like getting a B- at school.

Next, we took it into a side office where the printer/photocopier resides. After about an hour I got this notice on my phone: “The chemical levels in your office are rising, this can be reduced by putting more house plants in your office.”

Just to clarify, the CATALYST office is full of plants! However, that particular room does not have single one—just a sleeping cat, a stack of Legos, some plastic dinosaurs and that printer. Maybe it was the dinosaurs.

I took the Awair device home and set it up in my bedroom. With the location change it took some time for Awair to re-calibrate. I had to create a “new room” and connect to my apartment wifi (it wasn’t too hard). But once Awair started giving me readings I was completely stressed out. My room had dust levels at 24 units (pretty bad compared to the office which had 1 unit). Chemicals were 551 units (a little higher than the office). CO2 had 439 units. The device suggested that I vacuum. I had vacuumed recently but decided to follow the advice of Awair. Then I cleared off my desk and chair and sprayed them with all-natural multi-purpose cleaner. As soon as I did, my phone showed the dust count diving and the overall number rising to a healthy 80. I could move on with my life.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that when visitors from outside enter, the chemical levels always rise for a few minutes. After shoes are removed and jackets are hung in the closet, that number returns to where it was originally. Keeping shoes off and heavy coats stored away seems to positively affect air quality. Or maybe it’s the bad air seeping in when the door is opened?

What I’ve learned I can do

  • Vacuum regularly.
  • Dust shelves, picture frames, baseboards and under furniture.
  • Use a homemade chemical-free multipurpose cleaner that doesn’t have any mystery chemicals. (See sidebar for recipe.)
  • Have plants in every room—they really do make a difference. Plants most likely to have air-cleaning properties come from tropical or subtropical environments that don’t require much sunlight. English ivy, snake plant (sansevieria trifasciata), pothos, spider plants, dracaena fragrans and aloe vera are good choices. u

$199 at


All-Purpose Cleaner

1 tsp Borax or witch hazel

1/2 tsp of washing soda*

1 tsp liquid castille soap

Essential oils of your choice or 4 drops each: lemon and lavender; 10 drops of orange

2 c. distilled water

Spray bottle to mix it in

Mix borax, washing soda and castle soap together. Add warm distilled water and essential oils. Shake bottle well. Use anywhere!

*Washing soda is sodium carbonate. Buy it in the laundry detergent aisle, or make your own from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate): Pour 1/2-in. layer of baking soda on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 1-2 hours, stirring twice. You will know it’s done when the texture changes from silky to grainy. Store in airtight jar and use as laundry booster and in natural cleaning recipes.


(Ed. note: Yes, distilled water. You may also be tempted to use plain baking soda instead of washing soda. Don’t. It makes a difference. Use the rest of your sodium carbonate in our version of Dr. Singha’s Mustard Bath, )

This article was originally published on January 1, 2018.