We hear a lot about air pollution and how bad it is for us. When the quality of the air we breathe is poor, it can cause both immediate reactions and long-term illnesses! But did you know that, according to The Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be two- to five-times more polluted than the air outdoors? And since most of us spend the majority of our days indoors rather than outdoors, it is very important that the air we breathe in our homes is clean!
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While some sources of indoor air pollution are fairly obvious and well-known — second-hand tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide and radon — there are many less obvious sources of pollution that we should all be aware of, including dust and dirt, pet dander, cooking smoke, and mold. Inadequate ventilation can increase the levels of these pollutants by not bringing in enough outdoor air and not carrying the pollutants out. And while increasingly energy-efficient homes are great for the environment and our energy bills, they can further decrease ventilation, trapping pollutants inside.
Here are some simple tips that will help you reduce these pollutants, so you and your family can keep breathing easy:
Everyday dust and dirt
Dust and dirt on our carpet, furniture, and floors can easily become airborne irritants to those with asthma or allergies if not dealt with regularly. Choose a wet-cleaning method on hard surfaces such as floors and shelves, like a mop or wet cloth, which will help prevent the dust and dirt from becoming airborne during cleaning.
For carpets and upholstered furniture, vacuum them both once a week, preferably with a vacuum that has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. A HEPA filter captures 99.97% of particles in the air that is discharged from your vacuum, which is good news for sensitive noses. Vacuums with HEPA filters used to be quite expensive, but in past years they’ve become quite affordable. We love our Shark Navigator!
Animal dander is a very common household allergen. While the only permanent solution to animal dander is to remove the animal from the home, that isn’t an acceptable option for most pet owners! So to help control animal dander in your home, make sure to vacuum weekly, clean pet areas daily, and keep your pet clean and brushed.
If you or your spouse is irritated by animal dander, a simple change you can make is to make your bedroom a pet-free zone. Because we spend a large period of time sleeping in our bedrooms every night, keeping pets out of that room will drastically reduce the amount of time the person with allergies is exposed to the irritating animal dander. Your pet will adjust to a new sleeping arrangement, and your or your spouse will sleep better and wake up much happier!
Furnace and central air
It is important to change or clean the filter regularly on your furnace or central air system to ensure that it is circulating clean air. A disposable air filter should be changed every 3 months, and a reusable air filter should be cleaned once a month. When buying a new filter, try to select a filter with a high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) score. Filters with a high MERV score capture more airborne allergens than those with a lower score.
If you haven’t had your furnace or central air system checked recently, a professional inspection should be scheduled to ensure that it is running properly and not contributing to indoor air pollution.
The vent over your range is an important tool for dealing with the potential air pollutants created by cooking, such as smoke and grease vapor. The best vent is one that covers the whole surface of your stove and vents the air outside your home. Vents that don’t move the air outside (recirculating vents) can be effective as well, but need to be properly cleaned and maintained according to the manufacturer’s directions. Head here to read my post detailing how to clean a greasy vent filter!
Mold and mildew
Mold often proliferates in warm and humid environments, like poorly-ventilated bathrooms and laundry rooms. The best way to keep mold from growing in these areas is to control moisture. This can be done by using a dehumidifier, running the furnace, using a fan, or opening the windows if the air outside is dry.
When bathing or taking a shower, make sure to use your bathroom ventilation fan. If possible, shower with the door or window open to allow fresh air to help to fan pull the moist air out. Also, allow the fan to run for around a half hour after your bath or shower. If you suspect your bathroom fan might not be working very well, test it out by holding a couple of squares of toilet paper up against the fan while it’s running. If the toilet paper stays on the fan when you let go of it, it’s probably working fairly well. If not, it may be time to replace it.
In the laundry room, make sure your dryer vent is working properly. And if you hang clothes up to dry in the laundry room regularly, try to find a place to hang your clothes that is better ventilated.
One last tip……..consider bringing a little of the outdoors IN by adding some houseplants as living air purifiers. NASA research shows that the foliage and roots work together to absorb chemical pollutants released by synthetic materials. Just makes sure the plants you choose aren’t poisonous if you have kids or pets. CLICK HERE to read more about The Breathtaking Benefits of Houseplants.
Being aware of the issues that can negatively affect the quality of the air in your home is an important first step. Proactively addressing these problems will help ensure the comfort and safety of your family and anyone else who spends time there.
How have you improved your home’s indoor air quality?