Easy Steps to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality
Since we’re all spending a lot of time at home these days, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the quality of our indoor air. Use these simple steps to help remove harmful allergens and pollutants that may be lurking.
Ventilation, fresh air from outside, and air flow are key elements in maintaining good quality air. However, before you can improve indoor air quality, you must first be able to recognize the signs of unhealthy indoor air: lingering cooking smells; damp rooms, clothes or towels; fogged mirrors and windows; strong chemical odors from cleaning; and mold.
Once you’ve identified an air quality problem, the following steps can then be used to stop air pollutants at the source.
1. Keep Dust to a Minimum
In order to keep the dust, pet dander and other harmful debris in your home to a minimum, regular vacuuming and dusting is a must. In addition, consider using covers on mattresses, box springs, and pillows that are dust mite-proof. Wash your bedding in hot water at least once a week.
2. Use Your Bathroom Vent Fan
To prevent mold and mildew growth, always use your bathroom ventilation fan while showering. The goal is to remove moisture from the air, so you’ll actually want to turn the vent on 10 minutes before showering and then leave it on for 20 minutes afterward. If you’re unsure whether the fan is working properly, try holding a tissue near it. If the fan works as it should, the tissue will be pulled against the vent and stay there until the fan is turned off.
3. Allow for Proper Ventilation When Cooking & Cleaning
Switch on your stove’s ventilation hood while cooking to control excess moisture, smoke, and other pollutants that may be released into the air while cooking. The ventilation hood can also be turned on when using household cleaners nearby, or simply open a window to circulate air and dilute any harsh chemicals present.
4. Utilize Household Machines for Better Air Quality
Certain household machines can definitely help us breathe easier indoors, but don’t assume your home’s air quality will be perfect just because you have an air filter. All sorts of allergens can accumulate in air conditioners, humidifiers, and air filters, allowing them to continue polluting the air. To prevent this from happening, these devices need to be kept clean, efficient and effective. Here are some household devices, their purpose, and how to keep them operating efficiently:
- AIR CONDITIONERS — As most already know, air conditioners cool air and remove moisture so you feel less hot and sticky. Central air is most effective, however, may not actually remove moisture from the air when temperatures are mild or if the unit is too powerful for the size of the house. Because of the water that condenses on an air conditioner’s cooling coils, they can be a potential source for mold. All air conditioners should be serviced at the beginning of each season by a professional who can inspect and clean the coils.
- AIR FILTERS — These remove irritants like pet dander, mold spores, candle and cigarette soot, and skin cells from the air. Especially effective for people who have allergies. Filtered ventilators are the best solution for bringing in fresh air and releasing polluted air outside. Although generally more expensive than ionic filters, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters prove more efficient at eliminating all airborne particles. The best strategy for filtering the entire house is with a filter placed on the furnace (or air conditioner in desert regions). For best results, leave the system’s fan running even if the heat is off so that the filter can do its job. As far as maintenance goes, HEPA filters get clogged over time and will need to be replaced. How often depends on how contaminated the air is.
- AIR PURIFIERS — Much like air filters, air purifiers help sanitize the air by removing contaminants that might cause odors and make us ill. They are a stand-alone device and include a filter to trap allergens as well as a fan to expel clean air back into the room. Some air purifiers utilize ultraviolet light to help trap and kill airborne pathogens like mold and bacteria. In general, they work best in small, closed rooms. Before purchasing an air purifying unit, check to make sure it does not produce ozone. Keep it running efficiently by replacing or cleaning the filter as recommended.
- HUMIDIFIERS — These devices add moisture to the air in order to maintain an optimal level of humidity (between 35 and 60 percent). Stand-alone units work well in individual rooms, which is fine if you are unable to attach a unit to the furnace, but the best way to humidify the entire home is with an evaporative model placed in your central furnace. Keep in mind that without regular cleaning, humidifiers can release mold and bacteria into the air, so be sure to clean it regularly and fill it with fresh water daily. The best way to deep-clean a humidifier is with a diluted bleach solution.