Improving Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality
A HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air, filter removes at least 99% of airborne particles above a specified size. HEPA filters must meet the standards set by the United States Department of Energy.
Ideal humidity levels range from 30% and 50%. When indoor humidity levels are too high, the air becomes moist, increasing the likelihood of mold growth. The presence of mold in the home can exacerbate respiratory problems and ultimately cause permanent lung damage. On the other hand, low humidity levels can result in dry skin and eyes, irritate the sinuses, and increase risk of infection. Regulate your humidity levels as needed with a humidifier or dehumidifier, and don’t forget to clean the filters regularly.
You’ve heard that a clean home is a happy home, and for more reasons than one – it benefits your mind and your body. When cleaning, your goal should be to rid your home of dust, pet dander, or any other indoor allergens. Wall-to-wall carpeting is a hotbed for dust and animal allergens, so pay special attention to these areas of the home. Bedrooms are another high-priority area; wash bed sheets weekly in hot water and dry the linens thoroughly.
For the best results, choose eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products instead of those high in chemicals (think VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, emitted by aerosol sprays and other popular cleansers and disinfectants). You can make your own cleaning products with household staples like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. Dust with a damp cloth often, and vacuum at least once a week with a cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter. Taking off your shoes before walking through the front door can also greatly reduce the irritants entering your home.
Read labels to learn the ingredients you’re bringing into your home. As a rule, synthetic fragrances should be avoided, whether in the form of air fresheners or laundry products like detergent and dryer sheets. These scents release chemicals, some of which are toxic and have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and disorders related to the central nervous system. Similarly, lit candles made from petroleum-based wax are a source of indoor air pollution; opt instead for candles made from soy and beeswax (all-natural ingredients). For a fresh-smelling home free of toxins, diffuse essential oils like lavender, peppermint, or eucalyptus.
Keep windows or doors open as often as you can – a simple, effective way to increase airflow in your home. Even in the winter, try to open the windows from time to time. You should also run the exhaust fan in the kitchen when you cook, and the bathroom when you shower, to remove any contaminants from the room; make sure that your exhaust fans are vented to the outdoors. Extra precautions and care should be taken when painting, paint stripping, or sanding indoors.
Most of our lives are spent in closed environments, so it’s important to protect yourself and your family from harmful indoor pollutants. By increasing ventilation, cleaning often, and investing in better-for-you products, you can improve your home’s air quality and your overall health.