Today we’ll talk about some of the ways you can clean up or modify the air in your home. We all want to be comfortable inside our own homes. We cool it in summer, heat it in winter and sometimes throw the windows open. Which is all fine – except there’s a lot more we can do to keep us comfortable and keep us from getting sick.
Health problems arise from a variety of sources. A laundry room without proper ventilation and air circulation produces mildew and mold from moisture. In any room, germs – particularly respiratory ones due to colds and flu – need to be aired out of the house. Dry air can create problems with home furnishings as well our skin. And these few things are the least of it. There’s also radon and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to consider, chemical components of the cleaning and beauty products we use, and allergens. They can and often do affect everything from our mood to our health.
So, let’s get started today with air filters. Air filters are such a simple way to clean the air you breathe, but they only work as well as the filters are clean. Obviously, a dirty filter isn’t doing its job. Invest in HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters in your air conditioner. They remove the smaller particulates and allergens that often are water soluble. When the air conditioner removes the moisture in the air as it cools, it’s removing many of these dangers from the air. If you’re unsure about how often to change your filters, check the packaging the filters came in or go online to do a quick search for the particular brand you use. Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations.
A filter for your window is available in the form of an adjustable trickle vent. It is a screen and filter combination that adjusts to the size of most windows and allows you to keep many outside pollutants from entering the home. This may be of particular advantage to you if you live in an area with a great deal of automobile traffic or industrial air pollution.
If you use floor-model air purifiers in your home – a great way to help keep air clean especially in bedrooms and around the elderly who often deal with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) – be sure to know how often these filters needs to be changed or cleaned. This is actually true for all filters throughout your home.
Do you have a systematic way of remembering to change filters as often as needed or recommended by professionals? Most homes have a kitchen calendar. Use it to note when to do some basic home maintenance, such as changing filters throughout your home and appliances. Alternatively, write the date you changed the filter on the edge of the filter itself, or date the new ones with the dates they need to be changed. Any system that works for you will help you toward keeping the air in your home cleaner and safer for all.
Many people are not aware that some indoor house plants, such as certain lilies and some ivy, provide natural air purification. Look into purchasing indoor plants if you’re comfortable caring for them and enjoy them. Just be sure to research carefully if you have pets since many indoor plants are toxic to dogs and cats.
Many vacuum cleaners use dirt-catcher cups and some have filters, such as hand-held vacuums. Empty these after every use, but also wash them as needed.
Popular these days are Himalayan sea salt lamps. These lamps are believed to release negative ions into the air and, as a result, cleanse the air of pollutants. Many also believe these lamps are helpful to those who deal with SAD (seasonal affect disorder) by naturally elevating mood. The lamps provide a soft amber glow for use as a night light.
Other health concerns to the air we breathe include dust mites and allergens. Dust mites don’t thrive in dry air, so keep your air conditioner going in warm weather to keep them away. You can use a hygrometer to check that the humidity level is low in your home if this is a concern.
Allergies are often caused by pet dander and pollen. Brush and groom your pets and bathe them as often as is practical, especially during high-pollen seasons. Environmental allergens from your yard will enter your home through open windows, so balance the need for fresh air with the risks those irritants and allergens will pose to those with particularly sensitive respiratory systems such as the very young and the elderly.
In pollen-heavy seasons, wipe down outside furniture and tables before sitting down with a damp rag or paper towels that can be discarded. Do the same with the sills at any windows that have been opened to allow outside air in. And change out of (and wash) your clothing after having been outdoors in pollen season once you return inside.
Removing excess moisture in your home is also of great importance in order to avoid the creation and build-up of mildew and mold, both of which are respiratory health risks. It’s always a good idea to start the bathroom fan before running your shower and then allow it to continue running for at least 30 minutes afterward. In the laundry room, be sure your clothes dryer vents directly to the outside.
Dangerous gasses can be present in your home in the form of VOCs and have the potential of becoming a health risk. These volatile organic compounds can emit from new carpeting and other flooring as well as from ammonia-based cleaning products. Check labels carefully but it’s always wise to open windows when using commercial chemical cleaners (be sure to keep an eye out for next month’s issue; we’ll give you options and recipes for natural cleaners that are easy to make yourself for use throughout your home).
Nitrogen dioxide poses a health risk when levels become high. Gas stoves are a source of this gas. Be sure to turn on the ventilation hood over your stove or open windows to avoid its building up when using your stove.
Radon detectors are a good idea for any home. Radon originates in the soil and then enters homes and buildings. High levels of radon can cause lung cancer when inhaled over long periods of time.
As you can see, there are so many natural and no-or-low-cost ways to eliminate the dangers in the air you breathe. By creating a simple schedule to maintain the filters in your home, knowing when to open your windows, and how to clean your pets of outside allergens and pollen, you can eliminate many of the health risks present in the air you breathe. Begin today. Then relax and take a deep breath.
Don’t forget that Mike at D4 Construction in Kamloops wants you to breathe safely! Whether you have him over to give you a free estimate on a home renovation or hire him and his crew to build your new dream home, he’ll keep a watchful eye on the materials that go into keeping your home safe. Call Mike today at 250-572-4812.