3 Surefire Methods to Improve Your Home’s Air Quality
When you think about air quality, you likely envision the air outside your home. Cars spew exhaust, and power plants release copious emissions on a regular basis.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, Illinois in particular ranks as the 17th worst state in the nation for toxic air pollution. And the American Lung Association gave Cook, Hamilton, Jersey, Madison, Randolph, and Sangamon counties an “F” grade based on particle pollution and ozone analysis.
But did you know that your home’s air quality may have even worse air pollution?
The air in your home may have traces of lead, formaldehyde, fire-retardants, radon, and other volatile chemicals. Mold, pet dander, and similar allergens also track into your home and build up on your furniture and bedding.
Fortunately, you can improve your home’s air quality via the following strategies.
- Start from the Ground Up
If you want to find a key contributor to indoor air pollution, look no further than your feet. Whenever you go outside, your shoes pick up dirt, bacteria, and mold spores from the sidewalks and grass. When you come back in, you bring these contaminants with you and deposit them on your floors.
To counteract dust:
- Install Hardwood Floors. Carpet and rug strap particulates and allergens in their woven fibers. If you can, switch to hardwood flooring to keep dust from settling. If you can’t, opt for low-pile instead of high-pile carpet.
- Dust and Vacuum Regularly. Feather dusters push around dust and dirt, often times launching allergens into the air. To remove dust, wipe surface areas with a damp cloth, and don’t forget hard-to-reach places such as the top of the refrigerator or your bookcase’s upper shelves. When you need to vacuum your floors, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Lay Door Mats. Place a large mat at every door to reduce the amount of dirt, pesticides, and other contaminants that enter your home. Aim to clean your door mat at least once a week.
You can also keep dust to a minimum by removing your shoes when you enter the house.
- Watch Your Water
Mold and bacteria love moist, damp environments. Astley multiply, they can release spores and irritants that negatively affect your health. In some individuals, touching or inhaling mold can cause allergic reactions and symptoms such as runny noses, sneezing, skin rashes, and red eyes.
To eliminate mold:
- Invest in a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers keep humidity levels around 30% to 50%, reducing moisture in the air and limiting indoor pollen count. For better results, invest in a large capacity humidifier that works for your whole house, rather than just one room.
- Install ventilation. In addition to a dehumidifier, you want to ensure damp places such as the bathroom or basement have adequate ventilation. If your mirror is always steamy or you note condensation on the walls, then your current HVAC system lacks the strength to get the job done. Have a contractor install a new fan or update your ventilation ducts as needed.
- Fix Leaky Pipes and Plumbing. Leaks can happen anywhere in your house, including your hot water tank, toilets, showerhead, and washing machine. You may hear a slight hissing or you may smell a persistent musty odor. If leaks go untreated, they can lead to water damage and mold growth. Have a professional plumber inspect your home for leaks and repair them as soon as possible.
Also, house plants transpire phytochemical substances that suppress airborne mold spores and bacteria. But be careful with this this technique, as overwatering plants can also lead to mold growth.
- Be Careful with Chemicals
Natural pollutants like dust, dander, and mold can negatively impact your health. But synthetic chemicals and particulates also wreak havoc on your lungs. According to NIH News (http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/jul2006/niehs-27.htm), chemical compounds in air fresheners, toilet bowl cleaners, mothballs, and similar deodorizing products may harm the lungs and reduce lung function.
To reduce chemical exposure:
- Opt for Natural Air Fresheners. Don’t burn scented candles or spray fragrances when you want to freshen your home. Instead, simmer a pot of cinnamon and cloves. Or switch to diffusers and vaporizers that use pure essential oils (not essential fragrances or natural perfumes).
- Minimize Harsh Cleaner Use. Although you may like how your favorite cleaner cuts through grease or obliterates stubborn stains, but your lungs will thank you for using natural disinfectants and cleaners whenever possible. Simple solutions like baking soda, white vinegar, lemon, and isopropyl alcohol can help you clean, deodorize, and disinfect your home safely.
- Make Your Home a No-Smoking Zone. Tobacco smoke introduces thousands of chemical pollutants in high concentrations. When smoking friends and family visit, kindly ask them to take their habit outdoors.
If you must use harsh chemicals in your home, exercise a little caution. Open windows and turn on fans to encourage air circulation and ventilation. And always follow the directions on the containers.
Once you’ve implemented these strategies in your home, feel free to breathe easy.
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