Winter also means we will be spending more time indoors. To that end, we want to make sure the air we breathe indoors is free from unhealthy pollutants that can cause sneezing, sniffles, sore throats and other irritating symptoms. Pollutants include:
- Combustion pollutants that come from burning materials in improperly vented items such as space heaters, stoves, water heaters, dryers and fireplaces
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are organic chemicals that are released as gases from household products such as paints, cleaning supplies, air fresheners and other synthetic fragrances
- Asthma and allergy triggers such as mold, dust mites, pollen, secondhand smoke and pet dander
Here are several tips to improve indoor air quality:
- Open the windows for a few minutes every day to let outside air in (outside air is generally considered cleaner than indoor air).
- Invest in a whole house humidifier to keep humidity between 25% and 50%.
- Also to keep humidity at acceptable levels:
o Don’t overwater houseplants.
o Vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
- Even if you have your furnace inspected, change your one inch filters monthly (if you have thicker filters, every six months is fine).
- No smoking in the house. Period.
- Groom your pets regularly to eliminate dander.
- If you are going to paint, paint with low or no VOC paint.
- Put floor mats at every door and have people take off their shoes before entering.
- Avoid carpeting to the extent possible.
- Where you do have carpeting, vacuum at least once a week and invest in a vacuum with a HEPA filter that will trap smaller particles and allergens that regular vacuums may miss.
- Buy a reusable microfiber dust mop that can reach into those tight, hard to reach spots the vacuum can miss.
- Wipe down the tops of doors, window frames and window sills monthly with a damp cloth.
- Cover your pillows, mattresses and box springs with dust mite proof covers.
- Test for radon.
- Place green plants in your home – one every 50 feet if possible – to help reduce VOCs.
- Avoid using items containing VOCs:
o Use mild cleaners that don’t include artificial fragrances.
o Avoid aerosol sprays in deodorants, hair sprays, carpet cleaners, furniture polish and
- Invest in an air purifier that can capture some of the irritants. Your heating professional can recommend the best products depending on your specific needs.