You can easily clean up bad indoor air quality at home with just a few lifestyle changes and adjustments in your air quality management.
According to the American Lung Association, here's how.
- The best way to freshen air is to clean up the source of odors and ventilate, such as running bathroom exhaust fans. Run fans that exhaust to the outside, such as those in the kitchen or bath, or open windows and place window fans to the blow air out. Add ventilation when you use household cleaning products indoors.
- From cleansers to pet shampoos, some household cleaners leave behind harmful chemicals or give off gases that can irritate or harm your lungs. Read the small print on labels before purchasing any household chemical, including health and beauty products and air "fresheners." If the product has an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) number, the product is classified as a pesticide but that doesn't mean it's safe. Labels like "organic" and "natural" do not mean a product is safe for everyone either.
- Don't be so quick to turn off exhaust fans in the bathroom or kitchen. They help remove both moisture and air pollutants. Install a quiet, low-energy model. The air inside your home, where you spend most of your time, can be two to five times more polluted than air outdoors.
- Change the way you clean. Dust mites are everywhere and they trigger allergic reactions from sneezing to asthma attacks. A central vacuum cleaner vented to the outdoors is best, but a vacuum cleaner with a micro filter bag or High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter will also help remove allergens. If the yuck factor motivates you, consider this -- dust mites feed on skin flakes. Clean up one yech and you get the other.
- Hard surface floors like wood, tile or linoleum are easier to clean than carpeted floors. Real hard wood flooring is a better deal -- when it comes to breathing easy -- than engineered wood products used in flooring which can contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- Damp mopping or using a damp cloth to clean hard surfaces at least once a week is a better approach than "dry dusting" which just stirs up the mites and other particles.
- Relative humidity higher than 50 percent helps not only mold and dust mites to thrive, but creepy cockroaches too.
- If someone in your family has allergies or asthma, it's important to encase their mattress and pillows in dust proof or allergen impermeable covers and replace wool or feather-stuffed bedding materials with synthetic materials. Wool or feather stuffed bedding attracts more dust mites than synthetics.
- All combustion appliances that burn gas, oil or wood emit carbon monoxide and other dangerous gases. Properly installed appliances vent the fumes outside, but you should have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and smoke alarms, installed as close to sleeping areas as possible.
- Paint and use other finishing products with reduced or no VOCs to lower the amount of chemical emissions introduced into the home.
- When possible, swap out washable, reusable heating and air conditioning filters for washable electrostatic filters that are more effective at capturing small particles that can get trapped in your lungs. Wash the filter at least monthly, more frequently for high pollution conditions, say, during building construction or renovation.
- Adding a whole-house air filtration and ventilation system (like the so-called Energy Recovery Ventilator) is like giving your home a set of lungs. The system provides your home -- the hearth -- with a continuous supply of fresh, filtered air.
For more clean air management assistance, visit the American Lung Association's new online Health House where you can test your clean air knowledge and ferret out information tailored to meet household needs.