Allergy Proof Your Home for Better Indoor Air QualityPublished on: October 1, 2013
Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified poor indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks today? Indoor air can be many times more polluted than outdoor air, especially in tightly sealed homes. Pollutants generated from household products, mold and dust mites, pet dander, and various activities get trapped inside and accumulate to dangerous levels. This is bad news for everyone, but it’s especially detrimental for people with asthma, allergies and other respiratory problems.
Fortunately, all is not lost. There are several easy steps you can take to allergy proof your home and improve indoor air quality. Here’s a look at how to approach the air quality in each room so you can breathe easier.
- Bed: Enclose mattresses and pillows in hypoallergenic covers to keep dust mites at bay. Choose pillow cases, sheets and comforters made from synthetic materials to reduce allergies. Wash bedding weekly in hot water.
- Flooring: Use low-pile carpet and vacuum weekly with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Shampoo the carpet regularly for a deeper clean.
- Windows and window coverings: Keep the windows closed when pollen counts are high. Use window coverings made from cotton or synthetic fabrics. Wash these frequently. To reduce dust accumulation, install roller-type shades in place of horizontal venetian blinds.
- Furnishings: Select easy-to-clean materials for dressers and nightstands, such as wood, metal, plastic or leather. Avoid wicker and upholstered chairs and furniture in the bedroom since these collect dust.
- Knickknacks: Remove these items from dressers and shelves since they collect dust and can be difficult to clean. Store children’s toys in closed plastic bins.
- Pets: If you can’t bear to find a new home for your furry friend, at least keep him out of the bedroom. Bathing your pet once or twice per week helps to reduce dander.
- Air cleaner: Consider placing a portable air cleaner in your bedroom and run it while you sleep. Make sure the one you choose features a high-efficiency filter or other effective filtration device and doesn’t produce ozone.
- Flooring: If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpet and replace it with hardwood or tile. Retain a cozy feel with washable area rugs. If removing the carpet isn’t an option, install low-pile carpet and keep it clean, the same as with carpet in the bedroom.
- Furniture: Upholstered chairs and sofas are common in living rooms, but consider replacing them with leather-covered furniture. Wood, metal and plastic are also good materials to make the living room more allergy proof.
- Windows and window coverings: Follow the same tips for the living room as provided in the bedroom section.
- Houseplants: With proper care, houseplants can actually improve indoor air quality. The only issue is that mold sometimes grows in the pot. Spread aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold.
- Pets: If keeping your pet outside the bedroom isn’t enough to curb your allergies, consider keeping your furry friend outside most of the time, if weather permits.
- Fireplace: Avoid using a wood-burning fireplace or stove. Natural gas fireplaces don’t cause the respiratory problems known to occur with traditional fireplaces, so feel free to use yours to keep warm throughout the winter.
- Stove: Make sure the stovetop exhaust system vents to the outside, thus removing moisture and cooking fumes from the kitchen. Some stovetop hoods merely filter cooking particles and return the air to your kitchen, which does little to improve indoor air quality.
- Sink: Wash dishes daily to thwart microbial growth. Scrub the sink and faucet every night to remove food debris.
- Refrigerator: Wipe up spills immediately and clean the fridge thoroughly on a regular basis. Throw out expired food promptly. Clean the rubber seals around the doors and replace them if they start to grow mold.
- Cabinets and countertops: Clean these surfaces with water and mild detergent. Check under the sink for plumbing leaks and fix these promptly. Store all food in sealed containers to discourage pests.
- Food disposal: Keep trash in a tightly closing garbage can and empty the trash daily. Sweep often to keep the floor free from crumbs to reduce the chance of pests moving in.
Bathroom and Laundry Room
- Flooring: Remove any carpeting from the bathroom or laundry room and install vinyl, linoleum or wood in its place. Wash rugs regularly.
- Walls: Get rid of wallpaper and replace it with tile, or paint the walls with mold-resistant paint.
- Tub and shower: Dry off the walls after each use. Deep clean the tub and shower occasionally with a bleach product. Wash or replace moldy bath mats and shower curtains.
- Sink and toilet: Keep these areas clean, removing mold when it begins to form. Promptly repair any plumbing leaks you find.
- Ventilation: Run the exhaust fan to remove moisture when bathing, showering, cleaning with chemicals or running the dryer. Make sure the dryer is vented to the exterior – not to the attic, garage, or any other enclosed area.
- Flooring: Keep on top of any flooding that occurs and promptly remove damaged carpet. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting and use concrete, linoleum or vinyl flooring instead.
- Furniture: Avoid using upholstered sofas and chairs when possible.
- Stairwells, windows and the foundation: Check for leaks often by identifying signs of water damage. Repair these leaks as soon as possible and replace any damaged materials.
- Dehumidification: Consider installing a dehumidifier in the basement or crawl space to reduce humidity in the air. Operate the dehumidifier according to the manufacturer’s instructions and clean it once a week.
- Storage: Keep valuables, clothes, holiday decorations and other materials in airtight plastic storage bins.
- Comfort: A hot, humid home is not only uncomfortable, but also a breeding ground for mold and dust mites. Run the air conditioner to keep your home at 78 degrees or cooler. If the air conditioner’s dehumidifying abilities are insufficient to keep indoor relative humidity at 50 percent or less, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier.
- Air quality: Change the HVAC air filter once per month or when it begins to get clogged with debris. Wait no longer than three months between changes. Consider a whole-house ventilation system to exhaust stale air outside and introduce clean, fresh air to the interior. Don’t allow family members or guests to smoke inside.
- Pests: Do away with mice and cockroaches with affordable traps from a home improvement store. Hire a professional exterminator if you have a persistent pest problem. Thoroughly clean carpets and hard surfaces where pest droppings or other remains are left behind. Prevent future infestations by sealing gaps and cracks in your home’s outer envelope where pests may enter.
- Mold: Prevent mold growth by keeping your home at less than 50 percent humidity at all times. That means keeping the windows and doors closed in the summer and running the air conditioner/dehumidifier to stay comfortable. Dispose of un-washable materials that experience mold growth, including carpet. Clean washable materials with a 5 percent bleach solution while wearing a protective mask and gloves. Check the roof and attic for water leaks and mold growth every few months.
- Cleaning routine: Get in the habit of cleaning your home weekly. Mop hard flooring, vacuum carpet, dust hard surfaces with a damp cloth, clean the bathroom, and wash the bedding. If any of these chores aggravate your allergies, wear a dust mask or ask a family member to complete these tasks for you.
Want to learn more about allergy proofing your home for better indoor air quality? Contact AC Southeast today to find a contractor in your area of the Southeast United States that can answer all your questions.