The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says indoor air is between 10 and 100 times more polluted than the air outside. Asthma other respiratory disorders and diseases can all be caused or worsened by indoor air pollutants including volatile organic compounds that come from building materials, toxic chemicals in cleaning products and pesticides, paint finishes, nitrogen dioxide gases, and particulates from wood-burning fireplaces. As the weather gets cooler and people keep their windows closed more often, the indoor air quality worsens. Here are some tips for keeping the air in your home clean when your windows are closed to keep your home warm:
Use Nontoxic Cleaners
Conventional cleaning products contain toxic chemicals that can negatively affect your skin and lungs. Aerosol products that spray cleaning agents can accidentally be inhaled. Instead of using chemical cleaning products, consider making your own nontoxic cleaners from common household ingredients like baking soda and vinegar. You’ll get a deep clean but without the harmful affects to air quality and potential negative affects to your health. You can also buy specialty nontoxic cleaning products from most stores.
Dispose of Unused Paint and Chemicals and Keep Lids On
For household chemicals you must use, buy in smaller quantities and use them right away so you don’t have to keep them in the home for long periods of time. Check Earth 911 for a national directory of safe disposal sites for toxic household wastes. If you must store hazardous chemicals, paint, and other products that can emit harmful gases that pollute the air, keep them in a ventilated and locked outdoor shed away from sources of flame, children, and pets.
Turn the Exhaust Fan On Over Your Stove
If you have a gas range, make sure the exhaust system sends the air outside and not right back into the home. You want to remove gases like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. If you have tightly sealed windows and doorways for energy efficiency, you may need to open one of your kitchen windows slightly when using the exhaust fan or when using a fireplace to avoid the creation of negative pressure. If there is no way for outside air to replace the air you remove using the chimney or exhaust fan, air can be drawn back through the exhaust pipes for your hot water heater or furnace.
Use Your Bathroom Fan and Keep Home Dry
Your bathroom fan should be used to remove water vapor and prevent moisture that can cause mold to grow. Clean up household spills and fix any leaking pipes as quickly as you can as standing water and moist floors or walls can create the perfect habitat for mold, microbial growth, and can attract pests.
Replace Air Filters
Change the filter in your furnace at the start of the heating season and the filter for your central air unit at the start of the cooling season, or as often as the manufacturer recommends. The dust builds up over the year and can grow mold in between seasons.
Improving the air quality of your home even when you’re keeping the windows closed in the fall and winter is possible with the tips above. For more information about healthy homes and indoor air quality, visit the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality website.