Manage Indoor Air Quality: Creating a Safer Home for Everyone

According to Dr. E. Neil Schacter, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York: “If you live in a home with chronically poor air quality, you can experience frequent headaches, long-lasting colds and bronchitis as well as chronic asthma.” This is particularly a problem during winter months when we mostly keep our doors and windows closed. Along with the cold and additional rainfall during this season, you’re bringing in moisture, allergens and bacteria while never allowing fresh air to flow in an attempt to stay warm. This could make your home an effective breeding ground for flu, colds and other allergens.

Bringing in outdoor air is an important factor in stimulating good air quality.

Air can enter a home in lots of different ways, including:

  • through natural ventilation, such as through windows and doors
  • through mechanical means, such as through motorized air intakes associated with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • through infiltration, where outdoor air is sucked into the house through openings, joints and cracks in walls, floors and ceilings, and around windows and doors.
  • Outdoor air infiltration occurs in all homes to some extent.

A majority of residential forced air heating systems and air conditioning systems won’t bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are depended on to draw outdoor air into the home. Advanced designs for new homes are beginning to utilize a mechanical feature that circulates outdoor air into the home through the HVAC system. Some of these designs take advantage of energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators to regulate the cost of cooling and heating this air during the summer and winter.

Here are some simple DIY remedies to make your home cleaner and safer for you and your family.

  • Air out your home: When weather allows, open a window. Easy and free. This will always be one of the most effective ways to circulate old air out and fresh air in. If you live in a heavy industrial or chemical area, be careful that you are not trading one concern for another.
  • Air Purifiers: Effective air purifiers easily improve indoor air quality by capturing allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is particularly beneficial to people struggling with asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. In ideal conditions, according to the layout of your home, it is best to install air purifiers in all bedrooms as well as the main living areas.
  • Essential Oils: Essential oils can be used to effectively clean and freshen indoor air. A quality DIY essential oil room spritzer recipe is the following:
    • Add 12-15 drops of pure essential oil to 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of purified water.
    • Place in a dark glass spray bottle and shake well before every use. This recipe is especially useful for bathrooms, closets and “sick rooms.” Verify that the essential oils you use don’t have chemical additives as this can result in other unwanted allergens.
    • Other essential oils for air purification include: Lemongrass, Lime, Lavender, Sweet Orange, Peppermint, Pine, Rosemary, Sage, Tangerine, Tea Tree, Thyme, Frankincense, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grapefruit, Helichrysum, White Camphor, Marjoram, Myrrh, Cilantro, Citronella.
  • Consistent Cleaning: Consistent dusting and frequent vacuuming will help tremendously in reducing airborne pollutants like mold, pollen, pet dander and dust mites. Use nontoxic cleaning products.
  • Change HVAC filters: Replace furnace and air-conditioning filters on a regular basis. Spray rubbing alcohol on the vents inside your home. If there is mold on the vents use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to kill the mold.
  • Remedy mold issues: If your house has ventilation concerns, your home has a basement or you live in a humid area, it’s a smart idea to have your home checked yearly for mold.
  • Dry Cleaning: Before bringing in clothes that have been dry cleaned, allow them to hang in the garage or on the patio first. Dry cleaning products disperse chemicals like formaldehyde.

By improving the air quality of your home, most likely you and your family should experience fewer respiratory concerns and feel better for the remainder of the year.