Even though your house is clean, your indoor air quality may be lacking. In the Tampa Bay area, we shut our doors and windows 9 months out of the year, sealing in dust and pollutants caused by ordinary, every-day activities.
First, figure out what is causing your air to become dirty. Second, read through our long list of easy activities you can do to improve your indoor air quality.
Other than dust, we’re not aware of all the multitude of contaminants polluting our air. But here’s a list of some of those dirty buggers:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Decaying insect parts
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) given off by carpets, textiles, pressed wood furniture, chemicals for cleaning, paint and varnish
Some pollutants exist as gas, but others may settle into carpets, upholstery, textiles, and solid surfaces. These are all blown into the air and breathed in when activity or a breeze stirs them up. What’s more, particles are sucked up into your HVAC ductwork and what is not trapped by your filter is recirculated into your living areas.
Controlling Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor air pollution is best controlled at the source. The following are 14 tips that will help you do just that.
- Use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter in your vacuum cleaner, and vacuum often, especially if you have pets or there’s a lot of traffic in your home.
- Use a damp mop or cloth to clean surfaces. Electrostatic cloths or dusters also pick up dust, rather than just stirring it around the way a feather duster will do.
- Tell your household’s occupants to leave their shoes at the door.
- Wash linens in hot water frequently to get rid of dust mites.
- Fix all leaks as soon as you spot them to prevent mold and mildew. Even faucet leaks can cause mold. Mold reproduces by spores, and you don’t want those circulating in your air.
- Clean shower curtains and any other mold outbreak with hydrogen peroxide and water spray or by scrubbing with borax and water or baking soda and water. Some shower curtains may be washed in a washing machine.
- When purchasing chemical cleaners, read the labels and look for the ones with the least harmful substances. Whenever possible, use natural cleaners such as vinegar, baking soda or lemon juice.
- Carefully store outside those chemicals such as paint and pesticides that give off VOCs; make sure lids are on tight.
- Try to buy furniture, carpets and textiles that are not subject to off-gassing.
- Avoid pressed wood products, as well as toys, or plastic or cheap ceramic dishes subject to off-gassing. These gases can also be harmful to pets.
- Allow recently dry-cleaned clothes to air outside before you bring them in. Likewise, when you buy a new rug or something upholstered, you may want to air it out for a few days.
- Use house plants to filter your air. Some plants, such as Gerbera daisies, English ivy, spider plant and Boston fern seem to do a better job absorbing indoor pollutants than others.
- Use better quality furnace filters. Furnace filters are rated by the HVAC industry 1-20 as to minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV); MERV 1-4 does nothing for your indoor air quality, so aim higher, and go for a filter rated 8-12. These do a better job of trapping some of the smaller particles that are concerning to sufferers of allergies and respiratory diseases. Don’t go higher — your HVAC system probably can’t handle the reduced air flow that might result.
- Consider an air cleaner. There are many types, including more expensive whole-home models that must be installed in your HVAC system, to portable models that you can move from room to room. The former do a better job of cleaning the air, generally speaking. Among the types: germicidal irradiation ultraviolet lights that target mold, mildew, fungus and viruses; gas-phase cleaners that use activated carbon to trap VOCs, tobacco smoke and other gases; and electrostatic and electronic air cleaners that trap particles with a static or electric charge. Avoid cleaners that produce ozone.
For more tips on how to improve your indoor air quality, consult the professionals at United Air Conditioning of Largo. We’ve been providing world-class quality and service to our customers since 1961.