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 tend to keep our doors and windows locked. Combined with the cold and higher 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 will sometimes make your home an effective breeding ground for flu, colds and other allergens.

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

Air may enter a home in several different ways, including:

  • through natural ventilation, such as open windows and doors
  • through mechanical means, such as through outdoor air intakes associated with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • through infiltration, a process by which 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.

Most residential forced air heating systems and air conditioning systems won’t bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are utilized to bring outdoor air into the home. Contemporary designs for new homes have begun to utilize a mechanical feature that draws outdoor air into the home using 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 years to come.

  • Air out your home: When weather is mild, open a window. Easy and free. This has always been one of the most effective ways to get the old air out and fresh air in. If you live in a heavy industrial or chemical area, make sure you aren’t trading one concern for another.
  • Air Purifiers: Good air purifiers will improve indoor air quality by capturing allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is always beneficial to people dealing with asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. Ideally, following 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 good 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.” Double check that the essential oils you use lack chemical additives as this can lead to additional 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.
  • Regular Cleaning: Regular dusting and frequent vacuuming will help greatly in reducing airborne pollutants like mold, pollen, pet dander and dust mites. Use nontoxic cleaning products.
  • Change HVAC filters: Change furnace and air-conditioning filters frequently. Spray rubbing alcohol on the vents inside your home. If you find mold on the vents use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water to kill the mold.
  • Remedy mold issues: If your house has ventilation issues, your home has a basement or you live in a humid area, it’s a wise idea to have your home evaluated 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 for a while. Dry cleaning products emit chemicals like formaldehyde.

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