We all know that a tightly sealed home is crucial to keeping your home warm and energy efficient during the Winter, but staying snug comes at a cost – your air quality. There are a surprising number of harmful pollutants in our homes, and they all build up if the air doesn’t get refreshed periodically. Furniture finishes and carpets can off-gas dangerous chemicals, heating systems house can house allergens and your stove will cause carbon monoxide build-up. So what can you do to breathe easy while it’s too cold to throw open the windows? Follow my tips below!
Plants are more than just a pretty decoration. Many of the most common houseplants do double duty by absorbing pollutants and naturally purifying air for you! Snake plants, English ivy, Spider plants, Golden pothos, Peace lilies, Aloe Plants, Chinese evergreens, Bamboo palms, Weeping Figs and Dracaena are among the best and are easy to find in any Home Depot or plant department. For a complete list, along with important notes on which are toxic to pets, visit this Wikipedia entry.
A humidifier can make a major improvement to your home’s breathability all Winter long. Dry Winter air can irritate your sinuses and the added static electricity will attract dust and dander to everything in your home like a magnet. Buy a hygrometer to keep track of your home’s humidity levels and try to keep it between 45 and 55%. Higher will encourage mold and mildew and lower may lead to discomfort, nosebleeds, and even an increased chance of catching the flu! I recommend using warm mist humidifiers, which give off purified hot steam. Cold mist humidifiers can harmor bacteria. Just make sure to keep kids away from the humidifier to avoid burns.
Central heating and cooling systems add a few extra steps to your seasonal cleaning regimen. Make sure that you change your furnace filter regularly. HEPA grade filters will remove up to 90% of the particles that would otherwise be dirtying up your air. Ducts can also trap a lot of dirt. See that they’re cleaned regularly and consider purchasing filters for the individual registers for even better air quality.
Cleaning products can leave chemicals behind in your air long after the mess is gone. The more natural the products you use, the better for your air. Using simple homemade cleaners with ingredients such as baking soda and white vinegar is the best case scenario, but there are also many excellent products available at the store which will clean without introducing unwanted chemicals into your home.
Your Kitchen and Bathroom exhaust fans and whole house fan, if you have one, will replace the air in your home with fresh outside air surprisingly rapidly. This wastes your heated air in the Winter, but is worthwhile as an occasional bit of household maintenance. It’s especially important that you use your Kitchen fan while you’re cooking to minimize carbon monoxide build-up.