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 true during winter months when we mostly keep our doors and windows locked. Along with the cold and additional rainfall during this season, you’re bringing in moisture, allergens and bacteria while never allowing fresh air to circulate in an attempt to remain warm. This might make your home a perfect breeding ground for flu, colds and other allergens.

Circulating in outdoor air is an important factor in encouraging good air quality.

Air will enter a home in a number of different ways, such as:

  • through natural ventilation, such as from windows and doors
  • through mechanical means, such as through motorized air intakes associated with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • through infiltration, a process by which outdoor air slips 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 depended on to bring outdoor air into the home. Advanced designs for new homes have started to add a mechanical feature that circulates outdoor air into the home through the HVAC system. Some of these designs utilize energy-efficient heat recovery ventilators to mitigate 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 permits, open a window. Easy and free. This has always been 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: Quality air purifiers can improve indoor air quality by removing allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is particularly helpful to people struggling with asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. In ideal conditions, 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 refresh indoor air. A simple 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 effective in bathrooms, closets and “sick rooms.” Double check that the essential oils you use are free from chemical additives as this could lead to 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: Making time for 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 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 weaknesses, your home has a basement or you live in a humid area, it’s a wise idea to have your home inspected yearly for mold.
  • Dry Cleaning: Before bringing in clothes that you dry cleaned, allow them to hang in the garage or on the patio before bringing them indoors. Dry cleaning products dissipate chemicals like formaldehyde.

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