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 the case during winter months when we mostly 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 cycle in in an attempt to remain warm. This might make your home a perfect breeding ground for flu, colds and other allergens.
Bringing in outdoor air is an important factor in stimulating good air quality.
Air may enter a home in many different ways, such as:
- with 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 do not bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are used instead to draw outdoor air into the home. Advanced designs for new homes have started to add a mechanical feature that draws outdoor air into the home via 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 straightforward DIY remedies to make your home cleaner and safer for everyone.
- Air out your home: When weather is pleasant, 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 should improve indoor air quality by purifying allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is particularly important to people managing asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. In ideal conditions, according to the layout of your home, it is best to have 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 any use. This recipe is especially effective in bathrooms, closets and “sick rooms.” Make sure that the essential oils you use don’t have chemical additives as this could lead to even more 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: Consistent dusting and frequent vacuuming will help enormously 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 when directed to. 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 smart idea to have your home checked yearly for mold.
- Dry Cleaning: Before bringing in clothes that were dry cleaned, allow them to hang in the garage or on the patio for a while. Dry cleaning products dissipate chemicals like formaldehyde.
By improving the air quality of your home, most likely you and your family will experience minimal respiratory concerns and feel better all year long.