It can be tough to wrap your mind around just how toxic our air has become.
Most of us are aware of the toxicity present in our outdoor air. From carbon monoxide and radon to smog and smoke, we take a small health risk just breathing in the great outdoors.
But this is actually a very small risk, indeed, compared to what our lungs have to cope with when we fill them indoors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that our indoor air is up to five times more toxic than the air outside, and the majority of the blame lies with us.
This can be especially hard and scary to hear, but it is vital to know so we can make changes that lessen our risk of toxin-triggered allergies and illness. In this post, learn timely spring cleaning tips that can help clean your indoor air as well as your inside space!
Choose Natural Cleaning Products
Most people are so used to trusting products designed to clean that we forget they are often filled with toxic chemicals themselves.
After all, a cleaning product has to be pretty potent – corrosive, even – to tackle some of the toughest germs and microorganisms lurking inside our sinks, toilet bowls, dog dishes and refrigerators!
Is there any cleaning product that can tackle these toxins that isn’t potentially harmful to us? The good news is, yes!
In fact, we wrote an entire blog post just on this topic, and you will be happy to learn that most of the ingredients you need to make safe, natural and effective cleaning products are probably already in your cupboards!
Clean or Replace Those Furnace Filters!
It easy to forget about our hard-working, tireless furnace filter. If it was hanging out in plain sight, increasingly covered with dust and debris, we would never forget to change or clean it.
But it isn’t (thank goodness) and so the toxins build up until they get blown back into the blower motor or pushed out into your home air supply.
Cleaning reusable furnace filters or replacing disposable filters every 30 days is an essential ritual to keep irritants, toxins and particulate matter out of your indoor air and out of your lungs.
Upgrade Your Indoor Air Cleaning System
Most residential and even some commercial HVAC systems are poorly equipped to handle the type of hospital-grade air filters that can really pull the smallest and worst toxins out of your indoor air.
These circulating toxins include tobacco particulates, volatile organic compounds from candles and wood smoke, mould and fungal spores, bacteria and viral matter, pollen and dust mites.
You really don’t want these things circulating in your indoor air and no amount of scrubbing is going to do more than just move them around inside your home.
Either system can be retrofitted to work with most HVAC systems. You can choose from central systems designed to work with existing ducts or portable systems that can clean or purify smaller spaces.
HEPA filters are the optimal choice if your primary concern is airborne particulates, while ultraviolet air purifiers are ideal for gaseous compounds.
Balance Your Indoor Humidity Levels
Just as too-dry air in winter can lead to creaking floors, chapped lips and chronic respiratory distress, so too can too-damp air in summer create conditions ripe for constant allergies and mould infestation.
The unfortunate truth is, there isn’t sufficient natural ventilation in most newer homes to handle humidity balancing organically.
For this, what you really need is a heat recovery ventilator. Ventilation is a key to preventing your indoor air from becoming stale (oxygen-poor) and toxic and seasonally too dry or too humid.
Off-Gas New Furnishings Outdoors or With Windows Opened
Spring cleaning is traditionally a time when people replace worn-out home furnishings or a threadbare carpet, stained draperies or a sagging mattress.
This type of upgrade can feel great, but it also comes at an air quality cost. Many home furnishings today go through an initial period of off-gassing where toxic fumes are emitted due to how the furnishings are made or protected.
Carpeting, draperies, mini-blinds, bedding (for pets and people) and even furniture may off-gas formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, styrene and other even less-pronounceable chemicals for 72 hours or more after entering your home.
Some people are extraordinarily sensitive to these chemical compounds and may experience a range of health symptoms such as watery eyes, sore throat, headaches, fatigue and sneezing.
The best way to limit exposure is to allow the new furnishings to off-gas outdoors (in nice weather) or in a room with all the windows open and fans running for at least the first three days.
Clean Your Air Registers, Exhaust Vents and Ducts
It goes without saying that you will dust, vacuum, sweep, mop and scour during your spring cleaning routine.
But when you do, don’t forget about those all-important conduits for your indoor air supply – your ducts. Air ducts, air registers and exhaust vents are too frequently overlooked during spring cleaning season.
As a result, ducts, registers and vents will continue to collect and accumulate dust, dust mites, pollen, pet dander, particulates and debris as the months pass. Eventually, mould and mildew spores will happily take root in these protective, humid little piles of detritus.
Many homeowners don’t even realize they have mould or mildew growing in ducts, registers or vents until their home begins to smell funny or they actually see the mould colony spreading to their ceiling or walls.
A professional air duct cleaning restores your entire air conduit system to a safe, pristine, sanitized condition.
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