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

The introduction of outdoor air is one important factor in stimulating good air quality.

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

  • using natural ventilation, such as through windows and doors
  • through mechanical means, such as through external air intakes associated with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system
  • through infiltration, where 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 should be expected in all homes to some extent.

Many residential forced air heating systems and air conditioning systems do not bring outdoor air into the house mechanically, and infiltration and natural ventilation are utilized to draw outdoor air into the home. Modern designs for new homes have started to include 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 you and your family.

  • Air out your home: When weather is pleasant, open a window. Easy and free. This will always be one of the most effective ways to push old air out and fresh air in. If you live in a heavy industrial or chemical area, avoid trading one concern for another.
  • Air Purifiers: Effective air purifiers will improve indoor air quality by purifying allergens, harmful particles and odors. Purified air is always helpful to people suffering from asthma, allergies, or chemical and pollutant sensitivities. Ideally, following the layout of your home, it is best to place 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 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 each use. This recipe is especially effective in bathrooms, closets and “sick rooms.” Verify that the essential oils you use don’t have 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.
  • Consistent 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 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 issues, your home has a basement or you live in a humid area, it’s a good 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 all year long.