Animal dander, dust mites, mold, pollen—it’s all right there in the air, not to mention your bath towels, bedding, and furniture. These particles can exacerbate respiratory symptoms, bronchitis, and asthma for people with such conditions. It’s no wonder that of respondents to a 2016 survey by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies who reported having healthy-home concerns, almost 70 percent cited indoor air quality as their top worry. There’s no silver-bullet solution, but these do-it-yourself measures will go a long way toward easier breathing:
Use an air conditioner (with a clean filter) or a dehumidifier to help keep things dry in the basement and other damp spaces, where mites and mold tend to thrive.
Open windows when weather permits and turn on exhaust fans at other times to remove indoor pollutants. You can also use portable or whole-house air purifiers that have a clean-air delivery rate of more than 350 or a minimum efficiency reporting value of more than 10.
Instead of ammonia and bleach, try milder cleaning substances; a 50-50 solution of water and vinegar can be used to clean windows. The solution can even cut through grease and mildew. And purchase items such as paint, paint strippers, and adhesive removers in small quantities so that you’re not storing partially used containers. Even closed, these products can emit gaseous volatile organic compounds, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Houses built before the late 1970s may have been constructed with toxic materials such as asbestos, and homes in certain parts of the U.S. are more likely to contain radon, a colorless, odorless gas that increases the risk of lung cancer. Testing is the only way to detect radon; check the map at epa.gov/radon to see whether you’re in a high-radon area. A radon level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) indicates that you’ll need to fix the problem through a qualified radon-mitigation contractor, according to the EPA, though even lower levels carry some risk.
It’s a simple way to help control airborne particulates: Vacuums suck up dust that settles on carpets, furniture, and other surfaces. Choose a top-rated one that cleans while minimizing emissions back into the air. You’ll need a full-sized vacuum for deep carpet cleaning, such as the Kenmore Elite 31150, $350. It also has HEPA filters, an extra layer of protection for allergy sufferers. For day-to-day maintenance, you might consider a robotic vacuum. It can scoot around your home sucking up dirt and other surface debris while you’re out living your life. In our latest tests the Samsung Powerbot SR20H9051 series sucked up embedded pet hair and sand from carpets better than all other robots. Its unique squared-off front will help it get into tight corners, where rounded models leave dirt behind. The Samsung costs a whopping $1,000, but you can spend less than half that and still get a model we rated excellent, the iClebo Arte YCR-M05.
Encase box springs, mattresses, and pillows in covers made from woven microfiber fabrics (with a pore size no greater than 6 micrometers) designed to keep them free of dust mites and animal dander. Wash your bedsheets weekly in hot water and dry on high heat. If you have a high-efficiency top-loader, choose a low spin speed when washing waterproof fabrics to prevent them from trapping water and causing the drum to become unbalanced.
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