Friday, July 5, 2013

A few and affordable home improvements go a long way to improve your home’s air quality.

As if asthma and allergies aren't bad enough.

To make matters worse, a lot of homes have poor indoor air quality caused by smoke, odors, dust and other contaminants including cleaning products. People spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors where air quality can be two to five times more polluted than the air outside, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

My son has asthma so my husband and I are always looking for ways to improve the air quality at home. Over the winter we had the ducts cleaned and this spring we did a thorough cleaning of his room and removed a lot of dust-grabbing décor. 

Since other members of our family suffer with sinus problems, I removed a lot of the dust-collecting knickknacks in other rooms as well. Then I dusted and cleaned anything that remained. In a report from researchers at Sherwin-Williams, getting rid of objects that are prone to dust such as rugs, upholstered furniture and infrequently moved accessories was one of several tips recommended to improve indoor air quality.

While asthma and allergy sufferers, children and the elderly are particularly sensitive to indoor air quality, everyone is impacted by it,” notes the  Sherwin-Williams report. Fortunately a few and affordable home improvements can go a long way to benefit your home’s air quality.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t rely on synthetic fragrances. However nice it might be to walk into a home smelling of fresh-baked apples, synthetic air fresheners and even laundry products designed to make your clothes smell like they’ve been dried on a clothesline can emit dozens of chemicals. If you love the smell of linens dried on a clothesline, invest in a real one and use it. Look for fragrance-free or natural products such as fresh cut flowers and skip aerosol sprays.
  • Open the windows. Especially at this time of year – after a heavy rain or in the early hours of the morning before the sun heats things up – there is nothing nicer than a fresh breeze coming in from an open window.
  • Go natural. Add a fern or aloe Vera plant to help purify the air.
  • Take advantage of technology. Consider investing in products designed to improve air quality. There are linens made to decrease the risk of dust mites, those nasty microscopic creatures whose feces are known to be a potent allergen that cause asthma-like symptoms and chronic sinus problems. The cost of a good night’s sleep is about $20 for a pillow cover and between $80 and $120 for a mattress cover.
  • I love fish and chips but hate the smell that lingers in the air after cooking it. Sherwin-Williams’ Harmony paint helps reduce common indoor odors such as those from cooking and even smoke. The company claims that the new paint, available in flat or eggshell (a finish between flat and satin) finishes, also can help to reduce indoor air pollutants caused by insulation, carpet, cabinets and fabrics. Now I have an even better reason to change the color of my kitchen from guacamole green to sky blue.
  • Clean your air ducts. It goes without saying that the ducts in a house are bound to be filled with dust mites, pet hair, and a host of other nasty things. Look into having them cleaned at least once a year.
  • Stay cool and dry this summer. Besides dust mites, excessive moisture can attract mildew and mold, which are not good for anyone. Experts recommend keeping rooms at a safe 30- to 50-percent humidity level. This can be achieved with the dehumidifier on your furnace or a portable product.
  • Vacuum, vacuum whenever you can. One of the features we looked for when buying our vacuum is a HEPA filter, which is a high-quality and very dense filter designed to trap tiny particles that cause havoc to the air. When vacuuming, remember areas under furniture or even the window blinds. Also important is the power of the machine and its rotating brushes. A good vacuum sucks, plain and simple. A bad vacuum blows dust or dirt out in the exhaust. All floorcoverings should be cleaned, not just carpets. Homeowners with hardwood floors may want to use a microfiber mop to clean the floor and opt for a natural cleaning product instead of chemical-based solutions.

Gina Joseph is a reporter and columnist for The Macomb Daily. Send comments to gina.joseph@macombdaily.com, follow her on twitter @ginaljoseph

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