Breathe easy: There are many things you can do to help cleanse your home's indoor air during winter.
Q: What can we do to help keep our home’s interior from feeling like a sealed-off vault of germs throughout the rest of winter?
A: Rank. Gross. Stagnant. Stinky.
If you have used any one of these synonyms, or a combination thereof, to describe your indoor air quality at any point this winter, you definitely need to read on. It’s time to breathe easier, as there are many things you can do to help cleanse the indoor air until spring comes knocking.
Unblock ducts and vents. That vast, often-overlooked network that makes up your forced-air heating system is prime real estate for dirt and debris, along with allergens and other irritants.
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If you employ such a system in your home, peel off one of your grates and peer in with a flashlight. Should a scary accumulation of grossness be staring back at you, it may be best to call in a pro service with high-powered suction equipment, as opposed to futilely reaching down with the vacuum hose yourself.
Clean with consistency. Regular cleaning helps to reduce allergens and irritants, so get going and take those winter doldrums out with the rest of the trash. Use a damp cloth on dusty surfaces, and remember to check out-of-the-way areas like the top of the refrigerator, too. Go a step further and prevent tracking in extra dirt by keeping shoes off indoors.
Should you remain unsatisfied and stuffed up after vigorous regular cleaning sessions, investing in an air purifier may be an option. Do your research, as there are many available options and technologies, and make sure the added cost is worth it.
Scrub the pooch. Dog hair goes everywhere, as does fur and dander from other pets. Make sure your little shedding machine is groomed and bathed on a regular basis to keep them happy and your allergies in check.
Mind the moisture. Especially in the bathroom, where mold and mildew love to hang. Home humidity levels are best kept below 50 percent, so be sure to properly ventilate high-suspect areas, and look into a dehumidifier if problems persist.
Fireplace functions. It’s the quintessential means of creating cozy warmth, but a fireplace can also worsen air quality if not properly maintained. If you are going to take advantage of the fireplace, use cured or dried wood, and make sure the chimney and flue are cleaned regularly.
Fix the furnace. If your HVAC system gets ignored, it will take it out on you and your home’s air quality. Check the furnace’s filter — if you’re still rocking an older fiberglass filter, you’ll want to look into upgrading to a high-efficiency version, some of which can be impressively intricate.
Before buying, be sure to check and compare each filter’s MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value), which rates efficiency on a scale of one (least efficient) to 16 (most efficient). You can then make a better decision based on your individual circumstances.
Remodel recommendations. If you’re thinking about a spring remodel, you may want to choose hardwood floors rather than carpet, as the latter tends to attract dirt and hard-to-remove debris.
You may also want to opt for blinds instead of curtains. And be sure to place some plants around the home, which help clean the air inside your home and add décor depth.
Before too long, you’ll be tossing out those nasty synonyms and replacing them with fresher, better-smelling ones.
HomeWork is written by Cameron Poague and contributing member professionals of the Master Builders Association (MBA) of King and Snohomish Counties. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.