What We Cover In This Article
Pollutants | Ventilation | Shower and Bath | Moisture | Plants | Smoke | Stove | Air Purifier | Vacuum Cleaner | Not Using HVAC | HVAC Inspection | Filters | Bedding and Furniture | Curtains | Dusting | Mopping | Cleaning Products | CFL Bulbs | Electric Fumes | Pillows | Artificial Fragrances | New Furniture | Asbestos | Radon | Basement | Contaminants | Hobbies and Activities
The Importance of Indoor Air Quality
Most individuals understand that outdoor air pollution (such as smog and ozone) can have a negative impact on their health and well-being, but few realize that indoor air pollution is just as bad (if not worse).
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), research has shown that indoor air pollutant levels are up to 2-5 times (and sometimes up to 100x) higher than those outdoors.
This is of particular concern due to the fact that most Americans spend, on average, 90% of their time indoors.
What are the Risks Associated with Poor Indoor Air Quality?
New research published by the EPA and its associated Science Advisory Board (SAB) has identified indoor air pollution as being ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health and well-being.
Risks Associated with Poor Indoor Air Quality Include:
- Higher incidence of both long and short term health problems
- Irritation of the eyes, nose, mouth and/or throat
- Allergic reactions
- Sinus congestion
- Shortness of breath
- And occasionally, severe conditions such as carbon monoxide poisoning or Legionnaire’s disease
These Problems can Impact:
- Cognitive function
- Performance (at school or at work)
- Increased number of colds and sick days
- And more…
Individuals at High Risk Include Those with:
- Respiratory diseases
- Contact lenses
- Heart disease
- And more
What Can You Do About It?
The first step is understanding where things went wrong to begin with. Once you have an understanding of the activities or aspects of your home contributing to poor air quality, you can then begin to take action towards remedying the problems.
This comprehensive guide provides you with 27 of the most common mistakes homeowners make that contribute to poor air quality.
But we’re not here to beat you up.
Each “mistake” is accompanied by simple actionable steps you can take today to improve the indoor air quality at home, school or work.
By following the steps in this guide you can make a positive impact on both yourself and those in the living spaces you share with others.
Mistake #1: You’re Unaware, or Not Paying Attention to the Types and Levels of Pollutants in your Home
When it comes to the air quality in your home, knowledge truly is power.
However, most homeowners (even in spite of breathing issues and other indicators) don’t really know what types of pollutants are in their home or the levels at which they are present.
As you can imagine, this makes fighting such pollutants comparable to throwing darts at a board blindfolded and hoping for the best.
Solution: Find out What You’re Dealing with
Hacking the air quality in your home can seem a monumental task.
With the number of potential irritants and pollutants for which to watch, the task can seem daunting to any homeowner.
The best approach is to be simply be aware.
Take steps to uncover what pollutants in your area are the biggest risk, or what areas of your home are improperly ventilated. You have several choices for the first step:
- Test Your Home – While certain gaseous pollutants like Carbon Monoxide can be detected by alarms similar to your smoke alarms, others are not so easily discovered. You could run several tests in your home to detect what is present, but this can add up in cost over time.
- Contact a Professional Service – Many HVAC services and environmental services offer tests to discover your home’s energy efficiency, ventilation, and more. While you will have cost involved, it can be less costly (and more accurate) than attempting to run these tests on your own.
- Speak with Local Environmental Authorities – If you are not in the position to hire a service or run the tests yourself, you can contact any local environmental authorities in your area and ask them which pollutants are the highest risks. With this knowledge, you can work out a targeted approach to protecting your home.
- Follow Our Guide to Protect Your Home – The tips and tricks within will help you cover a range of areas and protect your home. Other sources are also available through the internet or your local library, but be sure to research any source before following their advice.
Mistake #2: Failing to Properly Ventilate Your Home
For many, the home is considered a shelter against the out of doors. A shelter against poor weather and poor air. But did you know that studies have shown the air inside our homes can be just as bad— if not worse?
Pollutants can enter your home in a myriad of ways, from tracking to pets to moisture.
New electronics carry fumes, and allergens can slip in through the smallest crack in the walls or attached to invading pests or your own clothes.
Once inside, these pollutants are often trapped and then recirculated through your home. The air quality is worse in industrialized cities, but rural homes are also at risk.
On average, people spend 90% of their time indoors. Ensuring proper ventilation in your home can help protect everyone within.
Solutions: Improve Ventilation and Circulation
Keeping doors and windows shut can make the problem worse, removing any way for the pollutants to escape your home.
Following the other tips in this guide can also help, as they offer ways to reduce the pollutants and even remove them.
If you are unable to leave windows open for circulation purposes (perhaps the air outside is still considerably worse than the air inside), consider purchasing an air purifier (more on this in #10).
Routine inspections of your HVAC system as mentioned in Tip #3 can help determine proper ventilation of your home.
The HVAC ducts and vents are responsible for the majority of air circulation, and your air filter can help trap and remove pollutants trapped inside.
Another method is an energy efficiency test or insulation inspection, both of which are offered by many insulation contractors.
Mistake #3: Inadequately Ventilating the Shower and Bathroom
One word: moisture. Moisture can lead to numerous problems in your home. Mold growth, floor warping, wall cracking, pest infiltrations— all of these are encouraged by excess moisture in your home.
Your HVAC unit works hard to keep the humidity levels in your home at safe, low levels, but two rooms can give it a run for its money: your kitchen and your shower.
Kitchens are easy enough to ventilate through your stove hood, windows, and opening doors or running fans.
Showers are a bit more difficult.
Bathrooms are at constant risk of growing mold or mildew, which can lead to severe health issues. Luckily, you can take steps to ensure your bathroom remains safe and the air clean.
Solution: Ventilate Your Bathroom
First and foremost, ensure that your family runs the exhaust fan when taking a shower or hot bath. If you do not have an exhaust fan, open a window. Either run the fan or keep the window open for up to an hour after you have finished.
Eliminate any signs of mold the instant they appear.
To help avoid the harsh chemicals mentioned in Tip #1, you can use distilled white vinegar to clean away mold and mildew.
Simply spray it on the surface and then scrub away with warm water. Allow the area to dry completely— point a fan at it if needed.
Mistake #4: Letting Moisture Get Out of Control
As mentioned in the tip on ventilating your shower, moisture is your home’s worst enemy.
It can seep into any cracks and crevices in your home, inviting mildew, mold, and household pests into your home.
Pest invasions can lead to the introduction of other bacteria to your home and potential disease carriers.
As mildew and mold grow in your home, they release toxins and particulates that contaminate the air inside your home.
Different molds cause different effects, and prolonged exposure can lead to worsened results.
Common symptoms include allergies, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal issues, skin rashes, and immunosuppression.
You can take a variety of steps to ensure your home remains free of mold.
Do know that if mold manages to grow despite your efforts, you will need to hire a professional service to ensure that all mold and mildew are completely removed from your home.
- Repair any plumbing leaks promptly
- Ventilate your bathrooms
- Clean out your dehumidifier regularly
- Inspect areas of moisture for any signs of mold and remove it immediately before it can spread
- Ventilate your kitchen when cooking or cleaning dishes
- Vent your clothes dryer to the outside of your home
- Regularly empty the drip pan for your HVAC, dehumidifier, water heater, etc.
The goal is to keep your home’s humidity below 60%. This level is beneath the threshold mold and mildew require to thrive.
Many homes make use of dehumidifiers to keep their home at this threshold. The ideal level is 30-50% humidity for your home.
Two main targets for moisture buildup and musty smells would be your basement and attic.
Many of these are not well-ventilated. Opening windows and running dehumidifiers or exhaust fans can help reduce the risk.
If your home is subject to flood or water damage, you will need to address the damage immediately.
A sub pump can help you remove the excess water; you then have 48 to dry as many of your furnishings as possible.
Discard and replace any that do not dry or develop mold. This includes items like ceiling tiles, drywall, and anything wooden.
You can hire a professional service to help preserve as much of your home as possible and lower repair costs.
Mistake #5: Keeping Plants Outdoors
While some plants can indeed give off pollen and perhaps even aggravate allergies, others act as Mother Nature’s all natural air purifiers, working tirelessly 24/7 to keep the air in your home pure as the fresh spring air.
Solution: Consider Indoor Plants and Foliage
A great way to clean up the air in your home is to grow plants. Plants are natural air purifiers, as they literally feed on carbon dioxide to produce oxygen through photosynthesis.
When it comes to plants, you need to be careful of over-watering.
While this can affect the plant’s health, it can also lead to increased moisture in your home and the potential for mold and mildew to grow. All three of these consequences can affect you and your family’s health.
Make sure to research what plant you wish to grow. Some plants are toxic if ingested, especially by pets. Lilies and poinsettias are especially poisonous for cats.
If indoor plants are a good solution for your home, consider ferns, aloe vera, or spider plants.
These three plants work as air purifiers. A study by NASA discovered that their roots and foliage form an interconnected system that absorbs chemical pollutants.
Additionally, aloe vera can be used for first aid. The juice from the leaves can treat burns, bug mites, and other skin injuries (though not open wounds).
Mistake #6: Smoking, Vaping, Fireplace Pollutants & More
Everyday life brings the risk of pollutants into our homes. From smoke to toxic fumes from our garage, these pollutants can risk catastrophic health consequences.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
For every pollutant, there exists steps you can take to help protect your home and improve your indoor air quality.
The first of these troublesome sources is tobacco smoke.
Second-hand smoke, also referred to as environmental tobacco smoke, emits 4,000 compounds as it burns. Over 40 of these are irritants, and some are carcinogens.
Whether you desire to kick the habit or not, moving your activities outside can help preserve the air within your home.
Smoking indoors can irritate respiratory conditions such as asthma and increase the risk of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia and ear infections.
Irritants in tobacco can cause respiratory issues such as wheezing, coughing, and excess phlegm production.
The risks are especially great when you have children in the home. Young children also suffer an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and smokers risk developing consequences such as breathing issues, heart attacks, cancer, and strokes.
Smoking and Vaping
If you must continue smoking, doing so out of doors can help mitigate the risks.
If you are unable to smoke outside, consider setting up a well-ventilated room; this does not include closed off areas like the garage unless you can open doors and windows and blow the smoke outside.
You should always avoid smoking in a room with infants and children.
Ensure that everyone who visits your home follows your rules for smoking, and do not allow anyone else to smoke around your children— this includes babysitters, friends, and relatives.
Fireplace or Wood Furnace
Another source of respiratory irritants is the wood inside of your fireplace. The smoke from burning the wood can lead to a myriad of pollutants in your home, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and leftover particles.
All of these can lead to medical complications and lower air quality.
Luckily, you can take steps to mitigate the pollution from your fireplace or wood furnace.
Have your fireplace inspected for any cracks and ensure that smoke is properly ventilated a good distance from your home.
When burning wood, keep any windows or doors near the ventilation output closed to prevent smoke from re-entering your home.
Fumes from the Garage
If your home includes an attached garage, you should know that you are leaking toxic fumes into your home every time you start an engine— be it your car, lawnmower, or other type.
These fumes can seep through cracks, crevices, and doors to invade your home. The main step to take here is to avoid idling engines in your garage and ensure that the door is fully open before you start up any motors.
This allows the fumes to ventilate outside.
Pro Tip: If your home currently smells like smoke check out our article How to get smoke smell out of your house if you want a detailed step by step guide to getting the smell of smoke out of your house. Then consider running one of the best air purifiers for smoke to keep the smell away!
Mistake #7: Slaving over the Stove
Nothing says ‘home’ quite like a home-cooked meal.
But did you know that emissions from your stove and smoke from your stove-top cooking can lead to a polluted home, health complications, and even death?
One study tested homes in North and South India.
Researchers found that kitchens had a higher concentration of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and VOCs.
Participants who spent most of their time in their kitchen were evaluated for their health.
The study concluded that a large correlation existed between high particulate and low lung capacity, increased risk of obstructive diseases, declined lung function, and declined systolic blood pressure.
The World Health Organization reported that an average of two million people per year may die from inhaling cooking smoke.
Cooking smoke increases risks of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, pneumonia (especially in children), and low birth weight.
Solution: change up your cooking habits
Please don’t take this to mean you need to stop cooking. That’s not the case!
You simply need to be aware of potential issues and the steps you can take to mitigate risks. After all: knowledge is half the battle.
The first step is to know your appliances and your cookware.
What type of stove do you have? Are your pots and pans coated with Teflon or similar non-stick materials? Does your stove have an exhaust hood above it?
Avoid pots and pans that list respiratory complications when heating— especially if you have birds or children. Materials like Teflon, when heated, can release harsh chemicals that irritate the respiratory system.
Ensure that gas stoves are set properly. Your burner flames should have blue tips, not yellow.
If adjusting the settings on your stove is ineffective, contact your gas provider and adjust the volume pumped through your line.
Because foods and pots can all give off fumes when cooking, ensure that your kitchen is well-ventilated when you start to prepare meals.
Run your exhaust hood; you can also open windows or run fans to help circulate the air.
Mistake #8: Using Low-Quality (or no) Air Purifier
Some home designs and locations make improving air quality more challenging.
Intense allergies can also lead to the need for more powerful intervention.
Enter the air purifier.
Yet, using a low-quality or less capable air purifier might leave you “thinking” your indoor air is cleaner, when in fact it’s not much better off than it was to begin with.
Solution: Choosing a High-Quality Air Purifier
While air purifiers cannot remove gaseous pollutants, they are incredibly efficient at catching other pollutants and allergens.
Investing in an air purifier means investing in better health.
You need to be sure that your investment is worthwhile. On that note, you have a few things to consider.
- Choose between portable, one-room purifiers and whole-house purifiers – House purifiers are more expensive, but they are also more efficient at treating your entire home. Portable models come in various sizes to fit a variety of needs and can move around with you.
- Buy a model with a filter, not an electrostatic precipitator – Electrostatic precipitators expel ozone when running. Most air purifiers that produce ozone often exceed the FDA’s restrictions.
- Remember that your purifier will only function efficiently with proper maintenance – Follow the manufacturer’s instruction for the care and proper use of your purifier. Be sure to change the filter regularly.
Our Air Purifier Reviews: Be sure to consider using an air purifier as well to eliminate ongoing sources of house odors. We put together the below guides to different type of air purifiers you can buy online, check them out for the best & highest quality air purifiers in each category.
Mistake #9: Using the Wrong Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuums can be powerful tools when working to reduce indoor contaminants, yet many homeowners don’t take advantage of them nearly enough.
Fibers are perfect hiding places for dust and other pollutants to settle in and be trapped.
Furniture, curtains, carpets, and more can build up with pollutants that are disturbed whenever someone sits but not knocked free.
The right vacuum tool can clear out any fibers in your home, but the wrong one will just make you think you’ve kept your home protected, while leaving plenty of dirt, grime, and other pollutants nestled deep in the fibers of your carpet or furniture.
Solution: Find the Right Vacuum for your Floors
When choosing a vacuum for your home, the first step is to find one with a powerful HEPA filter.
While most powerful vacuums will suck in dirt and pollen, HEPA filters help remove allergens and dust, reduce lead concentrations, and remove toxins like PBDEs (powerful brominated fire-retardant chemicals).
Aside from the HEPA filter, you also want a vacuum with strong suction and a rotating brush. These brushes help knock pollutants and debris free so that the vacuum can deliver them to the HEPA filter.
You should wash your filter and clean your vacuum regularly to keep it functioning at its prime.
High-traffic areas need to be vacuumed more often; move slowly and ensure that you cover all surfaces.
Even the best vacuum can kick up dirt and dust while running; if you experience allergy symptoms such as runny nose, coughing, sneezing, or watering eyes, consider taking an allergy supplement or wearing safety equipment like respirator masks or eye protectors.
Mistake #10: Not using your AC or HVAC to your Advantage
We can’t stress this enough: the air in your home is often more concentrated with pollutants than the air outside.
Circulation, filtration, and ventilation are key in improving your indoor air quality.
An easy way to accomplish all of this is with a good quality air conditioner.
Some window units have a vent you can open to increase the rate that air is cycled into and out of your home.
This faster circulation lowers the concentration of chemicals and pollutants in your home; while this doesn’t remove all of the allergens, it helps improve overall quality.
Air conditioners also help dry out the air in your home, allowing for better humidity control.
This helps keep your humidity levels below the threshold for mold and mildew growth.
As mentioned earlier in this guide, proper maintenance of your air conditioner is key in ensuring it performs at max efficiency.
This includes routine service, replacing filters, and regularly emptying the drip or evaporation tray.
Mistake #11: It’s Been Months if Not Years Since you’ve Had your HVAC System Inspected
When your heating and air conditioning unit isn’t functioning properly, everyone is miserable.
The most notable issue when your HVAC system isn’t performing optimally is climate control, but did you know that your HVAC unit also heavily influences air quality in your home?
Low airflow, excessive condensation, and higher energy consumption leads to a more expensive bill and a less healthy home.
Not only is your HVAC potentially wasting energy and driving up costs while not keeping up with your home’s demands, but it could also be causing damage in your home or belongings.
When an HVAC system stops circulating air properly in your home, pollutants and allergens can build up, and condensation and moisture settles in.
This condensation can lead to damage to your walls and floors, mold growth and more, all of which can result in costly repairs, while pollutants and allergens negatively affect your family’s health.
But it’s not just the act of heating, cooling and circulation that’s important.
If your unit uses gas to heat your home, then any failure in the lines can lead to dangerous leaks inside or around your home.
This can also trigger respiratory ailments such as asthma, and prolonged exposure can result in confusion, headaches, and dizziness.
Solution: Regular Inspections for Your HVAC
The solution here is simple: regular servicing of your HVAC unit.
Many heating and cooling experts offer this service to help keep your home running efficiently.
Depending on the provider of your choice, you can set up monthly, bi-monthly, bi-annual, or annual inspections at a set cost.
The service technician in charge of your inspections can alert you the moment your system begins to fail or show signs of distress, and help you find the best solution before the problem becomes unmanageable or expensive.
Mistake #12: Forgetting to Clean and/or Change Your Filters
Your heating and cooling system are responsible for the majority of air filtration and circulation in your home.
In addition to routine maintenance, you should also stay on top of the filtration.
Most HVAC units have a large air filter behind a vent somewhere in your walls.
Most of the air the unit pulls from your home passes through this vent, catching a majority of the pollutants in your air. The higher grade the filter, the more it can catch.
Filters can remove pet dander, allergens, smoke particles, and more from the air circulating your home.
Filters should be changed at least every 3-6 months; the US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends every 1-2 months.
If filters are allowed to operate when dirty and clogged, you will find the air quality in your home dropping drastically as allergens and pollutants are allowed to flow through your vents unhindered.
This can also lead to your HVAC unit working harder with less notice, skyrocketing your energy bills.
If you notice your allergies kicking in or your AC working at a lower efficiency, the first step is to check your filter and see if it needs to be replaced.
Remember that furnaces and heat pumps can also have their own filter.
Mistake #13: You Often Forget to Regularly Wash Bedding and Furniture
At the end of a long day, nothing feels better than to collapse into bed or on your sofa and just veg out.
But wait. What else is in there with you?
Depending on the day’s activities, you could be introducing a myriad of pollutants and allergens into your sheets.
Pet dander, pollen, dust, dust mites, even pests may have hitched a ride and snuggled down between the fibers.
They can then flare back up at the slightest disturbance, spreading further in your room and irritating your sinuses.
Solution: Routinely Wash Bedding and Furniture
What’s to be done?
The biggest step is to regularly wash your bed sheets, pillow covers, comforters, couch cushions—everything that is safe to go through the washing machine should be run through once a week to cut back on pollutants.
The hotter you can run the cycle, the better to kill off allergens.
For those items that can’t, consider investing in allergen remover sprays like Febreeze.
The liquid burrows down between fibers to find allergens where they hide and eliminate them, leaving behind a fresh, clean scent.
When it comes to your mattress, the best idea is to invest in a hypoallergenic mattress cover.
These surround your bed, providing an anti-allergen layer that both protects the mattress and rebuffs potential guests.
It can also keep any potential allergens currently inhabiting your mattress from reaching you or your sheets.
If a mattress cover isn’t to your fancy, consider purchasing a vacuum with a HEPA filter and giving your mattress a good vacuuming while your sheets are in the wash.
Mistake #14: Neglecting to Clean your Curtains
Think back: when was the last time you cleaned your curtains?
Our curtains are often neglected when discussing daily and weekly cleaning routines. Rarely are our curtains noticeably dirty like other areas in our homes.
They can also be a hassle to take down, clean, and re-hang— especially when they have complicated washing instructions (dry clean only, anyone?).
Curtains are the perfect hiding place for dust and pollen.
They also collect particles from various activities that you open your windows to ventilate.
Outdoor pollutants can also become trapped in the fibers.
While you needn’t wash your curtains as often as your bedding, you should make a point to clean them on a fairly regular basis.
A good habit would be to clean them twice a month.
This routine doesn’t need to involve a full take-down and wash; you could use a damp cloth to wipe down the curtains and spread out the time between full cleanings.
When you take down your curtains, take the time to also dust your blinds and clean the interiors of your windows.
Mistake #15: Ineffective Dusting Methods
Dusting. Just the mention of the word may cause asthmatics and allergy sufferers to cringe, or children to roll their eyes and groan.
It is one of those tasks that needs to happen, but few people actually enjoy it.
Unfortunately, this can lead to lackluster tactics.
When you use a rag for dusting, you’re often just pushing the dirt around instead of gathering it.
Sometimes it is simply unsettled, floating into the air and settling elsewhere in your home.
Even wet cloths and dusting chemicals can have poor results.
Proper technique is important when seeking to remove the dust rather than just re-settle it elsewhere.
The wet cloth method is more effective than dry dusting.
However, when you really want to pick up allergens and dust, you want to use a microfiber cloth instead of a regular rag.
Microfiber cloths are specifically manufactured to grab dust and other particles rather than simply pushing them around and occasionally wiping them up.
You can also find microfiber products with handles so that you can dust hard-to-reach areas like between blinds or on top of fan blades.
Microfiber cloths either need to be washed or rinsed on a regular basis, but the difference is easy to see— and breathe.
With proper dusting techniques, you will remove and dispose of dust and debris, cleaning your home and the air within.
Mistake #16: Not Mopping up AFTER Sweeping
If you have ever walked barefoot across a hard floor, you are more than likely familiar with the sensation of dust and dirt and fur and who knows what else sticking to the bottom of your feet.
Hard floors do not trap and accumulate debris and particles like carpet does, but they do build up debris faster because of this.
Sweeping can be visually satisfying as you watch dust and hair and dirt group together and vanish into your trash bin.
What you don’t see, however, are the microscopic bits of dust and dirt and debris that are settling back down on the floor.
Brooms are not optimal, though they are effective.
To get the most out of cleaning your floors, you need to chase after each sweeping session with a mop.
Wait at least 30 minutes after you sweep to start mopping; this lets the allergens kicked into the air settle once more.
You don’t need to use any chemicals unless you are disinfecting the floor (even then, you can start by adding vinegar to warm or hot water).
This is especially true with microfiber-based mops.
Some mops are not as effective at picking up particles, so make sure you research before you buy.
Mistake #17: You Regularly use “Harsh” Cleaning Products in Your Home
We’re all familiar with the idea of chores and housework.
Keeping our homes clean, sanitary, and safe for ourselves and our families.
But did you know that many of the cleaning products we use today have a harsh effect on indoor air quality?
Chemicals like Bleach, Lysol, and other strong cleaners harm the air around us.
Strong cleaners have their place for tough messes and heavy bacteria, but the less we rely on them to clean our homes, the better.
Solution: Find Safer Cleaning Alternatives
Luckily for us, other products are available to help with regular maintenance cleaning and lesser messes and bacteria issues.
To start, many companies have caught on to the consumer’s desire for eco-friendly products.
As such, they are offering more natural, gentle products to clean our homes. Specialty organic stores also offer green cleaners.
You can also look to the housewives of old for solutions. Baking soda, vinegar, and several other standard products make for excellent cleaners.
For drains, you can shake powdered baking soda into the drain before chasing it down with vinegar. This can power through several blockages, and you can avoid using harsh pipe cleaners.
Other solutions can take the place of laundry soap and softener, soaps, and more.
Pinterest and other internet resources are chock-full of recipes for anyone looking to live a greener lifestyle.
One word of caution: know your allergies.
Many natural solutions rely on plant-based products or do not contain hypoallergenic and sensitive skin considerations.
Be sure to perform due diligence before trying any recipe and keep an eye out for any reactions the first time you use it.
Mistake #18: Improper Handling of CFL Bulbs
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) are great for improving the energy efficiency of your home, but they come with a risk.
CFLs contain traces of mercury, a neurotoxin. If one of these bulbs breaks, it can have devastating effects on your health.
Pregnant women, especially, should leave the room instantly and let someone else clean up the break.
If a CFL bulb breaks in your home, don’t panic. Send any pets and extra persons out of the room, and ensure the thermostat is temporarily turned off.
Wait 5-10 minutes before returning to the room to clean up the bulb.
- Disposable wet wipes for hard surfaces
- Damp paper towels for carpeted areas or furniture
- Cardboard or stiff paper
- A puncture-proof container (like a glass jar)
- Duct tape (or other sticky tape)
The first step is to use the cardboard or stiff paper to scoop up large pieces of glass and powder.
Next, use the tape top pick up the remaining fragments and powder.
Place the used tape inside the puncture-proof container.
Next, use the wipes to remove any potential particles; for carpet, pat the area with the damp paper towel.
You may wish to vacuum, but do so only after the other steps are complete. Ventilate the area well while you work, and consider leaving your HVAC off for a few hours.
If you wish to clean up your energy use without the risk of CFL bulbs, LED lights are much safer and tend to last longer.
They run at a lower wattage than regular bulbs while still producing the same amount of light.
Mistake #19: Ignoring Toxic Electric Fumes
Remember that ‘new’ smell we discussed earlier?
I’ll bet you’ve noticed a similar sensation when bringing home new technology.
The smell that clings to a new gaming console, radio, phone, etc.
I bet you can guess what I’m going to say next!
Yup, it’s toxic. Electronics and plastic products emit phthalates, which create a unique smell. These are dangerous because they can lead to reproductive issues and are linked to hormonal abnormalities.
Many plastics also contain flame-retardants; while these are helpful for safety in the event of a fire, they also emit polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).
PBDEs have been linked to neurobehavioral changes in animals.
The best way to protect yourself from these fumes is to resist the urge to immediately use your new tech.
Instead, take it out of the box in a well-ventilated area and let it sit for a day or so.
Try to wait until the smell has faded before using the product.
This isn’t always possible, and other times temptation will win out (looking at you, Switch), but the longer you can wait, the safer you will be while enjoying your new item.
If you have a HEPA vacuum filter, this can help remove PBDEs and other dangerous particles.
Vacuuming regularly in areas with printers, computers, and television sets can help minimize the amount of these harmful particles in your home.
Mistake #20: Unwittingly Turning your Pillows into an Allergy-Inducing Nightmare
Yes, we already discussed your bedding.
But you may have been wondering what to do with your pillows.
Many find washing pillows difficult due to their bulky size and the potential to throw washers and dryers off-balance.
Yet failing to wash them weekly, and even just the material they are made out of makes them an attractant for pollen, dust, dust mites and more.
Solution: Invest in Hypoallergenic Pillows
Unlike traditional pillows, hypoallergenic pillows are made with synthetic materials that are less likely to cause allergic reactions; they also repel dust and allergens because they are completely sealed.
No mildew or dust can accumulate when you sleep.
If you aren’t interested in new pillows, consider hypoallergenic pillow covers.
These slip over your current pillows like a regular pillowcase, only they completely encase the pillow and behave similarly to hypoallergenic pillows.
To wash them, simply slip the case off and toss it in the wash with your bedding.
For aesthetics, you can still slip pillowcases and shams over the covers.
Mistake #21: Using Artificial or Synthetically Fragranced Products
Fresh and clean have been inextricably linked to scent.
People have come to link a house the smell good with certain scents, like lemon or fresh cotton, to the cleanliness of a home and the quality of its air.
To an extent, this can be true.
However, most products gain these scents through artificial means involving several harsh chemicals.
Cleaners, laundry products, beauty sprats, and more use chemical gasses to mimic the fresh scent while releasing dangerous fumes into your home.
Perfumes, hair sprays, and certain air fresheners especially are reluctant to fully divulge their recipes and what causes the scent— many ingredient lists will simply state “fragrance.”
While this is meant to protect company secrets, it also keeps the information away from consumers.
If you have ever reacted to a strong scent, then you were actually reacting to the petrochemicals causing said scent.
These products are required to be tested for safety, but often the safety considered is skin contact or eye irritation, not lung irritation.
To protect your home and family, look for products that are non-scented, mild, or naturally scented.
You can also use baking soda to eliminate odors and fresh lemon to create a clean, pleasant, safe scent.
Many people are discovering the joys of natural candles and diffusing essential oils to improve the scent of their home with minimal danger.
Mistake #22: New Furniture, New Problems
“That New Car Smell.” We all know it.
You’ve purchased a new piece of furniture or moved to replace your carpets, and the new items emit that ‘new’ smell.
It defies description, yet the mention of it brings that scent to mind.
I’ve got some bad news for you: that smell is toxic.
Most new items give off the smell of their factory or production line, and many of these involve formaldehyde and other harsh chemicals.
Before bringing these items into your home, it’s best to let them air out in a sheltered area.
If this is not an option, be sure to ventilate your home and destination room until the smell fades.
Without proper aeration, you risk reactions such as eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation; fatigue; coughing and wheezing; and other, more severe reactions.
You can also keep these fumes out of your home with a little due diligence when shopping.
Look for formaldehyde-free and low VOC options; if you are having carpet installed, check with various service providers and see who offers a formaldehyde-free adhesive.
Exterior-grade pressed wood for home renovations uses phenol resins, emitting lower levels of formaldehyde.
Once new carpets or furniture or home renovations have been completed, continue to air out the room for 2-3 days while fumes dissipate.
Mistake #23: Failing to Have your Home Inspected for Asbestos
For years, asbestos was the go-to material for new construction.
Manufacturers put the miracle mineral in insulation, homes, audio equipment, military equipment, and more.
Why? Because this fibrous material was amazing: fire-retardancy, chemical resistance, powerful insulation, and more.
Unfortunately, we weren’t aware of the dangers.
Mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer.
These and other related diseases have a long period of latency, so the risks for using asbestos simply weren’t known.
As the knowledge began to spread, companies started setting aside trust funds and seeking bankruptcies to avoid lawsuits, and families were left to deal with the fallout.
These families are no longer alone.
Attorney offices across the US and the globe have taken up the call to arms to help victims and their families.
Slowly but surely, asbestos has been all-but removed from the global market.
Solution: Find and Eliminate Asbestos (with professional help)
But what about the asbestos already out there?
After all, it’s a naturally occurring mineral, and it was widely used for years.
Asbestos can still be found in textured paints, asbestos shingles, millboards, floor tiles, pipe and furnace insulation, and more. It can also be found in older homes and products.
If you live in an older home or know for certain there is asbestos near or within your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself.
Cutting into, sanding, or other remodeling techniques can release asbestos fibers into the air and put you at risk.
Call an expert to have the asbestos removed.
If you live in an older home and are concerned about the possibility of asbestos, these same experts can test materials in your home and detect the presence of asbestos.
Mistake #24: Assuming your Home is Safe from Radon
Radom is a radioactive gas that is both odorless and colorless.
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US, with many cases being terminal.
If you live in a radon-rich home and smoke cigarettes, then you are especially at risk.
So where does Radon come from?
It can seep into your basement from the ground, track in on shoes or clothes, or waft in open windows and doors.
The natural decay of uranium leads to radon, which takes place within soil, water, and rock. Miners are the most affected, spending weeks underground at a time; many mining locations test positive for radon.
Radon is indiscriminate. It can be in basements, old homes, drafty homes, and new homes.
Solution: Test for Radon
The best approach is proactive: find an EPA-approved radon testing kit (The EPA recommends several on their website). You can also hire a contractor to test for you.
And the good news is that testing is simple and affordable.
Pending the results of the test, you can take steps to lower the presence of radon in your home.
The best approach is to discuss options with a professional in your area, as they will have tactics and special training to help.
Mistake #25: Neglecting your Basement
With so much to keep track of as a homeowner, it can be all too easy to miss areas when it comes to cleaning and protecting your home.
Often, basements are one of these areas.
You may or may not spend a lot of time in your basement, but how often do you actually inspect it for any issues or moisture?
Basements can be ideal breeding grounds for mold and mildew. Cracks in your foundation can allow moisture to seep in.
Even if your basement is separated from the rest of your house with a door, these harmful plants can still circulate toxins through your HVAC system and flow into the rest of your home with the door is open.
Step one is to check the foundation for cracks and crevices and inspect your basement for areas that are gathering moisture.
If your basement has issues with moisture, consider installing a sub-pump to pump water out of your home quickly and efficiently.
Dehumidifiers may also prove useful.
If you are planning on renovations or finishing your basement, ensure that all leaks are properly patched and that no damage is hiding beneath the surface before covering it further.
Also, ensure that your basement has adequate heat and ventilation.
Like the rest of your home, an ideal humidity level is 30-50%.
Further Reading: If you want to know more about the dangers of moisture, mold and mildew in a basement, read our guide below.
Mistake #26: Tracking Contaminants Indoors
Did you know that 80% of homes in the US test positive for pesticides?
Pesticides are one of the most dangerous primary indoor pollutants.
Overexposure can lead to several health issues including muscle spasms, headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and lethargy.
If allowed to continue, the long-term exposure can lead to an increased risk of cancer and damage to the central nervous system.
The simple task of a stroll through your park or neighborhood could lead to health issues if you track debris inside.
Pesticides, while the most dangerous, are not the only pollutant you can track inside.
Dirt, debris, allergens, danders, and more can hitch a ride on your shoes.
More dangerous areas can carry the risk of lead dust.
All of these can lead to allergies, asthmatic reactions, and an overall dirty home.
Solution: Remove Shoes & Keep Towels by the Door
A major step to protecting your home is to insist that family and visitors remove their shoes upon entering.
This may seem like an inconvenience, but it helps reduce the number of allergens, pollutants, and debris spread in your home.
A secondary step could be placing mats at each entrance and insisting shoes be wiped off.
This solution is not as effective at keeping out contaminants as removing shoes, but it will knock off any loose dirt or debris and reduce the amount of tracking.
If you have pets, tracking pollutants indoors can become even more of an issue.
Keep an animal towel near your door and give your pooch a quick wipe down to knock off dirt and debris.
Make sure they are up to date on pest control solutions to avoid ticks and fleas hitching a lift into your home.
Pro Tip: If you have pets check out our article How to get rid of dog smell if you want a detailed step by step guide to getting the smell of dog out of your house before running a pet air purifier to keep the smell away!
Mistake #27: Keep Some Types of Hobbies and Activities Outdoors
Paint, glue, spray paint, woodworking…these are just a sample of hobby items that can lead to increased pollution in your home.
Ventilation can help with fumes, and cleaning up after yourself can help with debris, but you can protect your home even better by performing tasks outside.
Whether you’re working to renovate your home or on a hobby that makes your heart sing, be aware of the effects your tasks can have on your home.
Cosplayers, for instance, regularly apply spray paints to props and heavy-duty hairsprays and glues to hold wigs into gravity-defying styles.
Home improvement tasks like repainting doors or building carpentry items like cabinets can lead to fumes and sawdust.
Paints are especially dangerous, as they all emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
VOCs can cause symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Latex paints are safer than oil-based paints, as they emit fewer fumes when wet, but they still give off VOCs when drying.
Hobbyists especially should be aware of the supplies their task requires, as many can give off VOCs like paint and others contain dangerous compounds such as neurotoxins or formaldehyde.
Other dangerous items include adhesive removers, aerosol paints, and paint strippers.
These often contain methylene chloride, which has been linked to cancer in animals.
Solution: Go outside or take precautions
If you must work indoors, take proper precautions: ensure the area is thoroughly ventilated by opening windows and doors and making use of exhaust fans or regular fans pointed through doors and windows to circulate out the bad air.
Keep all ventilation precautions in place until you are done, supplies are properly sealed or disposed of, and everything is dry.
Even if you work outside, you should wear a respirator mask and other safety accessories to protect yourself.
We want to thank you for taking the time to read this quide.
It is our hope that it will help you live a healthier, happier life.
May it help you improve the quality of your air and life.
The next step is to start following the advice listed in the chapters. Some of these only take a few minutes of time but can save you a lifetime of health complications.
It’s time to take control of your air quality for yourself, your family, and your pets.
Further Reading: Looking For More Information About Home Cleaning? Check These Articles Out!
- Best Pumps For A Flooded Basement
- Have A Flooded House? (Here Are Your Next Steps)
- The Truth About Buying the Cheapest Flood Insurance
- How To Get Rid Of Musty Smell In Basement
- How To Make Your House Smell Good
- 27 Indoor Air Quality Mistakes That Hurt Your Health
- 25 Best Essential Oil Diffusers for Aromatherapy