Unwelcome Tenants: Clean Up Indoor Air Pollution
by guest writer, Charlotte Meier
A home is a safe haven. It’s where you go for comfort; it’s where you seek refuge. It’s where you belong. Still, your home may be hiding different elements that can make you and your loved ones sick. Lurking in hard to reach or forgotten areas lay molds, microbes, dust mites, and other bacteria that can be a source of symptoms as minor as throat irritation and illnesses as serious as lung cancer. It can even cause chronic pain inflammation. In fact, over 2 million people die each year from indoor air pollution. So how do you look for it, where do you look for it, and what do you do to eliminate it? Check out the tips below.
How Do You Test For It?
There are benefits and drawbacks between outsourcing your home testing to various companies or performing the tests yourself. Hiring professionals means more money out of your pocket, but their inspections are more thorough. If you’re looking for a quick or relatively cheaper way to find out what nemeses occupy your home, there are kits and tests for them. Here are some of the things to be on the lookout for:
- Mold: Heed the advice of Toucan Sam. “Follow nose, wherever it goes” is the primary way to test for mold in the home. Mold leaves a distinctive, stale smell. If performing a home test, use an outdoor sample to compare your indoor results. If the levels from inside are lower, then most likely you do not have a problem.
- Carbon Monoxide: Get a device that detects increases in carbon monoxide inside the home. Because your car is a primary source for the deadly gas, it is a good idea to install the device in the room closest to the garage.
- Radon: The test that is most readily available is a charcoal canister. If results come back higher than 4 pCi/liter of air, summon a professional to do a more comprehensive test.
The Sources, and the Solutions
There are many unlikely places where these hazardous pollutants reside. Below are some of the most common sources.
- Bedding and Furniture: Dust mites love being close to you, so you will find them in the places where you spend the most time. Things like older mattresses, bed sheets, or your comfiest chair in the living room contain dust mites. To combat this inevitable problem, you have to clean every week. Start by vacuuming your carpets and furniture, and wash your towels and sheets, especially your pillowcases. The hot water kills the dust mites.
- Heating and Cooling: Not every home has this problem, but one of the worst offenders for housing bacteria and mold is your HVAC, largely because of the dampness and darkness. This issue needs to be fixed by professional cleaners every other year.
- The ‘Fridge: It is obvious to clean the shelves and containers inside the refrigerator, but the coils on the back need to be cleaned as well. A lot of refrigerators have a tray that catches melted frost and seeping food remnants, which is another source of mold. Clean inside, behind, under, and, ok, just all around your refrigerator. Be sure to turn off the power to your refrigerator beforehand.
- Cleaners: Ok, it makes sense to check your air conditioner or your refrigerator, but the actual cleaning equipment and products themselves? Your vacuum takes care of cleaning up most messes, but if you don’t have a high efficiency, particulate air or HEPA, filter, then a lot of the bacteria is getting re-released into the air as soon as it gets sucked up. Also, many of the household products you use can cause symptoms like headaches and eye irritation because you misuse them. Wear gloves, only use the suggested amount, and when you’re cleaning, open the windows to ventilate the air. You can also mix your own home cleaning remedies like vinegar and water, baking soda, or the classic soap and water.
Take back your home from unwanted bacteria and harmful substances, and feel the ultimate comfort again in your safe haven.