Perhaps the American Lung Association puts it best when it states that poor indoor air quality causes or contributes to infection, chronic lung ailments like asthma and even lung cancer. As it also notes, polluted indoor air brings on uncomfortable symptoms like headache, nasal congestion, dry eyes, nausea and exhaustion. In the United States, 40 million people suffer from allergies, including many here in the Griffith, Munster, Highland, St. John, Schererville and Gary areas. Those who already have lung disease and allergies are at greatest risk from poor in-home air quality, but no one needs this type of challenge to good health. Here are some simple steps you can take to increase your indoor air quality by decreasing allergens in your environment, room by room:
Allergy Proofing Your Bedroom
- Bedding: Use synthetic bedding and dust-mite-proof pillow covers, mattress covers and box spring casings. Wash bedding once per week in hot water (130 degrees or above).
- Air filtration: Choose a quality, highly effective air filter, and adjust your A/C or fan to direct clean air toward your head as you sleep.
- Pets: Keep pets out of your bedroom if possible.
Living Room Dust and Dander Dampeners
- Plants: Try spreading aquarium gravel/stones over the dirt to help hold down dust/mold in indoor plants.
- Fireplace: Avoid wood-burning stoves or fireplaces, because smoke, combustion debris and gasses make allergies worse. Opt for a natural gas fireplace.
Kitchen Allergen Reduction
- Stove: Install an exhaust fan, vented outside, to clear out cooking fumes, airborne debris and moisture.
- Sink: Wash dishes daily. Scrub faucets and sink regularly.
- Refrigerator: Wipe up excessive moisture to prevent mold growth. Toss out moldy and other old food. Clean/replace rubber seals around doors, which can become moldy.
- Cabinets and countertops: Clean with soap and water. Store bulk food in sealed containers.
- Trash: Use a securely closing, insect-proof garbage can, emptying it daily. Clean up food crumbs to help prevent rodents or roaches.
For an Allergen-Free Bathroom
- Ventilation: Use your exhaust fan while taking baths/showers.
- Walls: Choose tile rather than wallpaper–or paint your walls with mold-resistant enamel-based paint.
- Shower and/or bathtub: Towel-dry your tub and shower area after use. Replace moldy shower curtains and bath mats.
Keeping the Basement Allergy-Free
- Floor: Use concrete or vinyl flooring, and remove any moldy, water-damaged carpeting.
- Foundation, stairs, windows: Inspect the areas regularly for leaks. Find and fix the source, if any.
- Localized air quality: Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness as needed, and clean the device weekly—or use a whole-house dehumidifier.
- Storage: Store clothes and other not-often-used items in plastic storage bins or zipper bags.
- Clothes dryer: Make sure it’s properly vented to the outdoors.
Anti-Allergen Tips for the Whole House
- Temperature/humidity: To avoid dust mite and mold problems, aim for a steady 70-degree thermostat setting with humidity below 50 percent.
- Floor coverings: Choose hardwood or vinyl floors and/or washable area rugs. At the very least, choose low-pile carpet, vacuuming weekly with a HEPA filter equipped vacuum, and shampoo often.
- Window coverings: Use washable curtains and blinds of plain cotton or synthetic material. Replace plastic blinds with washable roller shades.
- Windows: Keep them closed, and use air conditioning during pollen season.
- Furniture: Choose easy-to-clean furnishings: wood, metal or plastic chairs, dressers and nightstands. Avoid upholstered cloth furniture.
- Clutter: Clear away dust collectors, knickknacks, tabletop decor and books. Store toys and stuffed animals in plastic chests/bins.
- Pets: Keep pets outside if weather permits, and bathe them twice weekly to reduce dander and shedding.
- Weekly cleaning: Mop vinyl or wood floors, and vacuum carpeted areas with a HEPA-filtered vacuum. Wearing a dust mask, clean other surfaces with damp cloths—don’t forget tops of doors, windowsills and frames.
- Pests: Control insects, roaches and mice with hardware store traps, or hire a professional exterminator. Remove all insect and/or rodent residue, vacuum carpet and scrub hard surfaces. Seal any cracks, drafts, small holes in walls or flooring and other possible sources of entry.
- Air cleaner: Consider an electronic air cleaner to improve indoor air quality.
- Mold: Use your air conditioning and dehumidifier, closing exterior doors and windows in hot weather. Replace contaminated materials like carpeting. Clean any moldy, nonporous, washable materials with 5 percent chlorine bleach while wearing a protective mask. Check for the source of leaks in plumbing pipes, roof and ceilings regularly–and repair promptly.
- Smoking: Don’t allow it in your house.
For professional assistance and advice about indoor air quality in your home, contact Meyer’s. Our team has served homeowners in the Griffith, Munster, Highland, St. John, Schererville and Gary areas for more than 60 years.