With cooler temperatures in the forecast and the continued threat of the coronavirus, it looks like more homeowners than ever will be staying inside this fall.
And because we’ve been stuck staring at the same four walls, tackling improvement projects has become a priority, from finally organizing the garage to putting in a backyard pool. What’s the next thing that needs improving? Your home’s air quality.
“The particular virus that causes COVID-19 is made worse by the presence of pollution in the home, so reducing indoor air pollutants is more important than ever, especially if you have a respiratory issue or immune-compromising condition,” says Jamie Gold, certified kitchen designer, wellness coach, and author of “Wellness by Design.”
Not only can irritating pollutants waft through the air, they’re also known to lurk in carpets, bedding, dryer vents, and upholstery.
These hidden allergens include mold, mildew, and dust mites, says Jason Kapica, president of Dryer Vent Wizard.
Fortunately, installing an air purifier can help your family breathe more freely. Here’s more about adding a purifier, including where to put it, plus some smart cleaning tips for the freshest home air possible.
Find a quality purifier
Gold recommends seeking out a purifier with HEPA filtration and then matching the machine’s capacity to the size of your room.
A seal from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers is also recommended, adds David Bloom, chief science officer of Green Home Solutions.
The model featured above ($100, Wayfair) fits the bill as it covers up to 200 square feet of living space and is designed to remove pollen, cigarette smoke, pet odors, dust, and viruses.
Change filters regularly
Air quality experts recommend cleaning your purifier and changing out the filter at least once a month, though it’s also wise to follow the instructions for your appliance.
“Pros suggest that if your system is cycling longer than usual, if your home is dusty, or if you can see buildup on the filter when you remove the cover, then it’s time to change it,” says Gold.
The small but mighty model above ($70, Wayfair) is easy to use since the built-in filter indicator lets you know when it’s time to take out the dirty one. And the motor has a very quiet whir, which means it’s ideal for a bedroom, baby nursery, or dorm setting.
Match rooms with purifiers
When deciding where to put an air purifier, prioritize your spaces, starting with your bedrooms, living room, and home office (or at-home work area). Why? These are the places where you spend the most time.
“Often, the manufacturer’s room size claims are overstated, so if you’re in doubt, go a size up,” Bloom says. And always note the product’s energy usage and noise level.
“Air purifiers need to run continuously, so if the one you want is very noisy or expensive to use, you’ll turn it on less and then defeat the purpose of owning one,” he adds.
We like the larger air filter above ($160, Amazon) because it can filter your home’s air in a space that’s up to 300 square feet, and it comes with a washable pre-filter that picks up larger bits like pet hair and dirt.
Watch: Cleaning Dryer Vents: It Has to Be Done, and Here’s How
Pay attention to dryer vents
Photo by Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design
Think running the laundry isn’t connected to air quality? Guess again. Plugged dryer vents are a big no-no if you’re trying to protect your family’s lungs.
“When a dryer vent is clogged, it causes water to pool inside, and when that moisture is combined with warm temperatures, the result is mold and mildew spores in the air,” says Kapica.
The fix: Clean that sucker out by removing dusty gray deposits by hand and then running your vacuum along the inner portion of the vent with a hose attachment.
Vacuum every week (or more)
Photo by Closets by McKenry
Up your vacuuming routine to a couple of times a week if you want to keep the air at home fresh.
“Vacuuming can keep dust, mites, dirt, and other particles from being kicked into the air and carried by household members,” says Gold.
Just be sure to pick a vacuum with true HEPA filtration, or you’ll be spewing more particulates into the air than you end up removing.
Add plants to decor
Photo by Westlake Development Group, LLC
Plants are natural air scrubbers, helping to filter out impurities such as formaldehyde and carbon monoxide. So consider placing English ivy, gerbera daisies, spider plants, and peace lilies on your side tables or bookshelf.
As a general rule of thumb, one plant per 100 square feet of floor space will clean the air in an average-size home of about 1,800 square feet, says Ana Cummings of the eponymous design firm.
Keep pets on the floor
Photo by Oliver Designs
Sorry, Fido, no sleeping on the couch or beds—your pet dander can do a number on a home’s air quality. Be sure to toss pet toys in the wash every week and consider low-pile rugs or bare floors so pet fur and other particles don’t become embedded.
Encourage good air circulation
Photo by Fan Diego – The Ceiling Fan Stores
Your mother is right: Fresh air may cure what ails you. In this case, it’s excess pollen, mold, and dust. By keeping the air moving in your home’s rooms, you’ll be helping to prevent the buildup of these allergens.
“With more of us home-schooling and working from home, indoor carbon dioxide levels will increase, so simply cracking a window at either ends of the home can make a big difference,” says Bloom.
“And while designers are not often fans of the ceiling fan, if you do you have one, it’s good to use it to keep your air circulating,” says Cummings.