Before 2020, most people didn’t think much about the air quality in their homes. This pandemic has raised new questions about how we can keep our homes as clean and safe as possible – including the air. The truth is that air quality affects our health more than we realize. The Environmental Protection Agency says that people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. It is important that the air we breathe at this time is as fresh and unpolluted as possible.

We often don’t realize how the air affects us until it becomes a health issue. Bad air can cause headaches, earaches, nose and throat, and dizziness. More serious side effects can include respiratory disease and cancer. If you’re looking to reduce the impact of bad air on your family’s health, try these steps:

Remove contaminants

The first step to improving the air quality in your home is to find out where the pollution is coming from. Sometimes, it’s easy – for example, if you paint, you can take your paint and supplies home.

At other times, however, the harmful effects are invisible. Scented candles, diffusers, and air conditioners are some of the worst things that affect indoor air quality. Many contain volatile organic compounds or volatile organic compounds such as toluene, benzene and formaldehyde. These can wreak havoc on your health, causing stress and headaches. Many cleaning products also contain volatile organic compounds. Test your favorite products to see if they are positively impacting your air quality.

Smog is one of the most common indoor pollutants. Ideally, you should stop smoking, but if you can’t, avoid smoking indoors. Even if it’s wet, cold, or uncomfortable outside, take a smoke break outside. Make sure doors and windows are closed when you smoke – you don’t want to inadvertently blow smoke back in.

Replace the AC filter

HVAC systems work overtime to create the perfect temperature for your home year-round. As they circulate in the air, they remove many pollutants from the air. However, when these filters become clogged, they stop working, leading to air conditioning maintenance. This can cause problems with the air conditioning system and make the air in the room unhealthy. By changing your filters regularly, you can help keep your system up to date while reducing many types of common indoor air pollutants.

When it comes to changing your AC filter, don’t stop there – if you really want to improve the air quality in your home, make sure to check the filters in all your appliances. Dryers and vents should be checked and maintained regularly, as should your vacuum cleaner. By cleaning or replacing these home filters every few months, you can set yourself up for the cleanest indoor air.

Reduce moisture

A strong smell in the house can be a serious red flag. This usually indicates the type of water damage to your home. Water has a way to escape from foundations, basements, and attics. By the time you smell it, it’s probably already spoiled.

Since humidity can cause respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and asthma attacks, it is important to address this issue as soon as possible. You can reduce humidity by using a dehumidifier and opening windows, but these are often just Band-Aid solutions.

If you need to reduce humidity and control odors, you must find and eliminate damp areas in your home. Water damage repair is an uphill battle, but not an impossible task. Check your fixtures first to see if there are any obvious problems. Fires, sinks, toilets, sprinklers, hot water, and sewers are the main sources of leaks. Water can get in until you fix these problems.

Improve ventilation

Clean air can improve air quality. If possible, open a window to let the air flow freely—as long as the air outside is clean and low in pollen, of course. You can also buy an air purifier to help improve the air quality. A HEPA filter removes 99% of harmful particles from the air. They are good for reducing allergens such as pet dander, volatile organic compounds, smoke, and excess carbon dioxide.

Indoor plants also help improve air quality. Peace lilies and common ivy have been shown to reduce the positive effects of organic compounds on indoor plants. Be careful if you have pets in your home—many houseplants are poisonous to curious cats and dogs, who may want to bite.

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Always use kitchen and bathroom fans

Every kitchen should have a vacuum cleaner. Use it when cooking to help remove particles and gasses from the air. Make sure you always use this fan, especially when cooking on a gas stove. Gasoline heaters and stoves release carbon monoxide, which can make you sick.

Your bathroom should also have a fan. It absorbs the warm water, along with any other contaminants that float to the surface. Always turn it off during a steam bath or shower, and also when using cleaning products that contain bleach.