According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend around 90% of their time indoors. Unfortunately for us, the concentration of pollutants can be two to five times higher inside than outside. And in recent years, the usage of certain building materials, cleaning agents, pesticides, and personal care products has had a noticeably negative effect on the quality of the air inside our homes and in other buildings.
For young children, older adults, and those with pronounced respiratory conditions or other diseases, the problem is especially pronounced; people belonging to these demographics are likely to spend even more time indoors. And while older homes are often thought to be worse for allergy sufferers, research shows that newer homes (and even those that are meant to be more eco-friendly) may be just as bad. Although the U.S. construction market was worth $1,162 billion in 2016, many of the materials used simply aren’t high-quality enough to offset respiratory issues. So what can you do to create a low-allergen home? These tips might help to provide some much-needed relief.
If you’re building your home from the ground up, you’ll have some control over the materials used in the construction — and that can make a huge difference in your respiratory comfort. You’ll want to ensure that the construction materials used are free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde. Plywood, adhesives, plaster, drywall, flooring materials, and paints may contain harmful VOCs and other components you won’t want to have in your home. Over time, the release of these VOCs can cause unnecessary discomfort and undesirable symptoms. Since children who have multiple allergic symptoms are twice as likely to develop other allergic sensitivities if they’re exposed to a specific subset of VOCs known as PGEs (propylene glycol and glycol ethers), you’ll want to pay close attention to labeling and certifications during the construction and decoration process.
In other cases, you may not have complete control over the construction elements that already exist in your home. While you can certainly replace your flooring or make other cosmetic changes to improve air quality, you may also need to take a closer look at your personal habits. Many common household cleaning products contain VOCs. That means you’re actually making your home dirtier when you use these cleaning agents. Air fresheners and cleaning wipes, for instance, emit a substantial amount of VOCs into the air when they’re used to “freshen” one’s home. Glass and wood sprays also release these harmful chemicals. While you might not always be able to completely avoid them, you should take care to shop for eco-friendly cleaning materials that contain no VOCs (or DIY your own cleaning supplies) to ensure your home is truly clean and healthy.
Clean and Declutter Often
Now that you understand that not all cleaning agents are created equal, you’ll be able to tidy your home more effectively without risking the health of your family. As long as you aren’t using products that contain VOCs, you should take care to clean your home frequently in order to reduce allergens and other contaminants.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that you wash bed linens, blankets, and floor rugs once per week in hot water to remove germs, allergens, and contaminants. Establish a weekly cleaning routine that involves vacuuming, mopping, and dusting (with a damp cloth, not a traditional feather duster). If you suffer from allergies yourself, you’ll want to wear a face mask while doing these chores. You should also wash dishes on a daily basis, wipe down all countertops and sinks, and invest in furniture and draperies that are easy to clean. Decluttering is also important, as dust and other allergens can easily build up in messy spaces. Although cleaning up may not be your favorite activity, it’s better to make it part of your daily routine than to allow the job become so colossal that you suffer negative physical and mental effects as a result.
Focus on Your HVAC
Your heating and cooling system may play a big role in your physical comfort — in more ways than one. Having proper ventilation is key for a low-allergen home, as this can prevent excess humidity and contaminant built-up. Speaking of humidity, remember that overly humid environments are more likely to breed mold. You may want to keep your thermostat set to a lower temperature to prevent your home from being too humid — and if you live in a humid environment, you’ll want to invest in a dehumidifier. Adding an air purifier may also be a smart choice for those with allergies. Make sure to switch out your HVAC air filters regularly and invest in ones that are deemed to be the highest quality, as these are the best choices for those with respiratory issues.
You may not ever be able to create a home that’s completely free of allergies. After all, you’ll have to open your doors and windows at some point! But if you keep these tips in mind, you should be able to be a lot more comfortable throughout the year and alleviate some of the worst respiratory symptoms your family might otherwise experience.