If you have an air quality issue in your home, you may not be sure what to do first. We understand—it can be a very overwhelming problem to have, especially if the news came as an unpleasant surprise.
We’ve put together some suggestions and actions you can take to improve the air quality in each part of your home.
For Your Living Area
Since pressed-wood furniture, cabinetry and paneling may release formaldehyde gas, ask about their formaldehyde content before you purchase them. Or, consider purchasing pressed-wood products with phenol resin or coated in polyurethane or laminates because they may reduce formaldehyde emissions. Open your windows after installation, and maintain a moderate temperature and humidity in your home.
Biological pollutants can grow on water-damaged carpet, so if you’re carpet has any type of water damage, promptly clean it or remove it altogether. If you decide to replace it, open your doors and windows during the install, and use window fans or room air conditioners. Be sure to vacuum your carpet regularly. Even better, consider using area rugs instead of wall-to-wall carpet because they are easier to remove and clean, and the floor underneath can also be cleaned.
If you notice asbestos in your floor tiles, do not cut, rip, sand or remove any asbestos-containing materials. If you plan to make changes that might disturb the asbestos, or if materials are more than slightly damaged, contact a professional for repair or removal. Call your local or state health department or the Environmental Protection Agency.
New draperies may be treated with a formaldehyde-based finish and emit odors for a short time. Ventilate the draperies before you hang them to eliminate odors. After hanging, be sure to ventilate the area and maintain moderate temperature and humidity in the room.
Paint manufactured before l978 may contain lead, so leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. If you have to remove paint, test for lead with do-it-yourself lead test kits available from hardware and building supply stores. Do not sand, burn off or remove lead-based paint yourself. Hire a person with special training to correct lead-based paint problems. For more information, call 1-800-LEAD-FYI.
Your fireplace can be a source of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. Have the flue and chimney inspected annually for exhaust back drafting, flue obstructions, cracks, excess creosote, and other damage. Make sure the flue is open when you are using it, and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home.
For Your Kitchen
Unhealthy and irritating vapors may be released from chemicals in household cleaners and similar products. To reduce exposure, selectnon-aerosol and non-toxic products. Use, apply, store and dispose of them according to manufacturers’ directions. If products are concentrated, label the storage container with dilution instructions. Finish a product completely before discarding its container.
Pressed-wood cabinets can be a source of formaldehyde vapor. Maintain moderate temperatures (80 degrees maximum) and humidity (about 45%). When purchasing new cabinets, select solid wood or metal cabinets, or those made with phenol resin because they emit less formaldehyde. Be sure to ventilate your room well after the cabinets are installed.
Unvented gas stoves and ranges are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. Keep appliance burners clean, and have them periodically adjusted (blue-flame tip, not yellow). Install and use an exhaust fan, and never use a gas range or stove to heat your home.
For Your Bathroom
Personal Care Products
Organic gases are released from chemicals in some personal care products, such as deodorant, hair spray, shampoo, toner, nail polish and perfumes. To reduce exposure from these products, select non-aerosol varieties that are odor-free or produce low odors. Follow the manufacturers’ directions when using the product and disposing of containers. Open a window, or use an exhaust fan.
Air fresheners can release organic gases. Select natural products and follow manufacturers’ directions. Open a window or use the exhaust fan in the room.
For Your Bedroom
Humidifiers and cold-mist vaporizers can encourage biological allergens, including mold, mildew and cockroaches that can trigger asthma, spread viruses and grow bacteria. Use and clean these appliances according to manufacturers’ directions, and refill daily with fresh water.
Moth repellents often contain the pesticide paradichlorobenzene. Place them in tightly sealed trunks or other containers and store separately, away from living areas.
Chemicals used in the dry-cleaning process release organic gases. Bring any odors to the attention of your dry cleaner. Try to air out dry-cleaned goods before bringing them indoors. Consider hand washing your items or using green dry cleaners that use newer, non-toxic solvents and methods to clean garments.
For Your Laundry Room
Unvented gas clothes dryers produce carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts and can be a fire hazard. Regularly dispose of lint around and under the dryer, and clean the lint trap, vent and ductwork regularly. Provide air for gas units and vent the dryer directly to the outdoors.
For Your Basement
Ground moisture encourages biological allergens, including mold and mildew. Inspect your basement for condensation on walls, standing water on the floor, and sewage leaks. To prevent outside water from entering the basement, install roof gutters and downspouts, don’t water too close to the foundation, grade soil away from the home, and apply waterproofing sealants to the basement’s interior walls.
To prevent the accumulation of standing water, consider installing a sump pump. If sewage is the source of water intrusion, have the drains professionally cleaned.
If you notice mold or mildew in the basement floor or drain, it can be easily removed with asolution of chlorine bleach (1 cup bleach to 1 gallon water). Use an exhaust fan or dehumidifier to maintain fresh air with natural and mechanical air circulation.
Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that poses the risk of lung cancer, and the only way to know you have it is to test for it. We highly recommend starting with the do-it-yourself kits, which are inexpensive and easy to use. If your radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, have an experienced radon contractor like Clearview Inspection Group mitigate for you.
Furnaces, Boilers & Water Heaters
Gas and oil furnaces , boilers, and gas water heaters can produce air-quality problems such as back drafting of carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants. Have your heating system, water heater and gas piping and venting inspected every year. If you notice asbestos in the pipe wrap or furnace insulation, don’t cut, rip, sand or remove the material. If it’s more than slightly damaged or you want to make changes to the area, contact a professional for repair or removal.
Because your AC can be a source of biological allergens, inspect your water tray regularly (if your unit has one) and empty and clean it. Be sure to follow all the service and maintenance procedures, including changing the filter as recommended.
For Your Garage
Car and small engine exhaust are sources of carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. Never leave vehicles, lawn mowers, snowmobiles, etc., running in the garage.
Paint, solvent and cleaning supplies may release harmful vapors. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ directions and properly ventilate the garage when using these products. If the products contain methylene chloride, such as paint strippers, use them outdoors. Buy only as much as you need, but if you have any left over, keep them in their original, labeled containers and re-seal them well. Clean the brushes and other materials outside. Opt for non-toxic green products whenever possible.
Pesticides & Fertilizers
Pesticides and fertilizers used in the yard and garden may be toxic. Use non-chemical methods whenever possible. Follow the manufacturers’ directions for mixing, applying and storing them, and be sure to wear protective clothing, and mix or dilute these products outdoors. Store them outside of the home in their original, labeled containers. After using the product, remove your shoes and clean your hands and clothing to avoid bringing the chemicals into your home. Provide ventilation when using them indoors.
For Your Home in General
Biological allergens caused by dust mites can trigger asthma. To reduce exposure to your family, clean and vacuum your home regularly, and wash your bedding in water hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider using more hard surface finishes, as they are less likely to attract and hold dust mites.
Tobacco smoke contains harmful combustion and particulate pollutants, including carbon monoxide and combustion byproducts. Do not smoke in your home or permit others to do so, especially near children. If smoking cannot be avoided indoors, open windows and use exhaust fans.
Gas & Kerosene Space Heaters
Gas and kerosene space heaters can release carbon monoxide and combustion pollutants, so always make sure they are vented. In the room where the heater is located, provide fresh air by opening a door to the rest of the house, turning on an exhaust fan, and slightly opening a window.
Many animals create airborne allergens, such as dander, hair, feathers and skin. To keep this to a minimum, bathe pets regularly, and keep pets outdoors as much as possible. Clean the entire house regularly, and deep-clean areas where pets are permitted.
We know this is a lot of information to digest, but it is possible to take small steps today toward improving the air quality in your home. If you have any questions about your home’s air quality or would like more information on a home inspection, please feel free to contact us.
(Information provided courtesy of the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors)