Though it's tempting to put off chores, it's important to clean regularly to reduce allergens and irritants. Dust with a damp cloth rather than a feather duster -- and don't forget hard-to-reach areas such as ceiling fans and the top of the refrigerator.
To avoid potentially harmful vapors, purchase nontoxic, nonaerosol, unscented cleaning products (or make your own using household products). And use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter for the best results.
During the winter, your pets probably spend more time indoors. That means more fur and dander are floating around your home.
The solutions? Bathe and groom your pet regularly, wash his bedding frequently in hot water, and keep him out of bedrooms if possible.
Even when the weather is cool, open the windows to let in fresh air (especially while you're cleaning, cooking, or painting). If it's simply too cold, run ceiling fans to keep air circulating.
And don't forget to flip on the exhaust fan while you cook. Otherwise, noxious vapors, grease, and smoke are released into the air where they'll linger.
If you're planning a remodeling or redecorating project, take air quality into consideration when you choose products.
• Opt for hard-surface floors over carpet to simplify cleanup and reduce trapped dirt and pet dander.
• Install blinds rather than curtains to attract less dust, and avoid toxins by using formaldehyde-free cabinetry and zero or low VOC paint.
•Add houseplants to help fight air pollution and lend natural beauty.
You may want to purchase an air purifier for your home. Models range from small units to extensive house-wide systems. When shopping, look for a style featuring the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers' (AHAM) seal of approval. Double-check that the unit you select is appropriate for your room sizes, level of purification required, and any other factors.
Regularly check and replace the filters in your heating/cooling system to minimize contaminants in the air. Consider installing an electrostatic filter, which employs an electric charge to capture more airborne particles than standard filters.
Large pieces of fabric harbor dust mites and other allergens. Frequently launder drapery, fabric shower curtains, and bedding in water as hot as is allowed (preferably above 130 ºF). Also, be sure to wash all new fabrics (including clothing) before using them because they can retain chemicals from the manufacturing process.
Mold and mildew thrive in humid areas. Try to keep the humidity level in your home below 50% (you may want to purchase a dehumidifier), and always ensure proper ventilation in damp areas, such as bathrooms. This helps prevent mold, dust mites, and -- worst of all -- cockroaches.
Candles, cigarettes, and wood-burning fireplaces all release pollutants that worsen air quality and can even trigger health problems. To help keep your home's air clean, buy only nontoxic candles (such as unscented soy varieties), and don’t allow smoking indoors.
If you must use a fireplace, use cured or dried wood instead of pressure-treated wood, and have your chimney and flue inspected and cleaned regularly.
Commercial air fresheners can contain harmful pollutants. Rather than spraying chemicals to freshen your home, simmer a pot of cinnamon and cloves. Or consider natural alternatives such as diffusers and vaporizers that rely on essential oils instead of chemicals. (Look for pure essential oils -- not "essential fragrances" or "natural perfumes.") We like this one for its simplicity.
Napa Soap Home Diffusers
Available at Nimli
Remove your shoes when you enter the house to avoid tracking in dirt, lawn chemicals, and more. Instead, try these multitasking slippers, which pamper your feet and dust the floor simultaneously.
Available at Sur La Table