7 Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

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Editor’s Note: This post is a compilation of several earlier posts discussing indoor air quality and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Indoor air quality affects your health and your health is important to us. The owners and staff here at Town & Country Cleaning Services are constantly researching and experimenting to bring you the safest and ‘healthiest’ house cleaning service possible. Owner Bruce Vance has created a series with your health in mind and will be sharing a total of 7 tips over the next few blogs (there will be 7 assuming he doesn’t think of some more before he finishes this series!). Air Filters Trap Allergens

1) When Should You Change Your Home Air Filters?

Filters should be changed at least every 3 months, often sooner. A clogged air filter not only does not filter well, it also makes your HVAC work harder, raising your power bill. Clogged filters can even contribute to damaging your HVAC unit(s).

Do High Quality Air Filters Really Make a Difference?

Cheap filters do nothing to trap allergens.

The pleated type of filters can trap some or, depending on the filter, even most of the allergens in the home. The unaided human eye can detect specks down to about 50 microns (a human hair is around 70 microns). Most allergens are invisible to us and frequently are under 10 microns. Good filters can capture down to roughly 1 micron – failing to capture viruses and many bacteria but fine enough to capture larger bacteria, pollens, and many fungi and yeasts.

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2) Would Chemical Free House Cleaning Help Your Indoor Air Quality?

We humans tend to overuse household chemicals. Many cleaning products, including many “green” products have ingredients in them that adversely affect indoor air quality. Some VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) can cause liver damage and nervous system issues. Disinfectants can leave toxic residues. Many of the fragrances we use to make things smell ‘clean’ can actually aggravate allergies and other respiratory problems. Chemical-based cleaning agents do have their place, but with the advances in chemical-free cleaning (steam, engineered water, etc.), it is increasingly possible to reduce their use and thus avoid adverse effects on indoor air quality. We can improve the home environment substantially by strongly curtailing our gratuitous use of everyday cleaners.

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3) How Often Should You Vacuum Carpets And Hard Floors?

Carpet is the best filter in your house but it needs to be vacuumed regularly to remove the dirt, dust and allergens it has trapped in its fibers. Unfortunately, many vacuums pick up allergens only to spew them out into the air again. Remember, most of the allergens that are driving you crazy are too small to see. It takes a vacuum with high efficiency filtration to capture those allergens.

Is Your Vacuum Worsening Your Indoor Air Pollution?

A vacuum with a HEPA filter may not guarantee good filtration as much of the air may be leaking around (bypassing) the filter. Fortunately, there are many good vacuums available. The CRI (Carpet and Rug Institute) Seal of Approval is awarded to vacuums that meet the metrics test and is considered the best rating system in the industry. See Carpet-Rug.org for more information. Don’t forget to vacuum your hard floors. One study showed vacuuming was twice as efficient as dust-mopping on hard floors.

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4) Do You Really Need To Vacuum Your Furniture?

Carpets are not the only place allergens collect. Allergens can collect in furniture fabric as well. Plus, while you’re sitting on the furniture you are shedding dead skin cells; dust mites feed on those cells so they and their excrement can collect in your upholstered furniture as well as on your mattress. Every time someone sits on the cushions all these allergens can become airborne. Try this: put a white cloth over the end of your vacuum tube and (holding or taping the cloth firmly) make a couple of passes over your favorite chair’s cushion. You’ll be amazed!

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5) How Often Should You Professionally Clean Your Carpets And Upholstery?

Vacuuming can only do so much; eventually you will need to clean out the soils that even careful vacuuming leaves behind. Most of the carpet mills recommend carpet cleaning service in residential settings every 12 to 18 months using hot water extraction and using an IICRC-certified firm. More often may be necessary in the case of heavy traffic or resident pets. This not only helps your indoor air quality but also protects your carpet investment. Professional upholstery cleaning can clean more deeply and remove soils that vacuuming alone can’t reach.

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6) Do You Really Need To Clean Your Mattress?

Is Vacuuming Your Mattress Enough?

Most of us spend more time in bed than any other place, but we tend to forget what a source of allergens that bed can be. This is where dust mites live and abound. If you’re waking up with stuffy nose or sinuses, try vacuuming your mattress and pillows.

Why Steam Cleaning Your Mattress Makes Sense

Vacuuming will remove many of the allergens, but you can go a step further. Cleaning your mattress with either a hot water extraction tool or a dry steam generator will not only remove more soil and allergens, but kill dust mites as well. As long as we are talking about beds, bedding should be washed in as hot water as you can obtain, to kill dust mites.

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7) Breathe Easier With A “Deep” Clean

The weekly maintenance cleaning you or your cleaning service does keeps the house looking good, but still misses areas where dust builds up. Once or twice a year, a deep clean is called for. How involved such a clean should be depends on your needs: e.g., an asthma sufferer might need a more involved clean. It also depends on your time, energy and your budget.

Since we spend so much time in the bedroom, that’s a good place to start. Move the bed out, if possible, vacuum behind and under it as completely as possible. Vacuum behind furniture, moving it out slightly if possible (don’t try moving that breakfront full of curios unless you empty it first.)

Begin with dusting the wall/ceiling joins with a long duster. Dust the tops of furniture, vacuum cabinet tops, wipe or vacuum fans and high fixtures. Vacuum or dust exposed beams. Remove curios from open shelves and dust them as well as the shelves. Pull out and get behind appliances and furniture if it is safe to do so. Then move on to other rooms as desired and repeat. One word of warning: with all this high dusting you may stir up more dust than you can believe – in the short term. Don’t be surprised if there is considerable resettlement on flat surfaces. The next day (or even a few hours later) table tops, etc. may look like you haven’t dusted for a good while. When we do deep cleans we often use an airscrubber (like a giant, high-volume fan with a near-HEPA filter) to minimize this problem.  Even then, some resettlement will be noticeable.

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Town & Country Cleaning Services is a CleanTrust Certified Firm (aka IICRC Certified Firm). Our President, Bruce Vance is a Master Textile Cleaner and holds 16 total certifications. Vice President, Sarah Vance, is a Journeyman Textile Cleaner and holds 5 total certifications. Both are IICRC-certified as HCT instructors. Contact them via their website: www.CleanMyChapelHillHouse.com or by email at: info@CleanMyChapelHillHouse.com

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