10 Ways to Improve Air Quality in Your Home for $50 or less!

We all like easy, cheap tasks that bring a lot of satisfaction when they’re done.  Why not focus on your air quality the next time you’re in the mood to DIY?  Here’s a list of things that only take a little preparation and a little time, but can make a big impact in the air in your home.  

  1. Are you on an HVAC filter change schedule?  If not, it’s time to change that!  Dirty HVAC filters have a number of negative consequences–from increasing the dust and mold in the evaporator/air handler, to possibly even causing damage to your expensive system.  If you don’t have any filters, just click here and order some from us, and we’ll have them at your door shortly!  If you’re not sure which “MERV” to order, read through the information on the page, and/or contact us to find out.  (Per filter cost is much less than $50).  Then, set a reminder on your calendar to change them regularly.

  2. Clean and adjust your fans for better air circulation: Fans make a BIG difference in quality of air because airflow is critical in this process to 1) get air moving, which reduces pockets of stale air or humidity, and 2) introduce fresh air, which dilutes contaminants and refreshes us!  (for more info check our article here)  Here’s a short list of fans that will need attention: 

    1. Ceiling fans need periodic cleaning and seasonal direction adjustment.  Get yourself an extendable duster that can be used wet or dry (we recommend dry first, then spritz with some TotalClean to get it cleaner).  The fan should also rotate in the correct direction: clockwise in the winter and counterclockwise in the summer (there should be a switch on the remote OR on the fan motor to control rotation direction).  

    2. Portable fans are important for spot cooling and can get pretty dusty!  Some are easy to remove the grill cover, the fan blades and dump them in a sink with soapy water.  For others, use a brush attachment on your HEPA vacuum to clean all accessible surfaces.  

    3. As long as you have your HEPA vacuum with brush attachment out, just scoot on over to the refrigerator and use it on the front grille at the bottom (and/or the back of the fridge–some models have a grille there also).

    4. Bathroom vent fans can also get pretty dusty.  Turn off the power at the wall and if you can, get on a ladder to remove the grille and dust out the inside of the unit, wash the grille and replace it.

    5. Kitchen exhaust fans probably top the list in the grime category!  We have a short article on how to clean them, and even use activated carbon media to make the kitchen smell better!

  3. Fall is the perfect time to get more fresh air into your home, but sometimes more filtration is needed.  Our Nanofiber PureAir Window Screens catch more fine particles than regular insect screens, so you can have fresh air without the dust and pollutants that normally come with it.   If you have window screens in your home, replacing them with this material is very easy, even for beginners, and we recommend several methods to do it on the product page. 

  4. You know that accomplished feeling when you’ve just cleaned the inside of your car?  Well, here’s a shortcut…order and replace your car’s Cabin Air Filter with a new one that has activated carbon in it.  True, the coffee cup behind your seat won’t disappear, but your car will smell much better, and it will filter out more pollution from other vehicles on the road. (and it might even inspire you to clean the whole inside of your car!)

  5. It may sound like a paradox, but cleaning the dishwasher every few months is really necessary!  As you can see in this video on how to easily remove and clean the filter, the hidden parts can get nasty and slimy!  If you don’t have time to properly take apart and clean your dishwasher, you can try using a highly-rated but non-toxic dishwasher cleaner, which uses citric acid as its active ingredient.  You can use TotalClean or a DIY cleaner to wipe down the door seals and any other parts that can’t be removed.

  6. Set yourself up for cleaning success!  Chances are, if you don’t have the right tools in the right place(s), cleaning will not spontaneously happen!  Case in point: I used to keep 1 spray bottle of TotalClean under the kitchen sink, and paper towels on my kitchen counter.  After researching and writing about the “toilet plume”, however, I knew I had to increase frequency of cleaning the toilet and other surfaces to at least every other day.  Here’s what to do:

    1. Keep a non-toxic spray cleaner and disposable wipes (like paper towels) in the bathroom so that you can easily clean surfaces every few days.

    2. Keep a stash of hand towels and bath towels in a closed bathroom cabinet to change them out several times a week.

    3. If you use a floor cleaning machine like my highly-rated CrossWave, make up a non-toxic cleaning solution and place it in a labeled jar so that you can break out your machine and get going at any time!  Here’s the recipe I like to use. 

    4. Keep a cleaner where you charge your phone.  (Yes, we’re not supposed to, but many of us keep our phones beside our bed at night.)  In that case, dampen a few paper towels with TotalClean and place in an airtight container so that you can sanitize your phone easily and quickly.  

  7. If you or any of your family are susceptible to toenail fungus or athlete’s foot, here is an uncomfortable fact:  fungus can live in your shoes for up to 20 months, and it can even persist in socks for several washings.  To get rid of fungus from washable shoes and socks, (and towels and sweaty clothing in separate loads), add 2 oz of EC3 Laundry Additive to the rinse cycle reservoir of your washing machine.  Not only will it eliminate mold spores from your shoes and clothing, it will also help to clean the washing machine, which can also harbor mold.  (Mold is a type of fungus).

  8. I cannot overstate the positive effects of adding mattress and pillow encasements, and ripping out old carpet in my bedroom.   My breathing and sleep quality have improved drastically by eliminating these materials where dust mites live and multiply.  Here’s what to do; it even works on old mattresses!

    1. Order a real mattress encasement and pillow covers for the bed(s) you want to protect.  Mattress encasements like these by Hospitology have tight-weave microfiber (which do tend to make you sleep warmer til you get used to it) and zipper ends that have velcro coverings so that no dust mites can get in or out!  This is death to dust mites; check out more encasement recommendations here

    2. When you decide to install your encasements, wash all your sheets and and blankets in hot water and your detergent of choice, so that any dust mites will die in the washer.

    3. Install your encasements (it may take another person because it fully encloses the mattress like an envelope that’s only zippered on one side), making sure that all toppers and thick mattress covers go inside the encasement.  You don’t want to leave anything that cannot be easily washed outside.  Now, any bugs living in your mattress and pillows will starve and be contained within the encasement (kind of gross but wayyy cheaper than buying new mattress and pillows). 

    4. Make your bed with fresh clean sheets and blankets and have a great night’s rest!

  9. The second part of the last recommendation is getting rid of old carpet in your bedroom (or any room you spend a lot of time in!).  Dust mites can also live in the carpet around your bed, especially if pets are allowed in your bedroom.  So, even if you don’t have an alternative flooring plan or budget at the moment, removing the carpet and fixing up the subfloor can still be a big improvement.   Warning: once you rip carpet out in one room, you’ll want to do it in other rooms, too!   Here’s what to do:

    1. Read our article on how to safely remove old carpet, and gather your materials/tools.  Make sure to find out how your local garbage or waste company requires you to dispose of it (bagged vs. unbagged, where and when).  Then, budget at least a few hours to get ‘er done!

    2. Fixing up the subfloor can be as simple as checking for splinters and sharp nails or screws, to sealing it with a non-toxic paint or sealer.  Check out a really helpful article here and a few companies that specialize in these types of paints:

      1. Ecos Interior Floor Paint

      2. AFM Safecoat Concrete Floor Paint

  10. Sealing Air Channels in your attic:  You’ll want to wait until cooler weather for this chore, but the idea is to tighten up your “building envelope” so that your expensive “conditioned air” (hot or cold) is not leaking out or unconditioned air leaking in!  All it really takes is some spray foam in cans, maybe some scrap wood or styrofoam sheet (to block off bigger gaps), the right personal protective gear, and time!  This is really worthwhile to do if you plan on adding insulation (must be done before adding insulation, check with your insulation company to see if they will do it).  

Okay, the last two projects take more time and effort than changing an air filter, but they do make a difference in your air quality.  In the case of #10, it should also reduce your home heating and cooling bill and stop pests and insects too.   In these cases, showing your home a bit of love will return the favor!

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash