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Testing out TotalClean: a breath of fresh air for anyone who cleans

Testing out TotalClean: a breath of fresh air for anyone who cleans

TotalClean is our new powerhouse non-toxic cleaner and I’m very impressed!  Since it’s non-toxic to humans and pets and safe for most surfaces, there are unlimited uses for it in the home.  

Here's some helpful facts about it:

  • You can use the pre-mixed 32 oz. spray bottle, or mix your own with the concentrate.  When mixing your own, I found it was useful to have several empty spray bottles available in plastic or glass (your preference) to make various strengths and keep them available (for instance, keep a spray bottle and some paper towels in the bathroom for deodorizing and cleaning whenever needed!) 
  • TotalClean has no smell, yet it deodorizes the air and surfaces by eliminating odorous bacteria on contact.  
  • TotalClean does not lose its effectiveness over time, unlike cleaners such as hydrogen peroxide and hypochlorous acid.
  • TotalClean is safe to mix with other natural and non-toxic ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to boost its efficacy.  For instance, I have a white synthetic cloth shower curtain that gets pink mildew around the hem after several months.  It's not super-easy to take down, so I used to soak the hem in a small container of bleach water to brighten it.  I had to leave the exhaust fan for over 4 hours until it dried!  This time, I used normal strength TotalClean mixed with 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide, and the pink disappeared as if I had used bleach, with no smell or toxic fumes!  Here are the before and after photos:

  • The industrial formulation for TotalClean is used in many wastewater treatment plants around the country, so we know it's safe for city wastewater and home septic systems.

Keep reading to learn about its many uses!

Normal strength: that which comes pre-mixed in the 32oz. spray bottle (1:7 parts TotalClean to water)

  • Windows and mirrors: For nice streak-free cleaning, spray the surface with TotalClean and use newspaper to wipe dry.  If mixing TotalClean from concentrate, using distilled water or zerowater leaves less residue/streaks because no minerals from the water remain on the glass.
  • Counters: Spray non-greasy stone, tile, and wood countertops with TotalClean and wipe dry with a paper towel or clean cloth.  For greasy countertops, see concentrate solutions below.
  • Bathroom sinks: Cleans off toothpaste spatters and dust easily
  • Cabinets (except greasy cabinets: see concentrate below): spray and wipe with a clean cloth
  • Dishwasher: White vinegar is highly acidic and although it cleans, it can damage gaskets and seals if used straight from the bottle. You can use TotalClean safely (even in concentrate form!) on all exterior and interior parts of a dishwasher including: door gaskets, filters, spray arms, drain, and anywhere visible food/waste buildup shows.
  • Refrigerator: You can wipe down the exterior, interior and door seals with TotalClean, with no need to rinse unless you have a lot of food particles.  I loved the fact that I could clean shelf by shelf as I had the time, without the hassle of unloading the whole fridge for fear of contamination (as with toxic cleaners containing bleach).  Spray TotalClean on hard or sticky spills, wait a few minutes for it to soften, and wipe away.  Here is an example of before spraying and after spraying (not even wiping):

  • Floors: Use this normal strength ratio (1 part TotalClean to 7 parts hot or warm water) to get tile and ceramic floors really clean!  If you have sealed wood floors, TotalClean is also a safe substitute for any water-based cleaner (just make sure to wring out your mop well and not flood the floor). 
  • Laundry deodorizing: spray-soak extra-stinky clothing items with TotalClean before washing.  See note at end of post regarding optical brightening. 
  • Shoes: Spray material and allow to soak for 30 min before washing in water and dish detergent and rinsing thoroughly, to kill odors
  • Washing Machine cleaner: spray the seals and wipe on front-loading machines to keep them free of mold and mildew, and spray and wipe exterior surfaces to remove dust and laundry detergent
  • Dusting: Make your dustcloth damp with TotalClean and wipe away dust
  • Deodorizing: spray TotalClean into the air in and around kitchen garbage, pet litter trays, bathrooms, laundry rooms, into shoes, and anywhere odors linger
  • Carpet cleaning: mist TotalClean lightly onto carpets, allow to dry, and vacuum. For deep cleaning, use this solution in a carpet cleaning machine and be sure to vacuum thoroughly to remove moisture. 
  • Cleaning mold from tile grout: Since grout is porous, if possible start with dry grout so that it will absorb TotalClean deep into the grout.  Spray-soak the area and wait 5 minutes, then scrub with an old toothbrush or stiff brush and flush with water.  If this does not remove stains, go to the concentrate (see below)
  • Car interiors: Dampen a cloth with TotalClean and wipe over dashboards, gauges and any solid surface, as well as vinyl or leather seats.   To freshen/clean upholstery and carpets, spray onto surface and use a wet-dry vacuum to remove moisture, or use TotalClean in an upholstery cleaning machine instead of toxic commercial cleaners (see our post on How to Clean your car’s interior to keep away mold)
  • Cleaning mildew from exterior siding: Spray on mildew, wipe with a soft brush or rag, and spray with water to rinse clean. Here are some before and after photos of painted wood siding using minimal effort (I used a carwash brush, and in the 2nd photo you can see some of the untouched surface on the left side):

Uses for Concentrate:

Double (1:3 parts TotalClean to water):

  • For deep carpet cleaning, use TotalClean at 1:3 or 1:1 ratio of cleaner to water in a carpet cleaning machine and be sure to vacuum thoroughly to remove moisture.  If using a wet-dry vacuum, spray the carpet with this solution using a spray bottle, agitate with a stiff brush (if it does not damage carpet) and vacuum out with the wet-dry vac.

Two to One: (2:1 parts TotalClean to water)

  • Degreasing countertops: Grease spatters will wipe clean quickly with this solution.

Full-strength concentrate: 

  • Cleaning greasy kitchen cabinets: The cabinets above cookstoves can get very tacky with residue from cooking oil vapors.  I found that full-strength concentrate will take off the tackiness and restore the smooth finish on the cabinets above my stove.  Use it in a spray bottle and wipe with clean towel or paper towel.
  • Cleaning deeply stained mold areas from tile grout: Since grout is porous, if possible start with dry grout so that it will absorb TotalClean deep into the grout.  Soak the area and wait 10 minutes, then scrub with an old toothbrush or stiff brush and flush with water.  

What else do you think it can do?  If you have a specific question or comment about using TotalClean, contact us!

Would you rent or subscribe for clean air?

Would you rent or subscribe for

clean air?

Ok, I’ve heard of all kinds of rentals and subscription plans. But, air is public domain, right?  How on earth does such a subscription get delivered?  Certain companies have air purifier machines that can be rented by the day or week, etc., which can be really helpful if you only need the equipment for a short time. 

Vacations:  Personally, I think the vacation rental option here is brilliant–how many times have you gone on vacation or to a conference, and the hotel room seems musty (of course, this happens in a hotel that is fully booked with no way to change rooms)?  Here are some options for renting air purifiers to trap the contaminants in the air while you work or play:

  • Rents4baby.com:  This company rents a premium air purifier for only $15 a day in the Orange County area, with the option to upgrade to a medical grade filter for only $5 per day more.  They have many more baby products, as well as more pickup and delivery locations in the US.  They can deliver to airports and car rental places, making it easy to pick up an air purifier and have a great vacation with or without little ones!
  • Lyft has teamed up with Wynd, an air purifier company, to add an air purifier option to rental cars.  At only $15 per day, you can add a Wynd purifier to your rental to get out those odors and unseen germs that cleaning did not remove.   If you plan on doing a lot of driving on your next trip, it’s worth checking out!

For parties and indoor events: 

  • Sunbelt Rentals Portable Air Scrubbers:  This company has a large selection of units for many different uses–light commercial or residential units, medical grade, odor removal–you name it!  They had a super-fast response when I emailed for more rental info.  Their S-, M-, and L-Light purifiers feature H13 true HEPA and carbon filters.  The filters for these machines cost extra, but in general, the rental prices are very reasonable ($17-53 per day in the Orange County area). 

For remediation jobs (like moving into a house that had noxious pet or smoke odors, or remediating mold damaged areas):

  • Home Depot Dri-Eaz HEPA Air Scrubber:  Near our Orange County, California location, there are several stores that have this machine, which will purify a 1000 square foot space with up to 500 cubic feet per minute air flow.  The carbon and HEPA filters are included for $159 per day or $318 per week.  (After this point, you would be better off buying one!)
  • The same scrubber from Home Depot rents for less in Petaluma and San Rafael, CA from CalWest Rentals ($70 per day or $250 per week).

If you don’t live in California, try searching for “air purifiers for rent near me”.  Admittedly, renting purifiers is more expensive than buying them in the long run.  But if you have a trip, project, an event, or some other short-term need for clean air, you have options!

Do you need a really large quantity of clean air?  Enter pulsed electromagnetic field radiation, which has actually been around for a while.  It’s similar to wi-fi or the systems used by cellphone services.  It is broadcasted in short pulses and has been used since the early 1990’s in wastewater treatment applications.  The pulses of RF energy contact small particles in the air (it actually works best on particles less than 20 nm) and increases their negative charge, to accelerate the particles grouping together and falling out of the air.  These small particles will settle as dust, which if inside a building can be vacuumed, or if outside will be absorbed into the earth’s natural soil.

Devic-Earth is a company based in India that has designed a Clean Air Subscription, which utilizes their unique equipment under the name of “Pure Skies”.  Companies such as heavy industry, cities, or event halls can subscribe continuously or for only a month, depending on their needs. The process claims to  improve air quality by 33-90% over large areas at the lowest cost per unit area.   The equipment is usually installed in a matter of hours and can cover spaces inside with a minimum of 20,000 ft2 or outside with a minimum of 5 acres.  What’s most interesting is the way this technology can overcome many types of air pollution for organizations that had no control over pollution previously.  For example, one testimonial stated that the equipment was employed that Delhi (India) half-marathon in 2018, and another 25K (Tata Steel Kolkata) to achieve results of 30-54% improvements.  The results are measured from before the equipment is turned on, and monitored throughout deployment, by an air quality monitor.  The studies and testimonials also report the presence of rain, which can also drastically reduce air pollution because it causes particles to fall to the ground with the rain. 

This particular provider assures the safety of its equipment/process because it uses “ISM frequency band similar to the Wi-Fi spectrum (2.4-2.5 GHz) and power levels are maintained under standard regulations.”   The dangers of Wi-Fi are not generally agreed upon, with many governments and organizations taking the stance that Wi-Fi is safe, such as Canada.  Many studies are like this one, however: they have found that non-thermal EMF exposures have major impacts “on both of the most important intercellular regulatory systems in the body, the nervous system and the endocrine systems…major impacts on what may be the most important intracellular regulatory system, the calcium regulatory system… we also have non-thermal EMFs attacking the DNA of our cells, putting our biological inheritance at great risk. As living organisms, EMFs attack each of the most important functions that go to the heart of our human complexities.”  

I did note that on Devic-Earth’s website, the company claims that “Pulsed radio waves are periodic bursts of radio waves or radio frequency energy (RF). The pattern of these bursts depends on the desired effect.  This is unlike the radio wave transmission from telecommunications equipment such as Wi-Fi or mobile towers which are usually continuous in nature.” 

Wi-Fi by nature is a pulsed system.  The previously referenced study notes that “pulsed EMFs are usually much more biologically active than are non-pulsed (also known as continuous wave) EMFs of identical frequency and similar average intensity (study references from years 1965-2015). This pattern of action is particularly important because all wireless communication devices, including Wi-Fi (2015 studies) communicate via pulsations and are likely to be particularly dangerous as consequence of this. (One 2015 study) have argued that the more pulsed they are, the more damaging EMFs will be and while this may still be questioned, it may well be a roughly applicable generalization. It is also true that artificial EMFs are polarized and this makes artificial EMFs particularly dangerous (2005 and 2015 studies). Polarized EMFs put much larger forces of electrically charged chemical groups than do non-polarized EMFs (2015 study)”.  Because of their statement of being different from Wi-Fi, Devic-Earth’s Pure Skies may be at a slower pulse in comparison to Wi-Fi.  It’s not known if this pulse is less or more detrimental than Wi-Fi to cells and our nervous and endocrine system and DNA.  Most people are unaware of this potential damage and as such, don’t have a problem working and living in Wi-Fi zones (it’s a welcomed convenience), so that Pure Skies technology would probably also be acceptable and welcomed by most people.  It may not even need to be disclosed in many places.

Whether by filter, EMF or other technology, now I know you can rent clean air for your room, house, car, convention center or even an outdoor event!

How to live with minimal AC and maximum ventilation

How to live with minimal AC and maximum ventilation

For decades (five to be exact), home design focus has been on sealing homes in order to reduce energy costs of heating and cooling.  Such energy efficiency has come at a price of air quality, because unlike, say, water, air cannot be “recycled” over and over without detriment.  Carbon dioxide concentrations will increase naturally just from breathing in and out, and toxins build up from emissions from the building itself and the products we use in it.  Humidity either builds up from water leaks and water use, or decreases from use of forced air heating.  

Is it time to advocate for more “leaky” homes?  Well, yes….but controlled leaks are key!  The leaks I’m talking about are ventilation with fresh air in a controlled way.

Here at HypoAir we often recommend adding more ventilation from outside to dilute the air in our homes, so it’s constantly on my mind: how do I get more ventilation during the hot months of the year?  We tell customers that it’s ok to open windows when the outside air is relatively clear of pollution, but many times it still has dust, pollen and smaller particles, so that presents a problem!

While researching this topic, I found a statement that sums up the problem:  

“Every new system installed today should have a Fresh Air Intake. It should not be optional, it should be mandatory. State laws do not force the issues, but health concerns do. Products that we use in our homes have Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that put out gasses as they age. Without a Fresh Air Intake, these VOCs can build up and cause allergic reactions, asthmatic symptoms, and can require treatment with medicine to compensate for the contaminated air. The medical industry does not recognize contaminated air as a medical condition. The reason is, they can’t measure that when you go for treatment. They can only address the problem.

Generally, about 5-10% outside air is desirable. If you don’t have fresh air inside your system, should you add it? The answer is YES, especially if you're doing equipment replacement.” (Texas HVAC company)

Now, which new products aimed at cooling also increase ventilation?  I focused on whole home ventilation in a previous post; this one is more geared toward single-room or window units.

The EcoBreeze 2 is a smart window fan that takes outside air, filters it, and delivers it inside as clean, fresh air.  It has sensors: if the outdoor air is more hot or humid than indoors, then it shuts down and lets your A/C take over.  This is particularly useful in climates where outside ventilation is cool and dry, such as in the northern US. It retails for $229 and has optional MERV 13 filters for replacement (it comes with a MERV 8 filter).

Here’s what to do if you already have a window fan, in order to get cross-ventilation, which is very useful because with only 1 window fan, you’re not really cooling optimally unless you have another window open to allow the hotter air to escape.  

  1. On the hot or unshaded side of your home or room, install any standard window fan that you can seal effectively to your window, but set it to “exhaust” mode (pulling air out of the room).
  2. On the opposite (shaded) side of the home or room, install Safeguard Window Filters ($51 for the large size accommodates windows from 24-44” wide).  In this way, you are pulling cool air into the room through the filters, and exhausting it out through the fan.  The filters can be vacuumed several times before replacing the inserts (see achooallergy.com for the replacement filters).

Now, if your outside air is too hot or humid for adding a lot of ventilation, you can still use your window A/C in conjunction with a Safeguard Window Filter.  The window filter does not allow a lot of air to pass through (unlike a plain screen, but you can add the ventilation needed and let the AC do the cooling and dehumidification. 

If you want to replicate this on the scale of your whole house, many HVAC companies recommend QuietCool Whole House Fans.  I grew up with a whole house fan, but this one will not create a rumbling noise, so you can leave it running all night (hence its name).  Using Safeguard Window Filters in conjunction with the whole house fan will insure that your home is not filled with bugs, dust and pollen as it pulls in air from outside. What a relief to breathe in fresh air, especially while you sleep!

If any engineers out there are reading this, I’m still looking for:

  • a window heat pump unit (heating and cooling capacity)
  • with inverter technology (to save energy and provide constant temperature and humidity), and
  • a filtered ventilation component, like the EcoBreeze 2, and
  • a pollution monitor on the outside to shut off intake at times of high pollution   
  • Oh–and I like how new over-the-sill designs do not obstruct the window view.  

Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so–this is 2022–let us know what you come up with!

Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

Increasing our bodies’ resistance to mold–naturally

Increasing our bodies’ resistance to mold--naturally

There's no "silver bullet", but regarding exposure to mold, there’s a lot we can control, like humidity, water leaks that can be stopped and remediated, air purifiers, etc. Sometimes, though, there are things we just can’t control, like having a new work assignment in a moldy area, or having a scrape (literally) that infects us with mold.   That’s what happened to a young man traveling in Costa Rica, who developed a lesion in his brain due to a type of black mold after scraping his arm on a bike ride.  In India, doctors are facing an unprecedented spike in mucormycosis, an infection from another type of mold species that is very prevalent in the hot, humid country.  Indiscriminate use of steroids to stop inflammation from the virus that caused COVID-19 causes some patients to have weakened immune systems, making them susceptible to infestation of Mucorales, the group of fungi that includes molds responsible for mucormycosis. (Science News)  With Mucorales, the fungi tend to thrive in diabetics because of elevated blood sugar levels, which turn the blood more acidic, creating an ideal environment for it to spread.  Unfortunately, the virus that causes COVID-19 also damages the beta cell of the pancreas, decreasing insulin production needed to check high blood sugar.   

It doesn’t need to be far from home, as this can happen in your backyard.  Candida auris has been identified as a new global threat; it’s a type of fungus that is resistant to 2 out of 3 classes of antifungal drugs.  

Here is what we’re seeing cause susceptibility to fungi:

  • Steroid medications, including artificial corticosteroids, which dampen immune function by lowering the number of lymphocytes 
  • Stress releases natural corticosteroid in our bodies (decreasing immune function as above) and stress also alters a number of bodily functions like digestion activity, blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, all of which lead to an increased risk of disease (simplypsychology.org)
  • High blood sugar from diet, disease or inadequate medication management
  • Other causes of more acidic blood: respiratory acidosis is the body’s response to having too much carbon dioxide in the blood (a common cause would be sleep apnea), metabolic acidosis which includes ketoacidosis, lactic acidosis, renal tubular acidosis and hyperchloremic acidosis (webMD)
  • Pre-existing conditions such as AIDS: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fungi are among the leading causes of opportunistic infections affecting patients with HIV/AIDS [16].” (study)

The good news is that fungi have weaknesses we can exploit.  Here are some of them:

  1. Copper: fungus has a small window of tolerable copper levels.  “the human immune system utilizes both copper toxicity and copper starvation in responding to fungal infections. “(Valeria Culotta, PhD) Drinking water stored in copper vessels may provide the excess copper needed to kill many pathogens (healthline.com)
  2. Iodine: A lack of iodine has been shown to cause many different diseases and symptoms, including endemic goiter, hypothyroidism, cretinism, decreased fertility rate, increased infant mortality, and mental retardation (article). On the other hand, iodine has been shown to cure toenail fungus (study), and iodine is is rapidly effective against viruses, bacteria (both Gram negative and Gram positive), fungi and spores(oralhealthgroup.com). However, not all iodine preparations have high- germicidal properties.  Molecular iodine (I2) is the form that kills fungus and molds most quickly. Here are the positives about a new formulation of iodine, ioRinse
  • Does not stain, unlike previous formulations of povidone-iodine
  • does not induce resistance development in targeted microorganisms
  • substantivity (ongoing residual effect) of iodine for up to 72 hours is well documented.
  • Safe for chronic use as a mouthwash
  • Affordable
  • Molecular iodine is also available in a Nasal Spray (ioMist) to protect sinus passages.
  1. Zinc is a metal that is needed for a healthy body and immune system, but it can be stolen by pathogenic fungi such as mold.  Our bodies attempt to withhold this essential vitamin from pathogens (a process called nutritional immunity), but certain pathogens have evolved highly sophisticated methods of acquiring it from hosts anyway. (study)  A 2017 US study carried out over six weeks found that taking just 4mg extra of zinc a day made a major difference to the health of cells, which in turn makes your body better able to fight infections and diseases. The team concluded that zinc reduces ‘oxidative stress and damage to DNA’ that helps protect against chronic diseases.
  1. Glutathione: When our bodies are exposed to harmful fungus, they increase production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and Reactive Nitrogen Species (RNS).  ROS/RNS are helpful in that they signal an invasion of the body and trigger more immune responses, but they also can damage lipids, proteins and DNA (study), and overwhelm the natural antioxidant capacity of our cells, causing the imbalance that is known as oxidative stress. Normally ROS levels are kept in balance with antioxidants in our cells, which is known as cell redox homeostasis, but in the presence of pathogens, ROS increases dramatically, causing inflammation and other potentially damaging symptoms.  Glutathione (GSH), made of the three amino acids cysteine, glutamate, and glycine, is an important antioxidant in our bodies (webmd.com)  Our glutathione levels decrease naturally as we get older, but more acutely during diseases such as cancer, HIV, or Parkinson’s disease.  In a Korean study, it was shown that glutathione significantly increased a cell’s chances of surviving exposure to large amounts of ROS like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).  Low levels of glutathione peroxidase are also coincident with conditions like vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, and Type 2 diabetes. (drcgolding.co.za).  Therefore, supplementing with this “superhero” antioxidant can significantly improve our outcome when faced with mycotoxins.  Here are some ways to supplement:
  • Intravenous (IV) glutathione is the quickest and most effective form of supplementation, but its availability to the public is limited.  
  • Although many companies offer glutathione in oral form, it’s generally not effective in raising free glutathione in the blood because digestive enzymes break it down into its three components.  Therefore,  two alternative forms of glutathione that translate to higher glutathione levels in the blood:
    • liposome-encapsulated glutathione, or
    • s-acetyl glutathione: this has been shown to have similar results to IV glutathione (clinicaleducation.org).  
  • Whey protein contains free fatty acids that actually inhibit growth of C. albicans (study). C. albicans is the most prevalent form of fungal infections in people (medicalnewstoday.com), and knowing this, supplementation with a whey protein from grass-fed cows can be a good way to increase resistance to certain fungi (moldsafeinspections.com).  
  1. Iron: Iron is essential for both humans to grow.  Iron is needed to produce red blood cells and hormones, as well as maintain our immune system response, particularly a level of lymphocytes (scientific article). Here is the conundrum however: fungus also needs iron, and will steal iron from our bodies or scavenge excess iron if it is supplemented.  In healthy people, iron supplements are a good way to make sure we have the iron we need.  (If normal iron supplements upset your stomach, try a “slow-release” formula). However, if you are diabetic, undergoing chemotherapy, or have any other major illness, you may want to consult your doctor before adding an iron supplement, to make sure that it does not feed an invasive pathogen like mucorales, which is particularly disfiguring and deadly in immune-compromised patients. 
  2. Healthy gut:  According to ucdavis.edu, “A healthy gut contains healthy bacteria and immune cells that ward off infectious agents like bacteria, viruses and fungi.” In addition, a healthy gut microbiome trains immune cells for guarding the brain:  scientists have discovered that certain plasma cells from the intestines migrate to the brain, where they stand guard to release IgA antibodies to block the entry of pathogens to the brain. (Science News)  How to maintain a healthy gut?  This article discusses some excellent ways to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. 
  3. Getting adequate sleep: During sleep, our bodies produce cytokines and T-cells, both of which are important to our immune response.  We’ve discussed how to get the most of your sleep time in a previous post, and this article from uchealth.com reviews the ways you can promote quality sleep.  

We’ve got the power to reduce the chance of acquiring nasty and life-threatening fungal infections, even in this world of ever-increasing dangerous microbes.  I hope this article gave you some new insights on some weapons in our immunity arsenal.

Photo by zibik on Unsplash

How to clean your car’s HVAC and interior to keep away mold!

How to clean your car’s HVAC and interior to keep away mold!

As I write this, we’re coming into another air conditioning season in the southeast US, which means air conditioning not only at home, but in your car.  Vehicles are so susceptible to mold ingress, because of where we drive (through dust, mud, and pollen), where they are parked (whether it’s outdoors in blazing hot driveways or indoors in damp garages), and their design (carpeting everywhere!  Air conditioning filters that hardly ever get changed!)  Whether or not you smell that musty moldy smell when you get in the car or turn on the A/C, now is the time to deal with mold before it deals with you.

Just like your home’s HVAC system, it’s important to maintain your car’s HVAC system for your health.  Here is a great article on cleaning the evaporator coils in your car.  This method is very non-invasive, and includes tips if any mold smells do not go away.   The antimicrobial agent they recommend is called Nutribiotic. Nutribiotic is a grapefruit seed extract (GSE) which is highly acidic and microbial at full concentration (be very careful mixing and using it!) but can be diluted to use as a coil cleaner.  Please note that using a commercial coil cleaner is not recommended because the residues can add many VOCs to the air you breathe, which may not go away for some time!  

When cleaning the HVAC system, be sure to replace the cabin air filter, which keeps a lot of dust and pollen out of the car.   Some older models don’t have a cabin air filter (commonly in pre-1996 vehicles and even as late as my 1999 Suburban), in which case you can even get creative and make one!  (For those of us who aren’t super-familiar with cars, note that the cabin air filter is different from the air intake filter.  The first one filters the air conditioning system, while the second one filters the air going into the engine, which is not what we’re talking about here.)

We’re working from top to bottom, and next come the seats.  Cloth seats will probably hold more dust and mold than vinyl or leather seats, because they are permeable and allow liquids and dust to pass through and stay in the foam beneath.  With any liquid cleaner you use, you should definitely use an extractor.  Whether it’s a carpet cleaning machine, or a simple wet-dry vacuum, you need a way to get the liquid back out of the carpet, or mold can set in after you just cleaned it!  If you live in a populated area, either one (carpet cleaner or wet/dry vac) should be available on places like Facebook marketplace for about $40. One more tip: only clean your car’s upholstery and carpet on a bright sunny day outside, or in a heated garage!  You’ll need the benefit of ventilation and heat to get the fibers completely dry. 

Now, what to use as a cleaner?  One of the most popular carpet cleaners in the supermarket is Resolve, and RESOLVE Professional Spot and Stain Carpet Cleaner earned an “F” grade from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an organization dedicated to evaluating the safety of consumer products!  There is a better way. 

  • Our new Total Clean spray is like a Swiss Army knife that cleans solid and porous surfaces well!  Use it at normal strength (1:7 parts concentrate to water) for non-stained carpet and upholstery, or double or triple strength (1:3 or 1:1 parts concentrate to water) for stains.  Normal strength TotalClean is great for vinyl and leather surfaces, as well as any hard surfaces such as dashboards, gauges and steering wheels, being sure to wipe it away quickly with a clean dry towel. 
  • Most “homemade” carpet cleaners call for a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and water in various proportions.  I really like this one, which adds in (non-toxic) dish soap.  If you are using a simple wet-dry vacuum, use the cleaner in a spray bottle, agitate any problem areas or stains with a scrub brush, and follow with the vacuum to get the liquid out.  If you are using the carpet cleaner machine, follow manufacturer’s directions.  In either case, make sure to use the liquid sparingly!  Too much liquid going in (especially on cushioned areas) increases the likelihood that it will not all come out with the vacuum.  I advise taking out a car mat to clean first, to assess the suction power of your vacuum or cleaning machine.  After several vacuum passes, the carpet should only feel damp, not soaking wet.  (From experience, I once wetted down a large area of my sofa before discovering that the suction of the cleaning machine attachment wasn’t working!  I was blessed to have a wet-dry vac available as a backup). 

Unless you have those nifty molded floor mats that capture the dirt and water that you track in, there is going to be dirt and there is going to be mold in the floor of your car.  Mold thrives in dirt and moisture.  Even if the carpet is not stained, it’s a great idea to clean the carpet at least once a year to remove mold and dirt.

Now that you’ve removed the sources of mold in your car, you can add some non-toxic scents back into it.  Here is a video with 6 different ways to make non-toxic car air fresheners using essential oils and different items to hold the scent. (The speaker may be a bit difficult to understand, but the sachets she mentioned are muslin drawstring bags and the last item she sprayed on was wool felt–a very natural, absorbent material).  If you don’t have the time to make your own, just order some vent clips or auto stix from Enviroscents, a company that does not use toxic materials in any of their products.

Ahhh!  It may be a bit of work to achieve, but who doesn’t like the smell of a clean, fresh car?  For as much time as we spend in them, your health is worth the effort!

Face Masks: the air filters we never thought we’d be wearing

Face Masks: the air filters we never thought we’d be wearing

Pre-pandemic, I grudgingly used face masks to protect from dust and allergens, like when mowing the lawn kicked up dust, or sanding wood projects filled the air outside with dust.  I knew when I should have worn one…usually by a raging sinus headache the next morning.  Nowadays, concerns for our own or others’ health mandates wearing masks in public settings for a large portion of the year.  But–what are the risks versus rewards of masks?  What do they really do for us?

The CDC has plenty of guidelines about masks, including that masking is a “critical public health tool for preventing spread of COVID-19”.  Masks are made to contain droplets you breathe, sneeze or cough out, and provide some protection from droplets from others.  Respirators are meant to filter the air you breathe as well as contain your droplets.  It’s not hard to tell which are masks and which are respirators, according to how loosely they fit, and the materials and style in which they are made.  The CDC outlines the four types of masks and respirators: 

  • Cloth: they should fit well, have a nose wire, and you should not be able to see light through the fabric.  Regulations now prohibit any “exhalation valves” that would allow droplets to escape.  Lots of innovators have offered new designs for cloth masks, even ones that filter more N95 respirators.  Most cloth masks are washable, and wearers need to have clean replacements ready if the mask gets wet or dirty.  Wet masks do not filter properly and increase the leaks around the edges of the mask. 

  • Procedure masks, or “medical masks” are typically the light blue variety that are now readily available in most stores.  They are made from “non-woven” material that can be mass-produced and sold inexpensively so that dirty or wet masks can be disposed of and replaced with a clean one.  Make sure to wear them with the blue side out (or if your mask is totally white, with the soft side toward your face) and to pinch the nose wire to fit snugly.  Cloth masks should be disposed of when they are wet or dirty.

  • Respirators include N95 and KN95 masks that have markings (N95, KN95) to identify their authenticity. Respirator masks should also be disposed of when they are wet or dirty, but if they are only gently used, can be reused by letting them dry out (see more at the end of this post).  It’s important to check if the N95 or KN95 mask you are using is authentic, as many fakes are being marketed and sold in the US.  There are no authorized “children’s mask” in the N95 variety; nor do they have earloops.  

One widespread concern about using masks is their propensity to increase our intake of carbon dioxide (CO2) due to retaining exhaled CO2 in the mask.  Most medical experts say that there is no increase in retained CO2 due to masks, including this video of a respiratory therapist wearing one for 6 hours, with her oxygen and CO2 levels monitored.  However, studies such as the following have shown that elevated CO2 levels are present, and even this Mayo Clinic article mentions that CO2 levels do not increase with medical and cloth masks, but does not say the same for KN95 and N95 masks. 

  • This study of 11 individuals at rest shows that the levels of CO2 in their mask are elevated after only 15 minutes. The study evaluated KN95 masks, valved respirator masks, and powered air purifying respirator (PAPR, which assists in breathing by using positive pressure inside the mask).  The measurements taken for KN95 and valved respirator masks after 15 minutes showed CO2 levels above the threshold for short-term limits (TLV-STEL) which are set by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  They are much higher than the long-term limits (TLV-REL) set for 8 hours of exposure.   However, measurements using the PAPR were only slightly above the TLV-STEL.  The study concluded that hypercapnia was a real possibility for healthcare workers using masks for extended periods, but use of PAPR prevents relative hypercapnia.  

  • This study shows levels of CO2 while volunteers are at rest sitting or standing still with a mask hovers at approximately 500-700 ppm.  While using a mask, the CO2 concentration in the mask elevates on average to 2200 ppm while sitting or standing still, approx. 2500 when walking at a pace of 3km/hr with a mask, and approx. 2900 while walking at a pace of 5km/hr with a mask.  The conclusion cites that “concentrations between 1,000 ppm and 10,000 ppm can cause undesirable symptoms such as fatigue, headache and loss of concentration”, so those who are required to wear masks for long periods like students, bus drivers or cashiers may be affected.

  • Computational fluid dynamics were used in this study to show that due to the tight fit and mask composition in N95 respirator masks, CO2 levels, water vapor, and temperature are all increased inside the mask.  This leads to excessive CO2 inhalation (up to 7 times more per breath) and reduced heat transfer inside the nasal cavity (which causes the wearer to feel that they have not taken a full breath).   The authors suggested that wearers of this type of mask should limit the time the mask is worn. 

The takeaways from these studies show that it’s not advisable to wear respirator masks like the N95 unless you are in close proximity with unknown and known sources of SARS-CoV-2, and then only for shorter periods of time.  Most of us may wear well-fitting and designed cloth and procedure masks, and there are some great options for specific use out there:

  • Since it’s important that masks fit everyone well, Enro has developed their mask in 6 sizes, making it exceptionally wearable, washable and durable, with an anti-microbial coating. 

  • Seri face masks by Serionix are very soft, comfortable masks with refills that come in a choice of MERV 13 or MERV 16 filter material. 

  • Clear masks solve the problem of not being able to see half of our faces and expressions!  ClearMask seems to be the leader for medical and professional use, but many others are offering different designs with comfort and anti-fog characteristics.  MaMo Creations is a favorite among teachers and other communicators. 

  • The Vocaleasemask offers singers and performers acoustic transparency of materials for greater clarity, and a design for full range of face motion and easier breathing.  It achieves particle filtration above level 2 (the higher level) of the ASTM Standard Specification for Barrier Face Coverings (ASTM F3502-21).

  • Sunnie Face Shields are not masks, but they are popular for protection against droplets as mask requirements are relaxed.  They are very light, anti-fogging, scratch-resistant and extremely durable.  

Now, how can I wear the same mask day after day, safely? 

  • Sometimes, due to shortages, healthcare professionals must re-use their masks. Disinfecting N95 and KN95 masks with soap and water, bleach or even alcohol decreases their effectiveness.  The best way to disinfect these type masks is actually just to let them dry for 48-72 hours.  

  • If you don’t get a chance to wash your cloth face mask everyday, we also recommend letting it dry out (don’t store your mask in a plastic bag!); 

  • You can natural sprays to refresh it and remove odors, such as Cavere, which uses 70% ethanol (alcohol derived from corn or soybean), water, glycerin, peppermint oil, echinacea extract, eucalyptus oil, citric acid, and a few other ingredients.   

  • Mask sanitizing sprays such as CovaGuard use Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC), which does kill viruses but have been known to induce asthma in cleaning workers, decreased lung function in farmers, and greater immune reactions and decreased fertility in mice, among other effects.  

Masks are definitely equipment that we hope will be rendered obsolete soon, but in the meantime, we can keep on innovating with them for better comfort and efficacy.

Photo by Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

Should I Clean my HVAC Ducts?

Should I Clean my HVAC Ducts?

We all want to have clean rooms, windows, and nice fresh paint and decor.  But what about those spaces behind the walls and ceilings, like the HVAC ducts?  You would think that accumulated dust in HVAC ducts would be a major health concern.  Surprisingly….in most cases it isn’t.

There is a big discrepancy between the EPA (with whom I found knowledgeable websites such as bobvila.com and thespruce.com concur) and the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association), including all the companies they represent.  Let’s lay out the facts, people!  The EPA has posted a very informative article about whether to have your ducts cleaned, and there are only 3 scenarios where it is recommended:

  • There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system.

  • Ducts are infested with rodents or insects.

  • Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of debris or dust, and it’s being released into your home through the vents.

Other than these situations, chances are that the dust in your ductwork is of the normal variety and quantity, and cleaning in these cases hasn’t been proven to improve air quality.  This stands in stark contrast to advice from the NADCA, through which many companies profit by accreditation and work.  The NADCA (which on their site is now called The HVAC Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Association) used to recommend that ducts should be cleaned every 3-5 years, and this information was disseminated via all their members (accredited duct cleaners with their own companies and websites).  Now it says that frequency of cleaning depends on homeowner considering:

  • smokers in the household

  • pets that shed high amounts of hair and dander

  • water contamination or damage to the home or HVAC system

  • residents with allergies or asthma who might benefit from a reduction in the amount of indoor air pollutants in the home’s HVAC system

  • after home renovations or remodeling

  • prior to occupancy of a new home.

If your ducts land in one of the EPA’s criteria (mold, pests, excessive debris), then your decision should lie between cleaning and replacement of the system.  If your ducts don’t have these conditions, keep reading! 

  • First of all, duct cleaning isn’t cheap!  The estimate could range between $450 to $1000 (according to the EPA).  If you encounter a “coupon” that enables you to have your system cleaned for much lower price (like $50), beware, because these companies are jokingly referred to as “blow and go”, meaning they are unaccredited and often pressure or scare homeowners into adding more expensive services once they are inside. 

  • Duct cleaning should include the entire system, not just the ductwork, because if excessive dirt is found in the ducts, the air handler and evaporator will have the same issue.  The professionals you hire should have knowledge of the entire system, and it should take two professionals three to five hours to clean the entire system of an average home. Thespruce.com includes a checklist of items to be covered.

  • Cleaning ducts has its risks. Some areas of ductwork may require access holes to be cut, which need to be properly sealed after the cleaning. Cleaning flexible ducts carries the risk of puncture or tears, which exposes your air pathways to heavily-dusty areas like the attic.  Also, if portable suction equipment used does not have the proper filters or they are not clean, then dusty air can be released back into your home.  For this reason, it’s important to only hire professionals that have been accredited by the NADCA and follow their guidelines

  • Extra services offered, like biocides that kill mold or bacteria, and sealants that encapsulate debris to keep it in place, also have risks.  Biocides should only be applied to non-insulated areas, and be approved by the homeowner according to their tolerances and chemical sensitivity. Sealants have been shown in general not to be applied evenly over surfaces (leaving gaps) and may degrade over time, releasing more particles into the air. According to the EPA, “Most organizations concerned with duct cleaning, including EPA, NADCA, NAIMA, and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) do not currently recommend the routine use of sealants to encapsulate contaminants in any type of duct.”

  • There are many other sources of dust than what is coming out of your HVAC system.  Most of it is coming in from the outside on clothing, pets, and mainly air leaks in the house.  If you live by a road with high traffic or a dusty gravel road, or have one or more pets, those will have much more impact on the particles you breathe in. This study also shows that 90% of the ultrafine particles in the air of 40 houses and apartments in Germany, were from cooking, baking and toasting.  These ultrafine particles are the most concerning for health because they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream. 

At HypoAir, we tend to advise not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, meaning, let’s not go overboard in recommendations to tear out the entire HVAC system, house, etc. when you find a problem!  However if you do find mold in your system, let’s go back to recommendations on the lifespan of HVAC systems in general.  The industry recommends replacing HVAC systems every 10-15 years.  If you are in a home with a system older than that, it may be more cost effective to put money budgeted for cleaning ducts toward a totally new system–and of course, starting over with new ducts is way better than cleaning old ones.

(How to tell the age of your AC: go to the outside unit and use your phone to snap a picture of the manufacturer’s plate on the backside (side facing the wall).  If it doesn’t have a legible date, there are ways to tell from the model number. )

So, if you’ve determined your HVAC is young enough to keep for a few more years, and don’t have mold/pests/excessive debris in your ductwork, it’s best to redirect your energy and budget away from duct-cleaning, to tackle the bigger sources of dust or allergens through elimination or mitigation (often you can do 2 or 3 of these for the price of duct-cleaning!).  Here are some examples (many of our blog posts cover them):

  • Invest in a good HEPA filter and/or air purifier, at least for the area(s) of the home in which you spend the most time (portable ones can cover multiple areas)

  • Make sure that the ventilation hood over your cookstove is powerful enough to remove all the vapors released (and make sure to use it regularly!)

  • Seal up air leaks around doors, windows and outlets 

  • If you live in an area with high outdoor pollution, consider adding a heat exchanger ventilation component so that you can get fresh, filtered air through your HVAC

  • If you live in a low outdoor pollution area and like to open your windows, consider adding anti-pollen screens to some or all windows to reduce dust and pollen inside. 

  • Change your furnace filter regularly with the best one you can afford (and your system is rated for). 

  • Brush and bathe your pets regularly to reduce dust in their fur.

I hope that this article helped you to consider all the options when presented with HVAC duct-cleaning.  It certainly educated me in writing it!

Are you using a humidifier? Take these precautions against bacteria, mold and fine particulates (PM2.5)

Are you using a humidifier?  Take these precautions against bacteria, mold and fine particulates (PM2.5)

We at HypoAir are big proponents of getting the humidity in your house or office to a good range (40-60%) and for those with a dry air problem, have recommended humidifiers.  We wanted to make you aware of a few problems that can occur if they are not regularly cleaned or the wrong water is used. 

As I discussed in other posts, the concentration of water vapor present in the air is called humidity.  Too little water vapor is low humidity, which can cause dryness in the respiratory system, sinuses, and ability for viruses to survive and infect for longer in the air.  Injecting the air with water vapor raises the humidity to the proper level (40-60%).  Humidifiers essentially create water vapor and eject it into the air. 

There are several types of humidifiers out there.  Consumer Reports lists four types of portable humidifiers: Cool Mist Evaporative, Cool Mist Ultrasonic, Warm Mist Humidifiers (also known as steam vaporizers), and Dual Mist.  They are all subject to microbial growth (bacteria/fungus) if they are not cleaned regularly, which can lead to serious respiratory infections like humidifier lung (only one humidifier did not emit bacteria into the air: the evaporative or wick humidifier).  If you don’t have the manufacturer’s instructions, humidifiers should be cleaned at least once a week.  Many websites will recommend a bleach solution, but there’s no good reason to release these harmful vapors in your home when there are safer options:

  • Empty out the tank and disassemble the parts that normally come apart.  To clean, here is our suggestion: 
    • Clean from microbes: Use Total Clean or Force of Nature to clean all parts of the tank and base, using a soft toothbrush to get into hard to reach places. Rinse with water.
    • Clean from scale buildup: Use 1 cup white vinegar plus 1 cup water in the tank and the base and let it soak for 20 minutes to loosen any mineral scale buildup, then scrub with the toothbrush, rinse thoroughly and let them air dry. 
    • Note: cleaning with vinegar alone does not kill all bacteria and fungus (see our post on non-toxic cleaners).   
  • With evaporative humidifiers, remove and rinse the filter/wick, and let it thoroughly air dry.  

That’s it–no mysteries here!  You have a clean humidifier, ready for use to add that satisfying mist of clean moisture to your air, right?  Well, yes, but here is the caution: despite having become very popular because of their quiet, efficient operation, ultrasonic humidifiers can transfer whatever minerals and particles are present in your water, into the air. That mist may not be just water vapor, but also calcium, magnesium, sodium, and other dissolved solids.   Normally these minerals are not harmful on their own to our bodies, but we were not meant to breathe in such particles.  In one study at the University of Alberta, operating an ultrasonic humidifier with tap water resulted in particulate matter concentration equivalent to a polluted city (!).  In the study, the humidifier was placed in an upper-story bedroom, but fine particulate matter (PM2.5) was distributed throughout the house via central air circulation. “These particles are so small that they can evade our filtration system in the upper airway and penetrate deep into our respiratory tract,” explained Chester Lau, lead author of the paper. “Upon doing so, they also send chemical species associated with them into our bodies. Using dirty or contaminated water could cause further detrimental health impacts.”

Of course, the best solution would be to use distilled water purchased from the grocery store, or filtered water from a filter that removes Total Dissolved Solids, such as ZeroWater, in ultrasonic humidifiers.  Not all water filters remove minerals and other dissolved solids, so you’ll need to be careful what type of filtered water you use.  Also, you should consider the cost of using distilled or highly filtered water in your humidifier, because it can add up.  

Here's the bottom line: humidity is great in the proper doses, just make sure that it’s not carrying bacteria, mold or fine particulates with it!

Window AC units need (Deep) Spring Cleaning too!

Window AC units need (Deep) Spring Cleaning too!

We still have cool evenings in the eastern US as I’m writing this (late April), but the days are heating up quickly.  My parents and I have central air conditioning in our homes, but their workshop has a window unit.  It’s an older unit, still very good at cooling the room, but we turned it on recently and immediately had to turn it off.  The mold smell was overwhelming!  Even cleaning the air filter did not clear up the smell.  I knew what I had to do–a deep cleaning to get the mold out!

My father’s hobby of decoy carving makes a LOT of dust.  He has a carving cabinet with dedicated vacuum (the 220v motor pulls the dusty air into a collection unit outside), but even so, there is dust on EVERYTHING.  I had a theory that the thin intake filter was not stopping the dust from being trapped in the tiny fins, where condensation provides moisture and voila!  The window AC unit became a petri dish for mold.  It wasn’t my parents’ fault; these window unit filters are just not designed for dusty workshops (more on that later). 

If you have the same experience of turning on your window unit and smelling mold, STOP!  Don’t let it run any longer without taking the following steps, or you run the risk of blowing mold spores all over your space. Here’s the deal: you can check, but mold is usually not growing on the intake filter in the front.  It’s growing INSIDE the air conditioner, where there’s more moisture from condensation.  You can do the following check, but 9 times out of 10, it won’t be enough to eliminate the mold smell.  

  • Remove the front plastic grille (it usually pulls out from the sides, and lifts out from the top or bottom).  

  • Remove the intake filter.  If it has a light coat of dust, you can vacuum it off, or use dish soap and water, a soft sponge, and rinse clean and let it dry. 

  • Replace the filter and turn the AC back on. (You don’t have to replace the plastic grille just yet).  Do you smell mold?

    • No mold smell: you are blessed and can replace the plastic grille and enjoy the cool air.

    • Mold smell: STOP!  It’s time for deep cleaning. 

I didn’t know that deep cleaning the fins of the unit was possible until I saw this video. The unit shown is a GE air conditioner, but many units are very similar.  Here is a diagram that shows the major components of every older air conditioner (from howstuffworks.com):

The machine sucks in air through the front grille (lower rectangular part) and pulls it through the evaporator coil by the blower.  This is where the warm air from the room is made cooler by the refrigerant that circulates through the evaporator coil.  The air, which is now cool and hopefully drier, is expelled through the louvers at the top of the front grille, which you can direct at different angles into the room.  Unless there is a “fresh air intake” from the back of the air conditioner (which is hanging outside the room), no outside air is coming into your space, so the mold problem likely lies in the evaporator coil and areas around it, like the blower.  

There are “easier” ways of cleaning your air conditioner, like just vacuuming off the coils, or using an ozone method like this one to disinfect all the inner parts without touching them.  The only problem is that dead mold is not safe mold, either.  “Dead mold is just as bad as live mold. When mold dies, its cell wall dessicates and it gets dry and it will break apart into little fragments. And the fragments have toxins on them. This is a disease of toxins. When you inhale those toxins, they are in you.  If you don’t recognize them as being foreign, you have a difficult time getting them out of your body.” (Scott McMahon, M.D., moldymovie.com) 

 It’s not easy, but removing the parts in order to clean all the way through the coils is the best way to get rid of hidden mold.  The unit in the video had a metal cover that lifts off to expose the inner parts of the machine.  Mine (and many others) actually pull out of a cover/cage by means of a handle in the front.  Get help to do this as they can be very heavy!  You’ll also want to wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid cuts on sharp metal (from experience 🙁 …) and avoid gripping or pinching the fins on the evaporator and condenser coils, as they are super thin and fragile.  The cooling capacity of the machine actually depends on these being undamaged!  There are many videos online to show how various machines come apart. 

Obviously you’ll want to be doing this job outside, not only because of the dirt, mold and water involved, but also if you choose to use a stronger coil cleaner.  The coil cleaner shown in the video contains sodium hydroxide, which is also known as lye or caustic soda.  She’s right that it can cause severe burns or even damage the coils if it’s left on them too long.  Rinsing off these types of cleaners puts them into the environment.  There are safer ingredients.  “No Rinse” on a label means just that; the product actually rinses itself off when condensation on the coils appears during normal use.  After letting them sit and work on the coils for 5-10 minutes, you can rinse them off, however, if you’re doing the deep cleaning we’re suggesting and get the dirt out of the unit.

Remember, vacuum first to get the loose dirt out, then use liquids!

  • Concrobium Mold Control Spray is a great product that is no-rinse.  To use it outside, first vacuum off loose dust, spray it on and work it into the coils with a soft brush in the direction of the fins.  Let it sit and rinse it through the coils; repeat as necessary.  Finally when the coil is clean, spray on and don’t rinse; let it dry as this will protect against future mold growth.

Homemade Coil Cleaners: You’ll want at least one ingredient in the mix that kills mold. Some websites advise to add cornstarch to the mix, however mold can grow on cornstarch, so I would advise against this!

  • One part vinegar, one part rubbing alcohol, and baking soda:  This combination will kill mold because of the alcohol.  Use a soft brush to work it into the front of the coils, let it sit for a few minutes, then use a garden hose to spray it deeper and through the coils. Repeat as necessary til you can see light through the coils.

  • Straight (3-5%) hydrogen peroxide with baking soda: This combination will kill mold because of the hydrogen peroxide.  It’s extremely fizzy!  Use the same way as the vinegar solution above (do not mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide!)

Other equipment you need or may find useful:

  • Safety goggles or face shield to keep the spray away from your eyes

  • Heavy-duty gloves to protect your hands

  • A fin comb helps straighten out those dents and dings in the coils.

It’s going to be time worth spending. You’ll breathe easier not only with fresh air, but also knowing that it’s mold-free!

What’s the difference between Relative Humidity and Absolute Humidity?

What’s the difference between Relative Humidity and Absolute Humidity?

If you’ve been reading our website or posts for any length of time, you will see that we really focus on attaining the correct humidity in your home or office as a staple condition for good air quality.  Recently a customer asked us to clarify the difference between Relative Humidity and Absolute Humidity, and which one should we be monitoring.  This is a great question!

Water is a very interesting substance because it can exist as a solid, liquid or gas.  When it’s in gaseous state, it’s called water vapor, or moisture. Let’s talk about the presence of water vapor in the air.  If you want to measure the amount of water vapor in the air, you can express it in grams of water per cubic meter volume of air, and you would have absolute humidity.  (weather.gov) Absolute humidity does not depend on any specific temperature; it is just a physical amount of water in a given volume of air.   

Relative humidity has an additional variable thrown in–temperature.  Whenever relative humidity is discussed, it takes into account temperature, because temperature has a big effect on how much water the air can theoretically hold.  As temperature increases, the same volume of air can hold more water, just as hot water can hold more dissolved sugar or salt than cold water.  Relative humidity is always measured in percent.  If you have 50% relative humidity, the air is holding 50% of the water vapor it could theoretically contain at that temperature.  The theoretical maximum is that point where any increase in the water vapor at that temperature would cause it to fall out of the air (rain).   What’s the takeaway of relative humidity?  A certain relative humidity–say fifty percent– should “feel” the same whether it is 60 degrees or 70 degrees in your house, but 70 degree air at 50% relative humidity actually contains more volume of water vapor than 60 degree air at 50% relative humidity.  

As you may note, relative humidity is what we normally reference in all of our discussions, because we like to keep our homes at different temperatures throughout the day and throughout the year, but the target relative humidity (40-60%) should remain the same for good respiratory health, and low bacterial/viral transmission and mold growth.  Check out our portable, economical humidity sensors so that you can easily monitor the relative humidity in different areas of your home!

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