Tips and Tricks for Better Indoor Air

Readers wrote me with questions about air purification in their home. Here’s the latest on actions you can take to improve indoor air quality.

“I’ve heard of a HEPA filter for air conditioning. What is this and should I buy one?”

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. A HEPA filter works with a powerful fan to force air through a thick pleated mesh that traps pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and smoke. It can filter out nearly all toxic microorganisms including bacteria, mold spores and viruses. Hospitals are one of the largest users of HEPA air filters.

Sounds great, right? Let’s run down to the store and buy one. Wait, not so fast. There are a couple of problems you’ll encounter if you try to put a HEPA filter in your air handler or at the air return ducts. The first one is expense – ten dollars for a vacuum cleaner size filter, and over $200 for commercial air handlers. The second problem is that residential air handlers do not have fans with enough power to push air through HEPA type media.

But there is some good news – since the point of using a fancy filter is to clean the air, there are things you can do to improve the air quality inside. One is to use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner if it is a model that is designed to use HEPA filtration. The other thing you can do is purchase a standalone air purifier, which I’ll cover in a future article.

Without moving to a dedicated air purifier, the following things will help you keep indoor air fresh and clean.

A well-maintained vacuum cleaner, with a HEPA filter, used several times a week on floors and carpets will go a very long way in keeping your home air clean. A non-HEPA vacuum with dirty filters, on the other hand, will actually add dirt and contaminants to the air by picking it up off the floor and re-distributing it into the air.

Changing your air conditioning and heating filters on a schedule, and using high-efficiency air filters. The mid to high-efficiency air conditioning filters sold at the grocery store are very good at trapping nasty particles.

Minimize the use of candles and wood fires if you can. These add to the indoor pollutant load.

Limit use of air fresheners and strong cleaning products.

Don’t smoke indoors.

Use exhaust fans if you have them when you’re cooking, but don’t use them if you have a wood fire going in the fireplace. The fan can draw smoke into the living area from the fireplace.

You can also call an air conditioning contractor to come to your home and quote upgrading your air handler fan to one that will handle a HEPA installation. This is not an inexpensive upgrade, so you may want to try the methods above first, and then consider a standalone air purifier.

Opening windows on nice days will go a long way in cleaning your indoor air. With the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, letting the breeze sweep out pollutants will reduce your task list.

15 Tips & Tricks for a Super Clean Home

We all hate to clean – well, most of us – so it’s no surprise we often look for ways to make it simpler and easier. Thankfully, there are some such ways – here are at least 15!

Whether you constantly clean your home or only need to do it because you’re expecting visitors, these easy tricks can make the process much faster and less painful.

You’ll also save money on a host of useless cleaning products. Without further ado, here are our cheap and easy hacks for a super clean home.

1. Cleaning the blender

Fill the blender with warm water and a drop of dish soap, then turn it on for several seconds and leave it, then rinse it out with warm water. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use your sponge after that – but remember; practically everything around the house can be cleaned with a sponge.

Of course, now you need to clean the sponge itself because it can hold on to a lot of bacteria, especially after it’s been in the sink for a long time. To clean it easily, put it in the microwave for half a minute to get rid of the bacteria (and make sure you wait a few minutes before taking it out because it’s hot).

2. Use dryer sheets

Even after they’ve been used, dryer sheets are magic. You can use them to buff water spots from mirrors and shower doors, wipe baseboards clean, and clean kitchen fixtures. We recommend adding a little vinegar to get rid of hard water spots – they can work miracles for fixtures like kitchen faucets.

3. How to clean air vents

If you’ve neglected them, your air vents are probably full of dirt and dust. This sends dust into the rooms and keeps the filthy air from escaping. First, use a soft vacuum brush tool to try to get rid of the dust.

If that doesn’t work, soak a rag with any detergent you have around the house and wrap it around a butter knife. This will get the vents squeaky clean.

4. Clean blinds with vinegar

There’s a reason our grandmas always had vinegar and baking soda around the house. Vinegar has a wide array of applications, from cleaning hard water spots, as mentioned above, to cleaning blinds.

Your blinds can get dirty and dusty easily, so here’s a quick fix – combine equal parts water and vinegar in a bowl and get a cloth to put over your hand. This is important because the vinegar can damage the skin. Dip the cloth in the mix and then run it over each slat of the blinds to remove any dirt or dust.

5. How to clean your shower in a jiffy

You can also clean the shower using vinegar – after all, you don’t want to spend all day in the bathroom. Just fill a dish wand with half dish soap and half vinegar and start scrubbing. You can also use a toothbrush or sponge for this, with the same solution.

6. Use baking soda for cleaner fabrics

A cup of baking soda will do wonders – you won’t believe how dazzlingly white your clothes will get. Just put it in the washing machine before you do laundry and add a little bit of salt to remove fabric stains.

7. Clean your couch fast

You can also use baking soda to clean your couch. It helps get rid of any lingering smells and stains on all kinds of fabric. First dust the couch off, then sprinkle baking soda on the area you want to clean.

After about 15 minutes, vacuum the baking soda using the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner.

8. How to clean stainless steel

Stainless steel appliances are always getting stained. To make them shine, get a soft cloth and some rubbing alcohol.

Alternatively, you can use dish soap and water to clean the surface and rub in some olive oil (a few drops will do) to make the steel shine. Baby or mineral oil on a second cloth works too.

9. How to clean your computer safely

Never use acetone, ethanol, ammonia, toluene, or methyl chloride in the vicinity of your computer. Also, avoid harsh chemicals and paper products and don’t spray anything directly on the screen.

The best way to clean your computer? Dab a bit of white vinegar on a microfiber cloth and scrub the keyboard thoroughly. Then, clean dirtier areas with a cotton swab soaked in vinegar.

Take a microfiber cloth and wipe gently in a circular motion to clean your screen. If needed, apply a mixture of vinegar and water, gently.

10. Pesky grease stains

Mix rubbing alcohol and salt in a ratio of 4:1 to clean grease stains from carpets or other surfaces. Simply rub the mixture into the stain and let the surface dry. If needed, vacuum up any remaining salt.

11. Use tape to clean up dust, dirt and crumbs

A strong adhesive tape will pick up crumbs, dust, and dirt anywhere in the house – fabrics, lamp shades, you name it.

12. Clean sneakers with toothpaste

Use toothpaste and an old toothbrush to get the white parts of your shoes looking like new again – this really works great! I always get asked if I just bought a new pair.

13. Cleaning burnt dishes

we know how annoying burnt pans and pots can be. Again, baking soda and vinegar come to the rescue. Fill the burnt dish with water and a cup of white vinegar, boil the mixture, then add two tablespoons of baking soda. Wait for it to cool, then just wipe the burnt stuff out.

14. Use a dry rag or broom to sweep baseboards

If you haven’t cleaned the baseboards in a while, sweep off the dust using a broom or dry rag, and then vacuum the area. Remove any leftover dirt or dust using a wet cloth or sock.

15. The best way to clean wooden floorboards

You can clean wooden floorboards using a sponge and a bucket of water with a little bit of dishwashing liquid. Use a wet rag to remove any leftover soap residue when you’re done washing.

Conclusion

One last tip – use a sponge to get spots off tiles after you’ve vacuumed them. Alternatively, you can get a bucket of water, a rag and some light detergent, and start scrubbing.

Make sure you wash the rag out and change the water now and then. If not, you’re just pushing more dirt around. Use a toothbrush to get really tough spots out.