Holiday home cleaning checklist:
- Carpets – steamed and fresh
- Kitchen – sparkling and inviting
- Bathroom – sanitized and spotless
- Guest rooms – tidy with clean linens
- Air – air? What about the air?!
That’s right – this essential home element that literally everyone in your home uses is usually forgotten or overlooked. Why clean something that no one will see?
There’s something in the air
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors. During cold weather, doors and windows are usually closed and our homes are sealed up cozy and tight.
These conditions also mean different types of microparticles that are invisible to the human eye. They can build and accumulate in the air, creating an increasingly concentrated cocktail of unseen debris that can include:
- Allergens like dust, mold and pet dander.
- Microbes like bacteria and viruses.
- Particulates generated from regular household activities such as cooking, burning candles, or using a fireplace.
A 2019 article in The New Yorker highlighted a group of Homechem researchers who studied the particle emissions generated while making a traditional holiday meal. After a few hours of cooking, they found the home’s fine-particulate concentration had risen to level that would be labelled polluted if the house were a city.
How to clean what you can’t see
Here are some simple ways to help clean the air in your home:
Run your stove hood exhaust fan while cooking. This helps to both filter cooking-related particles from the air in area where they’re most highly concentrated and move that air outside. Make sure to check the filter and clean it, if needed, to get the full air filtering benefit.
Crack windows open. If you’re doing a lot of cooking and/or have a house full of guests, open some windows or doors, even just a bit, to help bring in fresh air and dilute the concentration of particles inside.
Check your HVAC air filter. Make sure the filter in your home’s HVAC system is clean and replace the air filter if it’s dirty. A clogged filter can strain the furnace’s mechanical systems and may not filter the air that passes through it as effectively as it should.
Consider using an air filter with a higher rating. HVAC air filters are rated according to the level of filtration they provide. Pets, seasonal allergens, geography, and proximity to sources of outdoor air quality issues, like wildfires and heavy traffic, are among the many factors that can lead to higher level of particles inside the home and may warrant using a filter with a higher rating. 3M Filtrete™ Air Filters rated MPR 1500 and above are the only HVAC filters that have been tested and CERTIFIED asthma & allergy-friendly® by the Asthma and Allergy Federation of America.
Use one or more air purifiers. The home’s HVAC system filters air for the entire home. Air purifiers complement the HVAC system and provide additional air cleaning support in areas of the home that are most heavily used, such as kitchens, living areas and bedrooms.
Look for a unit that has:
- True HEPA (high efficiency particular air) filter. Filtrete True HEPA Filters can capture 99.97% of airborne particles*, including the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus. (*As small as 0.3 microns from air passing through the filter media. Initial efficiency value).
- Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) certification for the unit’s clean air delivery rate (CADR). Not all manufacturers rate their products’ performance the same way. AHAM’s CADR rating is a credible third-party system that helps consumers understand an air purifier’s performance and accurately compare products.
- Energy Star Certification for efficiency.
Get smart. If you’re not sure how often to run your air purifier or at what speed, a smart unit can do the work for you. 3M Filtrete™ Smart Air Purifiers have sensors that read air quality levels and have both digital and color-coded indicators. The units’ auto mode will automatically adjust the fan speed when more polluted air is detected to increase the cleaning speed until the pollution event has ended. The Filtrete™ Smart App sends alerts if air quality deteriorates and allows users to monitor the home’s current and historical air quality.
If you need help with reminders to check your HVAC air filter, consider a 3M Filtrete™ Smart Air Filter, which is outfitted with a sensor that connects to your smart phone’s Bluetooth® and monitors air flow and usage of your heating and cooling system – not just time. The filter can also be paired with the Filtrete™ Smart App for smart phone reminder notifications when the filter life is low and when it’s time to replace.
Try DIY. A simple, low-tech air cleaning solution called a Corsi-Rosenthal Box is a simple yet highly effective option with a growing and enthusiastic fanbase on social media. All you need to make one is a box fan, four high-quality air filters, duct tape and cardboard. It can be budget friendly alternative, a gratifying DIY project and a fun science project to do with kids.
Don’t ditch your respirators. This tip may not fit neatly into the house cleaning category but it’s worth a friendly reminder that respirators are still important. You can help reduce exposure to the airborne particles you breathe in many types of indoor spaces by wearing a 3M N95 particulate respirator. 3M’s Dr. Nikki McCullough provides a wealth of useful information on masks vs. respirators, how to wear them, and more in this interview by Aaron Collins, aka the Mask Nerd.