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3 easy tips to improve indoor air quality in winter

By Jacqueline Tourville

With heating systems on full blast this month, the air in your home may be feeling a little dry and stale. In addition to robbing air of moisture, heating systems can increase amounts of allergy-inducing dust mites, pet dander and mold spores in circulation. Allergies flaring up lately? It’s time to improve indoor air quality! Here are three easy tips to do just that.

Woman improving indoor air quality with plants

Bump spring cleaning up a few weeks. With windows sealed tight in winter, air recirculates in rooms and around the house, picking up dust and allergens that don’t have a way to escape. You end up breathing in this irritant-filled air.

The good news — this is a problem that actually has an easy fix to improve indoor air quality: give your home a good cleaning. Dusting and vacuuming helps cut down on circulating dust, mold and animal dander. The following routines can help:

  • Regularly clean bedding, drapes, and other items that tend to attract allergens and pet dander.
  • Vacuum carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter; regularly sweep and mop hardwood and tile floors.
  • Clear out clutter — a known magnet for dust and mold!
  • Wipe down walls with a damp cloth, especially near heating vents where dust can accumulate.

Fill your home with plants — but not for the reason you think. The idea that houseplants can filter toxins from the air to improve indoor air quality is such a lovely notion, but unfortunately, the science just doesn’t bear this out. However, that doesn’t mean that houseplants are useless beyond looking pretty. We do know for certain that plants release moisture vapor, which increases humidity in the air around them. Plants release roughly 97% of the water they take in. So if the air in your home feels particularly arid, place several houseplants together in different rooms and you can increase your home’s humidity, which helps keeps respiratory distresses at bay. Just keep your plants watered well so they have moisture to give back.

Change your filters. If you have a forced-air heating system, check the electrostatic air filter. Is it filled with trapped dust? It’s time for a change. Electrostatic filters help trap dust and other airborne irritants to prevent them from recirculating throughout your home. Once they’re filled with dust and other gunk, they lose their effectiveness. Aim to change your furnace’s filter at least once per heating season. (You can buy a replacement at the hardware store.)

A bonus tip? Turn down the heat and crack open your windows from time to time to allow outdoor air in to move through your home. Even just 10 minutes every few days can help keep indoor air feeling fresher.

Last Updated: July 5, 2021
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