Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home
Tips for Reducing Indoor Pollutants in Your Home
Exposure to indoor air pollutants can cause respiratory
problems, such as asthma attacks, or diseases, such as lung cancer. Pollutants include smoke, pet
radon, mold, cleaning products, and other chemicals.
You can create a healthier home by following the tips below.footnote 1
- Groom pets often to reduce
dander. Don’t allow them to sleep in the bedroom with anyone who has
asthma or allergies. If possible, keep them off
carpets and furniture.
- Choose window coverings that are easy
to clean, such as wood shades or blinds. Drapes are magnets for dust.
- Check houseplants for mold. Repot or move them outside if the
soil contains mold.
- Do not allow anyone to smoke in your
- Eliminate carpeting and replace it with wood or tile
flooring, if possible.
- If the humidity level is more than 50% inside your house, dust
mites and molds can be a problem. To control dust mites, get allergen-resistant
covers for bedding. Wash sheets and blankets in hot water.
- Use high-efficiency bags in your vacuum cleaner or
install a central vacuum system in your home.
- Don’t store firewood
indoors. Drying green firewood can contain mold spores.
- Keep trees
and shrubs at least 3 ft (0.9 m) away from your house. Roots can provide an easy path for water into
your basement or crawl space.
- Keep bathrooms, kitchen, and
basement-places where allergens are likely to grow-clean and dry.
- Fix leaks and other sources of water intrusion,
and remove water-damaged materials.
- Make sure your
clothes dryer vents to the outside.
- Install and keep
clean hood exhaust fans in your kitchen. Make sure bathroom vents exhaust air outdoors and not into basements, crawl spaces, or inside the
- Make sure that exhaust fans don’t draw too much air out,
creating a negative-pressure situation in which the pressure inside the house
is lower than outside. Negative pressure can reverse the flow of combustion
gases from furnaces, gas stoves, and water heaters, and draw water vapor and
carbon monoxide or nitrogen dioxide into your home.
- Caulk the interior and exterior of your home, especially around
windows and vents.
- If you’re building a new home, install a
waterproofing system that keeps moisture away from your
- Keep gutters and drains clean.
- Remove any
water-damaged carpet. Replace it, if possible, with wood or tile
Avoid heating problems
- Make sure fuel-burning furnaces, hot water
heaters, and gas ranges are checked every year to ensure air intake and exhaust
systems are adequate. It is best to have your water heater and furnace outside
of your home-for example, in your garage.
- Do not use kerosene space
heaters or unvented gas heaters as your primary source of
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Carbon
monoxide is odorless and colorless. You may not notice it until you have
health problems. If you see orange or sputtering flames in your gas furnace or
stove, it may mean that you have a problem with carbon monoxide. Call a
- Make sure wood stoves and fireplaces have
tight-fitting doors. Check flues and chimneys for cracks that could allow fumes
into your house.
Check household furnishings
- Many furnishings contain formaldehyde and other
organic compounds. When shopping for new furniture or cabinets, try to buy
those that are made of solid hardwood, not particleboard, which usually has a
wood-veneer finish. The wood veneer may be attached with glue that contains
- If someone living in your home has asthma, replace
carpet with tile or wood flooring. If carpeting is necessary, use a product
with a short nap, or use area rugs that can be cleaned regularly.
- If you are remodeling, use gypsum board, plaster, or real wood
for walls. Plastic or wood-fiber paneling may emit formaldehyde.
- If your house was built
before 1978, the woodwork or other
surfaces may be covered with lead paint. You can have the paint
tested for lead. Do not sand or strip off the lead paint. But you can cover
surfaces with wallpaper or other building material. Call an expert
if you have to remove lead paint.
Be careful with household products
- Take care when using
cleaning products, paints, solvents, and pesticides. Try not to use
them inside the house. If you must use them inside, use a fan to
blow strong odors and fumes out of your home. Be aware
that paint can release trace gases for months after you apply it. Try to use
volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
nontoxic glue to install flooring or
- If you strip furniture inside, use
products that do not contain methylene chloride. And make sure you have enough ventilation.
- Do not mix cleaning products.
Consider using natural cleaners, such as vinegar, lemon juice, boric acid, or
- Chemicals found in many air fresheners, toilet bowl
cleaners, mothballs, and other deodorizing products may be harmful to the
lungs.footnote 2 Use alternatives. For example, baking soda
absorbs odors and can be used instead of an air freshener.
keep items you’re recycling-such as newspapers, rags, cans or bottles-inside
your home. They can be sources of toxic vapors.
- Install a radon monitor in your home on the lowest level that you regularly use.
- Make sure sump basins
are sealed and vented to the outdoors.
Improve air ventilation
- Make sure your house gets an adequate
supply of fresh air.
- Place an air filter in your bedroom, and clean
it every 3 months.
- Air conditioning helps keep pollen and other
allergens out of your home, but filters must be kept clean.
furnace and air conditioner filters every 2 to 3 months.
exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms to vent air outdoors.
older homes checked for asbestos insulation on furnaces and pipes. Make sure you
use an inspector familiar with asbestos issues.
- Clean humidifiers
and dehumidifiers often.
- Make sure outdoor fresh-air intake vents
for ducted heating and air conditioning systems are located above ground and
are upwind from sources of contaminated air, such as idling cars or
- Have ducts for forced-air furnaces cleaned, if
- Make sure ducts are sealed to prevent air leakage and to
keep contaminants from coming into your
- Check that plumbing drains in your home
have full water traps and are connected to a venting
system. A sewer smell coming from a
sink or water appliance is a sign of poor
- American Lung Association (2004). Health House: Pollutants in Your Home. Available online: https://www.healthhouse.org/iaq/HomeAirPollutants.pdf.
- Elliott L, et al. (2006). Volatile organic compounds and pulmonary function in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-1994. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(8): 1210-1214.
Other Works Consulted
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2005). Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety. Available online: https://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/Publications/Cit_Guide/citguide.pdf.
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer R. Steven Tharratt, MD, MPVM, FACP, FCCP – Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine, Medical Toxicology
Current as ofMay 7, 2017
Current as of:
May 7, 2017