For many people, their home is their castle, a safe place where they can take refuge, and escape the troubles of the world. Unfortunately, what a lot of them fail to realize is that their safe haven is actually full of hidden dangers, concealing germs, bacteria, dirt, or worse, which can make them sick, tired, or prone to allergies.
Far from being a mythical concept, “unhealthy house syndrome” is a real thing, which afflicts millions of Americans. Here are some of the common mistakes that people make that contribution to their home being an unhealthy place in which to live – and some tips on how to avoid them.
Dusting the Wrong Way
Dust builds up continuously, and the longer it is left, the more it accumulates.
However, it is not just a question of when to dust but making sure it is done in the right way. Dusting in the wrong way means that places can be missed or excess amounts allowed to build-up, causing deterioration in air quality and the risk of allergies.
The recommended way to dust is from top to bottom, and to use a damp cloth as opposed to a feather duster, because this captures the dust particles rather than throwing them up into the air.
Neglecting to Clean Air Vents
Anybody who has an HVAC system in their house should make sure that they clean the air vents regularly. That is because, when they turn on the heating or air-conditioning, the dust and allergen particles that accumulate in the vents is redistributed around the house, and into the air that they are breathing.
To counter this, every few months, homeowners can remove the covers and clean the vents using a rag, soap, and water. Once a year though, they might want to enlist the help of professionals who can do a more thorough cleaning job using compressed air and specialist equipment to clear hard-to-reach dust particles.
Keeping the Wrong Indoor Plants
Indoor plants add beauty to a home, and, in many instances, have positive health benefits by helping to maintain, and, in some cases, increase humidity levels. They also help eliminate toxins by removing VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from the atmosphere. However, recent research has shown that not indoor plants have such a benign impact as was once thought, and that certain species commonly found in American homes – like Peace Lilies, Weeping Figs, and Areca Palms – actually release back VOCs into the atmosphere.
The answer for people is not to deny themselves the pleasure and benefits of indoor plants, but to choose the right variety to keep by discussing the matter with their local garden center.
Using the Wrong Household Cleaning Products
Many household cleaning products, like bleach, dish soap, and bathroom cleaners, contain chemicals which can damage the lungs and cause respiratory problems. A survey by the Environmental Working Group, which investigated some two thousand products commonly used to clean American homes, found that many of them were potentially dangerous to human health, with links to asthma, allergies, and, in some cases, even cancer.
The solution is to source some of the chemical-free cleaning products and solutions which are available on the market.
Allowing Moisture to Build-Up in the Bathroom
Bathrooms generate and retain a lot of moisture, which can not only cause paintwork to blister and wallpaper to detach but also result in the build-up of mold and mildew. These can lead to spores that can migrate throughout the rest of a home, making the whole environment unhealthier.
A simple precautionary measure that can be taken is to leave a window open or fan blowing to ventilate the bathroom when having a shower or a bath. And, when have finished, they should keep ventilating for half an hour afterward to allow excess moisture to disperse.
Vacuuming without a HEPA filter
It is a startling fact that more than 100,000 people a year in the United States die prematurely because of air pollution, while millions more are affected by allergies and asthma. That is why it is important to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter to prevent minute dust particles being blown back into the indoor air of a house. HEPA filters are able to trap 99.97% of all particles which have a diameter of 0.3 microns or above, so their use can be the first line of defense against one of the most common causes of an unhealthy home.
Maintaining too High an Indoor Temperature
Those who prefer to keep the indoor temperature in their home too high run the risk of creating an ideal micro-climate for bacteria and dust mites, which thrive in temperatures in excess of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, mold grows more quickly, where humidity levels are above 50%. Combined, these two factors can make a house very unhealthy and lead to all sorts of allergies and illnesses.
The solution is to keep temperature and humidity levels below these levels to counter the spread of mites, mold, and bacteria. Those worried about incurring expensive electric bills by running air-conditioning units full-time could consider investing in portable a/c units, which can work out considerably cheaper in the long-run.
Inviting Pets into the Bed
However much people love their domestic dog or cat, their bed is not the place for them to sleep or cuddle. That is because while they are out in the neighborhood or yard, they pick up a lot of dirt, germs, and insects like ticks, which can easily be transferred to humans.
Furthermore, pet dander, particularly in older animals, traps allergens which can be harmful to human health.
The solution is to resist the cajoling of the family pet, and insist that they sleep in their own bed.
Not Changing Your Bedding Regularly
At any one time, there can be anywhere between 100,000 to 10 million dust mites inhabiting a single mattress, while 10% of the weight of an average pillow aged two years old or more is likely to be made up of dead mites and their waste products.
For this reason, bedding should be changed regularly, although, as a short-term measure, special tight-fitting dust-proof casings, which come with zippers, can be fitted over a mattress and pillow.
The average American house can be an unhealthy place to live because of the hidden germs, bacteria, and dirt that it contains and which, unless tackled, can lead to allergies, diseases, and long-term negative health consequences. However, by identifying some of the common mistakes that people make, and adopting simple solutions to deal with them, it is possible to enjoy all the benefits of a home, without having to worry about any unpleasant side-effects.