Does your home make the grade?
With cold weather closing in, here's the inside scoop on indoor air quality: It's a hot topic these days because the levels of air pollutants indoors can be two to five times higher than outdoors. You can improve your indoor air by following a few tips. *Clean Underfoot Avoid carpeting that absorbs much of the roughly three pounds of dirt, dust and allergens the average family tracks into its home each week. Instead, select hard floor surfaces such as hardwood, tile or laminate flooring that don't hold in allergens and can be cleaned easily and often with either a vacuum or mop. *Keep Furniture and Windows Dust-free Dust and dirt may not always be visible on furniture but they're there. Leather and vinyl furniture is easier to clean than upholstered fabrics because it can be wiped of dust and dirt with a damp cloth. If you do have upholstered furniture, consider slip-covers that can be machine washed or dry-cleaned several times a year and be sure cushions are removable for cleaning. Curtains, blinds and window shades trap more than just incoming light. Take them down and wash them several times a year in the bathtub or outdoors with a garden hose and vacuum between deep-cleanings. Wood blinds and shutters as well as vinyl styles are easier to clean than most fabric styles. *Filter the Air HEPA air filters can be the best way to remove airborne allergens and other particles from the air in your home. HEPA, which stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air, is an air filter that captures 99.97 percent of dust, allergens and other small particles. A HEPA filter in your heating or cooling system can reduce indoor air pollution by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's studies on energy efficiency and renewable energy. As long as your central air system is operating, all of your home's air will circulate through this filter, but don't forget to clean or change the filter monthly to keep it effective. *Have the Right Tools Use a vacuum with a sealed HEPA filtration system to keep 99.97 percent of dust, dirt and allergens locked inside and out of the home. To add an allergist recommendation to your vacuum, use Arm & Hammer premium vacuum bags, which reduce allergy triggers in the home by retaining up to 100 percent of dust mite debris, household fibers, grass and ragweed pollens, plus particles 15 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. These bags also use the power of baking soda to eliminate odors and keep air smelling fresh. You're going to be inside a lot in these winter months. Make sure the air you breathe contains the fewest possible pollutants.