Embracing winter can be rough, no matter where you live. Plummeting temperatures, dry air, storm surges, and a general germiness conspire to leave us feeling cranky, out of sorts, and ready for that surge of springtime.
Ask Gay Browne, an environmental health adviser and author of the upcoming book Living With a Green Heart: How to Keep Your Body, Your Home, and the Planet Healthy in a Toxic World, and she'll tell you that the antidote to wintertime blues is a good old-fashioned home cleanse.
"I live in California, and you might think we don't need to winterize our homes, but in fact it is important because even here we get rain and drafty weather, which affects how people behave indoors," she tells mbg. Here are some of Browne's top tips for keeping your home clean and cozy all winter long:
4 ways to winter-proof your home.
1. Check on your windows, doors, and furnace.
If you're a homeowner, Browne recommends having your furnace, windows, and doors checked out by a professional at the start of every winter. They should be making sure your furnace is clean and running efficiently, surveying windows and doors for draftiness, and weatherstripping areas where outdoor air is making its way inside. While these sorts of chores aren't exactly exciting, they can work wonders to keep your home more comfortable and energy efficient throughout the season.
2. Clean out your gutters.
Next, it's important to make sure that your gutters are free of all of fall's debris before the rain and snow set in. "Keep on top of them to avoid damaging walls or ceilings with dampness buildup that can cause harmful mold or leaks," Browne cautions.
3. Invest in a cozy pair of slippers.
If ever there was a time to make your house a shoe-free zone, it's winter. Not only will it reduce the amount of dirt, grime, and toxins that get into your environment, but it'll cue you to slip into some cozy slippers as soon as you walk in the door.
4. Dress in layers and slowly bring down that thermostat.
Lowering your thermostat just 1 degree in the winter can save you up to 5 percent on your electricity bill, according to the EIA. Browne recommends easing into slightly cooler temps by experimenting with different layers at home: "Figure out what layering method works best for you. Whether it's an undershirt, wool socks, sweater or vest, find what makes you feel warm, and leave it out somewhere you can readily find it when you come home."
Remember to keep the fresh air flowing.
Once you take all these measures to keep cold air out, your home might start feeling stale—which isn't great either.
"Besides dust, pet dander, VOCs, air fresheners, and cleaning products that you are exposed to, bigger problems like mold can become very problematic when you stop opening your windows," explains Christine Dimmick, the founder and CEO of The Good Home Company and author of Detox Your Home: A Guide to Removing Toxins From Your Life and Bringing Health Into Your Home. "Poor indoor air quality contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems. You can find yourself sneezing, stuffy, and not sleeping well. And in bad cases you can find you have headaches or unexplainable malaise."
To combat unhealthy wintertime air, she recommends only using nontoxic cleaners (here's mbg's approved list), refraining from VOC-heavy activities like painting or floor refurbishing, and opening windows on nice days to make sure things don't get too stagnant during colder seasons.
Lesson learned: Like everything else, keeping up with a healthy home in winter is all about balance.
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