A Toxin Expert's Top Tips For Keeping Your Home Healthy This Winter
The days are becoming shorter and colder in the Northern Hemisphere, and as such, you might be noticing some changes around your home—like dry, stuffy air, or musty odors, for example. To find out how to quickly and cleanly transition your home into the chilly fall and winter months, we asked environmental toxins expert and certified holistic health coach Lara Adler for her advice. Here are three quick tips she recommends:
Keep a window cracked.
According to Adler, minding your home's air circulation is essential come winter. While keeping the windows shut may help with your heating bill, Adler notes it can result in a buildup of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and other irritants in the air.
She recommends periodically opening all the windows of your home, even if just for a few minutes, to allow for fresh airflow. If it's tolerable, she adds, having one window always slightly open can also help. Air filtration systems can also be effective, though Adler notes you want to find one that filters both teeny-tiny VOCs and particulate matter like dust.
Finally, if you have any gas appliances like a gas stove, you'll definitely want to open a window while you're using those, Adler says, to prevent the buildup of indoor air pollution.
Clean your humidifier regularly.
As the air becomes drier, many of us are quick to pull our humidifiers out of storage—which can be great for our skin and sinuses. However, Adler explains, it's important to hit the right humidity levels, use filtered water in the humidifier, and keep your humidifier clean.
When the humidity is too low (below 30%, according to Adler), that's when you run into issues with things like nosebleeds, dry skin, etc. Too high, though (over 50%), and you're looking at the potential for mold growth.
"Unfortunately the construction of a lot of humidifiers makes it difficult to clean the inside," she adds, "so I recommend people only buy humidifiers that have very easy access to the water chamber, so you can properly clean it with a soap and water solution."
Change your furnace filter.
Last but not least, if you have a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home, Adler says there's a good chance it's blowing dust around. (Perhaps you've experienced that telltale burnt smell when you turn on your heat for the first time—that would be dust!)
"If people have an HVAC system, I do encourage them to change their furnace filters more frequently than recommended because the system is probably going to be on all the time through the winter," she explains.
On top of that, she adds you can look for a filter with the highest MERV rating your HVAC system can handle. (MERV stands for "Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values," and is a rating for a filter's ability to capture particles.) "The higher the MERV rating, the better the filter will be at capturing particulate, allergens, dust, and mold spores," Adler notes.
As we start to spend more time indoors for the winter, maintaining a healthy home environment is essential to our overall well-being. These three habits can go a long way in keeping your air quality top-notch until spring hits.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Writer, as well as a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.