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PRODUCTS FOR A HEALTHY HOME

CLEANING METHODS:

To avoid polluting your house when cleaning it, open lots of windows to "flush the house" with fresh air when dusting, vacuuming, changing bed linen or cleaning baths or kitchens. If it's just too cold, or just to hot outside to open windows, then at least turn your furnace fan on high speed to let the filters capture some of the dust you will raise. Vacuums

There are two important characteristics of vacuum cleaners: (1) cleaning efficiency (how well it picks up), and (2) capture efficiency (how much of the fine dust it holds). Cleaning efficiency requires both powerful suction and a good electric motor driven power head. Capture efficiency is a more complex subject and there is often considerable sales hype to wade through before you know how well the vacuum will collect very fine particles (.1 micron to 20 microns).

The average vacuum captures the large visible particles (over 30 microns) fairly well. (A micron is one millionth of a meter.) However, most of the allergenic particles that cause problems for asthmatics and people sensitive to dust, dust mites, pet allergens, etc., are in the PM-10 size range (particle matter under 10 microns). As a comparison human hair ranges in size from 40 to 80 microns in diameter, and the smallest particles most people can see are 10 to 20 microns. The average airborne particle size is 2.4 microns. Dust mite feces and mold spores are as small as 10 microns, asbestos fibers are 3 microns, and bacteria go down to 0.3 microns. So the question you should ask yourself before purchasing a vacuum is "what do we want to be breathing during and after vacuuming?".

Up until recently most vacuums picked up most of the large particles, but spread ALL of the invisible allergenic particles throughout the house.

Two solutions have evolved to combat this problem. In the USA, built-in vacuum systems discharge ALL the dust outdoors. This is our recommendation for all new homes. However, if you choose a portable vacuum chose one with the highest efficiency at capturing 99.9% of the particles down to 0.3 microns. HEPA (high efficiency particle air) filters are the best, and capture 99.97% of all particles down to 0.3 microns. The Europeans have been making some excellent high capture efficiency vacuums for decades. Some high-efficiency bags claim to collect particles down to 0.3 microns in size, but only at a low efficiency.

Water filtration vacuums are not recommended because in independent tests, they have been shown to release large quantities of allergens into the air.

NO SHOES:

If you want to eliminate much of the dust problems in your home before they start, then keep shoes at the door and keep pets outdoors.

DUSTING:

Dry dusting picks up, or drops to a lower surface, the larger dust particles, but tends to spread the fine dust and allergens around into the air of the house. All horizontal surfaces should be wiped with a damp cloth once a week. All surfaces that people touch should be wet washed once a month.

BATHS:

The control of moisture and mold is the most important maintenance issue in bath rooms. Make sure everyone in the family uses the bath fans and does not leave standing water on the floor. Leave the shower door open after showers to ensure good air circulation and drying inside the shower. If mold starts to grow in the shower or anywhere in the bathroom, clean it before the mold gets well established and sends a few million spores around the house looking for other places to grow.

KITCHEN:

The two most common polluted places in kitchens are under the sink and under the refrigerator. You have eliminated most of the hazardous chemicals from under the kitchen sink, but don't let compost and garbage collect there for long periods of time or mold and mildew will move in. Keep it dry and clean under the sink as even a small leak in the drain can promote mold and mildew growth. The drip pan under most refrigerators is where the defrosted water is dumped, after which warm air from the condenser fan blows over the water to evaporate it away. How often have you looked under there at this pan? Don't be ashamed... no one else does, either. But you should clean it once a month because dust, dirt, and mold spores collect in the pan, and when water is added you have a stagnant pond. Not only can mold grow there, but the fan does a good job of blowing the spores around the kitchen.

HEATING, VENTILATION AND FILTER SYSTEMS:

The forced air system should be cleaned and adjusted once a year by a reputable heating/air conditioning contractor. If you live in a cooler climate, have them check for standing water, blocked drains, slime, or mold on or around the cooling coils.

If you install an HRV it needs the same annual cleaning and adjusting as your furnace.

The ducts should not need to be cleaned for at least 10 years unless you remove your high efficiency filters. When they are cleaned request that no chemicals, biocides, or deodorants be used.

The minimum LEVEL C FARR 30-30 filter will need changing two or three times a year. The LEVEL C self-charging electrostatic filters require washing three or four times a year. The LEVEL B LUWA or ULTRA V fine dust filter will only need changing once every year or two, provided you change the inexpensive FARR 30-30 pre-filter two or three times a year. The LEVEL A activated charcoal filters should only need changing once every two or three years. All of these estimates assume an average, well maintained house. If you build furniture, keep 3 or 4 large dogs, or bake 20 pies a day in the house you will need to change your filters a lot more often.

If you install LEVEL A or B filters and the adults in your house are not mechanically inclined and methodical, I would recommend signing a maintenance agreement with the firm that installed the filters and have them come check the filters twice a year.

The range hood filter and fan need to be cleaned with a grease cutting soap such as TSP at least twice a year. The bath fans need cleaning once a year.

BASEMENTS:

Basements traditionally have been dark, damp dungeons full of mold, mildew, yeast, dust and insects. By following the Columbia Design Group's Healthier House Plans and Specifications your new basement will not have any of the moisture/mold related problems of most basements, but it could collect dust and insects. So the word is, keep it clean and well ventilated.

FURNITURE:

By now you have given grandma's 70 year old overstuffed couch to the Salvation Army (with the warning not to sit down too hard or a cloud of 70 year old dust will fly out). Aside from old upholstery furniture, antique furniture can be a good choice for a healthier home since it's usually made from solid wood or other natural materials and has long ago outgassed any fumes from glues and finishes. Remember when sprucing up antique pieces or your new particleboard free furniture that furniture wax (and floor wax) can add several vapors to the air of your home. See the resource list above for safer alternatives.

Written by: Columbia Design


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