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How Is Your EQ? Six Steps To a Better Indoors

Even though Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful outdoor environments in the world, the experts say most of us still spend almost 90% of our time indoors! That’s why the following numbers from the EPA worried me a little bit. Indoor levels of many pollutants can be two to five times higher and up to 100 times higher than outdoor levels.

The following Six Steps can help you make a significant improvement in your Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). Most are meant to prevent microscopic dirt and organic particles from reaching harmful levels or becoming airborne. As an added bonus, all of these suggestions will also prolong the life and beauty of your rugs and carpets.

1. Start Outside
Make a concerted effort to keep outdoor walkways and entrances cleaner. By sweeping, blowing or hosing down the 10-15 feet leading up to the main entrances to your home, you’ll prevent most of the outdoor soil from being tracked in. I seem to remember Erma Bombeck’s solution to household dirt was to make all children live outdoors permanently. Easier said than done since I can’t even get my dog to stay outside for more than an hour at a time.

2. Focus on the Feet
Walk-off mats both outside and inside entrances have been shown to trap both soil and moisture, preventing it from building up in traffic areas, where it can become airborne later. Studies indicate that cleaning or removing shoes at entrances can significantly reduce fine particles containing lead from being deposited in carpeting.

3. Evaluate your Vacuuming
If you’re not regularly vacuuming with a high quality machine, equipped with HEPA-type double-lined vacuum bags, then you’re only capturing the largest particles, not the tiny, harmful ones. Even worse, your old machine with its inferior filtration is probably blasting those tiny par-tides up into the air for you and your family to inhale. If you find a fine layer of dust on flat surfaces after vacuuming, then you need a vacuum check, pronto!

Once you’re pushing the right machine, increase your frequency—this prevents the surface soil from sifting down into the deep recesses of your carpet. Use multiple passes over traffic areas and move the vacuum more slowly. And don’t forget we spend at least 1/3 or our days in our bedrooms/bathrooms where dust mites enjoy feeding on the microscopic skin flakes we leave for them. Vacuum up their food supply and those mites will have to look for lodging elsewhere.

4. Your HVAC is Just a Giant Fan
Your furnace and/or central air conditioner (HVAC) are well designed to move large volumes of air through your home, but if there are pollutants in your air, they move too. Dirty HVAC filters not only put a strain on your system, they also contribute to poor IEQ by discharging more microscopic pollutants into the air we breathe. Regular changing or cleaning of filters is a must. You might look into reusable electrostatic filters that actually help trap the tiniest particles. They cost a bit more but can be well worth it.

5. Professionally Clean Your Teeth Every Six Months and Your Carpet Every Year
Even though you brush and floss every day, you still need to visit the hygienist every six months right? It’s the same with carpet and rug cleaning. We have the equipment and know-how to perform the deep cleaning that vacuuming and spot-cleaning just can’t reach. My hygienist told me that most people don’t follow the six-month rule, even though they know they should. We know just what she means. If you think it’s been a while since your last carpet cleaning, be sure to give us a call. Just think how good clean teeth and clean carpet feel—and we won’t even make you rinse and spit!

6. It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity
As we pointed out in our last issue, controlling indoor humidity is the key to fighting molds and the harmful spores they emit. Keep your humidity under 70% and molds just can’t grow. If you’ll keep it consistently under 50%, dust mites will never be a problem either. We’re very well versed in the dos and don’ts of humidity control, so feel free to ask for our help here too.

Follow these six steps on a regular basis and you’ll go a long way towards improving your Indoor Environmental Quality and consequently, your family’s health. Now if you can just get your Uncle Mel to stop smoking those imported Cuban cigars, life might be just about perfect.