“Homesick” could take on a new meaning for you once you realize that common things in your home may be affecting your health.
While home can be a safe space, if not cleaned properly it can also become a petri dish of substances that can make you sick.
With so much to worry about, it can be easy to overlook the little things, but even those little things can have an effect on your body.
“People really should pay more attention to good old-fashioned cleaning to stay healthy,” according to Mike Bidwell, president and CEO of Neighborly, a network of home service brands.
Here are some things in your home that are virtually invisible, or would require a closer look, and could be affecting your immune system.
- Uncleaned air filters
- Germs, especially in bathrooms or kitchens.
Uncleaned air filters
If you don’t change your air filters often enough, you’re likely reducing the air quality in your home, says Bidwell.
An uncleaned air filter can trigger allergies and offer less ventilation in your home, reducing your protection against respiratory viruses, he adds.
“This is about the simplest thing a homeowner can do to maintain good indoor air quality, especially during flu season and [with] other circulating respiratory viruses,” says Bidwell.
Even in the warmer months, dust buildup on the filters can make your allergy symptoms worse because pollen and mold can be sucked into the unit and redistributed around the house, he says.
Bidwell recommends changing your air filter at least quarterly to avoid these results. If you have a pet or suffer from allergies, he suggests replacing it every 60 days.
Mold is not as big of a concern in homes because it is more prevalent outdoors, according to Dr. Andrej Spec, associate professor of medicine and director of the Invasive Fungal Infections Clinic at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
In fact, mold is in every space that people have occupied; the damage lies in large doses inside the home, Spec says.
“Some people in their homes may have very high levels of mold. More commonly, what you’ll see is worsening allergies and asthma,” Spec says.
This occurs most often in people who are already prone to allergies and asthma, he adds.
According to Bidwell, common places in the home where mold can be seen are:
- Where the tile meets the tub in the bathroom
- Around or in appliances, especially front-loading washers
- Under sinks, especially cabinets under the kitchen sink
- Bathroom cabinets near or under a sink
Using a solution of bleach and water in a spray bottle, you can likely clean mold off hard, nonporous surfaces while wearing rubber gloves and eye protection, says Bidwell. “Saturate it completely and let it sit for an hour or two,” she says.
It’s important to make sure you dilute every six to eight ounces of bleach with a gallon of water, she advises.
soft surfaces with mold on them, including drywall and insulation, should be thrown, adds Bidwell. Y Spec strongly discourages the use of bleach on wood surfaces; instead, he suggests using vinegar to stop mold from growing in those places.
If cleaning up the mold in your home feels beyond your reach or the mold has spread too far, both experts recommend hiring a professional to do the job.
Germs on hard surfaces
During flu season, Bidwell encourages you to clean the hard surfaces in your home more often. This includes doorknobs, light switches, handles, keyboards, toilets, and remote controls.
“By the way, those [products] need a few minutes to work. You can’t just spray it on and then dry it right away,” he points out.
You should also pay extra attention to rooms like kitchens and bathrooms, where most germs tend to accumulate, especially if you have kids at school who can bring viruses home, she adds.
“It’s nice to just walk around and check these things out sometimes,” says Bidwell.
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