Suffering from Allergies? Runny nose, teary eyes, congestion, sneezing got you down?
It’s the time of year that some of us dread – the coming of Allergy Season. Indoor Air Quality is directly related to our experience of allergy season because we spend a lot of time at home, yet is something most of us take for granted. We have air filters for our HVAC, our car, home, and office too, that trap particulates to prevent us breathing them in. This is a good thing because much of that stuff masquerading as dust is actually pollen, spores, dander and other nearly invisible biological material that can irritate eyes, nose and throat and in some cases, can provoke a headache, dizziness or fatigue.
The degree to which allergy season affects you can vary widely. The blessed among us may never notice anything at all. Allergy sufferers, on the other hand, may dread the arrival of spring and/or fall because of the load of pollen, spores and other stuff floating in the air. Some of the immediate effects of breathing these are very similar to the symptoms of a cold or the flu, which may cause a bit of confusion.
These ‘pollutants’ in your home or office may have many sources:
- combustion by-products
- tobacco products
- new construction (new floors, carpets painted surfaces, cabinetry
- newly manufactured furniture such as mattresses that emit VOC’s
- dirty HVAC filter
- high humidity inside your home
- things that continuously emit ‘fragrances’ or other odor masks
- outdoor sources such as pesticides, and human-caused environmental pollution such as smoke and particulates arising from manufacturing and construction
For many of these a great solution is simply to open the windows and air out the home or office – but this is not always practical, or desirable if the outdoor air is filthy.
Fortunately, we have filters in our homes that help. If you suffer during allergy season, you should not skimp here. Purchase HEPA air filters with the finest filtration ratings you can find, and replace them regularly. There are other filtration sources in the home as well – your carpet is one of them. Drapes and curtains are another. A too-full vacuum cleaner bag can release particulates right back into your home.
How can you reduce ‘allergy triggers’ (allergens) in your home?
Remember that we can’t change conditions outdoors much, but we can have a positive effect on our indoor environment! Don’t let allergy season get the best of you. Here’s how you can make a difference in your home. With a little effort and knowledge, you can restore your indoor environment, to be comfortable at home during allergy season.
1) Place doormats both outside and just inside entryway doors – one on each side of the door. Cleaning your shoes on both of them will help keep floors clean – and the air, too. Clean the mats as part of your weekly housecleaning. If this is unappealing, consider removing your shoes on entry to your home and wearing house shoes while at home.
2) Change your HVAC air filter regularly. Increase the air filtration with the use of an additional air filter. You can make a DIY one with a 20 inch box fan to which you tape a 20 inch square HEPA air filter. (The better quality air filter you get, the better this simple device will work for you – and, it’ll take some of the load off of the HVAC filter, allowing your HVAC filter to last longer and consequently, to run more efficiently).
Also, have your drapes/curtains and carpets professionally cleaned regularly. It is amazing how much filtration is provided by these household items, so keeping them clean will reduce allergens noticeably.
3) Dry wet items quickly. This will prevent the growth of mold and spores. Mold can begin growing on almost any surface within 24 – 48 hours. Put a squeegee in your shower stall and use it before you leave the shower every time. With mold, prevention is far and away the best solution. Manage the water to manage the mold!
4) Dust and vacuum often. Replace your vacuum bag with a new one when it gets 2/3 full, because a full bag will leak particulates back into your home environment. Dust mites, animal dander, fleas and other small insects can be controlled effectively by frequent vacuuming.
5) Take control of indoor humidity levels by using the vents in the bathroom after a shower, and by using the vent over your stove when cooking (but only if it is vented outside the house). Use dehumidifiers in your basement during the times of year when it becomes damp.
6) Reduce your use of cleaning products that leave toxic residues. See: http://blog.nokout.com/replace-your-toxic-household-cleaning-chemicals-for-a-safer-home-environment/ (The Indoor air pollution blog entries are relevant also, part 1, part 2 part 3.) Non-toxic Nok-Out and SNiPER disinfectant are good alternatives for your bathrooms and even the kitchen.
Header Image Copyright: jjvallee / 123RF Stock Photo
In the last issue, we looked at what indoor air pollution is about, and saw that it is mostly due to the accumulation and build-up of toxins in an indoor environment that can result when modern building are so tightly sealed that the toxins released by biological and man-made sources have no way to escape, so it simply accumulates. At some point, this accumulation can reach toxic proportions. Other causes include biological contaminants such as mold and mildew, heavy metals such as lead, and combustion pollutants such as carbon monoxide and even carbon dioxide.
In this article, we will explore what you can do to mitigate these issues and how they might be ‘fixed’.
The single most important thing is – ventilation. Simply venting inside air to the outside and thus drawing in fresh air, can reduce the toxicity levels. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) publishes a ‘ventilation standard that can be compared to your system. See it here. If your home or building’s issues continue due to continuing release of toxic chemicals, The EPA has published an excellent guide to air cleaners and filtration systems. A simple Google search for ‘air purification systems’ will yield good results. Here is a pretty good example: http://www.home-air-purifier-expert.com/iq-air-purifier.html.
Air filters are important to reduce particulates in the air. A great DIY approach is to purchase a 20 inch box fan and tape a high quality air filter to the back of it. Youtube has a video of this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9bIWINK8hI and a somewhat more detailed model can be seen here: http://tombuildsstuff.blogspot.com/2013/06/better-box-fan-air-purifier.html. Good air filtration is complemented by good vacuuming using a HEPA filter. This is important for allergy sufferers and can reduce the ‘load’ that causes symptoms.
One of the primary sources of indoor air pollution is something called VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). Many newly manufactured things will release gases for some time. A good example is a mattress. Various glues and chemicals are used to manufacture these things and they may ‘outgas’ for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It may be a good idea to allow this outgasing to take place outside the home if possible. Unwrap it and leave it outside, out of the weather if possible.
Another way to reduce VOC’s and toxic chemicals released into your home is to take care of what you bring into the home. Bleach and other powerful cleaning agents have toxic chemicals. Check to see if you can find other cleaning agents that do not contain these things. (This is where Nok-Out and SNiPER products excel – they are unlikely to ever release toxic by-products and are hypo-allergenic. Additionally, SNiPER kills mold and other biological growths.)
Where VOC’s are concerned, prevention is the easiest thing – don’t bring them in! Don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home. Paint that old dresser outside outside and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before bringing it inside.
As the name implies, biologicals are, or were, alive at one time. A partial list of biologicals might include various types of mold, mildew and fungus and their spores, pet and people dander, dust mites, insect body parts, pollen.
What can you do about Biologicals?
Prevention is easier and better than clean-up where biologicals are concerned. For molds and other living things, be aware that they depend on moisture for growth. Control the moisture and you control the growth of these things. So, fix that dripping leak, Use a de-humidifier in places that are prone to moisture condensation (like the basement). If you are using a room humidifier in the winter, watch the windows and wipe them dry frequently. Use a squeegee in the shower. And so on.
SNiPER disinfectant is a great way to treat biologicals issues without increasing the toxic load in your indoor environment. See: http://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html.
In the next issue we will learn what NASA has to say about ways to mitigate indoor air pollution.
Modern buildings are amazingly energy efficient and are awesome at keeping your HVAC bills low. But for some buildings, there is a decidedly negative side effect. These homes and buildings are so tightly sealed that in some cases, the ventilation does not allow noxious substances to escape. These toxic substances can build up and accumulate and over time, this build-up can result in what has become known as “Sick Building Syndrome”. SBS symptoms first began to be reported in the 1970’s when some people – not all – experienced allergy-like reactions, headaches and other symptoms from non-specific causes that disappeared when they left the building. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, irritation of the nose, throat and mucous membranes. SBS is a result of indoor air pollution, but this problem can be remedied.
Since the symptoms disappeared upon leaving the building, the issue became know as Sick Building Syndrome.
Sick Building Syndrome
According to the “home air purifier expert” there are four main sources of indoor air pollution that contribute to SBS:
- Biological air pollutants
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s)
- Combustion pollutants
- Heavy Metals
Biological Air Pollutants are, as the name suggests, come from biological growths and are a frequent source of allergens. If you suffer from allergies, it is likely that this is a source of much misery. This category can include the toxic black mold which grows when there is moisture damage or high indoor humidity.
But this category includes much more than just mold, mildew and fungal infections. There are also other biological sources including dust mites, pet and people dander (skin cells that have been sloughed off), pollen, viruses, and bacteria. A reputedly potent source of indoor allergens is insect body parts. Yech!
Biologicals may be the most common household sources of toxicosis (from black molds), infections of body tissues, and can result in a hypersensitivities.
Volatile Organic Compounds
These are ‘organic chemicals’ that release vapors at ordinary room temperatures. Wikipedia tells us that, “VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds.” Some sources of information on VOC’s assert that there are more than 400 different chemicals in this category. The EPA has prepared a list of hazardous air pollutants here: https://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/187polls.html. There is another list that is perhaps easier to read here: http://www.home-air-purifier-expert.com/household-products.html.
VOC sources can include newly manufactured products such as a new mattress, a stove, painted items. But there are MANY other sources including household cleaning chemicals, personal hygiene products such as nail polish and nail polish remover, glues, furniture polishes, paints. Even the fragrances in the products we enjoy are often not safe. Tobacco smoke has an astonishing list of VOC’s and is a potent source of indoor air pollution. This list could go on and on and on.
Lesser- known pollutants
Combustion pollutants include Carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These gasses are the byproducts resulting from combustion in heaters or gas fired appliances that are not then vented outside properly or sufficiently.
Heavy Metals are not as common an indoor pollutant as they used to be. Lead in paint, for example, has mostly been discontinued. It is not commonly known, but paint also used to contain mercury. Other sources of mercury are fluorescent tubes – which contain a small amount and nowadays, CFL bulbs.
In this day and age, we have clearly mastered our world. We enjoy a standard of living that would have astonished our ancestors of a mere 200 years ago and we enjoy a comfort level that was unattainable even a few generations ago. But with this high living standard, we have also brought a concentration of toxins into our homes that also would not have been possible in our yester-years.
For most of us, this level of toxicity in our home environment is unlikely to result in sickness and the cleanliness of our homes does result in a healthier environment that allows us to live longer and more happily. But some people develop more or less vague sickness as accumulations of toxins build up in our tissues and this can result in chemical sensitivities that can really affect lives. These people may suffer from “Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). For more information on this, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_chemical_sensitivities.
The next installment of this topic will begin to address what we can do to protect ourselves.
Online resources for more information
What are Those Awful, Moldy Smells in My Front-Loading Washer?
What is the fuss about? Everything looks perfectly okay to me – but I smell something dreadful!
Those spiffy front loading high-efficiency washers are cooler than the other side of your pillow! These machines are a great addition to your wash room, giving you a lot of options, save on water usage, energy, and do a great job of cleaning clothes as well. Uh-Oh. There are some issues with these wonderful washers that may cause you some grief. Your laundry may collect moldy, mildew odors which are transferred to clothing. Alas.How does this happen? Read on.
Because of the low water level, grime, dirt and even skin flakes along with detergents and water softeners do not always fully drain from your front loading machine. Another disconcerting feature is that residue builds up from using a cold water cycle. Over time, these residues get moldy, and everything you wash takes on that same musty smell.
This Issue is Treatable with Nok-Out. Here’s How:
- Clean your washing machine. Clean by spraying the interior tub with a fine spray of Nok-Out. Let it drip, or run down the sides of the tub. Wipe with a clean cloth. Repeat, paying attention to the door seals.More bout this below.
- Leave washer door and dispenser open. Often a manufacturer will ask you to leave the washer door and the dispenser drawer open between uses. Mold loves moisture, and as noted above, wherever you notice humidity between washings.
- Rotate the machine drum. You can also rotate the machine drum regularly to capture any left-over items, or pieces of plastic, etc. Who knows what else is lurking in the laundry?
- Always remove wet clothes. Never leave wet clothes in the washer overnight!
- Less is more. Use less detergent than the manufacturer recommends. This will prevent some residue from forming.
- Use Nok-Out weekly! To prevent odors from forming, use Nok-Out once a week. Gently, lift the door gasket, spray Nok-Out inside on and around the gasket seal, allowing to stay moist for 3-5 minutes Dry completely.
The odor problem in these expensive front loading machines is unfortunate. The washers do a great job of cleaning your dirty laundry and are very energy efficient. If mold or mildew does happen and odors permeate your laundry, place 4-8 oz Nok-Out in the wash cycle. It really works. Every time!
This testimonial just came in from a front loading washer owner just like you. He has a good tip for all of us!
“I wish I had known the downside of a front load washer was soooo down. But I think I have found a way to beat that nasty smell. When I have completed washing for the day I stick a microfiber cloth in the rubber gasket and soak up any water that was left then pull the cloth out. Next I spray NOKOUT in that area and all around the drum and put another cloth sprayed with Nok-Out in the gasket area. And finally, as suggested I leave the door open for it all to air out. So far it has worked well.”
Nok-Out customers come up with the best ideas!
Control the Moisture – Control the Mold
Mold and spores are a potential source of irritation including allergic reactions, asthma and other respiratory maladies. The EPA tells us that “All molds have the potential to cause health effects”. Mold reproduces through ‘spores’, which are invisibly small and can float around on air currents in a home, office or school. Breathing in these spores can cause sickness and allergies as well as having an unpleasant odor.
The best defense for controlling mold is to control the moisture. If excess moisture is present, it will not be long until mold is growing. So controlling the moisture that mold feeds upon is the best defense. The best offense for mold is to use SNiPER to kill it safely, without introducing highly toxic cleansers into your home!
Check Your Home for Water Leaks
Wherever mold is growing there must be some water source. Find it, fix it. Look under the sink – is it often wet down there? If yes, find where it is leaking and get that fixed. Other places to check include the drain for your A/C system. These drains can become blocked and then spill over. Check near windows during cold weather – humid indoor air can often condense on cold windows.
Reduce the Humidity
Reduce the humidity in mold-prone areas such as a basement to limit the growth of mold in these areas. You can reduce humidity by:
- using air conditioners (which remove excess moisture) or de-humidifiers
- increase ventilation
- use exhaust fans that are vented outside when cooking, dishwashing and cleaning
- make sure dryers and bathroom vents are vented outside and not blocked
If you have just had your carpet cleaned, use fans to speed drying and run the fan on your A/C. Prevent condensation around windows by increasing insulation. In areas where moisture is an issue – such as basements and bathrooms – do not install carpeting.
Use SNiPER to Kill the Mold – and the Spores!
When using SNiPER to clean mold, you may need to wear a protective mask, not because of SNiPER, but because you really don’t want to breathe in too much of the spores floating around. The EPA recommends a “N-95” respirator. They also recommend that you wear rubber gloves and goggles to avoid having direct contact with either mold or spores. If you can see mold growing, then spray directly on and around it. Use a scrubber to gently scrub away any crud that can be scrubbed away. Wipe up this crud, re-spray the area and walk away allowing it to air dry. For more complete application instructions, see: https://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html.
Kill Mold Spores in the Air
A professional would use a machine called a ‘fogger’ to treat the air. These machines are great, but they are also expensive! There is a great DIY solution that is not expensive: use a common household vaporizer. For full instructions on how and when to use this common household machine, see https://www.nokout.com/Vaporizer-How-to-use.html
See all SNiPER Products here.
For more information, see:
It’s that time of the year again! Temperatures are rising, spring has sprung and it’s almost summer. And with it comes – humidity. The air feels thick, like you could swim through it and, despite that shower you just took, your shirt is already sticking to your back! Gotta love summer!
I do love summer. I get out and exercise more with longer walks in my favorite local parks, go swimming and generally enjoy the outdoors more.
Lots of other organisms like summer too. Things like mold, mildew and the fungus that causes ‘musty’ smells. Many basements become more damp at this time every year due not only to rising humidity, but also due to higher ground water from spring rains.
This is a good way to understand these organisms – they like water. They flourish whenever and wherever water is found. So that shower stall? Be sure and use that squeegee before you leave the stall. The basement? You can help ease the situation by running a de-humidifier throughout the humid summer months. That RV that sat up all winter? It could probably use a good airing out and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to run the de-humidifier there as well.
There are many many places where reducing the water load can help reduce the growth of these organisms. But these measures can only reduce the growth. There are spores from these organisms all around us and in the air. This is normal. (Ever see little dust motes in a sunbeam? I wonder how much of that is really spores?) So even after you have cleaned and disinfected, the first time you open that door to the outside world, you are allowing a little cloud of those spores coming back in to re-infect if they can. Controlling their food source – water – will help determine if you have a bad infestation or just something that needs to be managed at certain times of the year.
Low levels of spores are normal and we can’t easily stop it. At higher concentrations however, spores can cause health problems in people with already weakened defenses, or people with allergies. So if you need to deal with an infestation, you can rely on either SNiPER or Nok-Out for a treatment plan that does not require protective gear to apply, that works well and even kills the spores in the air, all without creating a toxic environment for you and your family.
Dealing with these issues yourself can save you thousands of dollars. And, since you know that our products are safe in your home, you can rest easy knowing you are not contributing to a toxic household. Here’s how.
We’ve got some great ‘how-to’ articles for you:
General tips for Mold remediation: http://www.nokout.com/Cleaning-Mold-and-Mildew.html,
Basement Mold and Mildew: http://www.nokout.com/Basement-Mold-and-Mildew.html
Shower Stall: http://www.nokout.com/Keep-mold-out-of-your-shower-stall.htm
Kill Spores in the air: http://www.nokout.com/Vaporizer-How-to-use.html