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  • Writer's pictureTeam Pinto

65+ DIY Tips, Tricks and Upgrades for a Healthier Waterloo Region Home

Life is a gamble. While you won't be able to avoid every hazard that comes your way, you can strive to establish a healthy environment for yourself and your family, including your pets.

It starts at the front door, where pollen, pesticides, noxious solvents, and disease-carrying creepy crawlies are all blocked. Indoors, you want to avoid mold, bacteria, and viruses, as well as animal dander and dust mites, which can cause allergies.

Simple remedies, such as opening a window to let in a blast of fresh air, and more long-term ones, such as avoiding paints, furnishings, and cleaning products that emit chemical vapors, can all help to make your Waterloo Region home healthier.

To learn about the best steps you can take right now—as well as ones to consider in the future—read on.


To Do Right Now

1. Keep pollen out of the house. Shake or brush off coats during hay fever season, and keep a brush and wet wipes on hand to clean pets' fur and feet.

2. Place door mats on both sides. A double length of washable matting can catch up to 80% of the dirt tracked inside, as well as innumerable allergies, bacteria, and lawn chemicals, before they make their home.

3. Allow dry cleaning to air out. Remove plastic bags before entering the house to allow any leftover perchloroethylene, a common dry-cleaning solvent and potential carcinogen, to escape. If you pick up your dry cleaning, and it has a strong chemical odor, return it and request that it be properly dried. Alternatively, Google "organic dry cleaning" to locate a perc-free service in your area.

To Consider in the Future

4. Implement a no-shoes-inside policy. Keep a basket of slippers by the front door for both family and visitors.

5. In crawl spaces, install vent fans. Condensation and the spread of musty odors, mold and mildew, which can trigger allergies and asthma, are prevented by keeping humidity levels in these regions below 50%.

6. Make a checkpoint for your pet. Use a fine-tooth comb to catch fleas before they come inside and treat cats and dogs with a monthly tick-and-flea treatment. Pesticides in flea shampoos and collars can contaminate children and furniture so try to look for organic alternatives.

Kitchen and Pantry

To Do Right Now:

7. Fill gaps and crevices with caulk to prevent disease-carrying rodents and insects from looking for a free meal.

8. Filter the water you consume. Lead, chlorine, and other toxins can be reduced with activated carbon filters, which can be found in a pitcher, a tap-mounted type, or an under-sink form. To check your water quality, request a copy of your municipality's yearly water quality test or use an at-home test kit.

9. Replace refrigerator filters before they expire. Replace the filter in your refrigerator's water dispenser every six months, before sediment builds up and overwhelms it.

10. Get rid of BPA-containing plastic containers that could leak the chemical into food or drink, posing a health risk, especially for children.

11. Discard any cutting boards that are cracked. So that bacteria don't have a place to hide, choose ones made of bamboo or hard plastic.

12. Wipe off all prep surfaces on a regular basis. After each usage, scrub those cutting boards with hot, soapy water.

13. When cooking, turn on the range hood fan. It will reduce air pollutants caused by cooking, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, as well as humidity, which can stimulate bacteria and mold growth. Clean or replace the filter before the crud builds up on it.

14. To prevent bacteria, let dishes and cutlery dry completely before putting them away, and wash your hands before doing so.

To Consider in the Future

15. Replace a recirculating vent fan with one that vents outside, allowing pollutants and odors to depart cleanly.

16. Consider getting a copper sink or counter. The metal is antibacterial by nature.

17. Use a low-VOC sealant on stone counters.

Living Room

To Do Right Now

18.Ban smoking and vaping in your home. It's a quick and effective technique to reduce indoor pollution.

19. Open a window (unless pollen is an issue). Indoor air might have two to five times the amount of chemical contaminants as outdoor air.

20. Use a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner. Dust, dust mites (and their allergy-inducing droppings), animal dander, and fleas are best captured by high-efficiency particulate air filters. On upholstery, use a crevice tool, and on dust-gathering drapes and lamp shades, use a brush attachment.

21. Put a plant or two in a pot. Formaldehyde (found in furniture) and benzene (found in paint) can be neutralized by spider plants, peace lilies, philodendrons, and aloe vera.

22. Use a mild vinegar-and-water or lemon-oil-and-water solution to clean hardwood floors on a regular basis. Chemical-based cleaners and floor waxes can contain a lot of VOCs, which can irritate your lungs.

23. Clean your mobile devices. More bacteria may be found on cordless phones, TV remotes, and even computer keyboards than on a toilet seat.

24.Get your chimney cleaned. Airborne particles and carbon monoxide emissions are reduced when fireplace and chimney maintenance is performed on a regular basis. Before sweeping up the ashes, dampen them to prevent them from flying around the room.

To Consider in the Future:

25. Consider purchasing a central vacuum system. Choose one with a vent to the outside for the best dust and allergy removal.

26. Invest in an air purifier. The current generation of purifiers can help control dust and allergens, and while they aren't a complete cure for bad air they help a lot.

27. Use steam to loosen the dirt. Steam cleaning appliances rely solely on water, but still do an amazing job on dirt and grime.

28. Look for low- or no-VOC, formaldehyde-free coatings and furniture. It can take up to three years for these dangerous compounds to decompose.

29. Purchase curtains that can be machine washed. It will be much easier to keep them free of dust and allergens.

30. Switch out the firewood. Wood logs emit more particles and carbon monoxide than logs consisting of coffee grinds or wood fiber and wax. Converting a fireplace to natural gas can also help to cut pollution.


To Do Right Now

31. Replace damaged tiles and failing caulk to prevent mold from forming behind the walls.

32. Dehumidify. After each shower, turn on your ceiling vent fan. Install a switch timer to ensure that the damp, mildew-attracting air is vented outdoors for at least 20 minutes.

33. Avoid cleaning products that include ammonia or chlorine (and never, ever mix them). These irritate the skin and lungs, and can even trigger asthma attacks.

34. Sanitize faucets, which are a breeding ground for bacteria and flu viruses. Wipe them down with a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution or wipes that fight bacteria and viruses with plant oils.

To Consider in the Future

35. Replace vinyl shower curtains with ones made of washable nylon or polyester. Phthalates, which can be harmful to reproductive health, can be found in vinyl.

36. Stay away from chemical grout cleaners. Instead, make a paste with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and leave it on the grout for 30 minutes before cleaning and rinsing it.

37. Use a whole-house water filter to decrease your exposure to chlorine in the air while showering. Alternatively, you might use a filtered showerhead like Aquasana's Shower Filtration System.


To Do Right Now

38. Vacuum, dust, and damp-mop on a regular basis. Dust bunnies can carry flame-retardant residue from electronic equipment, carpet backing, foam rubber, and other furniture, so this is a good way to get rid of them. Because they play on the floor, children are particularly vulnerable.

39. Conduct a lead test on any suspicious paint surfaces. This recognized neurotoxic is present in paints created before 1978 and can be released into the air when paint chips or peels.

40. Sanitize doorknobs and toys, as germs can live on them for up to 48 hours. A handheld germ blaster, such as Verilux's CleanWave UV-C Sanitizing Wand, can be used to disinfect small items.

To Consider in the Future

41. Replace carpets and vinyl flooring with linoleum, cork, tile, wood, or stone. These natural materials, unlike vinyl, do not contain phthalates, and linoleum inhibits bacterial growth. All of these surfaces accumulate less dust than carpeting.

42. Look for chemical-free furniture filled with natural fiber batting, as well as pressed-wood furniture and cabinets that contain little or no formaldehyde.

43. Perfluorochemical-containing stain-resistant coatings should be avoided on furniture and textiles. Their safety has been called into question.

Laundry and Pet Areas

To Do Right Now:

44. To keep rodents at bay, decant kibble into airtight containers.

45. Use kitty litter made from paper or plants. When pets and people inhale litter that contains dust-producing silica, they may be harmed.

46. Naturally nip fleas. Regularly wash your pet's bedding in hot water. If your machine can't handle the load, take it to a commercial laundry.

47. Make sure your clothes dryer vents are outside so moisture doesn't build up inside and cause mildew to grow.

48. To keep asthma-inducing dust mites under control, wash sheets, duvet covers, and bedspreads once a week in hot water.

49. Wash your hands after filling the machine to avoid catching (and spreading) germs, especially if someone in the house is sick.

To Consider in the Future

50. Upgrade to a steam washer. Look for a certified model that uses high-temperature steam heat to kill bacteria and allergies.


To Do Right Now

51. Before you make your bed each day, let it air out. This will allow moisture that is beneficial to mites to evaporate. Airing out your pillows and vacuuming your mattress will also aid mite management.

52. Remove pollen from the air. Use the fan setting on your window air conditioner and change or wash the filter frequently if you have one. Keep the windows shut.

53. Put an end to the use of moth balls. They may contain carcinogens. Clean silks and woolens should be stored in zip-top bags. Buy cedar chips from a pet store and wrap them in cheesecloth to build your own sachets; trash or refill when they lose their aroma.

54. Keep office equipment out of the bedroom; copiers and printers can irritate the lungs.

To Consider in the Future

55. Install a whole-house fan. This low-tech cooling device, which is installed in the attic or beneath the roof, draws bad-quality air out and fresh air in (a boon when pollen season isn't in full swing).

56. Keep mites at bay by using dust-proof coverings on pillows and mattresses.

57. Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors and washable area rugs to help decrease the accumulation of dust, pet dander, and other allergens.

58. Switch out your mattress for one that is free of flame retardants. Wool, which is naturally flame resistant, is used in some mattresses.

59. Install a humidity gauge. Aim for a humidity level of 40 to 50 percent; any higher will encourage mildew and mite growth. If the humidity level falls below 20%, try using a plug-in humidifier and following the manufacturer's instructions.


To Do Right Now

60. Do a radon test. After smoking, this odorless natural gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer.

61. Schedule an HVAC inspection to ensure that carbon monoxide is adequately vented from furnaces, boilers, and water heaters.

62. Every three months, clean or replace your furnace or forced-air system filter. Electrostatically charged pleated filters are especially effective at trapping allergens.

63. If you have a sump pump, ensure sure it's working correctly to avoid mold-causing dampness.

64. Inspect pipes and boilers for flaking asbestos. If you suspect it's present, seek help from a professional.

65. Avoid air fresheners, which may include VOCs and may disguise mildew odors with fragrance-bearing phthalates.

To Consider in the Future

66. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below mold-inducing levels.

Getting ready to buy a Waterloo Region home, or sell the one you have? Let Team Pinto use our huge experience and expertise to help you. Contact the award-winning Team Pinto here, or book a free Zoom consultation to discuss your unique Waterloo Region real estate needs here.

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