Recent U.S. wildfire seasons have been particularly brutal, especially in the western states. Staying inside may help you avoid the worst of the smoke, but it will find ways to infiltrate your home anyway. If you live near an area prone to wildfires, here’s how to fight indoor pollution from wildfire smoke.
Outside and inside
Protecting your indoor air quality begins outside your house. Examine your windows and exterior doors. Replace deteriorated caulk and weatherstripping to prevent wildfire smoke from seeping in.
Keep windows and doors closed to minimize smoke coming into your house. Enter and exit the house through an interior pedestrian garage door. Don’t open the outside garage door until the interior door is shut.
Cleaning the air inside
Take these two steps to keep the interior air clean.
- Change your HVAC air filters to ones with a MERV rating of 8 to 13. (MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, a measure of the filter’s efficiency.) Typical filters for an HVAC system have a MERV of 1 to 4, but when wildfires are burning, temporarily step up the filtration. Because some HVAC units can’t handle the extra work of drawing air through filters with a higher MERV, research your system online or call an HVAC pro to see if your system can. Change the filter each week during periods of intense smoke.
- Purchase an air purifier and leave it on continuously until the crisis passes. There are three basic types of filtration: carbon filter, electrostatic and high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA. The HEPA systems are the best at cleaning wildfire smoke from the air.
Cleaning smoke soot from surfaces
When there’s wildfire smoke outside, wipe down surfaces throughout the house with a damp cloth to pick up soot that has settled. Damp-mop hard surface floors. For carpets, use a vacuum hose attachment that does not use a rotating brush, which would stir up smoke particles. Use the vacuum hose with an upholstery attachment to remove soot from fabric-covered furniture, cushions and throw pillows. You may have to repeat these chores multiple times per week when wildfire smoke is heavy.
Though it won’t affect indoor air quality, it’s a good idea to periodically clean your exterior windows when there’s smoke in the air so that soot won’t dim your natural light inside. Wear a mask while you’re outside and hose down the windows.
Clean the smoke from yourself
You can carry wildfire smoke into your home on your body, so shower and wash your hair when you return home, then change into fresh clothes. Wash your bedclothes more frequently, especially pillowcases, which can capture smoke particles from unwashed hair. Launder your clothes more frequently.
Related – Save Your Home from Wildfires