American Homes May Be Dirtier Than You Think

October 23, 2018

A new national survey released today reveals 20 percent of Americans only deep clean their homes every six months – if ever. One in three (30 percent) admit to not cleaning in areas out of arm’s reach (e.g. high ceilings, tops of kitchen cabinets) where unwanted dust and dander can settle and have an adverse effect the quality of the air inside a home. Additionally, a majority of those surveyed (54 percent) believe indoor air quality is about the same or better than outdoor air quality, failing to realize indoor air can contain more pollutants than outdoor air. In other words, our homes can be dirtier than we think. This survey was conducted online in October by Atomik Research on behalf of Filtrete™ Brand from 3M among 3,008 U.S. adults.

October is National Indoor Air Quality Month. As cooler weather returns, we’ll start closing windows and lighting fireplaces to keep our homes comfortable and warm. However, these measures may impact the air we breathe at the same time. Even well maintained and ventilated homes may have dust, pollen, mold spores, bacteria and viruses in its air. Pets, cooking and everyday cleaning activities like vacuuming and dusting also may affect the air quality in our homes, kicking up particles we can’t see into the air we breathe. Choosing the right air filter is one simple way to help improve your home’s indoor air quality. While you can’t always see unwanted airborne particles, Filtrete™ filters use exclusive 3-in-1 technology from 3M to pull in and trap unwanted particles, while letting cleaner air flow through.

“The truth is indoor air quality is tricky for people to comprehend because the culprits affecting the air within the walls of our homes are not obvious, like smog hanging over the city skyline or exhaust pouring out of our tailpipes. Instead, they are the very things that make home, home: the shedding dog, the fire in the fireplace, the smoke from a scented candle – when left to recirculate, the air that surrounds us in our homes is anything but clean,” said Carrie Sazama, senior brand manager, 3M. “We take about 20,000 breaths each day and with the average American spending 90 percent of their time indoors, indoor air quality should not be ignored.”

The Dirt on Vacuum Cleaners

The survey also revealed interesting habits of Americans when it comes to common household activities, like vacuuming – you may want to think twice about that last-minute spot cleaning when hosting friends or family members at your home. The new survey uncovered on average, about 1 in 4 (24 percent) people vacuum one hour prior to someone visiting their home, while another 18 percent of people vacuum 30 minutes prior. What they fail to realize is vacuuming may kick up dirt and dust particles into the air, which can take more than two hours to settle. When planning for company, make sure you allow enough time for the dust to settle before your guests arrive.

Combatting Kitchen Smoke

Whether you’re whipping up a gourmet meal for two or a few dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale, cooking may not only be one of your favorite pastimes—it may also invite some unwanted culprits into your home. Thanks to common kitchen outputs such as smoke, grease and gas, your indoor air quality could be compromised. A majority of people surveyed (67 percent) do not always use ventilation while cooking. Of those, more than quarter of parents surveyed (26 percent) say that when cooking at home, their kitchen very often or always gets smoky.  An exhaust hood improves the air quality in your kitchen by using a fan to extract pollutants such as smoke and grease. Make sure you use the fan every time you cook, not only after you smell burning food or see smoke. Cracking a window can also help improve indoor air quality.

The Bathroom: Dirtiest Room in the House?

The moist, warm environment of the bathroom makes it a prime breeding ground for mold and mildew, which can result in a moldy – and smelly – space. Nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) respondents said they consider their bathroom to be the dirtiest room in the home. Yet only about one-third (34 percent) of those surveyed said they always use the bathroom exhaust fan, typically running it for 5 minutes or less (39 percent) after taking a shower or bath. Make sure you run your bathroom exhaust fan while you’re in the shower and for at least 20 minutes afterward to clear out the moisture buildup that attracts mold and mildew.

Pet Owners & Perception of Pollutants

Our furry friends are like members of the family—we love them dearly, but pets slough off dander that can accumulate on household surfaces and in the air. According to the survey, nearly half (46 percent) of pet owners are still shocked or grossed out by the amount of pet hair vacuumed up every time they clean at home. While respondents were correct in believing dogs can affect indoor air quality (59 percent), followed closely by cats (57 percent) and small rodents (51 percent), less than half (43 percent) of Americans know cockroaches can affect indoor air quality. Cockroaches live in all types of buildings and neighborhoods. Tiny particles from a cockroach are a common component of household dust. To prevent and reduce these pesky particles from circulating around your home, use an electrostatic or microfiber dry mop to trap them on hardwood floors. On carpet, scrape across the top using something with a rough surface – like a pumice stone – making it easy for vacuuming or pickup. On furniture, keep a throw blanket on couches and chairs to prevent fur from sticking or use a damp rubber glove to clean the surface of your couch, bed or chair—whichever fabric-covered surface the dog or cat likes to make his or her home (moisture makes pet hair stick). A little grooming can go a long way too.

Getting Smarter About Indoor Air

It is important to understand what activities affect indoor air quality, and steps people can take to improve the air inside of their homes. There is a lot to keep track of, from pets to everyday cleaning activities, cooking and the use of fireplaces or candles, so it’s no surprise that more than half (54 percent) of U.S. adults don’t know when to change their air filters – as many as a third (32 percent) think a filter should be changed monthly, when in fact the EPA recommends checking monthly, but changing quarterly. Further, Filtrete™ brand research found it’s not uncommon for consumers to simply forget about changing their filter altogether. Simple steps like checking and changing your air filter at least quarterly, remembering to run exhaust fans in all bathrooms to reduce moisture and mold, and properly ventilating your kitchen can greatly improve the quality of air you breathe inside your home.

For more helpful tips on how to improve indoor air quality, visit Home Air Check.