Did you know that the air inside your home can be more dangerous than what's floating around outside? Since people tend to spend a lot of time indoors in cold weather, winter often brings with it a buildup of toxic particles inside the house. Think about it-you probably haven't opened windows in weeks, if not months, and you rarely leave the door ajar longer than it takes to bring in a few bags of groceries. This is why the air in your home likely contains two to five times as many pollutants as outdoor air, according to an estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency. And if you've been working with harsh chemicals, such as paint strippers, the air in your home may be one thousand times more toxic than the air outside during and immediately after the procedure.

But before you don a gas mask and hunker down in a closet, realize that there are steps you can take to clear the air in your home. Below, the typical offenders and how you can minimize your risk:


  • Check your burners. Make sure they're properly adjusted to reduce the chance of carbon-monoxide buildup. The flame should burn blue, not yellow. If the color is wrong, speak to your gas company immediately.
  • Get an exhaust fan. The fan should vent to the outside and be kept very clean.
  • Be vigilant about your cleaning products. If you must use a product that emits fumes, keep doors and windows open for ventilation. Or, better yet, try a fume-free product.


  • Manage your mold. Not only is mold ugly, but it can aggravate allergies and asthma and even be toxic. Keep indoor humidity below 60 percent. To clean existing mold, put on rubber gloves and goggles and use a commercial mold solution. Scrub bathroom tiles, bath mats, shower curtains, and any other surfaces affected.

Bedrooms/Living Rooms

  • Keep the vacuum busy. Don't just focus on carpets-hit the backs of couches and chairs. Flip mattresses and go over them, too.
  • Clean the air conditioner. Reusable filters should be wiped with a wet cloth or washed in soapy water and then dried. Nonreusable filters should be replaced every few months. Hire a professional vent or duct cleaner to clean your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems if it's been more than a few years since the last scouring.

There's a lot you can do to breathe easier at home, but some things should be left to the pros. Lead is extremely toxic, especially to the developing bodies and brains of children. If your home was built before 1978, have the paint tested for lead. If you do have lead paint in your home, don't sand it, burn it off, or try to remove it yourself. Keep painted areas dust free, and make sure the paint is not peeling. And get your home checked for radon, a colorless, odorless gas that seeps out of the ground and is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.