Home maintenance is the key to a healthy and safe home environment. When a house is kept clean and in good repair it is less likely to develop the problems that will turn it into an unhealthy environment. These problems range from poor air quality in the form of mold and other allergens, to drafts, disease carrying rodents and invasive insects. Even problems with dangerous gases such as radon may prove a problem in homes that do not have home maintenance plans in use. Fortunately your household cleaning or home maintenance checklist does not have to be overwhelming in order to be effective.
Observe Your House
Observing is not figuring out. It is not analysis. Observing is a wonderment. It is open and receptive. It is true learning. Once you can observe potential problems around your home, then what? You can learn where to look and for what. Below are nine quick areas to observe.
- Siding at lower levels, deck connections, under windows and doors, around chimney.
- Sagging or cracked masonry stoop, steps, or foundation; erosion.
- High-stress windows and doors, sills, and caps, i.e., those without overhangs or with southern exposure or without storms or gutters.
- Trim around chimney, under roof valleys, under poorly hung gutters, at corners or ends, discolored or mildewed wood.
- Water that collects or runs toward the house.
- Floors that are soft, unstable, or discolored near exterior doors; in bathrooms around toilets and tubs; cracking kitchen tiles.
- Discolored or peeling paint inside or out.
- Cracks in walls, especially emanating from window and door corners.
- Basement or crawlspace water or sweating ductwork.
Use all of your senses to observe. Look for texture and color changes. Look for things not level or plumb. Look for cracks, water, bugs and ants, etc. The eyes can spot much, but also pay attention to your feet. When walking, does the floor seem unstable or soft? Listen for noises or squeaks. Touch discolored areas to see if they are damp. Smell for musty odors. Does anyone start sneezing or have difficulty breathing or get a headache when in a certain area?
Dust has the potential to be a serious health hazard. Not only does it contain the skeletons and feces of dust mites, which cause allergies and aggravate asthma, but it may also carry chemicals that have come off items that have been in the home, such as lead and pesticides. When dusting, use a dampened cloth so that the dust will better adhere to the cloth. Items such as throw rugs should also be routinely washed.
For extra help, contact a cleaning pro in your area.
Keep Floors Vacuumed
Carpets should be vacuumed no less than twice a week. The most effective vacuum cleaner is one that comes with a HEPA filter. Vacuuming will not only help to remove dust, but it will also remove pet dander, fur, dirt and other contaminants that could sicken persons inside the home. When vacuuming, move and vacuum behind furniture and other objects. To help keep dirt levels and other harmful substances out of the house, remove shoes before entering. Shoes can track anything that has been stepped on into the home, such as dirt, feces, chemicals, and more.
Check the Exterior
Inspecting the exterior of the house is an important part of all home maintenance plans. Look for signs of wear and tear and make the appropriate repairs. Check for decay or damage to the trimming around doors and windows. Repaint and repair home siding and trim that has become loose or where paint has begun to peel.
Check Windows and Wall
Both windows and walls can be a source of health problems if not well maintained. Inspecting and repairing both areas should be a part of a person's spring and fall home maintenance checklist. Prevent drafts and excess moisture from entering the home by replacing or repairing any caulking around the home's doors and windows. If windows are cracked they should be replaced or repaired. The walls in the interior of the home should also be carefully checked for evidence of termites. Check that screens are intact to ensure that certain types of pests are being kept out.
Keep Moisture Under Control
Moisture in the home results in mold which can cause numerous health problems. In addition, moisture is also attractive to rodents and insects. To reduce these risks make any repairs to leaky sinks or pipes as quickly as possible. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom to reduce humidity while cooking or showering. In absence of exhaust fans, open windows. Leaking roofs should be repaired as quickly as possible.
Keep Air Filters Clean
One often overlooked aspect of home maintenance involves the house air filtration system. Dirty or clogged air filters can result in damage to air conditioning systems, or even in extreme cases, a breakdown or a fire. Filters in portable air filtration systems are also vulnerable to becoming dirty or clogged. Clean air filters can help keep pollution out of the air. Fortunately, keeping air filters clean is as easy as taking them out and either replacing them or cleaning them. Cleaning filters can be as simple as removing them and shaking them clean, while in other cases one can wash them or brush them off. It is best to clean any kind of air filter outside to keep dirt from circulating in the house. This should be done once a month.
Maintain Heating and Cooling Systems
Heating, air conditioning and other types of climate control systems work by circulating hot or cold air through the house. As a consequence, they can become a major potential conductor of pollution in the home. Periodic cleaning of vents and the cleaning or replacement of filters is an essential part of a healthy home maintenance checklist. Regular maintenance of climate control systems is also necessary in order to prevent performance losses or even breakdowns.
- UNL: A Clean Home is a Healthy Home
- Healthy Housekeeping
- WebMD: Ten Affordable Ways to Make Your Home Healthier and Safer
- How to Keep a Super Clean House
- North Carolina Healthy Homes - Cleaning Up
- Seventy-Two Easy Upgrades for a Healthier Home
- Keeping Your Home Healthy (PDF)
- MedicineNet: Ten Spring Cleaning Tips for a Healthier Home
- A Healthy Home is Clean
- Preventive Home Maintenance Checkup (PDF)
- Health and Safety Tips
- Consumer Build: Maintaining your home
- Health House: Maintenance Guide
- University of Geogria Cooperative Extension - Home Maintenance: Protect Your Investment
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Lead Paint Safety (PDF)
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Healthy Homes for Healthy Families
- iVillage: How to Make Your Home Healthier: A Room-by-Room Guide
- Centers for Disease Control: A Healthy Home for Everyone (PDF)
- State of Illinois: Healthy Homes - Keeping Your Home Healthy and Safe (PDF)
- Environmental Protection Agency: Ten Ways To Make Your Home Healthier
- American Heart Association: How to Make a Healthy Home
- Green and Healthy Homes Initiative: The 8 Elements of a Green & Healthy Home
- Children's Mercy Pediatric Care Network Keep Your Home Healthy (PDF)
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