Oregonians facing smoky skies due to wildfires went looking this weekend for inexpensive ways to remove harmful smoke and pollutants that had crept inside their homes.
Many returned empty-handed. Home Depot had a run on its air purifiers and shelves in many smoke-laden areas still needed to be restocked Monday.
Smoky air, which can travel miles from a fire, is expected to linger in Oregon and Southwest Washington through at least Thursday, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
But don’t worry.
The Oregon Health Authority, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other experts recommend these DIY ways to improve indoor air now:
Make sure all windows and doors are shut. Use weather sealing or even masking tape to cover gaps. Place damp towels under doors or in other crevices where polluted air might leak in.
Stay as long as you can in a room with the fewest windows and no fireplace or ventilation ducts that connect to the outside, and keep an air purifier running constantly here, says Consumer Reports.
Avoid indoor activities that increase indoor pollution, like smoking, burning candles and using a gas stove. Refrain from doing activities that stir up dust already inside your home. Limit vacuuming unless your vacuum has a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Harry Vanderpool of Salem says that any device that pumps air out of the house draws an equal amount of smoky air back into the house
When it’s smoky outside, don’t run the clothes dryer – “Hang up clothes to dry,” he says. Also don’t turn on range hoods fans or bathroom exhaust fans. “The air is too dry already,” he says. “Steamy air from a shower can help.”
Lakin Norton of Pyramid Heating + Cooling in Portland thinks running an exhaust fan for a shower “is fine, but you do not want to run it in excess.”
She says some people might think to run the fan to exhaust the smoky air, but that will cause negative pressure in the house, which means your house will try to pull air in from wherever it can such as cracks in windows, doors or floors.
“You can also boil a pot of water on the stove or have a humidifier going to help with the smoke,” Norton adds. “Many people have been putting essential oils in for smell but I would advise against that as they further pollute the air and release VOCs” or Volatile organic compounds.
Check your heating filters daily due to the amount of wildfire smoke. You will need to change or clean them more often than the recommended two or three times a year. Once a filter is full, it no longer traps particulates, says Consumer Reports.
Make sure you have the right size filter to ensure that as many particulates as possible are being filtered and they are not going around the filter. Have backup filters ready.
Health experts and others recommend using only HEPA filters, which use a fan to force air through a fine mesh to trap particles in indoor heating, ventilation, cooling and air purification…