A Clean and Healthy Home

A well-known building scientist named Joe Lstiburek of the Building Science Corporation says there are seven steps to a healthy home.

He identifies these areas as:

  1. dry
  2. clean
  3. well-ventilated
  4. combustion product free
  5. pest free
  6. toxic chemical free
  7. comfortable.

Today I’m going to talk about the second step: a clean home

The information I am providing is basic. If you have specific questions, please feel free to email me.

Why Clean?

This may seem like a ridiculous question at first, but there is more to clean than just the obvious. When we are talking about the health of the home, it’s not just a lack of dust or dirt, but also the absence of airborne and chemical contaminants that contribute to the overall health of your home. Clean is healthy, and we should be mindful not only of what we clean in our home, but what we use to clean it, and how we keep the air fresh and contaminant free.

Cleaning Dust, Dirt and Animal Hair

HEPA, bag-less vacuums are the best. They don’t recirculate dust and mites, no bags to mess with and the canister is easy to clean.

“Swiffer” or similar brands are also part the cleaning solution. Both the floor and duster types are quick to use and work well.

Pollutants are brought into the home via shoes. Leave shoes by the entry door to keep pollutants outside.


Healthy Cleaning supplies

Part of being a green builder is looking at everything that goes into the home. One question I had: “What’s in the cleaning products we’re using?”

I found this study from Virginia Tech:


Other studies show that hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, salt and some other products can be used safely and effectively as household cleaners.

There’s a lot of information on the Internet about non-commercial cleaning solutions. Do your own research before deciding.


Furnace air filters

Change the furnace filter regularly. Most green building programs recommend a minimum Merv 8 pleated filter. Vacuum the outside of the furnace and filter box when changing the filter.


Well Ventilated

Joe Lstiburek states, “Dilution is the solution to indoor pollution that cannot otherwise be prevented or removed.” (Building Science Corporation, “READ THIS Before You Move In”.

The solution to indoor pollution is removal or dilution. How do we ventilate a home? Kitchen and bath exhaust fans provide active means of removing moisture and other elements. Opening windows is the dilution part of the solution.


Combustion Free

Gas fireplaces and gas heaters must vent to the outside in healthy homes.

Use the kitchen fan when cooking to eliminate gases.

Check furnace or boiler and hot water heater flues, that they are properly connected to the outside and don’t have cracks, etc.

When the furnace or boiler is serviced, have the firebox checked for cracks or other defects.



If your home doesn’t have a carbon monoxide monitor get one installed.

Check smoke detectors batteries. It is recommended that a home have ionization and photoelectric type smoke alarms. Dual sensor, ionization-photoelectric, put both types of sensors into a single unit.


Toxic Chemical Free

Do not store any toxic products in the home: VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), pesticides, paint, oil, etc.

Lead paint. If you live in a pre-1978 home learn about lead paint before you sand and/or paint. Here’s a helpful link: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovaterightbrochure.pdf

When replacing carpets look for the ‘Green Label’ or ‘Green Label Plus” label.

Learn about carpets here: http://www.carpet-rug.org



Does your home have energy leaks? Need additional insulation? A Home Energy Audit is the first step to making your home energy efficient and comfortable.

This EPA website is a good starting point. For the DIY’s, check out the “Do-It-Yourself Home Energy Audit” section.


Other thoughts:

Humidity – during winter months keep relative humidity of the home to less than 30%.

Blinds and shades – use them to control solar gain or rejection depending on the season and location of the window.

Old, leaky exterior doors and windows? Consider replacing them with high-performance double glazed units. FYI, air-seal the gaps between the window and frame with low-expansion foam. Fiberglass does not work a

Green is a big passion of mine, and I love sharing my knowledge and experience with others. If you ever have any questions about how to make your home a more healthy living environment, more energy efficient, or anything else related to building and Real Estate, get in touch!

– Lou


Contact Lou Sagatov