Pollutants can be introduced into the air of your home in a number of ways. Some are carried in on the breeze; some are carried in, unwittingly, by you. “A lot of things come into our homes on our clothing, including pollen and cat allergens,” says Elliott Horner, Ph.D., lead scientist for UL Environment (Underwriters Laboratories). Other pollutants originate inside the home, such as when you pet your dog and release dander into the air or burn a piece of toast and send smoke streaming into the kitchen. It’s difficult not to generate indoor air pollution in your home, Horner says.

To get rid of impurities, you need to pursue several lines of attack. Following the checklist below will help you to minimize indoor air pollution so that a portable air purifier won’t have to work as hard, if you even need one at all.

1. Open a Window
Adequate ventilation is key to promoting healthy indoor air, and opening windows (when it’s not too cold or the pollen count is not too high, of course) is an easy way to encourage a good exchange of indoor and outdoor air.

2. Ban Smoking
“Absolutely no cigarette smoke,” says Norman Edelman, M.D., senior scientific adviser for the American Lung Association. Secondhand smoke impairs respiratory health and is responsible for some 3,000 lung cancer deaths a year in nonsmokers, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Give Fido a Bath
If you have pets, bathe them and wash their bedding often to reduce allergy-causing dander. And we hate to break it to you, but you should also keep them out of bedrooms.

4. Use Exhaust Fans
Run fans in the kitchen (removes cooking fumes) and bathroom (removes steam) that vent outside. Also be sure that your dryer vents to the outside to minimize lint. To reduce the level of pollen in the air on days it’s not possible to open the windows, run your window air conditioner on the fan setting with a clean filter.

5. Use a Doormat
Wiping shoes can reduce pollutants carried into the house. Better yet, establish a shoes-off policy.


6. Change Filters
If you have a forced-air heating and cooling system, change the air filters more often when there is more smoke or pollen in the air.  

7. Skip Fires
Flames dancing in the fireplace look delightful, but they release soot and smoke into the air.

8. Don’t Cover Up Odors
Avoid air fresheners, scented candles, incense, and other odor-masking fragrances, which can trigger asthma.

9. Vacuum Often
Do this especially if you have a pet. Brooms can just stir up more dust.

10. Use a Microfiber Dusting Cloth
It will capture more dust than a cotton rag.

11. Minimize Carpet
It can trap pollutants such as dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and other dirt and dust. Choose hard-surface flooring instead.

12. Try to Stay Dry
To reduce mold, keep moisture down by using a dehumidifier and cleaning the filter regularly.

13. Store Chemicals Safely
Store solvents, glues, and pesticides away from living areas, and, when possible, use homemade cleaning products such as a mixture of white vinegar and water.

Reducing Allergens at Home

Allergies got you down? On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports experts explain how to reduce dust mites and other triggers in your home.