DIY Safety: Ensure Clean Air During and After a Home Improvement Project

A couple relaxing on a couch with their heads behind their head.

Power tools, paint, caulking, and sanders are just a few tools and supplies commonly used during home improvement projects. Safety measures must be taken when using these tools, however, precautions should involve more than just protective goggles and gloves. Not only do these tools present potential dangers if not used properly, but the debris from projects can also release harmful pollutants into your home’s air that can be a threat to your respiratory system.

According to the EPA, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and depending on your indoor activities, like home improvement or cleaning projects, this number can skyrocket up to 100 times. This is of concern because most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors. Taking proper precautions can help to minimize the amount of airborne pollutants during and after your project.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your home’s air remains as clean as possible during and after a home renovation.

Combat Dust and Debris

A DIYer working on a project wearing a dust mask.

Home improvement projects can create a mess until they're completed, resulting in dust and debris that often seem unavoidable. While much of the dust and debris that collects on surfaces is visible, some airborne particles are invisible to the naked eye and pose health risks. Wearing a disposable dust mask over your nose and mouth will help reduce the amount of this airborne particulate that you breathe in. When using sanding equipment, try to use tools that have dust capture bags attached. Protective goggles will also help keep dust and other debris from getting into your eyes. Opening windows will help with ventilation—fresh air is key to reducing dust and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. Covering air intake and output ducts will help minimize the amount of dust that can get into your HVAC system and then be recirculated in your home after your project is completed. Even when your project is complete and materials are cleaned up, it's still possible that fine dust particles are lingering in the air and being circulated through your HVAC system. Using a Honeywell True HEPA air purifier will help capture microscopic airborne particles. In fact, Honeywell True HEPA air purifiers can capture up to 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns from the air that passes through the filters.

Properly Use and Store Chemicals

Many home improvement supplies release chemicals in the form of gases. These gases are known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and they can be irritating to the eyes and nasal passages. Paints, shellacs, varnishes, glue, cleaning products, and even carpeting or flooring materials can “off gas” during use or installation. Making sure there is proper ventilation when using these materials is critical. I urge my patients—especially if they have allergies or sensitivities to fragrance—to make sure they read product labels and adhere to usage directions. To better understand what constitutes as a VOC and what common household products release them, Honeywell Air Purifiers created a list of the 10 most common VOCs found in American households along with an online checklist to provide easy and affordable solutions to help improve indoor air quality. Some tips include storing only the minimum number of cleaning products needed in the home and any others outside of the home, as well as remembering to allow cabinets and flooring to off-gas and increase ventilation after installation. When it comes to reducing airborne chemicals, the Honeywell Bluetooth® Smart True HEPA Air Purifier reduces VOCs with its carbon pre-filter and features a VOC sensor that detects when VOCs are present, automatically adjusting its operating mode. The air purifier then quickly reduces VOC levels in your air by filtering through the activated carbon.

Make Wise Décor Choices

A vacuum cleaning a shaggy rug.

One of the most enjoyable parts of a home improvement project is being able to decorate your new space. When planning your décor, it's wise to take into consideration the new fabrics or materials you might be buying for your home. As an allergist, I tell my patients that one of the easiest ways to minimize dust is by reducing excessive amounts of fabrics in the home. Before buying upholstery, window treatments, carpets or accessories for your newly remodeled room, think about the indoor allergens that will ultimately settle on those items. I recommend reducing the number of drapes, curtains, or any other upholstered items that dust and other airborne allergens can cling to. Leather or vinyl furnishings are great options because dust cannot penetrate the material. If your flooring is not solid surface material, I advise my patients to vacuum carpets at least weekly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove allergens that can settle deep into the fibers.

Dr. Bob Geng, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist/Immunologist and a medical advisor working with Honeywell Air Purifiers. He practices at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and is an assistant clinical professor at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Geng sees both pediatric and adult patients for allergic and immunologic conditions, including seasonal allergies and asthma.