The holidays are here! You know what that means… Cue the days of mega-stress because it’s that time of the year when your loved ones all come together and take over the house.

Between cooking, wrapping presents, going to parties, and driving here, there, and everywhere, it’s a go-go-go couple of weeks. The hustle and bustle, though, can put our home health on the back burner. With all the people spending time indoors, that’s not precisely the situation we want for the holidays. 

No one wants to feel unwell or deal with contamination situations during the holidays!

Having a home health checklist can ensure your indoor space remains safe as you keep up with the holi-dashians this year. As an added bonus, it can also show your loved ones just how important home health is and encourage them to begin their own journey toward creating an indoor environment that promotes their wellness.

With that in mind, here are 9 steps you can take this season to keep your home in tip-top shape.

loved ones holidays

1. Create Airflow While Showering

With family and friends staying in your home, those bathrooms are going to be in high demand. All of this increased usage, though, can result in some not-so-great things, and it’s not just the massive load of towels to clean or the high water bill. It can also lead to contamination situations.

So, before your loved ones take over your washrooms, make sure to set a rule that everyone focuses on creating airflow. 

Why airflow? Some species of mold can grow in high humidity, which is why indoor humidity levels should remain between 35–50%. Bathrooms are constantly flooded with moisture from the shower, sink, flushing toilet, and more, making it a top priority to keep the levels low in these spaces. 

Creating better airflow can help keep your indoor humidity at this sweet spot so that contaminants don’t get the opportunity to sneak in. With this in mind, tell your loved ones to turn on the exhaust fan while showering and crack a door or window. This will help replace all of the moisture-rich air with dryer air from outside the room. Also, leave the exhaust fan on for at least half an hour after showering to continue to ventilate the space. 

exhaust fan

If this level just will not go down, consider investing in a dehumidifier to pull all of that moisture out. 

Bonus Tip: To reduce the chances of contamination situations developing over the holidays even more, ask your loved ones to: 

  • Hang up all wet items to dry after use, including the towels, bath mats, and wash rags
  • Separate the shower curtain and liner after use
  • Wipe up any pooled water on the floors and countertops

2. Reduce Moisture in the Kitchen

Staying on top of moisture isn’t just important in the bathroom, it’s also important in the kitchen as well! As the heart of the home, these rooms are going to be in high demand during the holiday season. Between cooking for get-togethers, grabbing a quick snack, running the dishwasher, using appliances, and washing hands, these spaces are going to be flooded with moisture day in and day out.

All of this traffic and water usage can create the perfect opportunity for contaminants to slide in and wreak havoc on your kitchen. Hence the need for reducing moisture!

Steps you can take include:

  • Creating airflow by turning on the exhaust vent while cooking and cracking a window
  • Allowing appliances to dry completely after use
  • Wiping up any pooled water
  • Considering investing in a dehumidifier for the space
  • Drying items thoroughly before storing

Pro tip: A great idea is to invest in a hygrometer and continually monitor your indoor humidity levels during the holidays. If it goes too far in either direction, you can then jump into action to fix it and ensure your environment remains a safe space. 

3. Use the Right Cleaning Products

Chances are, you’re going to be taking a deep dive into cleaning your home before all of your loved ones come into town. And then there’s the continual spot-cleaning behind the masses as everyone hustles and bustles throughout the space. Have we mentioned that it’s a crazy and exhausting time of the year?

cleaning products

Using the right products is key to helping ensure the surfaces you’re tackling actually get clean because, unfortunately, not all cleaning products are up to the task. Commonly used products like bleach are one of them! 

The right products are those that can effectively remove microscopic contaminants from a surface so that they do not continue to build up.

Products that should be in your arsenal include:

A HEPA Vacuum Cleaner

The filtration portion of the machine is what sets HEPA vacuums apart. While other machines will filter out a majority of smaller particles, they don’t have the capability to stop some of those ultra-fine and microscopic particles like mold spores. The technology behind HEPA filters allows them to filter out and remove smaller particles, instead of just blowing them back into the surrounding environment. 


Botanical Cleaning Products

Instead of harsh chemicals like bleach, which can actually lower indoor air quality, trigger health reactions for individuals who are sensitive, and harm the environment, botanical products utilize natural ingredients to deal with particles on a surface. Make sure that they also contain surfactants, which help pull particles like bacteria and mycotoxins from the surface so that they can be wiped away. 

A couple of options include:

Microfiber Towels

A key component of choosing the right cleaning products is their ability to actually remove them from your indoor environment. Microfiber cloths are an invaluable power tool when it comes to cleaning homes and eliminating tiny particles from your space.

They’re made from polyester and polyamide fibers, which are split into thin threads and then woven together. This tightly intertwined fabric is what gives them their cleaning juju. They’re able to produce static electricity, allowing them to pick up more particles like mold spores and bacteria.

For more information on these products and other recommendations, check out this blog post.

4. Get Ready to Deep Clean

cleaning checklist

You know all of that deep cleaning before the hordes arrive at your home and then clean up the disaster left behind? Having the right cleaning products is a great start, but the fun doesn’t stop there. It’s also important to comb through the house carefully to remove as many microscopic particles as possible.

So! Make sure to clean every surface, corner, and cranny of each room in the house so that you and your loved ones are breathing in as clean of air as possible. Use the HEPA vacuum on every possible surface in every room, including floors, couches, chairs, inside cabinets, and any other area you can reach. Then, follow up with the botanical cleaning products for each specific surface type and microfiber towels. 

Don’t forget about the:

Also, remember to wash all of those machine-washable items with a laundry additive like EC3! This will help remove as many microscopic particles as possible. 

Items to wash include:
  • Bath mats
  • Towels
  • Hand towels
  • Shower curtains and liners (if possible)
  • Blankets 
  • Sheets
  • Mattress protectors 

Bonus tip: Pay extra special attention to dusting! Microscopic particles like mold spores settle where dust settles, so the more dust you see, the more contaminants there are as well. Eliminating these decreases the exposure your loved ones have to particles that can trigger adverse health reactions. Mold colonies also use organic particles like dust as food sources, so actively removing this component helps prevent growth. 

Make sure to tackle areas like:
  • HVAC vents
  • Windowsills
  • Doorframes
  • Shelves
  • Surfaces on top of decor
  • Picture frames
  • Fan blades

To go above and beyond and ensure your home is safe for the holidays, use The Dust Test. This will determine whether there are high levels of contaminants in your home that may be affecting the indoor air quality.

5. Keep an Eye on the Christmas Tree

preventing mold on Christmas tree

It’s easy to get sucked into the festive season and sit back to admire that beautiful Christmas tree, but it’s important to ensure it’s actually supporting your health! For those who are adamant lovers of real trees, this is incredibly important. They can cause your indoor air quality to plummet if steps aren’t taken to prevent mold and remove as many microscopic particles as possible.

Researchers have actually dubbed this situation “Christmas Tree Syndrome” after looking into why so many people started to feel sick right after decorating that holiday decor icon. 

Steps to keep your tree in tip-top shape include:
  • Let it dry completely before bringing it inside.
  • Keep an air purifier nearby to get rid of any spores (make sure it’s equipped with technology that can actually filter out spores!)
  • Only keep it for a few days (a week max)
  • Maintain indoor humidity between 30-50 percent
  • Clean the surfaces around the tree often 

For more information on making sure your tree (real or fake) isn’t a health hazard during the holidays, check out this blog post.

6. Change All HVAC Air Filters

The holidays are the time of year when people are coming and going constantly throughout the home. That creates an opportunity for particles to get tracked in on clothing, shoes, and presents, not to mention just zipping in through that revolving door! 

Even though it’s a massively busy time of the year, check your calendar to make sure your air filters are ready to handle this influx of particles. If it’s time for them to be replaced (or pretty close to that deadline), go ahead and swap them out for fresh ones before the family comes into town. 

Why the HVAC air filters?

As the lungs of the home, the HVAC system is the first line of defense in removing particles from your air. The air filters themselves are what allow the system to cleanse the air and recirculate the cleaner air back into your indoor environment. However, dirty air filters aren’t able to properly eliminate particles and can also cause issues with the HVAC system. No one wants to deal with a faulty HVAC during the holidays or spend money repairing it. 

So, check with the manufacturer’s instructions to determine if yours are ready to be replaced so that you and your loved ones can breathe easier and focus on making memories and spending time together.

Bonus Tip: Speaking of HVAC filters, switch to the highest-rated MERV filters possible for the specific HVAC. The details on which can be used and when to replace them can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions. The key thing to keep in mind is that the smaller the particles these filters can eliminate, the better. Otherwise, they’ll just circulate straight back into the home. 

7. Inspect the Chimney 

safe fireplace

Lighting a fire is one of those picture-perfect moments during the holiday season. Then everyone can gather around, drinking hot cocoa and sharing memories from the past. 

There is something that can put a damper on this heartwarming experience, though: a contaminated fireplace that’s pumping pollutants into your indoor air. It’s probably safe to say that particular situation is not what you had in mind when you started that fiery blaze. 

To ensure you and your loved ones aren’t battling particles like mold spores and bacteria this season, make sure your chimney is in prime condition to help you warm up without any unwanted hazards tagging along. 

If you haven’t already, schedule a trained professional to come out and inspect the fixture. While it wasn’t in use, the fireplace could have been blocked by debris or developed structural issues, leading to poor indoor air quality and possible water intrusion. 

The person coming in should ensure that:
  • The cap, crown, and flashing are in good condition and don’t have any damage that could allow moisture to enter
  • There’s no debris blocking the chute 
  • The flu is operating correctly, so that sooty air gets out 
  • The structural foundation of the chimney has no damage  
  • There’s no visible mold growth
  • Any creosote, a harmful byproduct of burning wood, is removed 

Keep in mind that not all damage is immediately visible. It could be a small crack in the mortar that’s difficult to see, allowing for moisture intrusion and microbial growth. The professional should be able to assess any problems and provide a green or red light for your fixture.

If they find any issues with the chimney, resolve them ASAP. The last thing you want is to breathe in harmful air during the holidays or battle catastrophic situations like a house fire.

If you’ve already gotten an inspection done for the year, grab a flashlight and give your fireplace a close inspection just to double-check that it’s good to go for the holidays!

8. Clean the Fridge 

clean fridge

With all of that holiday cooking comes the inevitable flood of leftovers that will take up all of the space in your refrigerator. For those who have a water spout, having loved ones over to their home also means increased use of this nifty appliance. The question, though, is if your fridge is ready to support everyone's health this holiday season.

If that interior or water spout is full of contaminants like mold and bacteria, microscopic particles will stick to your water and food. Then, every time someone takes a sip of that refreshing H2O or grabs a bite to eat, they’ll be ingesting all sorts of icky and harmful contaminants. 

To avoid this, make sure to give this star appliance a thorough cleaning before everyone heads over to celebrate. As an added bonus, this will also help you make room for all of those leftover containers!

For detailed instructions on ensuring your fridge is in tip-top shape and ready for the festive flood of food, check out this blog post.

9. Check for Leaks

leak under sink

The last thing you want to deal with while trying to check off the million and one things on your to-do list is handling a leak. Plus, no one wants to hear from a loved one that there’s a steady drip coming from underneath your bathroom sink that they may or may not have been snooping through.

Not only is it a process to fix the issue and dry out the area, but it can also lead to contamination situations if it’s not properly handled. Mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours if moisture and food sources are present. Leaks create the perfect opportunity for this to occur. Once that microbial growth is established, it will begin to lower your indoor air quality and can lead to a long list of adverse health reactions.

Combing through your house for any issues is a great way to avoid this scenario! The sooner you can catch a problem, the faster you can begin to resolve it. That way, you’re not dealing with unwanted stress during the holidays. Addressing any issues quickly and correctly can help prevent exposure and save money from costly remediation projects down the line. 

Places to check include: 
  • Underneath sinks
  • Attic
  • Around toilets and showers
  • Near appliances such as the dishwasher or laundry machine
  • Ceilings
  • Basement 
  • Hot water tank

Another great idea to determine if there’s a hidden leak is to assess your water usage and bill. If these are abnormally high, there could be an issue somewhere in your home. In that case, consider hiring an inspector to come in and assess the building.

A Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

family during holidays

Focusing on home health during the rush of the holidays can seem like a pain and just one more thing to add to your busy schedule, but it’s absolutely worth it! Creating a safe place for yourself and your loved ones during the holidays is a gift that just keeps on giving. It also provides peace of mind knowing that your home has an extra layer of protection from contaminants like mold and bacteria.

Make sure to take time to knock out the checklist above so that you can focus on making memories and enjoying your time with those you love. And don’t forget to take some time for yourself! You definitely deserve to destress and enjoy your favorite holiday activity, whether that be eating a holiday cookie, drinking a peppermint latte, or driving around to see those beautiful outdoor lights.

Health begins at home.™

Still Have Questions?

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