Moving house can be an exciting and stressful experience. Apart from packing and unpacking, there are many things to consider.
To help make your move as smooth and healthy as possible, I’ve compiled a checklist of tasks to complete at different stages before moving day.
Plan and Prepare
The first step to a successful move is planning and preparation.
It's important to create a moving plan and decide on the moving date, book a reputable moving company, and reserve a parking space for the moving truck if necessary.
You should also take the opportunity to declutter your home by going through your belongings and donating or selling items you no longer need or want. This not only reduces the amount of items you'll need to pack but can also help to create a healthier living environment in your new home.
It's also important to notify your utility companies and service providers of your move and arrange for services to be discontinued and transferred to your new address.
Don't forget to change your address with the post office, banks, insurance providers, and any other relevant parties.
Pack and Protect
The next stage is to start packing and protecting your belongings.
Gather packing supplies such as boxes, tape, and bubble wrap, and use new boxes to avoid any potential mould or fragrance issues.
Label each box with its contents and the room it belongs in to make unpacking easier.
And if you aren’t going to be there when the removalists unpack (yes, I had this happen when I moved interstate), be sure to provide a floor plan and label the boxes according to which room they need to be put in.
If anyone in your household has an allergy to house dust mites, it is important that they protect their health by wearing a mask and gloves when packing and cleaning.
Finalise and Confirm
As moving day approaches, it's time to finalise and confirm your plans.
Double-check the date, time, and any special instructions with your moving company.
Make sure everything is packed and ready to go, and do a final clean of your old home.
Arrange for a deep clean of your new home before moving in to ensure it's a healthy and safe living environment.
Many of my clients find it helpful to have someone wash all walls and ceilings with sugar soap to get rid of the smells of previous residents.
It's also important to confirm your plans with family and friends and ensure everyone is aware of the moving schedule and has their own arrangements in place.
Pack a box with essential items, such as toiletries, a change of clothes, and important documents, that you will need immediately upon arrival at your new home.
Confirm the arrival time of the removalist.
Make sure you have enough cash or you’re able to pay the removalist by card.
Clean your old home, making sure you haven't left anything behind.
In addition to packing your belongings, consider packing a “survival kit” that will tide you over for the first 24 hours. This could include:
The kettle and your favourite beverages
Cups or glasses
Food you can eat as you unpack
Basic crockery and cutlery
A frozen pre-cooked meal you can heat up for dinner
If you have pets, make sure you have their water bowl, food bowls, food, medications and beds
I always like to have music on – so back in the day, I’d have my favourite CDs + stereo
Keep your air purifier with you, as you will likely want to put that on when you arrive
Self-Care: Moving Day
Once you’re up and out of bed, wrap your mattress in a tarp and tie it so that it is well-protected while in transit.
Before leaving your old home, conduct a final walkthrough to check all rooms and storage areas to ensure nothing is left behind.
When you arrive at your new home, confirm all utilities are working, and begin unpacking and settling into your new home.
Keep your labelled boxes and important documents in a safe and accessible place.
The first 5 things to set up in your new home:
1) When I first moved out of home, Mum told me the first thing to set up was my bed. And she was right. At the end of a long and strenuous day, being able to hop in a shower then flop into bed is essential.
2) Set up your air purifier so you’ve got clear air from the get go.
3) Get your kettle and drinks set up – it’s so important to stay hydrated.
4) Make sure you get the basics of your kitchen set up – the fridge, and what you’ll need in the first 24 hours.
5) The stereo is next – or however you listen to music. I love music to keep me motivated.
Moving House is a big deal, but it can be smooth
Moving house requires careful planning and preparation, but with the above checklist, it can be a smooth and healthy experience.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your move is stress-free and that your new home is a healthy and safe living environment for you and your family.
If you're looking for more tips on healthy living in rental properties, including how to protect your rights, health, and belongings as a tenant, be sure to check out my “Blueprint to Living in a Rental” course.
Autumn Healthy Home Threats… What’s happening in your home?
Autumn is a beautifully colourful time of the year. Greens become yellowed with red and fade to orange and brown. Once fallen, there’s that lovely crunch to them as you walk.
I remember when my first dog was a puppy and he walked on the dry autumn leaves for the first time. He was startled, then curious, and finally amused… it was then fun for him to walk through the crunchy crackly leaves… I digress.
In terms of our homes, there are healthy home threats that are closely matched with this one.
What is meant by a “healthy home threat”?
A healthy home threat is anything that hinders our efforts to establish a healthy home. These threats come in various forms, ranging from allergens and increased humidity to leaks, fresh paint, and modern technology.
It’s important to understand these threats, and be vigilant in keeping our homes healthy, and today, we’ll explore the healthy home threats associated with autumn.
What is Unique about Autumn?
Autumn days are varied, and tend to be crisp and often clear, the days shorter and we tend to start wearing layers to accommodate the changes through the day.
As Autumn gains momentum, we tend to:
Start spending more time indoors
Squeeze in any final “hurrahs” from summer – like trips to the beach on the last of the hot days
Alternate between using cooling and heating as we transition between the seasons
Use artificial lights earlier in the evenings as it gets dark earlier
Prepare for winter – as do other critters
Let’s find out how these changes can become Autumn healthy home threats.
HVACs and Indoor Air Quality
“HVAC” stands for “heating, ventilation and air conditioning”.
It is absolutely essential that they are serviced regularly by professionals (check the manual as to the manufacturer’s recommendations).
And equally important is the regular cleaning that you do.
Every week (all year), you should be vacuuming the filters for any HVAC units that you use – heating, cooling, air purifiers, dehumidifiers. The fins and all accessible areas should also be cleaned weekly with a moist microfibre cloth.
Too often, I’ve seen them absolutely caked with dust – and dust can harbour dust mites, allergens, mould spores and more.
Infrequent cleaning and servicing can mean that your HVACs could be spreading these contaminants around.
Here are some steps you can take to protect the indoor air quality of your home.
Have all of your HVACs serviced in autumn
Make sure you’re regularly cleaning the filters, fins and accessible parts – including ducts
Replace pre-filters on return air grilles
Gas appliances are often not used throughout the summer months. Conversely, in winter, they tend to be heavily used.
Devastatingly, gas appliances can result in deadly gases being released into our homes if they leak, are improperly flued or the gases aren’t combusting properly.
I’ve had quite a few reports from people about intense fatigue and grogginess when using their gas heaters wanting me to come out to assess their homes. This is not something I need to assess – this is when you call in a licensed gas plumber as it is a potentially deadly situation. In every case, I’ve had the person contact me afterwards thanking me for identifying the problem.
Gas appliances include the oven, hot water system as well as heating units.
Have all gas appliances serviced by a licensed gas plumber
Attend to any leaks
Maintain ventilation of your home, by opening windows and doors to exchange the air
As the days become shorter, we use artificial lights earlier and earlier.
Natural lighting fluctuates throughout the day, with varying levels of blue and red light.
Artificial lighting often doesn’t.
The result of this can be that it can cause problems with sleep.
Now is a great time to invest in some lighting that will work for you – lighting your home and supporting your sleep (which is essential to health and wellbeing).
Of the many products available on the market, the brand I like best is BlueLightBlockers.* Use coupon code bb88 to save 10% off their range.
* These are affiliate links – if you don’t want to use them, just click here instead. I recommend them because they are excellent products and really are blue-light-free, and have therefore negotiated a discount for my community. (Not the other way around!)
As the temperatures shift, the location of where condensation can form will also alter…
Where there’s condensation, there’s moisture. And, I’m sure you’ve heard me say: mould is a moisture issue.
There are some simple steps that you can take to reduce the condensation risks.
When heating or cooling your home be sure to do this for your entire home – keeping internal doors open will help to even out the temperature throughout your home.
To allow the air to circulate to maintain more even temperatures, keep furniture at least 10cm away from exterior walls.
Be on the ready for condensation and have a dry microfibre cloth ready to wipe it off. A flat microfibre mop is ideal if you notice it high up (like on the ceiling or high windows).
Rodents and Other Uninvited Guests
This is the time of year when critters prepare for winter – when traditionally food was not so readily available.
For this reason, you may notice an increase in activity as evidenced by droppings, holes in food packets and other strange occurrences.
Not only are they looking for food, they are also looking for nesting materials (and even locations) – and we don’t want them setting up in our homes!
Rodents are pretty clever and extremely nimble. Mice can fit through tiny holes (even as small as 1 cm) and they are also able to scale vertical surfaces up to about 90 cm!
While it’s tempting to put poison out to kill them – especially when they “go away to die,” I strongly discourage you from doing this. These poisons are “second generation anticoagulant rodenticides” (SGARs) and cause whatever eats them to slowly die by bleeding to death. Decades ago, one of my dogs got into some and we very nearly lost him (he wasn’t even 2 years old)… SGARs are slow acting, so the poisoned animals go about normal activities – and if caught and eaten by a pet or wildlife, that animal will be poisoned, too.
Ensure that all of your food items are stored in glass or metal containers – this includes pet foods. What can’t be stored in these containers needs to go in the fridge or a well sealed cupboard.
Make sure you fill in any holes so that there are no easy entry points – in cupboards as well as around your home.
Avoid poisons – opt for traps instead. If you must use poison, BirdLife Australia have a list of safer options here.
Autumn Healthy Home Threats… now under control!
Now that we’ve addressed our HVACs, gas appliances, artificial lighting, condensation risks, and uninvited guests, we’ve got Autumn Healthy Home Threats sorted!
If you’d like any help with this – then you can book a call with me, I’d be more than happy to help solve your healthy home issues.
The Impact of Plastics on Our Health & The Environment
Plastics have become an integral part of our daily lives, but their effects on our health and the environment are becoming more and more apparent. In this post, we'll delve into some of the issues posed by the widespread use of plastic, on human health and on our planet.
We’ll explore topics such as microplastics, plastic pollution, and the chemicals found in plastics that can disrupt our endocrine system.
The Effects of Microplastics
Microplastics are small plastic particles that are less than 5 millimetres in size.
These particles can come from a wide range of sources, including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.
Dr. Janice Brahney, an assistant professor at Utah State University, explains that, “Once they enter the environment, they can cause a range of problems.”
Research from the University of Plymouth has revealed that a single polyester garment can shed up to 1,900 microfibers in one wash, and these microplastics can enter the food chain when they are ingested by small marine creatures, eventually making their way into the seafood we eat. Microplastics can also cause physical harm to marine life, disrupting their digestive and reproductive systems.
There is growing concern about the impact of microplastics on our health.
Recent research suggests that these tiny particles can enter our bodies through the air we breathe, the food we eat and even the water we drink.
A study published in Environmental Science & Technology in 2020 found that people could be ingesting an average of 5 grams of plastic every week, which is the equivalent to the weight of a credit card. This means that we are consuming microplastics in our food and water, and these particles could potentially cause long-term health problems.
Plastic Pollution in Our Environment
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges we face today.
Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Georgia, states that, “Over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, and the majority of that plastic is still in the environment.”
Plastic pollution not only affects the aesthetics of our planet, but it can also have a serious impact on ecosystems. Birds and other wildlife can become entangled in plastic, or ingest it, causing injury or death. Some sea birds are mistakenly fed plastics as babies, resulting in them being too heavy to fly, so they drown when they head out to sea.
The impact of plastic pollution on our oceans is particularly concerning.
According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if current trends continue.
Plastic pollution can also have a direct impact on human health. In areas where plastic waste is burned, it can release toxic fumes that are harmful to human health.
The Impact of Plastics on Human Health
Many plastics contain harmful chemicals, including phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), and other endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine and paediatrics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, explains, “These chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system, which regulates hormones that play a critical role in human health.”
Phthalates are often added to plastics to make them more flexible, but they have been linked to a range of health problems, including hormonal imbalances and reproductive issues.
BPA is a chemical used in plastics that can mimic oestrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. In many situations, this has been replaced by bisphenol S (BPS) which isn’t any better!
Endocrine disrupting chemicals can also impact foetal development and may lead to long-term health problems.
One of the most concerning aspects of plastic and health is the potential impact on unborn babies.
Research has suggested that exposure to certain endocrine disrupting chemicals during foetal development could lead to a range of health problems later in life.
A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that women with higher levels of phthalates in their blood during pregnancy were more likely to have children with language delays.
Another study found that BPA exposure during pregnancy could increase the risk of behavioural problems in young girls.
It's not just unborn babies who are at risk from the chemicals found in plastics.
Adults can also be affected.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that men who consumed food from plastic containers had lower levels of testosterone than men who did not.
Summing it all up –
Plastics have become ubiquitous in our society, but their impact on our health and the environment is becoming increasingly concerning.
Microplastics are found in our food, water, and air, and plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges we face.
Chemicals found in plastics can disrupt the endocrine system, leading to a range of health problems, including reproductive issues, obesity, and diabetes.
It's important to reduce our use of plastics wherever possible and to recycle and dispose of them properly.
By doing so, we can help to protect our planet and our health.
Want your home to be a healthy one that supports your wellbeing?
Like to find out more about creating a healthy home?
Grab this FREE Could my house be making me sick? guide here.
Brahney, J., et al. (2018). The plastics revolution: how have we created a world in which plastic threatens life? The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-plastics-revolution-how-have-we-created-a-world-in-which-plastic-threatens-life-102335
Ellen MacArthur Foundation. (2016). The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/the-new-plastics-economy-rethinking-the-future-of-plastics
Consider natural deodorants – some of my clients have used bicarbonate of soda, other swear by cider vinegar, personally, I prefer to mix up essential oils in a bottle of rose water and spray that on every few hours (essential oils evaporate quickly)
Reduced Indoor Air Quality
Closing the windows to keep the heat out and the cool in can cause indoor air pollutants to build up, which is never ideal.
This is made worse when bringing new items into the home – which are often still off-gassing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and potentially also formaldehyde.
Adding another layer to this is the increased temperatures speeding up the release of VOCs, which can readily form by-products in the air.
The great thing about this problem is that the solutions are simple!
Ventilate your home. Open doors and windows at least 3 times a day (the ideal would be every hour) to exchange the air in your home.
When you’ve got the windows closed, ensure your airpurifier is going.
Avoid using “air fresheners” and other scented products.
Moisture in the Interstitial Spaces
Condensation forms where there are variations in temperatures. What we see with the use of air conditioning, is condensation forming on the other side of plasterboards, outside of windows and also on the other side of the ceiling.
These areas are referred to as “interstitial spaces” and can be the site of many cases of “hidden mould.”
In 2018, I was in far north Queensland to present training on mould and was amazed to see the windows literally streaming with condensation – to the point that it looked like it was raining heavily.
This is a complex problem, but ultimately it rests heavily on the use of air conditioning – as this is what causes massive temperature variations.
Explore alternative ways to cool – installing plants along the paths and in front of your windows to naturally cool the air, hanging a wet sheet across the open window or door, wetting your hair, clothes or skin.
Aim to keep the inside temperature closer to the outside temperature – don’t set the cooling for 15oC, instead, set it for 25-30oC.
If you can, keep the windows open a little to help even out the temperature a bit.
Higher levels of relative humidity in tropical and subtropical regions is the number one problem here.
It’s important to remember that there are mould spores everywhere, waiting for the right conditions.
Often all they are waiting for is enough moisture.
And high levels of relative humidity can provide this.
(This is why “mould is a moisture issue” – as I’m sure you’ve heard me say time and again).
Keep an eye on the levels of relative humidity with a hygrometer, remembering the ideal range is 40-60% RH, with 50% RH being the magic number.
If the relative humidity levels go above this, use a dehumidifier to bring them down to below 60% RH.
Pull furniture from against the walls, so that air can circulate around it, as well as giving you the opportunity to check the walls for mould.
The combination of higher temperatures and higher levels of rainfall (as we’ve been seeing in Australia) results in more active breeding of mosquitoes, termites, cockroaches and rodents.
Each of them bring their own risks to either human health and/or the health of our homes.
While we consider them pests, we need to be considered in how we deal with them.
My preference is always to deter them, rather than kill them.
If you prefer to kill them, then take great care with poisons – especially rodenticides (poison for rodents – rats and mice). Poison can be slow acting, and other animals further up the food chain can also be killed as a result. I’ll be putting a post together on this soon. In the meantime please read more here – as they also include a post about safer poisons.
Install fly screens over doors and windows; and repair any old ones that are damaged.
Flooding is something we’ve recently experienced on a scale that really hasn’t been seen before.
I’m not a scientist or meteorologist, but experts say this is due to either or both La Niña and climate change.
Flooding – the Primary Effects
Primarily, flooding is going to result in mould issues. Mould is a moisture issue and with the abundance of moisture (rain, on the ground and the high levels of relative humidity), we’re seeing a perfect storm brewing for mould and microbial activity.
The focus of today’s post is the secondary effects.
So, I’ll leave the topic of mould here, with the following pointers:
Anything that’s been wet for more than 48 hours can create the opportunity for mould and microbial activity
Porous materials that have been wet, need to be replaced
Semi- and non-porous materials can be saved, but need to be addressed by the appropriate professionals (those who’ve trained with IICRC and have achieved the Mould Remediation accreditation)
If you want to learn more about dealing with mould, I have a course by that very name – you can check it out here.
www.EWG.org will also list options, however, I’ve found that these are often not available in Australia (and I don't recommend purchasing these types of items online from overseas as they may not meet our safety standards)
I’m going to bring back my essential oil based Bug Repellent (contact me if you're interested)
If you opt for a non-natural option, apply an oil-based moisturiser on your skin first, so the repellent sits on the surface of your skin (and is also easier to wash of)
Another way to use the non-natural option is to spray it onto clothing, instead of your skin
DIY – make your own with essential oils, such as tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus blue mallee, and lavender. You can mix them up in water and spray them on your clothes/skin and reapply every 2-3 hours
We can expect some pretty big issues with termites with the high levels of moisture.
According to Professor Dieter Hochuli, Integrative Ecology Group at the University of Sydney,
“It’s going to be a massive year for termites as the high levels of soil moisture are ideal for them to burrow and flourish” (ABC News, 31 Oct 22).
A bit like house dust mites, termites thrive in moist conditions.
Termites are attracted by the moisture then go in search of food – wood.
Here are some things to do.
Clear away wood (fallen branches, sleepers, wood piles) from around your home and property
Keep things as dry as you can
Be vigilant – keep an eye on your building, including the subfloor. If you’ve got termite caps at the top of your stumps, then you should be able to spot their activity easily.
Have your home inspected
Termite traps can be useful around your property, too
Cockroaches and Rodents
Cockroaches and rodents (rats and mice), as well as other pests are likely to increase, particularly as the weather warms up.
Some actions that you can take are:
Installing fly screens on windows and doors
Keep your home clean
Clean up food scraps and mess
Ensure your bins close properly
If you’ve got a compost bin, keep it away from the home
If you’ve got chooks, look into getting a feeder that doesn’t spill their food around
Keep pet food (and your own) in sealed containers
Other Steps You Can Take To Reduce the Secondary (and Tertiary) Effects of Flooding
Keep an eye on the relative humidity levels – these should be between 40-60%. A hygrometer is handy for this.
Paint Chips from old peeling paint can potentially expose your family and pets to lead, which is a risk to long term health.
While lead may have been banned, it is still present in many buildings.
So how do you know if the paint on your home contains lead?
Unfortunately, you can’t tell by looking as there are no obvious signs that paint may contain lead.
However, I would say that in most cases, it probably does, to varying levels.
The best guide would be that if your home was constructed and/or painted prior to 1997, it is highly likely to contain “lead paint.”
In 1997, in Australia, the lead content of domestic paint was reduced to 0.1% lead (= 1000 ppm lead), prior to that it was much higher.
On 1st October 2021, lead paint was banned in Australia. This means that all domestic paints contain lead that is limited to 0.009% = 90 ppm – ultimately meaning that no lead can be added.
The great news is that manufacturers were informed about this back in 2010, so you can rest assured that any paint made in Australia on and after this date has no added lead.
While leaded paint is safely encapsulated by more recent coats of paint, it doesn’t pose a risk in normal daily life.
However, if you are planning to renovate your home, you could be biting off more than you intended.
The only way to know for sure is to test it.
Spot tests from the hardware store are pretty unreliable.
Laboratory analysis is always the best way to go*.
Otherwise, you could assume that the paint contains lead, and manage it accordingly.
The Dos and Don’ts of Leaded Paint
If the paint in the area you are wanting to paint is in good condition, then you can:
Wash the walls with sugar soap
Allow them to fully dry
Paint them carefully
However, if you are planning to remove the paint – STOP! Read this first.
Don’t dry sand.
Sanding will cause the lead to be released as airborne particles.
If you need to sand, then wet sanding is your go to method.
Don’t use a hot heat gun.
The heat gun will cause lead vapour to be released.
The only way around this is to use a heat gun with a temperature setting, and use it on the lowest setting. Keep the heat gun away from the wall. Everyone present needs to be fitted with a P2 respirator to prevent inhalation.
Avoid chemical stripping.
Chemical stripping can cause lead to end up in the wood. The end results of this is that because no paint is visible, anyone would assume that it is safe to sand. But this is not the case.
In all instances, I strongly recommend the use of PPE – a respirator is essential.
P1 for sanding. P2 for using with a heat gun.
I also recommend using an air purifier to capture fumes and dust.
Before you remove leaded paint, carefully lay down a drop sheet (taping down the edges) to ensure that you’ll collect all the lead chips.
Ensure that you carefully collect all leaded paint chips, emptying them into a bag and sealing it well.
Clean the area and surrounds thoroughly to ensure that there are no paint chips or dust around from the renovation.
The LEAD Group recommends the 3-Bucket Method for cleaning. (Note, I am not a fan of step 5 – please choose an alternative way to dispose of the contaminated water.)
The Risks of Leaded Paint Chips and Dust
I recently tested a home that had been renovated, and there were paint chips all over the garden.
Whilst the paint chips definitely posed a problem to the occupants and their pets, the dust in their home also contained levels of lead that were high enough that by US EPA standards deemed the house uninhabitable for a child.
So follow the steps above and keep safe from lead.
Other Potential Sources of Lead When Renovating
We’ve talked about paint chips and dust in the home.
However, there are other potential sources of lead that you can be exposed to when renovating.
The two bigs ones are:
Ceiling dust is usually full of all sorts of contaminants – lead dust being one of them. Dust can contain lead even in new buildings, particularly when near busy roads or industrial areas.
Like when sanding, dust from the ceiling can easily be inhaled or ingested.
And as such, I always recommend having ceiling dust professionally removed prior to any renovations.
Carpets store a lot of dust and other matter – we won’t go into the details here, just know it’s like a time capsule of your home.
Pulling up carpets and underlay can expose you to a lot of this matter, so care needs to be taken.
Simply spray carpets with water, cut them into strips and roll them up. Taking it a step further, it is advised that you then wrap these carpet rolls in plastic and carefully remove them. This last step prevents contamination of other areas of the building from both lead and mould spores.
The same can be done with the underlay.
I then recommend a good clean, following the Three Bucket Method, as well.
Other Reno Tips
Make sure you clean up well – take extra care to remove dust, paint chips and other debris.
Test the soil if you’re planning to have a vegetable garden or chooks, you have pets, you’ve got children (especially if they’re prone to pica – eating things that aren’t normally considered food).
Take care to choose taps and tapware that are lead-free.
Interested in Learning More?
Check out this post and details about how to join lead expert, Elizabeth O'Brien (The LEAD Group) for a live Q&A call during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA). Don’t worry if you’ve missed the event – go there anyway as I’ll post the video of the call there for you. 🙂
*I’m doing onsite assessments for lead, so if you want my help, enquire here.
Although it's my favourite season, Spring healthy home threats can be found in every home.
I love the palpable buzz of new life and energy. When we’re surrounded by colour as flowers burst open, and there are fledgling birds all around.
Here in Melbourne, it is considered the most variable of the seasons – I’m sure this is the season that inspired Crowded House’s “Four Seasons in One Day.”
And, like for every season, there are healthy home threats that are closely matched with this one.
What is a “healthy home threat”?
A healthy home threat is anything that interferes with the good work we’re doing to create a healthy home. It could be an allergen, a rise in relative humidity, a leak, new paint, a new technology – there are so many possibilities.
Which Challenges Does Spring Bring?
Spring brings with it longer days (with the sun rising earlier and setting later) as well as warmer days. In many areas, the winds pick up. And when I lived in the Blue Mountains, I braced for “thunderstorm season,” as I called it.
It’s important to understand how the season causes us to change our behaviour, as this can give us clues about what may pose a risk to our great efforts in creating a healthy home.
As Spring gains momentum, we tend to:
Get outside more
Open the windows to let the warmth in
Continue to use heating (as the days are still cool, and vary a lot)
Bring flowers inside
Get out into the garden
Plant vegetables, herbs and flowers
Some of us partake in the traditional “Spring Clean”
Let’s now explore how these changes can become Spring healthy home threats.
Variations in temperature throughout the day, and also from room to room can create opportunities for mould to grow.
Another change is the increased ventilation as we open up to welcome in the warmth and beautiful Spring air.
Spring Cleaning results in us pulling furniture out, cleaning, sorting through items that may have been untouched for some time.
It’s important to remember that mould releases spores when there are any changes to its environment.
Releasing spores is how mould manages to spread and survive “attacks,” and we need to keep this in mind.
Aim to keep temperatures throughout your home as consistent as possible – opening ALL windows and doors can be part of this strategy.
Use air purifiers, particularly when Spring Cleaning. (This one is the bee's knees in terms of powerfully cleaning the air.)
Building materials having different temperatures can create the possibility of dew point being reached within the building. I know that sounds technical, but bear with me as I translate this.
When dew point is reached, moisture in the air can condense on a cool surface – this could be on a wall or ceiling, or within the structure of the building itself.
Obviously then, this creates moisture. And, as I always say, mould is a moisture issue.
In my years of assessing homes, I’ve seen some dramatic differences in the temperature of building materials, and have frequently found “hidden mould” in brand new builds.
When heating your home, heat your entire home, and keep indoor doors open to help the temperature stay even throughout.
Keep furniture at least 10cm away from exterior walls so that the walls maintain a consistent temperature.
Ensure that your building is insulated properly – that the entire wall, ceiling or floor is insulated, and it has not been installed in a patchy way.
Keep an eye out for condensation – and dry it off as soon as you see it with a microfibre cloth. If it’s on the ceiling or high window, you can use a flat mop, rather than climbing on a ladder.
Watch the relative humidity – the more moisture in the air, the greater potential for condensation to form. Hygrometers are ideal for this.
Pollen and Microbes
Spending time outside can see an increase in exposure to pollen as dormant plants spring into life – which is a huge problem for people with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and also asthmatics.
And of course, the increased winds can cause pollen to travel…
And because gardening involves stirring up the soil, we can inadvertently be exposed to various microbes in the soil.
Be aware of allergenic pollen in your area, check out this pollen calendar.
If you have allergies (known or suspected) to pollen, then keep the windows closed, stay indoors, and keep your air purifier nearby.
Check pollen alerts (you can get local apps for these).
Keep an eye out for thunderstorm asthma alerts, too (I think mould is part of this picture, not just pollen, but that is yet to be proven).
When you are out and about (including gardening), wear a mask, and consider protective eyewear.
House Dust Mites
With the changing temperatures, we’re often caught out at night – either being too hot or too cold…
This can cause us to perspire (or sweat) a lot overnight – which is just what house dust mites want.
House dust mites soak up moisture through their skin, and, a bit like mould, can thrive in moisture environments.
Check the predicted overnight temperature before going to bed, and adjust your bedding accordingly.
Pull the covers back to air your bed through the day – there’s no need to make it!
When changing the sheets, vacuum your mattress while it's still warm.
Wash your bedding often and dry them out in the sun.