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How to Stop Your Home Smelling Like Wildfire Smoke

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Unfortunately, summer months in California have become synonymous with wildfires. While there are more tragic consequences, drifting wildfire smoke is terrible for your health. And the perpetual smell of wildfire smoke inside your home can be uncomfortable.

You can do some things to prevent that smokey smell from entering your home. Wildfire smoke lowers your indoor air quality, so breathing healthier requires some steps to stop the smell.

Let’s take a look at why wildfire smoke is bad beyond the aroma and how you can keep your home smelling clean during wildfire season.

Does Wildfire Smoke Affect Indoor Air Quality?

Yes! All contaminants, impurities, aromas, and pollution have a negative effect on indoor air quality (IAQ). Smokey skies have become an annual occurrence in California. Pacific winds bring the after effects of wildfire blaze straight to your doorstep, causing smoke pollution.

These wildfire smoke waves can often lead to air quality warnings and emergencies. Not the type of air you want to be breathing inside your home!

The Truth About Wildfire Smoke

Wildfire smoke contains gasses such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water vapor, combined with ash and a huge amount of particles. The particles are diverse in size, but the finest ones are most dangerous to your health.

These air particles and toxins easily enter the body via inhalation. Depending on the burned materials, wildfire smoke may contain toxic components like methane and acetic acid.

Wildfire Smoke & Your Health

The particles that compose wildfire smoke are easily inhaled and infiltrate your lungs and even your bloodstream. Smoky air is a respiratory irritant that can cause symptoms similar to the common cold, including:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Irritated eyes.
  • Irritated sinuses.

These adverse health effects are more obvious when you spend time outdoors during wildfires or come in direct contact with smoke. But the smell and health detriments of wildfire smoke can affect your home without the right precautions.

How to Reduce Wildfire Smoke in Your Home

The first line of defense is rather obvious, but let’s state it anyways: keep your doors and windows shut during wildfire season. This keeps a majority of smoky smells out of your home.

But when you exit your home, the wildfire smoke smells enter. So follow these steps and be vigilant about stopping the smell of smoke from wafting in.

Install an Air Purifier

The most comprehensive IAQ systems include a UV air purifier that scrubs your air supply of pollutants, allergens, and toxins. These additions to your HVAC system are always a good idea but more crucial if you live in an area vulnerable to wildfires.

A whole-home air purifier will help stop the smell of wildfire smoke from entering your home. A smaller, single-room air purifier has limited capacity. An air purifier installed into your air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace cleans the air before it’s distributed throughout your home.

Replace Your AC Air Filters

Are you checking and replacing your AC filters every 3 months? This is standard practice no matter the outside conditions. But during wildfire smoke season, AC maintenance needs to be a priority.

Air filters trap the particles that smoky air contains and remove the smell of smoke from your indoor air supply. But only if they are clean.

Check your HVAC air filters every month during wildfire season. If they are dirty, dusty, or clogged, replace the filter immediately.

For maximum air filtration, use a HEPA filter or look for the highest-rated filter for your HVAC system.

Circulate Your Indoor Air

Most air conditioners don’t cycle in the outside air. They cool air that is already inside your home and redistribute it. If you have a central AC system, this air is filtered every time it is cooled.

So not only does keeping the AC on make you feel more comfortable, but it enhances the quality of your breathing air.

A tuned-up home air conditioner, combined with clean air filters and an air purifier, is one of the best ways to stop your home from smelling like wildfire smoke.

Keep Fresh Air Intakes Closed

Many of the gas appliances in your home have a fresh air intake to operate safely. But smelly wildfire smoke can drift in through these intakes.

Close fresh air intakesto stop the smell of wildfire smoke entering your home. This is usually done by locking a fresh air ventilation damper (FAD) into the closed position.

Look for a FAD connected to your furnace, gas oven, and other appliances that uses fossil fuels. Follow the intake vent and move the damper to the “closed” position.

And if you have a fireplace or chimney, shut the flue!

Use a Humidifier

If you or a family member is sensitive to wildfire smoke and its smells, a humidifier might help. A humidifier can help lessen some symptoms of wildfire smoke.

Dry eyes, dry coughs, and irritated sinuses can all benefit from added moisture to your indoor air. A whole-home humidifier is the most comprehensive solution. These units add water vapor to your indoor air as it passes through your central AC.

If you only have access to a portable humidifier, keep it in your bedroom to help smoke symptoms while sleeping.

How to Remove Wildfire Smoke Smells from Your Home

Even the most committed homeowners can’t always stop the smell of wildfire smoke from invading. But with some cleaning and patience, the smoky odors will eventually fade away.

Follow these steps after the worst of the smoky outdoor air has passed.

Perform a Deep Clean

Give your entire home a deep clean to remove lingering smoky odors. This includes cleaning carpets, furniture, window coverings, and hard surfaces.

Wear an N95 face mask to filter smoke pollutants during your clean. You may stir up some smoke sediments during the deep clean.

Remove Smoky Smells From Your Clothes

Wardrobes and clothing won’t be spared from the smell of wildfire smoke. You will need to wash all your exposed clothing to completely remove the smoky odors.

Wash your clothes with a little bit of vinegar to remove smoke smells. Add 1 cup of vinegar to a regular load of laundry with detergent.

It might take a couple of wash cycles if your home was seriously affected by wildfire smoke.

Get Your Ducts Professionally Cleaned

IAQ systems and HVAC filtration eliminate much of the wildfire smoke impurities. But some of these tiny particles and odors can still sneak through. Not to mention the smoky air that enters through doorways and windows.

Clean ducts improve your IAQ and make it easier for air purifiers and cooling systems to do their job effectively. It will help you breathe cleaner air inside.

A professional duct cleaning is always a great idea after wildfires have calmed down in your region. Lee’s is always happy to recommend a reputable company that offers professional duct cleanings in your area.

Consult an IAQ Specialist

It’s nearly impossible to completely close off your home from the smell of smoke when wildfires are raging. But the right equipment and practices can reduce those smoky odors.

Contact an IAQ specialist at Lee’s Air, Plumbing, & Heating for expert advice on wildfire smell reduction and healthy indoor air.

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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