Tech Tips: Clearing The Air Inside

Smoke from fires, pollen, dust, or pollution are hindering your air quality indoors. Check out these tips to keep your home free of bad air particles or at least as much as possible.

Check Your Filters

Most heating and cooling systems have some kind of filter system. Paper filters need to be replaced about once a month under normal conditions; with heavy smoke in the air, it will need to be done more frequently. The cleaner the filter is the better the air flows through the filter, which means more smoke is removed. Many window AC units, fans, heat pumps, and other air movers will also have washable filters. While the washable filters won’t help clear the air of smoke particles, some can be replaced with paper filters or covered in a layer of paper from a disassembled paper filter.

Filter Quality

Most smoke particles are smaller than 3 microns depending on your proximity to the wildland fire. HEPA filters are rated for their ability to filter particles 3 microns or larger. They will filter smaller particles but are not tested to that standard. HEPA filters will have a MERV rating which ranges from 1 to 14. Try to get filters with the highest MERV rating of 13 or 14. For more details about air quality, see the previous article 


Serving a dual purpose, a humidifier not only filters the air but also adds moisture to the air. The humid air causes the smoke to settle and makes other air filters more effective at clearing the smoke particles.

DIY Box Fan Filter

Portable fans with enclosed sides can also be used throughout the home with a paper filter attached to the backside. Use some string, duct tape, or bungee cords to secure the filter. Make sure air can’t get around the filter by using plastic wrap, tin foil, duct tape, or cardboard to seal off any gaps. Make sure the filter is facing the correct way for the air flow going through the fan.

Suck It Up

If your vacuum has a HEPA or water filter, vacuuming the floors can help capture the smoke that has settled before it gets disturbed by other movements. However, if your vacuum does not have a HEPA filter, you might want to skip cleaning the floor as it will just force all the smoke back into the air.

Weatherize Windows

Most home improvement stores sell a clear plastic to help weatherize windows. These same kits can be used to create an extra seal around windows to help keep the smoke out. If you have AC units in your windows, you can duct tape around any gaps to help prevent air leakage. 

Negative Air Pressure

Bathroom vent fans and clothes dryers vent the air outside, which creates a negative air pressure within the house. As a result, air has to come in from other places. Smoke will be pulled in with the air from outside. Until the air clears, consider hanging your clothes to dry or minimize the time in the dryer. For the bathroom, don’t turn on the fan if you can avoid it. If your bathroom has a motion sensor for the fan, you can cover it with some masking tape.