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13 Silent Signs Your Home Is an Unhealthy Place to Live

Updated: Mar. 16, 2023

Maybe you occasionally slack on cleaning or wait too long to dive in. Or maybe you don't know that what you're doing—or not doing—is hurting you.

Single Father leaving House With His Baby
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Home is where the health is…

We’ve all been there. Maybe you go a while between dustings. Let the dog sleep in the bed. Watch moisture bead up on the bathroom window. Sometimes these things are easy to ignore. Unfortunately, these innocent-seeming habits could be making you and your family sick.

While you likely know that your cleaning supplies could be secretly making you sick, you may not know how much damage not cleaning could be doing. It could be that you’re cleaning enough, but not cleaning your cleaning supplies. It’s tricky—but following these important tips can help keep you and your family safe and healthy.

Beautiful young woman washing body in a shower
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Your home has too much moisture

While moisture in the home is normal—bathing, cooking, and even breathing all contribute—excessive moisture is not, according to expertmoldtest.com. Mold loves humid environments, and if there is excessive moisture in the home, it’s bound to grow, especially in corners and ceilings. The CDC warns that mold can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases skin irritation. Don’t miss these other hidden home dangers you should never ignore.

Vacuuming rough white carpet in living room with vacuum cleaner
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You’re vacuuming without a HEPA filter

Research from MIT reveals that air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths per year in the United States, and it worsens asthma and allergies. That’s why you may want to invest in a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum to prevent tiny particles of dust from being blown back out into your indoor air. “I tend to go toward whole-house filtration, so the first thing I’d recommend is installing a HEPA filter in your home’s HVAC system,” says James Sublett, MD, a former clinical professor and chief of allergy and immunology at the University of Louisville, in Time. Next up, when it comes to carpet or floors, make sure you’re not making this vacuuming mistake.

people, housework and housekeeping concept - close up of hand with vacuum cleaner cleaning carpet at home
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You’re forgetting to change the vacuum filter

If you’re using a HEPA filter, you’ll want to make sure you’re changing it every six months or when you notice signs of wear and tear. This will ensure an effective filter, while also preserving the life of the machine.

Grille of air conditioner system under ceiling.

You’re not cleaning vents and ducts

Vents might not be in your line of vision quite like dirty dishes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need cleaning too. Vents harbor a ton of dust from the air, and when you turn on the heat or air conditioning, all those dust particles are redistributed throughout your house. You can take off the vent cover and clean out the grime you can reach, but you’ll want to enlist a professional to thoroughly clean your ducts. The pros use compressed air and air agitators to clear out hard-to-reach dust.

Closeup on showerhead while running water
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Your bathroom has poor ventilation

Are you keeping the window open or using the fan when showering? You should! Excess moisture can not only cause your paint and wallpaper to detach, but it encourages mold, which can thrive and multiply indoors, damaging your house and potentially your health, according to the EPA.

Employee's hand in rubber protective glove with rag wiping a door's handle. Maid or housewife cares about house. Spring general or regular clean up. Commercial cleaning company concept.

You’re using the wrong household cleaners

As you spray cleaner around the house, it settles on all types of surfaces. Plus, you inhale it as you spritz. In a COVID-19 world, people are cleaning more frequently than ever. The right cleaners are crucial to not only protect against the virus but protect you from being exposed to the harsh chemicals. Further, common household chemicals—bath products, dish soap, bleach—can damage your airways and lungs. The Environmental Working Group’s investigation of more than 2,000 cleaning supplies on the American market revealed that many substances in them are linked to serious health problems like asthma, allergies, and even cancer.

Close-up of hand cleaning wooden table with dishrag

You’re not dusting correctly

Vacuuming once a week and wiping down countertops means you’re only making a dent in the dust around your house. It builds up every single day, and the more time you let go by without wiping it up, the more you’re exposing yourself to harmful particles. Use a damp cloth to gather dust as opposed to using a duster (or a dry cloth), which, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, will only spread the dust around and trigger allergies. Also, be sure to dust from high to low.

Drainage of rainwater, Modern eaves roof detail, Water seducement in roof, Pergola detail in construction industry with plastic eaves roof

You’re ignoring your gutters

Leaky gutters are another cause of moisture buildup, allowing excess water into your walls, basement, or crawl space. If your gutters aren’t covered, you’ll want to make sure you clean them out regularly.

close up of pillow on the bed with brick background.
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Your bedroom is musty

Although you vacuum and dust, you actually need to move your chest of drawers, desks, and other furniture to thoroughly clean. Pull your bed away from the wall, and you might be shocked to see just how much crud is collecting just behind your head. And remember to regularly wash your bedding—once every one to two weeks—and make sure you have a good mattress protector. Turn it every couple of months, and vacuum it when you do.

Welcome home doormat with open door

You wear your shoes inside the house

You wouldn’t roll around a public bathroom, but nearly everyone would walk around one and then walk around their house in the same shoes. Given that you roll on your carpets with your kids or the dog and put your feet up on the coffee table, you might want to leave the shoes at the door. Researchers from the University of Arizona found that shoes can track in 400,000-plus bacteria per shoe, including E. coli, a strain that’s known to cause nasty gastrointestinal distress.

Vintage Carriage House
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You’re surrounded by wind-pollinated plants

You may unknowingly be inviting allergens into your yard that cause your stuffy nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and breathing trouble. If you have allergies, the Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends the following:

  • Large shade trees such as oaks, maples, and beeches
  • Most lawn grasses
  • Common weeds such as lamb’s-quarter, pigweed, and ragweed
  • Goldenrod
A pile of books on a wooden chest of drawers, on a light background, together with plants, greens in vases, a home greenhouse, plant paintings, botanical illustrations

You have too much stuff

You love throw pillows, coffee table books, and knick-knacks: All these things collect dust, dander, and pollen, and they can contribute to poor air quality in your home. Unless you plan on constantly moving and cleaning all of this, you should consider minimizing your furnishings and collections. Next, find out how often you should really be washing your bath towel.

beautiful black and white cat looking at the camera in the bed in the foreground lies behind a pair of blurry

You let your pet sleep in your bed

They’re cozy, loving, and even help you sleep, but if you’re walking your dog around the neighborhood, you can bet they’re carrying a lot of dirt, germs, and even insects (think ticks) into your bed. Not only that, but pet dander traps allergens, which means you’re subjecting your sleeping space to those allergens. Check for these signs to make sure your healthy-seeming cat is not actually sick. Next, make sure you know these things you should be cleaning every day from now on.