Run an Air Purifier
If you've done your seasonal housework by weatherstripping your windows and doors, and closing up gaps and cracks in your siding, you'll be rewarded with energy efficiency and lower heating bills. The downside to a buttoned-up house, however, is that indoor air pollutants become trapped within the walls of your home. Banish them the easy way by switching on an air purifier. You can choose from a whole-house model or a portable model that can be plugged into an outlet wherever and whenever you need it.
Alternatively, you can combat poor indoor air quality by cultivating some of nature's own air purifiers. Several hardy species have been scientifically proven to remove impurities from the air. And that's in addition to the gifts that these living things of beauty already bestow to decor.
Use a Humidifier
The minute you turn on the heat, the air in your home gets drier. And since dry air feels cooler than moist, homeowners crank the heat up even higher, in turn making the air even dryer and more uncomfortable. It's a vicious cycle! Therefore, a one-room or whole-house humidifier can not only undo the familiar effects of dry air, but it can also help you keep the thermostat at a money-saving low.
Humidify the DIY Way
Better yet is to position those saucers of water near heat sources—radiators, for instance, or forced-air vents. The heat hastens evaporation, creating more humidity more quickly.
Omit the Oven
Use of the oven tends to dry out the air, while cooking on the stovetop does the opposite. So whether you're boiling water for tea or heating up a frozen pasta dish, do it on the stovetop (and not, for example, in the microwave). Through the dry winter months, every bit of incidental moisture can help you feel more comfortable home—for free and for very little extra effort.
Air-Dry the Dishes
Here's another free and extremely easy way to increase the moisture content of dry indoor air: At the end of a dishwasher's rinse cycle, open the door to the appliance and pull out the rack, letting the clean dishes air-dry in the kitchen. Like cooking on the stovetop, air-drying the dishes allows you to accomplish two household tasks at once. Your dishes do dry, but in a way that contributes to the health and comfort of your home.
There's no real downside to line drying your linens and clothes, except that it takes longer than using a clothes dryer. On dry winter days, drying your laundry on an indoor clothesline brings much needed moisture into your home. As added benefits, line drying is more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than machine drying. Plus, you'll lengthen the life of your clothes when you line dry them, as the heat and friction of a machine dryer takes a toll on fibers.
Shower with Door Open
You might not want to try this next one if you're using a shared bathroom at home. But if you can count on a reasonable amount of privacy, try leaving the bathroom door ajar next time you shower. The steam from hot water will travel from the bathroom into the rest of your home, combating dry and static-filled indoor conditions.
Let Bathwater Sit
Similarly, the steam that rises from a hot bath can do wonders for your indoor air. Increase the effectiveness of your bathwater in fighting dry winter air by letting the water cool before draining it. As the bath cools, steam will rise from the water and evaporate into your home, acting as a DIY humidifier.
If you suffer from allergies, being at home during the winter can actually make you feel sick—unless you reevaluate your cleaning practices. Allergens, dust, and dust mites build up on household surfaces over time so clear the air by dusting surfaces at least once a week, and don't forget the trim above the door, stair spindles, baseboards, the top of the fridge, and other oft-forgotten dust traps.
Related: Allergy-Proof Your Home in 7 Steps
Steam Clean Your Carpets
When vacuuming isn't enough to banish the dirt and dust that diminishes indoor air quality, consider steam cleaning your carpets once every month or two. If you're not ready to buy a steam cleaner for occasional use and you don't want to hire a pro, you can easily rent a cleaner at many home centers.
Skip Air Fresheners
It may seem counterintuitive but many air fresheners actually decrease air quality. Store-bought air fresheners, even some that are labeled as "green" or "natural," contain chemicals—and these chemicals can be hazardous to your health. If you're looking for a cleaner way to freshen stale indoor air this winter, simmer a pot of water, fruits, and fresh herbs on your stove.
Crack a Window
Whenever possible—on an unseasonably warm day, for example—why not open the windows? Though chilly, fresh air offers an immediate remedy for stuffy air that may be harboring impurities, whether from cleaning supplies or fireplace woodsmoke. While you're at it, consider a trickle vent: These simple openings admit fresh air, and equally important, they provide an escape for stale air.
If you have the money to hire a handyman for every household woe, go ahead. But if you want to hang on to your cash and exercise some self-sufficiency, check out these clever products that solve a million and one little problems around the house. Go now!