Do you plan on traveling for the holidays? Or maybe you’re looking for a place for family that’s visiting to stay? The holidays can be an overwhelming time, so it’s important to choose accommodations that won’t add any additional stress.
When looking to book an Airbnb, we must place a significant amount of trust in the host to provide a comfortable and welcoming space for us, and while this is often the case, how can we be sure the home is safe and healthy?
How exactly could you be staying in an unhealthy home? The answer is simple: it all comes down to the air quality.
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is healthy and safe since it’s not something we can typically see—but this isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, hives, and nausea.
So how do you know if you’re staying in a home with safe and healthy air? It’s much easier than you think! The key to having healthy air is to look out for the factors that affect the quality of your environment: specifically, your air’s levels of chemicals, dust, humidity, carbon dioxide, and temperature.
To help make sure you and your family are staying in a home that is safe and healthy, we’ve rounded up some important questions to ask your Airbnb host:
When was this home painted?
Paint is filled with a variety of toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are an especially common type of chemical that evaporates into the air at room temperature. After a room is freshly painted, VOCs will leak off the walls (a process known as “off-gassing”) for months, even after the “new paint smell” is long gone.
Being exposed to VOCs can wear away at your immune system and cause a variety of side effects, including headaches, nausea, coughing and sneezing, and hives.
Check with your Airbnb host to determine if they’ve recently painted the room you’re staying in. If they have painted recently, be sure that the room has proper ventilation to allow for you to have fresh, safe air during your stay.
Will the home be vacuumed before you arrive?
Your host will most likely vacuum the home as a courtesy to you and to clean up after previous guests. However, the act of vacuuming can actually irritate and cause discomfort for you and your family—especially if you have allergies.
Vacuuming can uproot dust and mold that has settled into carpet, causing it to blow into the air. It can often take these irritants hours before they’ve settled back down and have been cleared from the air.
Ask your Airbnb host if they could possibly vacuum at least a few hours before their arrival so you’ll be entering a home with clean air. You can also ask if their vacuum has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter built in, which will catch dust and mold. If you’re especially concerned about dust, you can also ask…
Is the house dust-free?
If you’re sensitive to dust in the air, it’s critical to understand how your host goes about dusting to make sure you can have a comfortable stay.
Dry dusters (like feather dusters) will actually make the air quality worse by pushing dust into the air instead of eliminating it.
See if your host uses a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth, which are especially effective at trapping dust.
When were the drapes washed?
Thick drapes and curtains are great for a good night’s sleep, but like carpet, they can be a magnet for dust.
Check with your host to see when the drapes were last cleaned so you’ll know the likelihood of the home having high levels of dust.
What disinfectants were used?
The home will most likely be cleaned with disinfectants before you arrive—but sometimes that can do more harm than good.
Many common household cleaners contain VOCs. Popular ingredients in these cleaners like ammonia and chlorine can instantly irritate you—in fact, there are many cases of people entering freshly-cleaned homes and reacting to these chemicals with itchiness, hives, and trouble breathing.
If your host insists on disinfecting the home with commercial cleaners, ask if it is possible to have the home ventilated with a few open doors or windows before your arrival to allow time for the chemicals to be cleaned out by fresh air.
How recently were the filters changed?
Vents and filters in A/C systems collect dust, mold, and other allergens, which will blow into the air of the Airbnb if you decide to warm up or cool down the house.
Allergists recommend having vents and filters checked every 3 months to avoid these irritants, so it’s important to see if your host has changed the filters recently.
Keeping you family safe and healthy during the holidays doesn’t have to be a challenge. One of the best ways to make sure your home has air that is safe and healthy is by understanding what’s in your air with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair.