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How to Clean and Maintain Your HEPA Filter

hepa filter closeup

As the novel coronavirus continues to make its progress across the province, the nation and the world, life has taken on a surreal quality. Is this really happening? Are we really in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?

Aside from physical distancing and sanitizing everything (including ourselves), there is not a lot we can do to protect ourselves. However, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends two things that help limit risk: the use of ultraviolet air purification and HEPA filtration.

In this article, we teach you how to take care of your HEPA filter so it can take care of you. You will learn the correct way to clean and maintain your HEPA filter based on the kind of filter you have.

Start Here: Read Your HEPA Filter Manufacturer Instructions

HEPA filters can be made of any number of materials, which is one reason they work so well. Materials commonly used to construct these unusually dense filters may include synthetic (nylon, polyester, etc.) or bio-fibres (animal, vegetable, etc.), metal, wool, foam, plastic, glass, oil and similar materials.

The frame in which your HEPA filter is seated may be made of wood, plastic, metal or even cardboard.

The type of materials used to make and seat your HEPA filter impact how you clean and care for it.

For this reason, it is important to review these instructions and contact the manufacturer if you have care questions to avoid voiding your warranty (if you purchased your HEPA filtration system from us, we would be happy to help you with this).

HEPA Filter Cleaning Tips: Do’s and Don’ts

Cleaning a HEPA filter is always a risky task. The reason is that any type of contact with the dense filter fibres can damage them and cause tearing, separation or holes.

Even worse, using the wrong method for cleaning a HEPA filter can trap toxins and moisture inside the filter fibres and invite mould growth!

Of course, when you go to check your HEPA filter and see all that dust and debris clinging to the fibres, it is only natural to want to give it a good cleaning. But the wrong approach here can leave you with a squeaky clean HEPA filter that no longer functions.

This can be an expensive mistake!

Instead, what you want to do is look on the HEPA filter itself to see if it is labelled “washable,” “reusable” or “permanent” or something similar.

If you don’t see any label on the filter itself, check with the manufacturer for guidance. In lieu of specific guidance, the safest action is no action.

If you do see a label to this effect, this means you can take at least some type of action to clean your HEPA filter.

No-water HEPA filter cleaning

The next safest action is to lightly brush off any visible dust or dirt, taking care to avoid disturbing the delicate network of interior fibres.

If you have a vacuum tool that can be set to low, you can run this over the surface of the HEPA filter (close but not touching) to vacuum off the worst of the dust.

Washable HEPA filter cleaning

It is almost never a good idea to try to wet or wash a HEPA filter unless your filter is specifically labelled “washable.” This is when you get the danger of mould growing inside the dense fibres, which makes it very hard for the HEPA filter to dry out fully.

For HEPA filters that are washable, always use clean, cool water without anything added to it. Try to avoid touching the inner fibres and hold the HEPA filter by its frame. The best way to dry a HEPA filter is in natural sunlight.

Protect Yourself While Cleaning Your HEPA Filter

If you weren’t concerned about inhaling airborne toxic material, you probably would never have thought to invest in a HEPA filter in the first place.

But then when you go to clean your HEPA filter, you are guaranteed to come into direct contact with those very same toxins. Unfortunately, cleaning a HEPA filter is always going to be a bit (or a lot) grimy.

To protect yourself, always take these precautions before cleaning a HEPA filter:

  • wear a face mask (N95 or N100)

  • wear long non-permeable gloves

  • be sure you clean your HEPA filter with a filtered vacuum (ideally a HEPA vacuum)

  • if at all possible, clean your HEPA filter outside

  • if your HEPA filter is washable, allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before use

When to Replace Your HEPA Filter

The majority of HEPA filter-rated appliances and devices require replacement filters at regular intervals.

How long your HEPA filter will last depends on your lifestyle habits and use patterns. Your HEPA filter will only be filtering when you are using the device (i.e., it is powered on and running).

Sometimes HEPA filtration systems come with other filters, including a pre-filter and/or a carbon filter. The pre-filter may be washable or able to be cleaned, but this does not mean the HEPA filter and/or carbon filter itself can also be washed or cleaned.

Always follow the manufacturer instructions for when and how to replace your HEPA filter and what replacement filters will work with your unit.

HEPA Filtration Systems for Every Space

There are two types of HEPA filtration systems: portable and whole-home.

Portable HEPA filtration systems are perfect for use in smaller spaces and any space that is not equipped with ductwork for a central HVAC system.

Whole-home HEPA filtration systems are designed to work with any ducted HVAC system.

Get in Touch

Right now, like so many businesses here in Ontario, we are working remotely.

If you need us, reach out online or call 905-544-2470.

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Air Pollution Increases COVID-19 Risk: 6 Ways Protect Yourself

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If you were here in 2003, you likely remember the SARS epidemic. How could any of us forget watching that coronavirus sweep through Ontario and the nation?

As then, so now - only this time the coronavirus is spreading faster… well, you've read the news headlines. You know.

What you may not know is this: the 2003 SARS epidemic taught us a lot. While it may seem as if we’ve been caught unprepared for SARS-CoV-2, aka COVID-19, scientists have actually been studying the 2003 epidemic all along, searching for clues, links, anything at all that we can use when (not if) it happened again.

Now it has happened again. So what can science share to help us fight back?

Here is what we now know: air pollution makes the threat worse.

Exposure to polluted air makes healthy people sicker once the virus crosses their path. If air quality improves, cases lessen and symptoms become milder.

You can't clean up the air outdoors (although astronauts aboard the International Space Station have confirmed the air is visibly clearing in areas where people are actively sheltering in place).

But you can clean up your indoor air.

Even if you are sick or someone you are caring for is ill, cleaning up your indoor air now can potentially help you recover faster and stay well.

Learn what you can do now to clean up your indoor air and help your immune system help you stay well.

1. Take smoking and vaping outside

Obviously, giving up smoking and vaping would deliver the best results.

But for the sake of staying realistic, at least do your lungs and loved ones a service by taking these habits as far away from your indoor airspace as possible.

After all, the place where this new coronavirus is hitting the hardest is in the lungs. Pneumonia as a secondary infection is currently the leading cause of COVID-19 fatalities.

2. Cease all use of air fresheners, fragrances and perfumes

We realize it can be challenging to give up your favorite scents in these challenging times. But you don't have to give them up entirely! You just have to change the source.

The vast majority of commercially sold air "fresheners" and so many fragranced personal care products get their wonderful scents via toxic combinations of unpronounceable chemicals.

These chemicals are extremely irritating to the sensitive tissues of your respiratory system and lungs.

By far a better way to enjoy the scents you love is through natural citrus, spices, fresh flowers, essential oils and natural teas. Have you ever tried boiling water on the stove and dropping in an apple spice tea bag or a fresh clove stick? Heaven.

Even better, many essential oils actually have immune-protective properties.

Ginger, sweet marjoram, cinnamon, lavender, lemon, cypress, eucalyptus and others have been studied for their abilities to boost T-cell counts in the body's immune system (T-cells are the "killer" cells that fight off disease).

3. Keep your furnace air filter (and any other air filters) clean

The cleaner your furnace air filter is, the more toxins it can trap. The same holds true if you have an air filter in your vacuum cleaner or are using any indoor air quality aids like humidifiers, dehumidifiers or HEPA filtration systems.

If your stove has an exhaust vent, now is the perfect time to check and clean that as well. And make sure you give your clothes dryer a good cleaning and check the exhaust vent to clear away any built up dust.

Basically, if it is in or near your house and has an air filter, make sure it is cleaned regularly and thoroughly (or replaced on schedule) according to the manufacturer's instructions.

4. Tend to your HVAC coils, air registers, fans and exhaust vents

Isn't it amazing how quickly your ceiling fans can collect dust? The same holds true for your air registers and exhaust vents and HVAC coils. Dust just seems to gravitate to these places, where it is largely unseen but definitely felt.

Your lungs are also air filters and you don't want to make their job harder by letting dust build up inside your home. The most effective method of dusting is to use a wet cloth to actively trap the dust particles. The cloth can then be rinsed and washed. 

5. Cook outside or use slow cookers rather than your stove

As much as we all love to eat yummy food, cooking on a wood or gas stove releases a host of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into your indoor air. Even if your gas stove has a hood (vent) you can use while you are cooking, you can't avoid breathing in some of those chemicals.

It may not sound wonderful to grill outdoors in the winter, but you would be doing your lungs a favor. Another option is to open up your windows and run a ceiling or floor fan while you are cooking indoors to exhaust any toxins to the outdoors as quickly as possible.

Another option to reduce VOCs inside your home is to use an electric slow cooker or your oven rather than cooking on the stove. Even if you don't make this change permanently, it sure can't hurt to do it temporarily until the COVID-19 threat lessens.

6. Increase your indoor air humidity

There is a direct link between increased humidity and increased immune response to cold, flu and coronavirus germs. So right now we are offering $50 off the installation of a whole home humidification system.

Other ways to temporarily increase indoor air humidity (aim for 50 to 60 percent, especially if your household includes elderly or immuno-compromised family members) is to run a portable humidifier, leave doors open after you shower or bathe or add more houseplants (which also have an air purifying effect on their own).

Get in Touch

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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Bad Air Makes Coronavirus Threat Worse: What to Do Now to Limit Your Risk

hepa filter close up

It is not news that smoking is bad for your health. Similarly, it would be hard to find anyone today who doesn't understand the link between air pollution and disease.

But as we watch the rapid-fire spread of coronavirus around the world, it is definitely time for a refresher course in why bad air is so dangerous. In fact, when you factor in COVID-19, it now appears that bad air can literally be deadly.

In this timely post, find out what the link is between bad air and coronavirus and how you can take action to limit your risk.

The Link Between Bad Air and COVID-19

To understand the link between bad air and COVID-19, you first need to understand what makes this new novel coronavirus so deadly.

The major symptoms of COVID-19 are as follows:

  • coughing

  • shortness of breath

  • fever

  • pneumonia (in both lungs)

  • secondary infection (lungs, kidneys)

The moment the coronavirus gets past the respiratory gatekeepers, it heads straight for the lungs.

The healthier your lungs are if and when you are infected with coronavirus, the higher the likelihood your body will be able to fight off COVID-19.

If your lungs are already damaged, scarred or infected with another respiratory illness, you are going to have a much harder time fighting COVID-19.

This is not to say that if you smoke now or have smoked in the past you are automatically going to get the coronavirus. But it is a call to actively protect your lung health in every way you can, which includes cleaning up your indoor air.

What Science Has to Say About Combustion, Smoking and COVID-19 Cases

A recent Washington Post article outlined a scary new hypothesis that is just now coming together in the international health community.

The researchers are using three measures to identify the group of people who are at highest risk of contracting COVID-19:

  • looking at data from the 2003 SARS outbreak

  • looking at data from the 2014 MERS outbreak

  • identifying the areas in China that have been hardest hit by COVID-19

By searching for any association between patients from each outbreak, the researchers have discovered that smokers and people living in areas with extremely poor air quality were uniformly more likely to become infected.

This Is Your Lungs on Coronavirus

Your lungs do a lot more for you than just inhale and exhale air. There are tiny cells inside your lungs called alveolar macrophages.

These cells are like tiny air purifiers and filters. Their job is to make sure any bacteria, microbial particulates and other germs that come into your lungs in the air you breathe don't make it any further into your body.

But if your alveolar macrophages are already working overtime filtering out volatile organic compounds, combustion byproducts and inorganic carbon particulates, they may already be too damaged to mount a good defence.

Even if your macrophages are still in basically good working order, they will not be as readily available to fight off COVID-19 if you are breathing in toxic air with every breath you take.

Clean Up Your Air Supply to Help Your Lungs Fight Coronavirus

If you smoke or vape, now is definitely the right time to cross that habit off your list - and not just for your own safety and health, but also for your family's well-being.

But what can you do if you live in a geographic area where the air just isn't that great? You can't just up and move.

Luckily, modern technology has given us several indoor air quality aids that both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) endorse as aids to fight coronavirus transmission.

The CDC and ASHRAE are recommending three specific methods for cleaning the air to limit the spread of coronavirus:

  • ventilation

  • filtration

  • UV purification

Using Ventilation, Filtration and UV Purification to Clean the Air

Ventilation, filtration and UV purification have always been key components of maintaining indoor air quality.

However, they are more important now than they have ever been, as our air quality gets worse and coronavirus continues to spread.

Ventilation: how it works

Outdoors, ventilation happens naturally. But indoors, the only way ventilation can occur is through natural cracks or when you open a door or window.

heat recovery ventilator is literally a set of mechanical lungs for your home or workplace.

Just like your body's lungs, a heat recovery ventilator breathes in fresh air through one channel and breathes out stale air through a separate channel.

This process keeps stale air from contaminating fresh air and removes toxins permanently.

Filtration: how it works

A filter is a device that removes unwelcome solid particles from the air. These particles may be cigarette ash, pollen, dust mites, pet dander or coronavirus germs.

But since coronavirus germs in particular can be quite tiny, not just any filter will do to combat the threat of COVID-19.

You need a special kind of filter called a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter. A HEPA air filter can trap and remove toxins as small as 1/100th the size of a single hair on your head.

UV purification: how it works

Outdoors, the sun produces very strong light bands called ultraviolet light. UV light is the most powerful purifier on the planet.

The only way to bring this type of purifying power indoors is through a UV air purifier.

This type of purifier produces synthetic UV light that neutralizes any organic threats, including coronavirus germs, by changing their molecular structure.

Get in Touch

You don't have to wait to start cleaning up your indoor air. Let us help you add ventilation, filtration and purification to your home or workplace.

Contact us online or give us a call at 905-544-2470.

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