Falling ash, smoky skies: protecting your home

SEATTLE -- With some of the worst air quality we've seen around Puget Sound since the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980, a lot of folks are wondering what to do to keep the unhealthy air out of your home. And if it does get in, how to get rid of it properly.

The best way to keep out the ash and smoky air is to keep your windows and doors closed. That's hard to do when it's hot outside, but circulating that air in a closed up house with a box fan will help you stay cooler. Fans don't reduce the actual temperature, just help with the apparent temperature -- or how hot you feel.

To clean the air itself in your home, you'll want a HEPA filter on your furnace or air conditioner. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air-- and it will clean even the tiniest of pollutants that are microscopic called PM 2.5.

"So the important thing about air filters is you want to make sure HEPA filter," said Dr. Tuan-Anh Nguyen who works at the Swedish Issaquah Campus. "Make sure you keep your windows closed and make sure that you change that air filter. And if you're going to run an air conditioner, make sure you close the outside air intake and make sure to run your air conditioner to keep things with inside air only circulating."

If you've had your doors and windows open the last few days, avoid household chores like vacuuming. Unless your vacuum has the special allergy filter on it. Otherwise it will stir up the air pollutants that have settled on your floor, carpets and other surfaces. That can get them into your lungs.

When the smoke finally does clear, you'll want to clean your house. Nothing fancy needed though, just make it more of a wet cleaning. That means more mopping than sweeping -- and dusting with a wet rag or cloth will usually do the trick.