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How do I safely clear wildfire smoke from my home?

You can check the air quality in your region on IQAir's website or use an air quality monitor in your home to learn the specific metrics for your indoor environment.

Wildfires lead to widespread damage and billions of dollars in suppression costs yearly. Per the National Interagency Fire Center, over $4 billion was spent suppressing wildfires in 2021, roughly twice as much as the previous year. Aside from property damage and the inherent dangers associated with large-scale fires, these events can also lead to a dramatic drop in air quality. Poor air quality can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory issues and may even impact your mental health. If you live near an area prone to wildfires, you must understand which devices can help you clear your home of wildfire smoke.

How do wildfires affect air quality?

Various factors, including volatile organic compounds, ozone, noxious gases and particulate matter worsen air quality. Particulate matter is the primary offender in wildfire smoke, as these events produce tiny particles that can enter your lungs or bloodstream. According to the California Air Resources Board, “health problems related to wildfire smoke exposure can be as mild as eye and respiratory tract irritation and as serious as worsening of heart and lung disease, including asthma, and even premature death.”

The newest wave of Canadian wildfires has led to large plumes of smoke blanketing the Midwest, resulting in a massive drop in air quality in cities such as Chicago and Detroit. And this isn't the first time recently that air quality in the U.S. has been damaged by Canadian wildfires. In early June, New York City officials resorted to asking that residents wear N95 masks to protect their health.

What to do if you're affected by the wildfires

Wildfire smoke tends to enter the home through openings in windows and doors. Try to keep your windows and doors closed as often as possible. Applying weather strips will help keep smoke out of your home. Of course, if there is an active air quality issue in your area, try to limit the time spent outside applying these strips and ensure you wear a mask. It's important to note that heat can pose a serious health risk if there is a nearby wildfire, so you may have to open a window temporarily to cool your home. Alternatively, you can run your air conditioner on its recirculating setting to cool your house down without drawing in air from outside.

Consider replacing your home's HVAC filter with a high-efficiency filter for particulate matter. Per the Environmental Protection Agency, anything with a MERV rating of 13 or higher can capture up to 50% of particles between 0.3 and 10 microns.

If you have pets, you may want to consider setting up an area in your house for them to use the bathroom. Although this can enforce bad habits, it will help keep them safe. If you do take them outside to use the bathroom, try to limit the amount of time you spend in the smoke and wear an N95 mask. It's essential that you put the mask over your mouth and nose and don't leave room for the smoke to enter your lungs.

Air purifiers are a must-have for those living in areas prone to wildfires. These devices clean the air in your home and can remove some of the particulate matter from your indoor environment. Consider an air purifier with a HEPA filter, as these generally remove more particles from the air than a traditional model. If you have a large home, you may want to buy multiple units, as they have a limited range.

It's also a good idea to place a few air quality monitors around your home. These devices let you know when the air in a particular room is unsafe to breathe. These can be an excellent way to identify the safest room in your home while knowing where your air purifier is needed most.

Best products for wildfire protection

AirDoctor AD2000 4-in-1 Air Purifier

This is one of the best air purifiers out there, as it has an efficient HEPA filter that removes nearly 100% of particulate matter above 0.003 microns. It has an automatic setting that adjusts its power based on your indoor air quality. It circulates the air in a 305-square-foot radius four times every hour.

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BlueAir Blue 311 Air Purifier

This lightweight air purifier is easy to move around your home as needed. It has a true HEPA filter and activated carbon to clean the air in your home thoroughly. It's incredibly quiet and has an automatic setting that adjusts to your home's indoor air quality.

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Airthings Battery-Powered Air Quality Monitor

This can alert you when carbon-dioxide levels in your home are unsafe, but it's important to note it doesn't track particulate matter. You can view your home's air quality on your smartphone or by waving your hand in front of the sensor. It's available in black or white.

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Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor

These compact monitors are easy to place around your home. They have a built-in color-coded indicator and let you track important air quality metrics from your Alexa app. They keep track of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, humidity and more.

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3M 9205+ Aura Particulate N95 Respirator

Our medical expert notes that this mask is designed for breathability, making it an excellent choice for those who need to spend a few minutes outside. It offers 95% filtration and is designed to fit various face shapes and sizes. It's made with soft materials that feel comfortable against your skin.

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Honeywell Safety Disposable Respirator

This has multiple filtration layers and an adjustable nose clip. It folds down, making it easy to pack around in your pocket in case you need it. You get 20 masks in a set.

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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