Photo of Dirty Kitchen Sink

When you think about your home, the last thing that probably enters your mind is, “Is my house making me sick?”

For most of us, we consider our homes to be safe havens.

When you consider the types of things that make you feel ill or are covered in germs, your house is usually at the bottom of the list.

Unfortunately, “unhealthy house syndrome” is a real thing and it affects more people than you can imagine.

In fact, there are many things you’re doing right now at home that are silently making you sick, causing allergic reactions, producing fatigue and more.

Fortunately for you, in this post you’ll discover what those things are and solutions for how to cure a sick house.

Whether it’s creating unhealthy air in home or spreading icky germs indoors, we’ll reveal what you need to know so you can keep your home healthy at all times.

Common Mistakes That Lead to an Unhealthy House (And How to Correct Them)

1. Not Having Bedding Protectors

Here’s a shocking statistic…

A single mattress can have between 100,000 to 10 million dust mites living in it on any given day. Plus, if you haven’t replaced your pillow in two years, 10% of its weight may be composed of dead mites and their droppings.

Dust mites produce are known for producing allergy symptoms that are often mistaken for the common cold and hay fever. That’s why some people feel like they’re constantly getting an illness, when in fact it’s due to a house full of dust mites.

  • Solution To cut down on dust mites, you can buy special dust-proof casings with zippers for your mattress and pillows. This material is so tightly knitted that dust mites can’t get bury themselves into them, which greatly reduces these allergens.

2. Not Using the Right Type of Vacuum

Does your vacuum cleaner have a HEPA filter?

If not, then every time you use it to clean a room you’re likely making your whole house a lot dirtier.

So what does a HEPA filter do exactly? A HEPA filter is a high efficiency filter that traps 99.97% of all particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or more. This includes particles around the home that trigger asthma and allergy related symptoms like pollen, pet dander, and dust.

Vacuums without a HEPA filter do more harm than good because they can scatter thousands of microscopic allergens and germs around the house as you clean. If you’ve ever wondered why is my house so dusty, this is probably the reason.

  • Solution Replace your vacuum cleaner with one that uses a HEPA filter. This will strip your floors of as many harmful contaminants as possible.

3. Not Using an Air Purifier

While a HEPA vacuum is a must for cleaning your floors, its major flaw is that it doesn’t get rid of the toxins floating around in the air your breathe.

This includes pollutants like mold, bacteria, dust, and fungi.

Think of an air purifier as a high-powered vacuum for your air. It pulls air in from the room and cycles it through a series of filters to catch those nasty particles that tend to make you sick.

  • Solution Add an inexpensive HEPA air purifier to your home to keep your air fresh. Using an air purifier in combination with a HEPA vacuum cleaner is the best way to keep your whole house healthy. In fact, this powerful combo will strip the most contaminants from your home and reduce the negative effects of most everything else on this list! To find out more, check out our free guide on the best dust removal machines here. If you’re pregnant or have a baby in the home, then we recommend our other guide on the best air purifier for baby.

See all of Amazon's Best Selling Air Purifiers

4. Wearing Shoes Around the House

The outside world is full of harmful toxins and these easily get picked up on your footwear.

When you wear shoes around the house you’re heightening the risk of tracking in allergens, bacteria, viruses and other pollutants that may be adding to your unhealthy house syndrome.

  • Solution Remove your shoes as soon as you get through the door and place them in a specially designated area. A  collection tray for shoes is a great (and cheap) investment. Make your guests do the same thing. This is one of the fastest ways to transform a dirty house to clean a house and keep it that way.

5. Filling Your Home with Too Many Textiles

Having area rugs, carpeting, decorative couch pillows, blankets, and upholstered furniture may look nice, but they’re magnets for all sorts of nasty stuff.

Dust mites in particular love to bury themselves deep inside those things and the more textiles you have, the lower your home air quality becomes.

  • Solution Limit the number of textiles you have in your home. Get rid of unnecessary items. For example, keep only one decorative pillow instead of having three or four, remove ornamental area rugs and let the natural floor be exposed, swap an upholstered chair for one that’s leather, etc.

6. Having Too Many Houseplants

Houseplants may look beautiful and are also a natural source for improving the air quality inside your home, but having too many plants can create problems.

Mold thrives in warm, wet environments and plant soils make a perfect habitat for it to grow.

  • Solution Limit the number of houseplants in each room. Stick with 2-3 small plants or one large potted plant. This will reduce the number of places mold can grow indoors and keep your home the healthiest.

7. Keeping Indoor Temperature Too High

If you like to save money by keeping indoor temperatures high and not running the air conditioner, you may be creating the perfect climate for dust mites, mold and bacteria to live.

Dust mites thrive in temperatures above 70 degrees and mold grows quicker in humidity levels over 50%. These two factors alone can drastically increase unhealthy air in the home and cause all sorts of illnesses.

  • Solution Prevent the spread of dust mites, mold and bacteria by keeping your indoor temperature below 70 degrees and humidity levels below 50%. A portable air conditioner is an excellent way to accomplish both of these things without spending much money on your utility bill. The average cost to run one of these devices at full blast is around $30-40 per month, compared to $100-300 for central air conditioning. If this device perks your interest, check out our portable air conditioner reviews to find the best unit for your needs.

8. Forgetting to Clean Your Air Vents

If you have an HVAC system in your home, these systems cycle a ton of air throughout the year in order to maintain a pleasant temperature.

Since a lot of air is being used and reused over and over again, this means that these systems collect a lot of dust and allergen particles.

If you don’t routinely clean the air vents then every time the system is used it disperses those particulates into the air you breathe.

  • Solution Every few months check and make sure that the air vents are clean and clear of any dust build up. If there is any debris, clean them with a rag, soap and water.

9. Forgetting to Change Your Central AC Filter

The air filter is a crucial part of your central air conditioning system. It protects the internal parts from getting damaged by dust and other airborne particles.

Over time the filter gets dirty and if you don’t replace it regularly, you’ll not only end up with unhealthy air in your home, but also a larger utility bill because the system will have to work harder.

  • Solution Change your air filter every three months. This will ensure that it catches pollutants more effectively and provides you with cleaner air throughout the entire house.

10. Having a Dirty Shower Head

Your showerhead has one purpose, to clean your body, but did you know that it may be crawling with microbes?

Researchers from the University of Colorado sampled 45 shower heads from nine U.S. cities and discovered that many were infected with a bacteria called mycobacterium avium, which is known to cause lung infections.

Since your shower head is exposed to a lot of unfiltered water, layers of microbes can form on the interior of the nozzle holes. When you turn your shower on, this bacteria gets sent into the air and can be inhaled into your lungs.

  • Solution Clean your shower head once every three months with a rust or hard water build up remover. You can take it completely off or just tie a plastic bag full of cleaning solution around the head and let it soak.

11. Letting Your Bath Mat Lay

Every time you take a shower or a bath, your bath mat gets wet and this can be cause for concern.

Most people leave their bath mat on the floor after bathing and it stays warm and damp for quite some time. That environment makes it a potential breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can eventually make your sick.

  • Solution Pick up your bath mat after every use and let it air out over the tub ledge or a towel rod. Also, wash it once a week in hot water when you do your other laundry. This will lower the chances of your bathroom becoming an unhealthy zone.

12. Not Airing Out Your Bathroom

Bathrooms produce and retain a lot of moisture for obvious reasons.

This can cause all sorts of mold and mildew growth if you don’t take proper precautions. What’s worse is that these mold spores can travel to other areas of your home, making your whole place less healthy.

  • Solution If you have a ventilation fan, clean the vent openings with a rag. The vents get clogged up with dust and this makes them less efficient at removing moisture from the air. Also, keep the fan on while showering and leave the door open for at least 30 minutes afterward to remove as much water vapor as possible. Don’t have a ventilation fan? Open a window instead.

Did you know that there are 11 types of mold found inside the home? Check out that link to find out how to spot them.

13. Having a Cluttered or Unorganized Home

Like textiles, clutter and disorganization offer the perfect place for dust, dirt, and allergens to hide.

It’s no surprise that people who live in cluttered homes often feel less healthy than those that don’t.

  • Solution Make it a priority to clean out your clutter a few times a year. Get rid of old magazines, toys, trinkets and other things that are really just taking up space. You’ll feel a lot better, guaranteed.

14. Inviting Pets Into Your Bed

Every animal sheds dander and it actually gets worse as pets age.

If you’re allowing your pets to sleep in your bed then you’re bedroom is most likely a breeding ground for allergens.

Even if you don’t have a pet allergy, you’re probably suffering some type of ill effects just from being exposed to the high concentration of dander while you sleep.

  • Solution Don’t allow pets to sleep on your bed. If you can’t resist their snuggles then bathe them once every two weeks as a way to reduce their dander.

15. Not Dusting the Right Way

There’s a right way and a wrong way to dust your home.

If you dust incorrectly, you could be missing places or allowing for excessive amounts of dust to build up in every room. This can lead to all sorts of allergy triggers and unhealthy air levels.

  • Solution Dust each room starting from the highest points and working your way down. Use a damp cloth, not a feather duster, because this traps the dust particles rather than sending them out into the air. Working from top to bottom will also allow you to gather up any dust that falls while you clean. For more dust cleaning tips see our guide on how to reduce dust in home.

16. Not Testing for Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from decaying uranium.

You can’t see it or smell radon because it’s odorless and colorless. While it’s found in the soil, it easily enters your home through cracks in the foundation and exterior walls.

Over time radon can build up to toxic levels and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

  • Solution You can buy radon testing kits that last up to one year. However, it’s in your best interest to have your home inspected by a professional company to ensure that the radon levels are safe. If your home does have high levels of radon, a radon reduction system can be installed for about $800-1,500. This simple system makes it safe for you to live in your home without fear of getting radon poisoning.

17. Storing Products Indoors That Have High VOCs

Many common household products contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and these chemicals can drastically lower your home’s air quality.

VOCs are not just limited to things like paints, cleaning supplies and gasoline, but also can be found in furniture, building materials, and health and beauty products, too.

There are serious short- and long-term health effects that come from being exposed to VOCs.

  • Solution Store chemicals with VOCs outside of the home and always use them in well-ventilated areas. Look for cleaning and health products that contain zero or low VOC counts.

18. Not Ventilating While You Cook

Stovetop cooking releases a lot of smoke, steam, and grease into the air and makes your kitchen an unhealthy place to dwell.

As you’ve already learned, mold and mildew thrive in moist environments and not ventilating your kitchen properly can lead to it growing indoors.

Not replacing the grease filters in your range hood or over-the-stove microwave can also lead to bacteria growth.

  • Solution Always use the exhaust fan system above your stove when you cook, no mater how small the meal, and leave it on for 15-20 minutes after you’re done. This will pull lingering moisture and smoke out of the air. Additionally, clean or replace your grease traps in the range hood or microwave twice per year. These things often get overlooked and stop being efficient once their clogged.

19. Not Cleaning Your Refrigerator

Refrigerators can be home to lots of different kinds of bacteria that can make your sick.

As bits of food and liquids collect on the shelves and in the corners, they start to grow bacteria that can spread and be harmful to your health.

Packing a fridge too tight is also a bad thing to do. The cold air needs to circulate in order to keep food chilled and preserved.

When there’s too much stuff inside the fridge it becomes warmer and things become more susceptible to bacteria like E. coli and salmonella.

  • Solution Remove everything from your refrigerator and clean it with a disinfectant once a month. Make it a habit to toss unused food and rarely used condiments. Try to keep empty space around items on each of the shelves for cold air to circulate.

20. Having a Filthy Kitchen Sink

Not many people know this, but the dirtiest place inside your home is the kitchen sink. It’s even dirtier than the toilet seat.

Kitchen sinks stay wet and moist, which is what many bacteria like E. Coli need to survive.

When you’re cooking and touching raw meat, you’re probably touching the faucet taps with contaminated hands before you have a chance to wash them.

Bacteria also feeds on the food particles that get stuck in the drain and around the sink basin, making it a toxic environment.

  • Solution Disinfect every inch of the sink once per week to keep bacteria from growing and infecting people in your household.

21. Not Washing Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags may be a lot better for the environment than plastic bags, but they also pose a potential hazard to your health.

One study found that 99% of bags tested contained some form of harmful bacteria. In particular, half of those carried coliform bacteria (suggesting raw-meat or uncooked-food contamination) and 8% carried E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.

Shockingly, the same study discovered that only 3% of people reported washing their grocery bags with any frequency.

While an air purifier won’t clean your grocery bags for you, it can, however, reduce the level of airborne bacteria and viruses floating around in your home. If you want to keep a healthier house, consider reading our post on the best germ air purifier here.

  • Solution Toss your reusable grocery bags in with your laundry each week. This simple tip could prevent you from getting an unexpected foodborne illness.

22. Not Cleaning Your Trash Can

Kitchen trash cans are notorious for harboring bacteria and germs and causing odors.

Bits of food and other remnants always seem to make their way outside of these bins and collect on the underside of the lid. Not only does this attract bugs and rodents, but foodborne illnesses can easily be spread from this location.

  • Solution Make it a habit to disinfect your trash can by scrubbing it with soap and water every few months. You can do it inside a bathtub or outdoors with a hose. Also, consider using an air purifier in or near your kitchen to keep odors down. Check out best air purifier for odor elimination reviews to find out more.

23. Neglecting Your Chimney and Flue

If your home has a wood stove or fireplace, smoke and ash will build up as you use it during the colder months. This can lead to reduced air quality that’s known to cause a variety of health problems.

  • Solution Inspect your chimney and its flue throughout the winter season. Have them professionally cleaned at least once every two years. Also, make sure you have good ventilation when you do use a wood stove or fireplace so that soot doesn’t build up to dangerous levels on the interior.

24. Bringing Outdoor Contaminants In from Your Yard

It can be a real pleasure to work outside in your yard, but keep in mind that the outdoors is full of pollutants.

Dirt, pollen, viruses, bacteria, automobile exhaust and more can easily cling to your skin and clothing. If you walk through the house after you’ve finished working outdoors, you’ll bring these toxins in with you and spread them to places they shouldn’t be.

  • Solution Rinse off before you come inside, especially if you’ve been working around the yard. Remove your shoes as well, so you don’t track pollutants throughout your entire home.

25. Using Chemical Pesticides

It’s common for homeowners to use pesticides to keep their yards free of bugs. However, this practical solution can also lower your indoor air quality.

As you’ve already learned, it’s easy to track harmful particles inside your house through your shoes and clothing, and this includes pesticides that you (or your neighbors) uses around the home.

  • Solution Try to avoid using chemical pesticides as much as you can. Opt for baits and gel type products that bugs eat and take back to their nests to kill the colony. These are safer to use and often more effective in the long term.

Now You Know How to Cure a Sick House

You may have been surprised at all of the things you learned that can make your home an unhealthy place to live.

Fortunately, you now know what those issues are and have the best solutions to fix them.

Maintaining a healthy house doesn’t have to be a difficult process. By following the tips outlined on this page you’ll be well on your way to a cleaner, healthier space that’s free of nasty germs and airborne contaminants.

Avatar for Katherine Dyson

About Katherine Dyson

Katherine is the lead Staff Writer. She conducts in-depth research and interviews with industry experts in order to produce a wide range of content for the site. Her main role is to write helpful articles that aid people who are seeking to improve their indoor air quality and comfort. (See Full Bio)