Last updated on 19/12/2019

How to build a clean air shelter

A clean air shelter is an indoor space that aims to reduce exposure to air pollution, such as particulate matter produced by bushfire smoke. Any reduction in exposure can help reduce asthma symptoms. It is particularly important to avoid or minimise exposure during periods of extreme smoke levels.

To build a clean air shelter:

  • Find a room with limited doorways or windows to the outside as a clean air shelter only works if your home is well sealed. Rooms with doors and windows have more ventilation and are more likely to let polluted air from outside in.
  • If you have air conditioning; ensure the setting is switched to ‘recirculate’ so it is not bringing the outside air in.
  • A portable air cleaner/purifier can help remove particulate matter (fine particles) from the air. Look for an air purifier that says it filters 95% of particles and has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Be mindful of the room size it claims to filter when purchasing. They are only useful for use in isolated places and not a safeguard covering the whole house. Individuals need to consider the costs of trigger reduction products for their individual circumstances.

An alternative to creating a clean air shelter in your home is seeking refuge in a facility that will provide this, such as a shopping centre, cinema, library, or museum.
If you need to go outside, face masks (grade P2 or N95) can help filter particles when air quality is poor. You must ensure these are tightly fitted and maintain a seal to be effective. For example, they will not be effective if you have a beard as air will leak around the sides.

Additionally, you should avoid activities that create smoke or other particles indoors, including:

    • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, and cigars
    • Using gas, propane, or wood-burning stoves and furnaces
    • Spraying aerosol products
    • Frying or broiling food
    • Burning candles or incense
    • Vacuuming, unless you use a vacuum with a HEPA filter

Dust or mop surfaces in the clean room with a damp cloth as needed to keep settled particles from getting back into the air.

What is HEPA?

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air.

Vacuums equipped with HEPA filtration trap the dirt you can’t see, rather than sending allergens back into the air.

There are different standards around the world, but generally, to get a HEPA tick of approval, vacuum cleaners must trap at least 99.97% of emissions, down to a tiny 0.3 microns in size.

To view the latest product testing results by CHOICE on air purifiers, click here.

If you would like to speak with one of our Asthma Educators, call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)