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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Create a Clean Room to Protect Indoor Air Quality During a Wildfire

Be Prepared to Evacuate

***NOTE 6/4/2020: This information was developed before the COVID-19 health emergency. Please supplement this information with the latest advice from state, local, Tribal and federal agencies, including the EPA website and CDC webpage***

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Why Create a Clean Room?

If there is an active fire in your area, or if the Air Quality Index indicates smoke levels are unhealthy and forecasted to remain there, local authorities may advise you to stay indoors or create a clean room rather than evacuate. Setting up a clean room at home can help reduce your exposure to dangerous or unhealthy wildfire smoke while indoors.

Conditions can change quickly, so you should always be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Follow your local news, the AirNow website, or your state air quality website for up-to-date information.

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Who Needs a Clean Room?

Everyone can benefit from spending time in a clean room during a wildfire, but it may be most helpful for sensitive individuals like the very young, very old, and people with heart or lung problems.

Learn more about the health effects of wildfire smoke.

If you can’t stay cool at home or are especially sensitive to smoke, it may be best to seek shelter elsewhere.

You may be able to:

  • Stay with friends or family who are not affected by the smoke.
  • Relocate (or go) to a public cleaner air shelter.
  • Seek relief from the smoke in a large commercial building with air conditioning and good air filtration, like a shopping mall.

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How Do I Set Up a Clean Room at Home?

  1. Choose a room. It should be big enough to fit everyone in your household and comfortable to spend time in. A bedroom with an attached bathroom is a good choice.
  2. Prevent smoke from entering the room. Close windows and doors in the room, but don’t do anything that makes it hard to get out. If there is an exhaust fan or range hood in the clean room space, only use it for short periods.
  3. Stay cool. Run fans, window air conditioners, or central air conditioning. If your HVAC system or window air conditioner has a fresh air option, turn it off or close the intake.
  4. Filter the air in the room. Use a portable air cleaner that is the right size for the room. Run the portable air cleaner continuously on the highest fan setting if you can.

If you have central HVAC, you can also install a high-efficiency filter (MERV 13 or higher) in the system. Run the system’s fan as often as possible to get the most out of the filter.

See the Indoor Air Filtration fact sheet and EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home for more information.

  1. 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.

Learn more about fine particles in indoor air.

  1. Spend as much time as possible in the clean room to get the most benefit from it. Avoid exercising while in the clean room to help reduce exposure to any particles that may enter the room.

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For Public Health Officials and Emergency Managers

Communities affected by wildfire smoke may choose to set up or identify cleaner air spaces and cleaner air shelters where people can seek relief from wildfire smoke. More information about how to set up these spaces is available in Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials in Appendix B. CDC also offers interim guidance for use by federal, state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to reduce the risk of introducing and transmitting SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for causing COVID-19) in these spaces. Communities should note that the requirements of state, local and tribal agencies supersede these recommendations.

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