Wildfires across the West push smoke into Multnomah County every season. When air quality reaches unhealthy and hazardous levels, health officials strongly recommend people avoid outdoor activities. Smoke moves fast, so track current air quality at Oregon Smoke Blog.

When the smoke moves it, it’s more important than ever to protect the air in your home. Multnomah County’s Air Quality site offers more information about smoke and wildfires. But here are some ideas to improve the air you breathe right now:

Lock out smoke and clean indoor air

  • Close doors and windows

  • Set your air conditioner to recirculate

  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter

Keep your fresh air fresher

  • Do not burn anything, including candles, incense, cigarettes or gas stoves

  • Avoid frying or broiling when cooking 

  • Do not vacuum

Power up your AC

  • If you have central air or a forced-air furnace, replace the filter with MERV 8 or better. Different stores use a different rating rubric. Just buy the highest number that works for your system. 

  • Run the fan on your furnace without heat to clean and circulate the air in your house. Watch this video to find out how.

DIY air purifier

  • You might have looked for an air purifier only to find they’re all out of stock. It’s cheap and easy to create your own with a box fan and furnace filter. Watch this video how-to

  • Don't: Leave this alone

  • Do: Run it in a smallish space, such as a bedroom with the door closed

Keep yourself healthy

Be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms of smoke irritation. But overall health protects your body from smoke damage. Be sure to:

  • Drink lots of water

  • Eat fruits and veggies

  • Exercise indoors

  • Don’t smoke

Masks have limits

Do not rely on masks or bandanas for protection. Masks and face coverings help reduce transmission of COVID-19, but do not protect against smoke. An N95 respirator, properly worn, can offer some protection from smoke but may be in short supply.

Create a clean room

Creating a “clean room” is a good idea especially for those with pre-existing conditions. Choose an interior room with few windows and doors and do the following:

  • Keep windows and doors closed.

  • Set up an air cleaner to help remove particles from the air 

  • Run an air conditioner or central air conditioning system. Make sure the filter is clean.

  • Use a damp mop or and dust with a damp cloth. Do not vacuum. 

Long-term smoke events usually have periods when the air is better. When air quality improves, even temporarily, air out your home to reduce indoor air pollution. People in homes that are too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, or who are at-risk of smoke-related health effects, should seek shelter elsewhere.

For additional information, see the EPA’s tips to create a clean room.

More information

See more about wildfire smoke and clean air from the Oregon Health Authority:

See more about wildfire smoke and your health from the Oregon Health Authority: