4 ways your home’s design could actually impact your health

Home design isn’t just about aesthetics — it’s about having a livable and functional space, too.

And while the pandemic has certainly made us rethink our living spaces by prioritizing things like home offices and outdoor spaces, it’s also brought to light the need for a focus on hygiene and infection prevention.

Online interior design company Modsy found that there’s been an increased interest in people wanting to incorporate hygiene stations in their homes. In its 2020 COVID-Inspired Design Trend Report, 28% of parents and 26% of non-parents surveyed said they were looking into germ-resistant materials for flooring and surfaces, automatic faucets, smart toilets and options for indoor air-quality monitoring.

So, we had to ask an expert: What are the best and smartest investments someone can make in their home to stay as healthy as possible? We turned to Dr. Ginny Boos, director of infection prevention at Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Missouri, to find out.

Besides cleaning and disinfecting your home regularly and especially when someone is sick, Boos recommends four ways to make it easier to prevent infection at home.

1. Use a mudroom or area by the door to kick off your shoes

Dedicate a place by the door to take off shoes. You’ll be glad you did! Cavan Images / Getty Images

“I have always been one of those (people who insist) when you come into the door, you remove your shoes,” Boos told TMRW. “The less germs that you bring in, the better off your living environment is.”

The concept of the mudroom is nothing new, and it was trendy way before the pandemic even began. But now that there’s more of a focus on sanitizing and keeping germs out when you first walk in the door, it’s becoming even more of a coveted feature to have in a home.

While the germs shoes track in aren’t necessarily causing COVID-19, they can still make you sick. Wearing shoes inside of your home can bring in fecal bacteria, E. coli, mold and allergens like pollen. And if you have small kids who crawl on the floor and then put their hands in their mouths, that could be an even bigger problem.

Antimicrobial doormats exist and claim to remove some of these particles from your shoes, but the best way to prevent tracking in the bad stuff is simply having an area to kick off your shoes immediately.

2. Add a place to wash your hands as soon as you come inside

Encourage everyone to wash their hands as soon as they come inside.d3sign / Getty Images

“The number one way to prevent infection is hand hygiene,” Boos said. “Think about how often you touch your face or hair and mouth in a day. That’s a common method of transmitting viruses.”

So, if you’ve got a mudroom already, consider adding in a hand-washing station. Or make it a rule that everyone who enters the house immediately goes to the closest sink and wash their hands.

“As humans we tend to go the path of least resistance and we’re very influenced by our peers and groupthink,” she said. “So the easier we make it to do the right thing and that it’s hard wired as a routine, then the more compliant we will be.”

3. Try automatic faucets

You’ve probably seen them in airports, restaurants or other businesses, but automatic faucets could also be a good addition to your home when it comes to keeping germs at bay.

Boos said they’re helpful because it’s easier to dispense the soap onto your hands, “especially when you’re talking about little kids, they can wave their hand under that if they can’t reach the faucet.”

An automatic faucet also helps keep the area cleaner since no one is actually touching the fixture with their dirty hands. Of course, even with this helpful technology regular bathroom cleaning is still a must.

4. Ensure you have good ventilation

We know that some viruses, like COVID-19, spread quickly indoors without proper ventilation. “If we improve the air circulation, it makes it harder for the virus to survive,” Boos explained.

That’s why she recommends using an air purifier with a HEPA filter, which can remove 99.97% of particles that are 0.3 microns — that includes not only viruses, but also things like bacteria and allergens.

Indoor air is generally more polluted than outdoor air. That’s why it’s important to clean the air inside your house before you set up your purifier to give the machine an even better opportunity to do its job. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to improve your home’s air quality.

“I appreciate that people are thinking about how they can make it easier to limit the means of viral or bacterial transmission (in their homes),” Boos said. “Viruses are not bad in and of themselves. We need them for the whole ecosystem. They do play a role. But rather than trying to think about how bad viruses make us sick, we should think about what we need to do to promote health hygiene.”