Sure, organizing the bookshelves and dresser drawers feels good, but there’s another level of spring cleaning to consider. After a long winter of having the windows shut and heat cranked up, the whole house, and especially the nursery, could use a refresher. We chatted with Ronnie Citron-Fink, the editorial director of Moms Clean Air Force, and founder of Econesting, to learn how to keep things fresh where it matters most—in the baby’s room.

A big thanks for chatting with us, Ronnie. Let’s talk humidity levels—should we be using a humidifier or dehumidifier in the nursery? 

The EPA recommends keeping your home’s humidity level between 30-50 percent. If too much moisture is released into the air, it can stir up dust mites and molds, both of which can cause allergic reactions. Mold and bacteria growth happen quickly when there’s stagnant water. Check your humidifier’s manual for specific recommendations, but it’s generally smart to use distilled or demineralized water, change it daily, and clean your humidifier every three days.

What are some other potentially hazardous locales in a nursery in terms of mold, dust, or other allergens?

A recent study looked at baby products and found that potentially harmful flame-retardant chemicals are still being added to some foam changing pads, portable cribs, and bassinets. Foam-based flame-retardants are linked to learning disabilities, infertility and cancer.

Well, that’s scary. How do we know what’s in our gear?

Look carefully around the room. If foam from any pad or mattress is exposed, crumbling, or seems to be giving off dust, that’s not something you want in the nursery. When you’re shopping, seek out TB117 2013 labels. These indicate that the product meets the updated California standard (without toxic chemicals). On the flip-side, if a product is marked TB117 (without the “2013”), it’s very likely to contain those toxic flame-retardants. Look for products that do not contain polyurethane foam.

Whether there’s a central air vent or AC unit in baby’s room, how often should filters be changed/cleaned?

Unlike heating systems, the process of cooling hot air creates a lot of moisture and condensation, which needs to be channeled away. If your AC system does a bad job of this, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. To protect your baby, the EPA suggests having the AC air ducts cleaned.

And how about ceiling fans?

The EPA estimates people spend up to 90% of their time indoors. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, indoor air could be worse for allergies than outdoor air. Ceiling fan blades should be thoroughly cleaned before you flip the switch or else they just move the allergens around the room.

What’s the safest way to clean the carpet or area rug in a baby’s room?
When vacuuming, you’ll want to use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. And if you’re buying a new carpet, look for untreated, natural materials like sisal or wool. Decline any stain-resistance treatments [which may sound counter to what you’d want, but better to have a stain in the nursery than the release of chemicals]. And keep in mind that area rugs are a lot easier to wash and replace than wall-to-wall carpeting.

Thanks so much, Ronnie!