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Tips for clearing the air in your home after smoky week in Oregon, Washington

If you haven't already replaced the filter in your HVAC system, you may find a smoky black filter to deal with.

PORTLAND, Ore. — If you haven't done it yet, now would be a good time to check the filter in your home's central air system. After all that smoke in the air last week, it may look pretty dark.

Norm Chusid said a lot of people visited his Ankeny Hardware store in Portland for a clean one.

“In the last eight days, we've sold over 8,000 furnace filters in all assorted sizes,” said Chusid.

With a fresh one in, Norman advised a next step.

“Turn your furnace blower from auto to on. On means the fan is blowing continuously. That means it cleans the air in your house after the smoke; the fan will be running whether the furnace or air conditioner is on or not," he said.

Cory Streeter showed us some examples of HVAC air filters Specialty Heating and Cooling removed from homes in the last week.

“It was the highest call volume we've ever experienced: 700 phone calls and those are just the numbers we can track,” said Streeter, the operations manager.

He said filters are rated on scale called the Minimum Efficiency Rating Value. To catch more smoke particles, use a MERV 11 filter, or higher, if your furnace can handle it. But any new filter is better than a smoky one for a few reasons.

“Most folks think of filters for air filtration for their health but it's for the health of the heating system too. It's a substantial investment now with the cost of the equipment, so we always tell folks it's not just for you, it's also to keep the equipment running good,” said Streeter.

And back at Ankeny Hardware, Norman Chusid said you can wipe surfaces down with a damp cloth if there's a little smoke residue, and you can use an odor absorbing product too, for any residual smell.

"Other than that, there's not much we can do but say congratulations we made it through,” said Chusid.

If your home is in the wildfire zone or you received a large load of soot or ash, the Oregon Health Authority has some additional precautions you should take to clean it up, ranging from keeping children out of the toxic material, to wearing the proper personal protective equipment.