Typical homes are havens for allergens, including waste from dust-mites, insects and pests, pollen, molds and pet dander. Cleaning is one of your best defenses against allergens, but you also need to make good decorating and storage choices and cultivate other allergen-busting behaviors. Here are six strategies for minimizing the presence of allergens in your home.
When decorating, avoid allergen magnets. If you have family members with environmental allergies, avoid textiles, including carpets and upholstered furniture, non-washable window treatments (such as horizontal blinds), wallpapers, and anything else bound to collect dust such as knick-knacks, books, magazines and so forth. When you must use textiles, opt for synthetics over natural fibers; choose low- vs. high-pile carpeting and only washable window treatments.
Think cool and dry.
Heat and humidity are allergens’ best friends. Close windows and use A/C during warm months. Avoid moisture everywhere, at all costs even if it means running a dehumidifier. Places that tend to retain moisture and grow mold include plant soils; your refrigerator (including rubber seals around doors); porous surfaces (such as textured ceilings and untreated wood moldings); windows, frames and sills (via condensation); sinks, tubs and fixtures (dry with a towel!); unwashed dishes and food wastes left in drains.
Protect air quality.
Avoid using cleaning solutions that contain harsh chemicals or create fumes. Also avoid burning candles and wood – anything that generates smoke. When cooking, use your ventilation fan. If needed, invest in and utilize a high-quality high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filter.
Encase and store.
Some textiles are unavoidable. Encase bed linens, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite proof covers. Store children’s toys (especially stuffed animals), people and pet food – any thing you can think of really – in tightly covered plastic containers.
As pest droppings are a major cause of respiratory allergies and asthma, avoid behaviors that might attract insects and pests, such as storing food waste inside the home and leaving crumbs lying around. Use a professional exterminator to deal with pest infestations.
Clean often AND smart.
Cleaning often is one of the best defenses against allergens in the home, but you must know how to do it right or you can make things worse. At a minimum, dust and vacuum 1-2 times per week. Dust with a damp or treated cloth to ensure you don’t send allergens flying into the air and choose a vacuum with a high efficiency particulate HEPA filter built in. Wash bed linens at least once a week in very hot water (130˚ minimum) and remember to wash window treatments frequently as well.