Allergy sufferers know too well what havoc indoor and outside irritants can bring into their lives during peak seasons, like the start of spring.
Combating the symptoms of allergies—your family’s red, itchy eyes, scratchy throats and noses that are somehow both stuffy and runny—might be as easy as understanding their source and eliminating them from your home. Some of the most common indoor allergens include: dust, mold, insects (dust mites, cockroaches), pollen, pet dander and pollen.
So before you throw all your windows open and air your freshly laundered sheets outside to dry, take in these expert cleaning tips and live sneeze-free—at least while inside.
Dust and Vacuum Regularly
Easing some of your seasonal or year-round allergy symptoms while at home may be just a deep scrub away.
That’s right, to be sniffle-free you need to regularly clean your home which reduces your exposure to allergens. “You should dust and vacuum weekly to stay on top of the various substances that build up between cleanings,” says cleaning expert Becky Rapinchuk of the Clean Mama blog and author of “Simply Clean.” Start by dusting. The best method is to work from top down. This way, you're ensuring that the dust that falls from the top of cabinets and ceiling fans gets swept away by your vacuum once you’ve reached the bottom.
Another tip, especially for allergy sufferers: use microfibers. “Consistent dusting with microfiber dusters captures the particles and makes the task simple,” says Rapinchuk.
When you’re ready to vacuum, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends using a vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter or a double-layered bag. Another trusty tool: the Swiffer (dry and unscented) is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to reduces your exposure to allergens.
If you can’t get rid of your carpets make sure to have them cleaned professionally at least once a year.
Tackle Dust Mites
Dust mites, microscopic insects that live off human and animal skin scales, reside in almost all bedding materials, including pillows, mattresses, and comforters—no matter how clean or immaculate the home.
Though they don't cause infections, mites are a well-known cause of allergies and asthma. To keep dust mites away from your skin Dr. Dean Mitchell of New York’s Ocean Allergy and Asthma clinic says use an allergy-free cover made from synthetic materials on mattresses and pillows and wash bed linens weekly in hot water. Avoid comforters made from down, and protect your pillows with hypoallergenic covers. If possible, choose hardwood floors over wall-to-wall carpeting (dust mites can't live on hardwood) and leather furniture over dust-mite-friendly upholstered items.
If you do have upholstered items, steam cleaning in between washes helps fight allergens. “If you put anything under a really high-powered steam, it will kill a majority of the bacteria and critters lingering on around," says Dave Briganti, a product manager at Rowenta.
Mold lurks in damp places like the bathroom, basement and even your windows.
“Clean window tracks with white vinegar between seasons as mold grows in there,” warns Rapinchuk. She also recommends cleaning bathrooms regularly and well. For a guide on cleaning your bathroom the right way go here. If you do find mold or dampness on your bathroom tiles, try cleaning it with a solution of ¾ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of warm water. Wipe down the surface, then let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. However, if persists, a professional is the only way to eradicate it. Another tool in your fight against mold is to run a dehumidifier.
Don’t let the outside in
Protect that clean space and be careful not to let outside contaminants, like pollen, in.
“Avoid window fans that suck in pollen and outdoor molds into the home and ceiling fans that distribute the air,” says Dr. Clifford Bassett, Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York and author of “The New Allergy Solution.” “And avoid line drying your bedding and clothing on high-pollen days outdoors as pollen can stick to fabrics.”
Dr. Bassett recommends keeping windows closed during peak allergy seasons like spring, and being careful of what you—and your furry best friend—may be carrying when reentering your home.
“Using inside and outside door mats can help trap pollen,” he says. “Wipe off your pets with a damp cloth before they go back inside and change your own clothing, too. Wash your face and hair and wipe down your shoes.” And we know it’s hard but try keeping you pet out of your bedroom.