By Laura Gaskill, Houzz
If you or someone in your household suffers from allergies, even the simplest daily routines can be a struggle. Nothing is easy when you suffer from asthma or can barely catch your breath between sneezes. Here’s how to minimize allergens in the home without making things worse by stirring up dust while you clean.
Ourso Designs, original photo on Houzz
1. Make your bedroom an allergen-free zone.
If you focus your allergen-busting cleaning efforts in just one area of the home, make it the one you sleep in.
• To keep allergens at bay, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends washing bed linens (including blankets) weekly in hot water.
• Zippered, allergen-impermeable covers on mattresses and pillows can keep dust out by using a material with pores too small for dust mites to fit through.
• Skip wall-to-wall carpeting and heavy drapes in favor of bare floors and wood blinds or roller shades, so dust has nowhere to hide.
• Give the room a thorough cleaning (floors, bedding and damp dusting) once a week.
2. Get rid of carpets and drapes elsewhere in the house, if possible.
Any material that can harbor dust mites (and can’t easily be washed in hot water) is a potential land mine for allergy sufferers. Wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the worst offenders; a better option is hard flooring plus small area rugs that can be laundered in hot water or dry-cleaned regularly. On windows, consider blinds or roller shades rather than curtains — or even bare windows where privacy is not a concern.
Related: Try Versatile Carpet Tile
NORTHBOURNE Architecture + Design, original photo on Houzz
3. Clean without stirring up more dust.
Regular cleaning is one of the best ways to keep allergens under control at home, but when even the act of cleaning itself can cause allergies to flare up, it can be hard to know what to do. Try these tips to remove dust without sending it flying into the air:
• Use an electrostatic cloth or damp microfiber cloth to dust, not a feather duster.
• Use a high-quality vacuum with a HEPA filter (which traps nearly all of the dust particles sucked up rather than re-releasing them into the air), and vacuum frequently.
• Use a microfiber mop on hard-surface floors.
4. Use a HEPA filter with your central heating and cooling system too.
HEPA filters aren’t just for vacuums — using one designed for your furnace (and AC in the summer) also can be a big help when it comes to keeping the air in your home clean and dust-free. A free-standing air purifier is not as effective, since this only cleans a portion of the air in your home, but can be a good alternative for renters. And while a crackling fire in the fireplace can be romantic, it also can spell trouble for those with allergies or asthma, so skip the fire (or if you must have one, choose a newer wood stove rather than an open fireplace).
Andrew Lethbridge Associates, original photo on Houzz
5. Cut down on knickknacks that can collect dust.
The less there is to clean around, the more likely you are to get into all the corners and crevices of your home while cleaning (and the faster cleaning will go). If you love collections, try to find places to store them where they are protected from dust — behind the doors of a glass-front cabinet, for instance.
6. Choose furniture with washable slipcovers (or leather).
Large upholstered pieces can be home to populations of dust mites (yuck, I know), so doing what you can to keep these big pieces clean can be a big help for allergy sufferers. Leather furniture is ideal because it can be easily wiped clean, while washable slipcovers are a good runner-up. Just remember, the slipcovers must be either dry-cleaned or washed in hot water in order to kill dust mites — a warm water wash won’t do the trick.
Abby M. Interiors, original photo on Houzz
7. Keep humidity levels low in your home.
Dust mites, mildew and molds all thrive in higher humidity levels. The AAFA recommends keeping the humidity below 50 percent in your home if possible; using a dehumidifier can help. Also, make sure your bathroom is well ventilated: Turn on the fan during showers and leave it on for 20 minutes afterward to clear out any steam. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan (or if the fan doesn’t seem to remove all steam) leave a window cracked open during showers. And be sure to treat any mold or mildew promptly and thoroughly.
8. Limit your pet’s access to soft furnishings.
If you share your home with a furry friend, consider setting some limits when it comes to access. Your pooch may not like it, but keeping your bedroom off-limits can help keep your sleeping space cleaner (so you can breathe easier). Using machine-washable covers on all your soft furnishings is also a must; wash these at least once weekly in hot water.
Doug Simon ARCHITECTURE, original photo on Houzz
9. Have the nonallergic person do the dustiest cleaning.
If you’re the one with allergies, volunteer to take on another household chore (one that doesn’t stir up dust) in exchange for your housemate doing the vacuuming and dusting. If that’s not possible, wear a dust proof mask while cleaning, hop in the shower when you’re done and put on fresh clothes.
10. Get outside help.
If you or someone in your home has really awful allergies, it could be worth your while to prioritize a professional housecleaning service in your budget. If you do decide to hire a service, be sure to ask how it specifically addresses allergens in the home.