People here at The Herb Companion can tell you, I am a total neat freak. The first thing I did as a new hire was grab some eco-friendly multi-surface cleaner and take care of some nasties left by the former desk-lady. So, I am more than willing to find you a natural solution for your home pollution! This question comes from an allergy victim and her dust-offending family.
Question: My sister and brother-in-law do a reasonable job of tidying their farm house, but when it comes to dusting, well, they don't. Too overwhelming, I guess. I love visiting, but my allergies simply cannot tolerate the dust, and I hate to have my kids in that environment. Easy fixes!? - Mary, Missouri
I suspect that the level of dust mites (and their poo-poos) are to blame for your allergic reactions, and it's good you have kept your kids at bay. More than 9 percent of kids in the US today have asthma, and according to the CDC, the prevalence is especially high in the Midwest. Some studies suggest that parents can possibly alleviate, if not prevent, these asthma onsets with thorough cleaning. But, it doesn't really sound like your family is UP for that.
Solution: Mix 2 parts tea (I might recommend a light colored tea) with 2 parts water in a sprayer, mist the air in the room and the tea will fall evenly on carpets and upholstery. Don't spray directly on surfaces as it could stain, let it sit for about 4 hours and vacuum.
Why does this work? Tea tannins, and tea chemicals known as polyphenols are what's known as protein denaturing agents. That's a fancy way of saying, they hitchhike on dust mites, and like in the horror flicks, these hitchhikers kill. But they do more than just kill the mites, they also saturate and destroy mite-eggs. When the tea tannins have bonded to the mites and their eggs, it's much easier and more effective to vacuum them up.
Denaturing is the process by which the tea tannins will crush the "skeleton" of proteins and amino acids (remember high school science? Put A with T and C with G, and happy we all will be!). It causes disruption, and eventually the proteins (and mites) will, essentially, fall apart. Tea works similarly for us, bonding with free radicals and helping them pass through the body, instead of being absorbed.
But best of all, this process is an all-natural solution safe for pets, children and pregnant women. And it's cheap! But if your sibs just won't do it, get a sneaky little spray bottle and DIY.
To learn more about the awesome benefits of Tea (and there are a TEA-TON), stay tuned for the next issue of The Herb Companion, hitting the stands September 30.
Or, to learn more about asthma, dust and protein denaturing agents, I might reccomend Asthma and Immunological Diseases in Pregnancy and Early Infancy, by Michael Schatz available on Amazon for an arm and a leg, or free on Google Books (skip to page 270).