If you or someone else in your house suffers from allergies, you'll want to get the house as allergen free as possible. Whether you are allergic to dust, pets, mold, pollen or all of the above, it can be hard to know where to begin. These 18 ways to combat allergens and create a cleaner, healthier home will get you started.
1. Stick to a regular cleaning schedule. Keeping dust and pet dander at bay is a continual process, and it's especially important to stay on top of cleaning when allergies are a concern. Be sure to wipe surfaces with a damp rag rather than dry dusting, which often just brushes dust back into the air.
Ideally, members of the household without allergies would take on the dustiest jobs, but if you have bad allergies and must clean, wear a dust mask — or hire a cleaning service if you can.
2. Start a no-shoes policy and beef up doormats. Keep dust, pollen and more from entering your house in the first place by encouraging visitors to slip off their shoes at the door. Provide ample interior and exterior doormats to trap shoe muck and a basketful of slippers for guests.
3. Upgrade your vacuum cleaner. Get one with a HEPA filter to trap allergens — these filters work wonders. Also be sure to choose a vacuum cleaner with a bag that can be changed easily (that is, without spewing dust everywhere).
4. Swap out heavy drapes. Thick drapes with lots of folds and pleats are masters at trapping dust and other allergens. Instead, choose blinds you can wipe down or machine-washable curtains.
5. Remove carpeting. Traditional wall-to wall carpeting is notoriously difficult to get and keep clean. Whenever possible, go with hard flooring (wood, tile, linoleum, etc) instead.
6. Steam clean; don't shampoo carpets and area rugs. If you really want carpeting, vacuum it regularly with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter and deep clean with a steam cleaner. Most rented carpet shampooers do not get hot enough to get rid of allergens, so consider making the investment in a real steam cleaner to keep at home.
7. Store all food in airtight containers. Don't tempt bugs and mice — every time you open a package, put the contents inside an airtight container in the cupboard or fridge.
8. Green your cleanup. Harsh chemical cleaners may irritate those with allergies. Luckily, it's quite easy to find safe and effective natural cleaners, so you can cut back on the synthetic stuff.
9. Cover mattresses and pillows. Zip on dust mite covers to protect your sleeping area. If you have kids, be sure to get covers for their mattresses and pillows, too.
10. Keep under the bed free of clutter. Clutter attracts dust bunnies and makes it more difficult to reach the entire space to vacuum. Keep this area clean and clear, and be sure to reach under with a host attachment to vacuum regularly.
11. Streamline kids' spaces. Children's rooms accumulate stuff like nowhere else in the house. But if allergies are a problem, having lots of toys — especially soft toys — everywhere will only make things worse. Try rotating out toys to keep things fresh (and neat), and store extras in an out-of-the-way closet. Washing stuffed animals when possible can also help keep dust at a minimum.
12. Wash linens is hot water. Bedding, towels and kitchen linens should be laundered in hot water -- remember that when you are shopping and choose fabrics that can stand up to the heat.
13. Store only clean, dry items in closets. Putting away clothes or linens that are still slightly damp can create the perfect environment for mildew and mold to grow, while dirty clothes and blankets attract fabric-eating moths. Keep your closets fresh and bug free by washing and thoroughly drying items before storing them for the season.
14. Clean and ventilate the bathroom regularly. Frequent cleaning and plenty of fresh air should keep mildew and mold at bay. But if you do see mold, be sure to use a cleaner that says it kills mold — not all of them do.
15. Replace filters in fans and heating and cooling systems. This is key for keeping the air in your home clean. Each time you change the filter in your bathroom exhaust system or air conditioning or heating system, mark the next change date on the calendar.
16. Keep pets out of bedrooms, at a minimum. No matter how sweet and cuddly your furry friend is, if he's making you wheeze, it's time to set some boundaries. Keeping pets in a protected outdoor area would probably be ideal, but at the bare minimum enforce a no-pet policy in bedrooms.
17. Detox your home. Harsh chemicals can aggravate allergies, so do your best to avoid bringing them into your home. Swap out chemical cleaners and air fresheners for natural versions, and air out new furnishings and freshly dry cleaned clothes to give toxins a chance to off-gas.
18. Keep the air fresh. Open the windows to let in fresh air, unless you have seasonal allergies, and consider using an room air filter to clean the air. Avoid using fireplaces and definitely do not allow smoking in the house.
By: Laure Gaskill