Easy Ways to Reduce Allergens in Your Home

May 2014

Allergens are all around us.  They are substances that are foreign to the body and can trigger allergic reactions in some people.  Some familiar allergens are pollen, mold, and food.  My three children and I all have allergies. 

Many allergens can be found in our home environment because our homes are usually filled with plants, people, animals, dust, mold, dander, and hair.  Allergens hide in the corners of our furniture, the children’s toys, the family pet, and in our beds. Once these allergens trigger an attack, our daily routines are affected.  In order to manage your allergies, it is important to know what exactly is triggering your allergy symptoms and how to reduce your level of exposure to them.  A good place to start is right in your own home.

Believe it or not, dust mites can be found on pillows and blankets, and mold can be found in our bed mattresses in the bedroom.  Be sure to encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-proof covers.  At least once a week, wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets in 130-degree hot water to kill dust mites and their eggs.  Spray down your mattress with hydrogen peroxide to kill mold.  Replace feathered and wool bedding with synthetic materials.  Try and wash pillows once a month and replace bed mattress every ten years. 

In the children’s rooms, dust mites, mold and even pet dander can attach and build up on toys, stuffed animals, blankets, rugs, and dirty laundry.  Wash stuffed animals every week in 130-degree hot water to kill mites and their eggs.  Place non-washable stuffed animals in the freezer once a week for 24 hours to kill mites.  After 24 hours, rinse them in cold water to remove dead mites.  Wipe down toys with a spray bottle mixed with hydrogen peroxide, water, and a few drops of tea tree essential oil. Make sure all clothes are fully dry before putting them away in drawers and closets.  Have your children put their clothes right in the laundry after coming in from outdoors.  Have children remove their shoes and coats before entering their bedrooms to reduce pollen exposure.

Avoid clutter as much as possible.  Remove items that collect dust, like books, magazines, and knickknacks.  Use plastic bins to store puzzles, games and other memorabilia.

Remove carpeting off floor and replace with hardwood, linoleum, or laminate flooring.  Place washable area rugs around.  If you prefer carpeting, use low-pile carpeting.  Vacuum floors and carpets with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.

During allergy season, keep windows closed.  Use your air conditioner instead.  Wash windows, screens, and frames with a mixture of vinegar and water and wipe clean with a microfiber cloth.  Use an HEPA filter air purifier in your room when you sleep.

Pets can bring in mold, pollen, and dander from the outdoors.  Try and wipe your pet’s fur and feet off with a microfiber cloth before they come inside.  Instead of having your pets sleep on the beds, buy a few cat beds and place them around your home.  Wash pet beds at least once a month.

In the living room, vacuum furniture and curtains and drapes about once a week.  Use washable slip covers and cushions.  Wash them in 130 degree hot water weekly.  Vacuum furniture and flooring with a HEPA vacuum.  Avoid putting carpeting in areas where moisture gets trapped because mold can grow.  As hard as it is to do, avoid eating in the living room where crumbs attract bugs.  Keep pets off of the furniture.  Use washable curtains made of synthetic or cotton fabric.  Instead of horizontal blinds, use roller-type shades.  Wash draperies once a month.  Avoid upholstered furniture.  Choose metal, wood, plastic, or leather furnishings instead.

Take aquarium gravel and spread it over the dirt in your potted plants to reduce mold.

Avoid using wood burning stoves or fireplaces if smoke bothers your allergies.  Instead, use an electric fireplace or a natural gas fireplace.

In the kitchen, store food in airtight containers.  Never leave food out unwrapped.  Remove crumbs and spills off of countertops right away.    Check under sink for any water leaks.  When cooking, install and use a vented exhaust fan or stove top hood to remove fumes and smoke from cooking and to reduce moisture.  After cooking, wipe off stove right away.  Wash dishes every day instead of having them pile up in sink..  Clean sink with liquid dish soap and warm water.  Clean out refrigerator at least once a month.  Throw away expired food.  Wipe shelves down with liquid dish soap, warm water and a microfiber cloth.  Check and empty dripping pan often.  Avoid using pesticides.  Use a trash can with a cover.      

In the bathroom, be sure to install an exhaust fan to reduce moisture when showering and bathing.  Avoid decorating walls with wallpaper.  Use mold-resistant enamel paint or install tile.  After showering, wipe shower walls down with a squeegee or microfiber cloth.  Clean mold off shower curtain by washing it in the washer with a few towels and one cup of vinegar.  Check sink, toilet, and faucets for leaks and mold.  Replace molded bath mats.    

In the basement, use linoleum, laminate, or vinyl flooring instead of carpet.  Replace upholstered furniture with plastic, leather, wood, or metal furniture.  Check windows and floors for leaks and water damage to avoid mold growth.  Use a dehumidifier in the basement to reduce dampness.  Empty water when bucket is full.  Wipe down machine weekly.  Store all items in plastic bins.  If your washer and dryer are in the basement, make sure to vent the moisture outside. 

Other things to consider when reducing allergens in your home are:

Not allowing smoking anywhere in your home.

Keep the temperature in your home between 68 degrees and 72 degrees, with a humidity level no higher than 50 percent.   Replace or clean air conditioning filters monthly to keep indoor air clean.

Use air conditioning and dehumidifiers in hot weather.  Keep doors and windows closed during high pollen count days and allergy season.

House dust is made up of all sorts of allergen triggers, like pollen, pet and human dander, dirt, mites, , insect droppings, and mold.  Be sure to wipe down furniture and counters down daily, avoid clutter, vacuum often, and use only natural green cleaning products to clean your home.

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