Home & Garden Tips, Inside the Home, Tips & Helpful Advice — March 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Spring Cleaning With Allergy Sufferers in Mind

Kissing-Poppies-Bobby-PalmerDepending on where you live, it’s nearly impossible to think that this brutal winter will soon be little more than a lingering memory. But, look out. While spring breaks through winter’s chill, it also unleashes the merciless onslaught of pollen.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) estimates that asthma and allergies strike 50 million Americans — that’s one out of five. You can see that even if you don’t suffer from seasonal allergies, there’s a pretty good chance that you live with someone who does. If so, spring cleaning requires more careful consideration.

Pollen and other outdoor allergens aren’t the only culprits for allergy and asthma sufferers. There are plenty of indoor triggers, too, including pet dander, mold spores, dust mites and roach droppings. Exposure to cockroach allergens is an important cause of asthma-related illness and hospitalizations among inner-city children, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). It’s imperative to keep the creatures, and anything they leave behind, out of your environment.

Obviously, keeping your home completely free of allergens is impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your family’s exposure considerably. Follow these spring cleaning tips and you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to keeping most of those pesky allergens manageable throughout the year.

1. Look for household products and materials that are labeled nontoxic, petroleum-free, solvent-free and VOC-free. VOCs are volatile organic compounds found in many common household products, ranging from water-based paints and bedding to upholstery and common cleaning supplies. These chemicals evaporate and can remain in the air for some time. If part of your spring cleaning includes interior painting, then be sure to look for paint with no VOCs. BEHR, Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore Natura each makes zero-VOC interior paint.

Read labels on cleaning products; avoiding formaldehyde, ammonia, sodium lauryl sulphate and limonene.

2. Vacuum often. Ideally, hard flooring is better than carpet or rugs for allergy sufferers, but if you do have carpets, vacuum them frequently with a machine that uses a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA). For instance, the new Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal + Allergy doesn’t have any dusty filters to wash or replace, and it features a whole-machine HEPA filtration, ensuring no dirty air escapes. It’s designed to capture microscopic particles as small as pollen and mold spores. The upright even comes with a mattress tool that removes dirt, allergens and dust mites. By the way, if you have shedding dogs, you might consider the Dyson grooming tool accessory, a retractable brush that attaches to the vacuum’s hose. As you brush your pet, the hair and dander on the brush is quickly sucked up into the vacuum and not allowed to drift up your nose and into your eyes. For those who prefer a vacuum with a bag, the upright VTplus by Soniclean features a HEPA filter bag designed to capture allergens and microscopic particles. And don’t forget to launder your throw rugs regularly; vacuuming isn’t enough for those, especially since they’re often favorite spots for pets.


3. Remember that dust particles don’t just land on the floor, they’re also in your air ducts, so make sure to replace your HVAC filters monthly. Yes, monthly for allergy sufferers.

4. Bring on the steam. Europeans have been steam cleaning their homes from floor to ceiling for ages. A little tap water transformed to hot, dry steam goes a long way in destroying allergens without using any chemicals. A small hand-held unit from HAAN will sanitize anything from kitchen counters to bathroom surfaces, while the PRO T3 Steamboy by Reliable uses its steam power to tackle sealed flooring and grout, and it even sanitizes carpets and rugs.

5. Wash bedding using hot water that’s at least 130 degrees. If you can, encase your mattress, pillows and comforters with barriers that protect from dust mites and other allergens. And don’t ignore that dust ruffle — you can bet that it’s loaded with allergens.

6. By the way, toss those stuffed animals and toys into that hot water, too. Stuffed creatures might be cute, but they’re loaded with dust mites and other allergens. If you have stuffed toys that aren’t washable, then stash them in plastic bags and place them in the freezer for a few hours. Dust mites die in hot water as well as in freezing temperatures.