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Posted by Marcy Tate | Sep 01, 2009

How to Reduce Household Allergens

Reducing indoor allergens is simpler and cheaper than you think!

Sneeze, cough, blow your noise, sneeze, cough, and blow your nose... Does this sound familiar? Is this a seemingly never ending cycle for you while you are trying to relax in your own home? You are not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from all sorts of allergies which affect daily living at home. In fact, as many as one in four Americans suffer from indoor allergies.

The most common indoor allergens are dust and mold. Your quality of life at home can greatly improve by taking steps to reduce household allergens. It's not such a simple task, because at first as it involves spending a bit of money and taking the time to clean more intensely. The good news is that it really helps and you'll see an instant improvement in the way you feel. You may even notice a money savings as you'll find yourself spending less on tissues for blowing your nose!

The severity of your allergy symptoms will determine how many steps you'll want to take to reduce the allergens in your home. For some, an increase in dusting, vacuuming, and general cleaning can make a huge improvement. But for most, other steps must be taken as well. Here are practical ways to help reduce household allergens:

Carpets

Carpeting is the #1 household dust collecting problem. Carpets trap in dust mites and dust mites love carpets; not a good combination for those allergic to dust mites. The best idea is to remove all carpet and go for linoleum, wood, or ceramic floors. If that is not possible, make sure to vacuum daily with a HEPA filtered vacuum. Get your carpets professionally cleaned every few months.

Windows

Windows often trap in moisture which quickly turns into mold. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills. Replace weather stripping as necessary- it will help keep the moisture out. Caulk and repair around the window as needed, paying close attention to any cracks. Windows should be kept closed during high pollen times- usually in the early spring through the summer, but this depends on where you live. The best way to reduce household allergens is to not let them in! So keep your windows closed (and the a/c on) and you'll notice an improvement.

Furniture & Window Treatments

Avoid upholstered furniture. Leather, wood, and even plastic furniture is best for reducing household allergens. The best window treatments are washable roller type shades or washable curtains. Keep in mind that curtains collect dust- washing them frequently, even as often as every few weeks, will help to limit the dust.

Ventilation, Humidification, & Filtration

Furnace and a/c filters should be checked and changed frequently. It's best to use a HEPA air filter which does not require monthly replacement. If your HVAC system does not have a whole house ventilation system, consider having one installed. You should also: Keep humidity levels at no more than 50%, make sure your dryer is properly vented to the outside, use a dehumidifier to reduce household dampness and clean it at least once a week, and have your air ducts cleaned every few years. Using a vented exhaust fan for the kitchen is ideal as it will reduce fumes and moisture and be sure it is properly vented to the outside. A bathroom exhaust fan is just as important in order to reduce moisture while bathing or showering.

Cleaning Habits

Reducing clutter significantly reduces dust. Keep toys in bins and avoid or limit stuffed animals in your home. Magazines, cardboard boxes, and more are all magnets for dust- and pests. In fact, cockroaches, which happen to be a common allergen, can hide behind boxes. Other cleaning habits include: emptying the trash daily and using a trash bin with a lid. Start a cleaning routine which entails thoroughly dusting the entire house. The less clutter and items you have on counters and tables will decrease the dust and decrease the time needed for dusting.

Bathroom & Kitchen

Check under all sinks in the bathrooms and kitchens for plumbing leaks. Use washable bathroom rugs. Consider using a floor towel instead of a rug/mat as it can be easily and more frequently washed. Remove bathroom wallpaper and use tile or mold- resistant enamel paint. Pay close attention to mold growth on the shower curtain and clean the mold off as necessary. Towel-dry the shower or tub after use as it will help limit mold growth. Regularly empty and clean the dripping pan of the fridge. Clean or replace moldy rubber seals around the fridge doors.

Other Tips

  • Linens and mattresses are unfortunately yet another dust trap. Therefore, pillows, mattresses, and box springs should be encased in dust-proof covers which will significantly reduce the amount of dust that you breathe. Linens should be washed once a week in water above 54 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Limit or remove all plants. Spread aquarium type gravel over the dirt to contain mold growth.
  • Consider a natural gas fireplace instead of a wood burning fireplace, which causes smoke.

Try one, or try all, you'll surely notice a difference either way. These tips for reducing home allergens will also help to improve the general air quality in your home. Even if you do not have allergies, following these tips will make for a healthier home.

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