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Preparing Homes by Removing Allergens

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Preparing Homes by Removing Allergens

Introduction

Allergens in the home can make life miserable for those who suffer from allergies or asthma. As an allergy sufferer myself, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to live comfortably when your home environment triggers allergy symptoms. That’s why I make it a priority to remove allergens from my living space as much as possible. In this article, I’ll share my tips and strategies for preparing a home to minimize allergens.

Identify and Understand Common Indoor Allergens

The first step is identifying the most common allergens found in homes so you know what to look for. The major offenders are:

  • Dust mites – These microscopic insects live in fabric and carpeting and feed on dead skin cells. Their feces and decaying bodies contain proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

  • Mold – Mold grows in damp areas and releases spores that cause allergy symptoms. Bathrooms, basements, and leaks or water damage are common problem areas.

  • Pet dander – Skin flakes, saliva, and urine from cats, dogs, birds, and other furry pets contain proteins that provoke allergic reactions.

  • Pollen – Trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen grains into the air that enter homes through open windows or ventilation systems.

  • Pest allergens – Droppings and body parts from cockroaches, mice, and rats contain proteins that cause allergic reactions.

Knowing which allergens affect you specifically will help focus your removal efforts on the right areas. Allergy testing can identify your allergy triggers if you aren’t sure.

Deep Clean the Home Regularly

Thorough and frequent cleaning is crucial for reducing allergens. I follow a strict cleaning schedule that includes:

  • Vacuuming twice per week with a HEPA filter vacuum to remove dust mites and pet dander. I vacuum carpets, hard floors, upholstery, curtains, and ceilings.

  • Dusting twice per week using a microfiber cloth to trap dust and allergens. I dust shelves, windowsills, ceiling fans, books, décor, and other surfaces.

  • Mopping hard floors once per week with a steam mop to sanitize and remove allergens trapped in floor grooves.

  • Washing bedding weekly in hot water to kill dust mites and wash away allergens in pillows, comforters, sheets, and mattress covers.

I also do deep cleans of my full home twice a year to keep all areas allergen-free. Doing laundry, vacuuming, and dusting more frequently during high allergy seasons helps too.

Make Bedrooms a Priority

Since we spend so much time in the bedroom, it deserves special attention when eliminating allergens. To reduce dust mites in my bedroom, I:

  • Encase pillows and mattresses in airtight allergen covers.

  • Use wooden blinds instead of fabric curtains which collect dust.

  • Wash sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water weekly.

  • Remove carpeting and install hardwood floors.

  • Use a dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity under 50% to discourage dust mite growth.

Making my bed a hypoallergenic zone has led to much better sleep and fewer allergy flare ups.

Control Moisture and Fix Leaks

Excess moisture allows mold to grow, so controlling humidity is a must. I take these preventative measures:

  • Use exhaust fans when showering or cooking.

  • Run a dehumidifier in my basement during wet seasons.

  • Fix any plumbing leaks immediately to avoid mold outbreaks.

  • Ensure bathroom tiles and grout are properly sealed to prevent mildew buildup.

  • Make sure my home’s ventilation is adequate to reduce moisture in the air.

Controlling moisture deprives mold of the damp conditions it needs to propagate.

Filter Indoor Air

Using air filters can trap allergens and keep them from circulating through my home. My tips for effective filtration:

  • Change HVAC filters every 1-2 months for best results. I use MERV 13 filters designed for allergens.

  • Run portable air purifiers with HEPA filters in the bedroom while sleeping and heavily used rooms like family rooms.

  • Use ventilation fans in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry rooms to filter cooking fumes, humidity, and chemicals out of indoor air.

  • Keep windows closed during peak pollen seasons and use air conditioning if needed to filter outdoor air entering my home.

Good air filtration prevents allergen buildup inside and relief from allergy misery.

Control Pest Allergens

Pests like cockroaches, mice, and rats can be unseen sources of allergens. I take proactive steps to keep them out of my home:

  • Seal any cracks in walls, floors, or foundations with caulk to block entry points.

  • Install door sweeps on exterior doors and repair any gaps around pipes or wiring where pests can enter.

  • Store food in airtight containers and dispose of garbage regularly to deny pests food sources.

  • Use traps or work with a pest control professional at the first sign of pests.

Denying pests access to food, water and shelter prevents their allergens from becoming a problem inside.

Use Air Purifiers and Ventilation Strategically

Portable air purifiers and smart ventilation use can remove and reduce allergens in the home’s air. I use the following tactics:

  • Place HEPA air purifiers in rooms where I spend the most time like bedrooms and family rooms.

  • Turn on kitchen and bathroom fans when cooking or showering to vent moisture and allergens outside.

  • Ventilate the house for a short time on dry days by opening windows to exchange stale indoor air for fresher outdoor air.

  • Make sure my home is properly insulated so moisture doesn’t build up and encourage mold growth.

  • Have my HVAC system professionally serviced to ensure ventilation is working optimally.

Strategic ventilation clears allergens from the air while air purifiers filter them continuously.

Create Allergen Barriers

I try to add protective barriers between myself and allergens whenever possible:

  • I added plastic covers to my mattress and pillows to block dust mites.

  • Doormats catch pollen and other allergens when entering the house from outdoors.

  • Air filters on the HVAC system and portable units provide an allergen barrier throughout my home.

  • Keeping windows closed and using air conditioning puts a barrier between me and outdoor allergens.

  • Vacuuming with a HEPA filter creates a barrier by removing allergens from carpets before they circulate and are inhaled.

Barriers limit my exposure to allergens from known triggers like pets, dust, pollen, and mold.

Be Diligent About Laundering Fabrics

Bedding, clothing, towels, and other fabrics collect allergens easily. To reduce buildup:

  • I wash sheets, blankets, upholstered furniture covers and pet bedding in hot water at least weekly.

  • Stuffed toys and decorative pillows that can’t be washed go in the freezer for 24 hours monthly to kill dust mites.

  • Dry cleaning kills dust mites in clothing and upholstered furniture that can’t go in the washer. I have items cleaned at least twice a year.

  • Using gentle, fragrance-free detergents eliminates chemical irritants that worsen allergy symptoms.

  • Drying fabrics quickly in the dryer or sunshine prevents mold growth in the humidifier of the washing machine.

Frequent, thorough laundering of fabrics eliminates the allergens they collect over time.

Limit Fabrics in the Bedroom

Since I spend so much time in my bedroom, it’s important to limit allergen-collecting fabrics as much as possible. I follow these best practices:

  • Use wooden blinds rather than fabric curtains which are dust magnets.

  • Choose solid wood or leather furniture instead of upholstered options.

  • Remove the carpet and install hardwood floors which are easier to keep allergen-free.

  • Store stuffed toys and extra pillows in closets or shelving units rather than on the bed.

  • Use light, breathable linens for my comforter and blanket instead of heavier, woven options.

The fewer fabrics in my bedroom, the fewer places for dust mites to accumulate.

Maintain Proper Humidity Levels

Controlling humidity helps deter mold and dust mite growth. I aim to keep indoor humidity between 30-50% by:

  • Using dehumidifiers in damp basements and crawl spaces.

  • Running exhaust fans when bathing or cooking to vent moisture outdoors.

  • Using air conditioners and dehumidifiers during humid summer months.

  • Having humidifiers on hand for extra dry winter months.

  • Fixing any leaks and insulation gaps that allow moisture intrusion.

  • Checking that my attic and crawl spaces have proper ventilation.

Monitoring humidity regularly and maintaining the ideal range prevents moisture issues that exacerbate allergies.

Use HEPA-Filter Vacuums

HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter vacuums are powerful tools for removing allergens from carpets, upholstery, and hard floors. I use them in the following ways:

  • Vacuuming carpets and rugs 2-3 times per week to control dust mites and pet dander buildup.

  • Using attachments to vacuum upholstered furniture, curtains, ceiling fans, and windowsills on a weekly basis.

  • Checking and replacing the HEPA filter as needed every 6-12 months to maintain maximum suction.

  • Using sealed bags and emptying the cannister outside immediately so allergens aren’t released back into the home.

  • Choosing a cordless model makes regular vacuuming quick and convenient.

HEPA vacuums are one of my go-to tools for actively eliminating allergens around my home.

Consider Removing Carpets

Carpeting traps and hides dust, dander, mold spores, and other allergens. To improve my home’s air quality:

  • I removed all carpeting on the main living level and upper level and installed laminate wood flooring instead.

  • In bedrooms where carpet is still present, I use hypoallergenic pads underneath which act as a barrier.

  • I steamt clean carpets every 6 months to sanitize and remove some embedded allergens.

  • When it’s time to replace carpeting, I will go with low pile options made from natural fibers which harbor fewer allergens than synthetic materials.

  • Rugs can be taken outside for regular deep cleaning to remove allergens hiding deep in fibers.

While not always practical, removing carpets can really help reduce allergen exposure.

Bathe Pets Regularly

My pet cats are family, but their dander and fur carries allergens. To reduce their impact:

  • I bathe cats weekly with a veterinarian recommended shampoo to wash away dander and saliva allergens.

  • Brushing cats daily outside traps loose fur so it doesn’t shed onto indoor surfaces.

  • I installed an air purifier with a HEPA filter in the room where the litter boxes are located to filter airborne particles.

  • The cats are prohibited from entering the bedroom so I have a pet-free sleep sanctuary.

  • I wash my hands immediately after petting cats to avoid transferring allergens to my face and eyes.

While not foolproof, minimizing allergens from cats and dogs through cleanliness helps me manage my pet allergies.

Use Mattress and Pillow Covers

Dust mites love warm, moist environments like mattresses and bedding. To create barriers:

  • I encase my mattress in an airtight, hypoallergenic cover that fully seals it to block dust mites.

  • Waterproof pillow protectors trap dust mites, mold spores, and dander inside.

  • Covers are washed at least monthly in hot, soapy water to remove any accumulated allergens.

  • I replace pillow and mattress covers every 2-3 years when they wear out and lose effectiveness.

  • Tightly woven covers with zippers work better than slip-on versions.

Mattress and pillow covers act like allergen hazmat suits, trapping them inside so I don’t breathe them in while sleeping.

Remove Clutter

Clutter provides places for dust and pet dander to accumulate. To eliminate allergen traps:

  • I minimize furniture, decorations, and clothing in bedrooms and living areas to reduce surfaces needing dusting.

  • Open shelving is better than closed cabinets since it doesn’t trap dust and needs cleaning less often.

  • Boxes and storage containers are cleared out yearly and contents are washed or vacuumed.

  • Minimizing knick-knacks and clutter on tables and countertops cuts down on frequent dusting.

  • Closets are cleaned and organized so items can be easily vacuumed or laundered.

Decluttering means fewer places for allergens to hide and less cleaning maintenance for me.

Use Air Conditioning

Air conditioning isn’t just for comfort – it also filters out pollen, mold spores, and other outdoor allergens. To maximize benefits:

  • I run the central air with the windows closed during peak allergy seasons to create an allergen barrier.

  • I make sure to change HVAC filters regularly for optimal filtration.

  • Portable room air conditioners with HEPA filters give me allergy relief in specific rooms as needed.

  • I have my HVAC system serviced annually to ensure it is in top working condition for filtering and cooling.

  • I use the “recirculate” instead of “fresh air” setting when possible to avoid pulling more outdoor allergens inside.

Air conditioning allows me to seal my home from outdoor allergens that exacerbate allergy and asthma symptoms.

Wash Bedding Frequently

Bedding collects body oil, drool, and millions of dead skin cells that feed dust mites. To reduce buildup:

  • I wash sheets, pillowcases, and duvet covers in hot, soapy water once a week.

  • Blankets and comforters get washed every other week to remove accumulated allergens.

  • Mattress pads, mattress covers, and pillow protectors are washed monthly.

  • If bedding ever gets damp or musty, I wash it immediately before mold develops.

  • After washing, I put items in the dryer immediately rather than letting them sit.

  • I use unscented detergent and double rinse to prevent chemical and soap residue that can worsen allergies.

Frequent hot water laundry keeps bedding from becoming an allergen zone.

Clean Floors Regularly

Carpets and hard floors allow tracked-in allergens to accumulate. To counter this:

  • I vacuum carpeting 2-3 times per week to pull up pet dander, dust, pollen and more.

  • Mopping hard floors weekly traps allergens in the cleaning liquid so they can be washed away.

  • For tile floors, I use a steam mop monthly to sanitize grout lines and remove built up gunk.

  • Carpets are professionally cleaned every 6-12 months to extract allergens trapped deep in the padding and fibers.

  • I make sure to clean underneath furniture and beds that can hide allergen buildup.

  • Door mats trap allergens at entryways before they get tracked inside.

Regular deep cleaning of floors ensures they don’t become reservoirs of irritating allergens.

Use Houseplants Strategically

Certain houseplants actually help purify indoor air of some pollutants. I incorporate them strategically by:

  • Placing air filtering plants like ferns, orchids, and bromeliads in rooms I use most like the bedroom and kitchen.

  • Avoiding leafy or flowering plants in the bedroom which can collect pollen and mold.

  • Watering plants properly so soil doesn’t get moldy. I allow pots to fully dry between watering.

  • Dusting leaves periodically to remove any pollen, mold, or dander that may accumulate.

  • Choosing low maintenance varieties I’m likely to keep alive and thriving!

The right plants in the right spots can complement my allergen removal efforts through natural air filtration.

Use Air Purifiers

In addition to whole-house filtration, portable air purifiers provide targeted allergen removal:

  • I run HEPA filter purifiers continuously in my bedroom and family room where we spend most of our time.

  • I choose units sized appropriately for the room dimensions to ensure effective filtration.

  • When wildfire smoke is heavy, I use activated carbon pre-filters to help remove smoke particulates.

  • I change filters every 6-12 months as recommended to maintain airflow and filtration.

  • During vacuuming and dusting, I temporarily turn units on high to rapidly capture released allergens.

Strategically placed air purifiers boost my defenses by constantly circulating and filtering the air.

Control Pet Exposure

While I

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