Despite the fact that millions of people suffer from allergies, surprisingly little is known about allergens. Nevertheless, we do know that dirt and dust in the home can trigger certain symptoms. We also know that many of the cleaning agents on the market today are known triggers.
Cleaning your home regularly is a good way to minimise allergies in your home. But your efforts could be for nothing if you don’t clean in the right way.
For example, cleaning carpets with the power of steam is a great way to get rid of dust and other allergens. But cleaning with chemicals and shampoos can exacerbate symptoms.
There’s a balance to be struck when cleaning to remove allergens in the home. Here are a few cleaning methods that should help you to find that balance.
1. Dampen cloths when cleaning
A dusting cloth of feather duster is going to make life worse for the allergy sufferers in your home. Why? Because it will undoubtedly send dust and other allergens flying into the air. The trick is to trap as much of the dust as you can each time you wipe. And the best way to do that is to use a slightly dampened cloth.
Tip: Just a microfibre cloth and a little distilled water are usually sufficient for dusting. Using dusting sprays can make allergy symptoms worse.
2. Steam clean carpets
The great thing about steam is that it cleans and kills bacteria at the same time. And it does all of this without the use of allergy-aggravating chemicals. A powerful steam cleaner may do the job, as long as it’s fitted with an appropriate carpet accessory. Just fire superheated steam deep into the pile.
The latest steam cleaners use the optimum amount of water (which is very little). This means that your carpet won’t be drenched afterwards. Just make sure you ventilate the room and refrain from walking on the carpet until it’s completely dry.
3. Avoid the problematic chores
Some jobs are more unpleasant for allergy sufferers than others. For example, if dusting brings on cold-like symptoms, delegate the job to someone else — either someone in your household or a friend.
If there’s no one available to dust, you could always use an appropriate accessory on a HEPA-standard vacuum cleaner. A brush attachment, for example, is great for trapping dust without sending it flying into the air.
4. Minimalise your home
The less “stuff” there is in your home, the fewer surfaces there are for dust to settle. And less dust usually means less frequent allergic reactions. Remove every item of clutter and furniture in your home that’s not absolutely necessary. Use dust sheets to cover upholstered furniture when you’re not in. And switch to leather and hard flooring wherever possible.
5. Boil bedding
One of the biggest problem areas for allergy sufferers is the bedroom. The average mattress can harbour a huge range of allergens. But so can the bedding that covers it. Skin, mites, mite carcasses, sweat and dust combine to create real problems for people with allergies and respiratory problems. Make sure you kill all of the allergy-causing mites on your bedding by washing sheets, pillow cases, blankets and duvets on your machine’s hottest setting.
6. Remove mould naturally
Mould and mildew can cause real problems for allergy sufferers. Accumulations can release spores into the air, which are potentially dangerous when they’re inhaled.
Wherever you see mould, remove it immediately. However, do so while wearing a protective mask. And unless the problem is serious, avoid the use of caustic mould-removal agents — which themselves can cause problems for allergy sufferers.
There are a few natural ways to remove mould from household surfaces. A little white vinegar, some baking soda and a microfibre cloth may be sufficient. Tea tree oil mixed with water can also remove superficial accumulations of mould. If you need a little extra help for a particularly stubborn build-up, add a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to a spray bottle of vinegar.
7. Clean curtains and blinds carefully
Curtains, drapes and blinds attract dust with ease. Unfortunately, even the slightest movement can release dust on the surface of these window treatments into the air. This is why you should take a great amount of time and care when cleaning them. And where possible, remove them from the window altogether.
Always use a long vacuum cleaner attachment to clean blinds, curtains and drapes. If possible, have someone remove them for you, and put them in the washing machine. Use a dedicated dusting tool for Venetian blinds. They consist of microfibre “prongs” which trap dust instead of sending it flying into the air.
8. Use natural cleaning agents
There are many active ingredients in commercial cleaning products that can exacerbate allergy symptoms. To save yourself the bother of researching them all, make the switch to natural cleaning agents.
One of the simplest natural cleaning agents is steam. If you have a handheld steam cleaner, there’s nothing you can’t clean in your home. A steady jet of superheated steam not only kills bacteria, it makes light work of dirt and grease, too.
White vinegar also acts as a sanitiser and degreaser. Just create a cleaning solution with an equal amount of water, and use it to clean kitchen work surfaces, bathroom tiles, and everything in between.
For the bigger jobs in the home, white vinegar alone may not be enough. But combined with baking soda and/or hydrogen peroxide, it can be used to clean dirty ovens, toilets and grimy showers.
9. Pay extra attention to entryways
A lot of allergens come into a home via people. Pollen, dust, dirt and a range of other potential allergens are carried inside on clothes, feet, hair and skin. While there’s very little you can do about this, you can minimise the effects.
Catch allergens at the front or back door — before they get the time to move around. This means paying extra attention to entrance mats and floors in these areas. Store shoes and coats away, and ask people to take them off before they get any further inside your property.
10. Control your environment
No amount of cleaning will remove all the allergens from your home. The fight is never-ending, but you can make life a little easier for yourself. By controlling your environment, you can reduce the number of allergens significantly.
Perhaps the simplest step you can take is to maintain favourable atmospheric conditions. Aim for a temperature of 22C and a humidity level of no more than 50 percent. This should help you to minimise the mould spores and mites in your home.
If you have pets, think about limiting their access to parts of your home when you’re not around. It might also be beneficial to replace upholstered furniture and carpet with leather and hard flooring.
If your allergies are serious, longer-term solutions might be required. A sophisticated climate-control system might be expensive, but it could save you an enormous amount of suffering over the years. The latest systems come with small-particle filters, which are great for trapping and holding allergens — stopping them from being released into the air.
While avoiding allergens in the home is impossible, regular cleaning done the right way can greatly improve the situation.