How to Remove Allergens From Your Home
If you or someone in your household is experiencing a runny or stuffy nose, a scratchy throat, or itchy, watery eyes and you’re not sure why, it could be because of environmental allergens in your home. If you can determine what your allergy triggers are, you will know where to focus your efforts to eliminate them from your home.
Common Indoor Allergens Found in Homes
Some of the most common allergens you might find in your home include pollen, mould, dust mites, insects and pet-related allergens.
Most plants produce some kind of pollen throughout the seasons. Common allergy-causing pollens include oak, cedar, ragweed and grass. These pollens can easily float into your home through windows or be carried in on your clothes or a pet’s fur.
Mould thrives in warm, damp environments. It is most commonly found in homes around windows and in bathrooms, laundry rooms and basements. Mould can cause allergic reactions as well as respiratory illnesses, even in people who aren’t allergic.
Dust is an unfortunate fact of life. Much of it is made up of shed skin cells, and dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed on it. They can be found just about anywhere there’s dust, but they’re especially drawn to the warm environment provided by bedding.
Insects like ants and cockroaches can be attracted to food, and their waste can cause allergic reactions in some people. Seal up any small cracks you find, which can provide safe homes for them.
Pets are great companions, but if you happen to be allergic to their saliva, dander or urine, that companionship comes with a cost.
How to Remove Allergens From Your Entire Home
There are a few things you can do to reduce the allergens in your home and get relief from some of the worst symptoms.
Keep Your Home Cool and Dry
Because mould and dust mites thrive in warm, damp environments, keeping your home cool and dry goes a long way toward reducing these allergens. Fix any water leaks as soon as you become aware of them, and consider a dehumidifier if you live somewhere especially humid or if there are areas in your home that always seem damp.
Keep food in sealed containers, wipe up spills right away, and empty your trash daily. If you see signs of pests such as mice or insects, purchase some chemical-free traps. Never use poison if you have pets or children. You can also hire a pest removal service or exterminator for especially stubborn infestations.
Close the Windows and Use Air Conditioning
If pollen is your main allergy trigger, shut your windows during pollen season and rely on your HVAC system to control the temperature inside — especially first thing in the morning and in the early evening when pollen levels are highest.
Use an Air Purifier
An air purifier can help scrub the air of allergens and other small particles that might irritate your lungs or aggravate your allergy symptoms. For the best protection, choose a purifier the right size for the space you’re treating and that has a certified HEPA filter, which can trap 99.95% or more of airborne particles.
Replace Air Filters
Don’t forget to clean and replace the air filters in your HVAC system, air purifier and any other air treatment system you use.
Replace Carpet With Hard Floors
While carpets provide cushioning, they’re also great at attracting dust and other allergens, and if they get damp, they can harbour mould. Wood, tile or viny floors are much easier to keep clean and dry and are usually a better choice for allergy-sufferers. If you really love rugs, choose low-pile or washable kinds, and consider investing in wool, which resists mould better than synthetic materials.
Take Off Your Shoes and Change Your Clothes
Allergens can cling to your clothes and shoes, using them to hitch a ride into your home. Create a space for people to leave their shoes by the door, and clean that area frequently during allergy season. Likewise, jackets, scarves and hats should stay near your entryway to avoid dragging too much pollen around your home. Consider keeping a hamper by the door for after you’ve been doing yardwork or your kids have been playing in the grass. It’s not a bad idea to wash your face (including around your eyes — your eyelashes can trap a lot of pollen) when you come in from outside.
Be Careful With Houseplants
Houseplants don’t usually have pollen that triggers allergies, but they can collect dust — and moist soil can be a breeding ground for mould. Avoid overwatering and consider adding a layer of gravel on top of the soil to discourage mould growth.
Wash Pet-Related Items
Pet beds and toys your pet likes to chew on can collect dander and saliva, so wash these items frequently. If your pets go outside, you may also want to bathe them, as pollen can stick to long hair or fur and get into your home that way.
Clean Your Home
No matter how careful you are, some allergens are going to get inside, so keeping your home clean is key. Reduce clutter as much as possible and dust regularly with a damp cloth. Vacuum floors and furniture weekly with a cyclonic vacuum or one with a HEPA filter. If you have wall-to-wall carpeting, have it deep cleaned regularly. Use natural cleaners (such as vinegar) where possible, because bleach and other harsh cleaners, as well as those with added fragrance, can aggravate respiratory symptoms. Consider wearing a mask while cleaning to avoid breathing in any dust that gets stirred up in the process.
Tips for Removing Allergens in Specific Rooms
The tips above will help keep allergens out of your whole house. Use the following strategies to target specific rooms.
- Keep pets out. Make your bedroom a pet-free zone so you can sleep properly. Keep your door shut at all times to ensure pets can’t nap on your bed while you’re not home.
- Wash your bedding weekly. Frequent washing will prevent too much accumulation of allergens, and using the hottest water possible will help kill dust mites.
- Use hypoallergenic pillows. Down-filled pillows have their benefits, but if you have allergies, stick to synthetic fills. And give yourself an extra layer of protection with dust mite-proof pillowcases.
- Avoid soft surfaces. Fabrics, including curtains, rugs and throw pillows add coziness, but they also attract allergens. Keeping them to a minimum in your bedroom can help reduce allergy symptoms.
- Allergy-proof kids’ rooms. Kids often have extra items not found in adult bedrooms, like stuffed animals and toys. Wash stuffed animals frequently in the hottest water they’ll tolerate. For small children, wash and dry thoroughly any toys they tend to chew or suck on.
- Minimize soft surfaces. As in bedrooms, too many soft surfaces can increase the presence of allergens. Throw pillows and blankets may be cozy, but don’t add too many!
- Choose easy-to-clean options. Wood or tile floors are easier to clean than carpets. For upholstered furniture, choose leather or an alternative, or use washable slipcovers.
- Wash your curtains. If you love the look of curtains, choose ones you can wash easily — and wash them regularly.
- Skip the wood-burning stove. Fires create smoke and ash and can spread a lot of dust around the room. Stick with cleaner heating sources, or a gas-burning fireplace if you want the ambiance.
- Use exhaust fans. Run a well-vented fan anytime you’re taking a shower or bath, and for a while after you finish.
- Keep showers and bathtubs as dry as possible. Avoid excessively long showers, and dry all surfaces when you’re done.
- Take extra care with soft surfaces. Because bathrooms are so damp, it’s especially important to minimize soft surfaces in these rooms. Replace carpet with tile, and wash towels, bathmats and the like frequently. Replace them if they show any signs of mould.
- Use a nylon shower curtain. Glass shower doors are the easiest to keep clean, but if you need to use a curtain, choose a nylon one instead of vinyl. It will resist mould better and be more easily washable.
- Clean your fridge. Discard old food — preferably before it gets mouldy — clean the drip pan and check regularly for mould around seals.
- Use exhaust fans. Turn your hood fan on high every time you cook, and consider using the back burners if your hood doesn’t extend over the front burners. If possible, choose a fan that vents outside rather than recirculating the air. If you don’t have a fan, open windows whenever possible while cooking.
- Keep your counters clean. Wipe up spills right away and follow up with a towel dry.
- Put a lid on your garbage. Empty any indoor trash containers outside daily, and use containers with lids to keep insects, mice and other pests out.
- Clean the basement regularly. Basements often see less traffic than other parts of the home, so it’s easy to forget to clean them as often. But it’s important to do so because dust, insects and other allergens can lurk in ignored corners.
- Control the climate. Basements can often be poorly ventilated and prone to dampness. Adding better ventilation and using dehumidifiers can significantly improve the space.
- Store soft goods in plastic bins. Dampness can also affect any soft goods you store in the basement, making them more susceptible to mould — especially if there’s any risk of flooding. Storing items in sealed, waterproof bins will keep them dry.
- Deal with any leaks immediately. Leaks introduce moisture, which can quickly lead to mould, so seal any leaks as soon as you notice them.
Take Control of Your Home’s Air Quality for Indoor Allergy Relief
Allergy season can be tough, but with the right strategies, you can make your home a safe haven where you can breathe easy. To learn more about how Enercare can help, contact our indoor air quality experts, who are ready to answer all your questions about reducing allergens in your home.