By Amy Schlinger
With spring comes green grass, flowers blooming, and pollen spreading. Seasonal allergies tend to peak in springtime, but it’s not just the outside you should be worried about. The spring season presents the perfect opportunity to do spring cleaning where you can clear the dust-and mold-prone areas you may be missing.
According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), 91% of Americans engage in spring cleaning. To make sure you’re truly cleaning your house from top to bottom, we spoke with allergists to get some of the best tips to help you keep your home free of dust, dander, mold, and other itchy eye- and sneeze-educing particles. For allergy sufferers, cleaning these items and areas can be key to having a tame allergy season.
The air inside your home may be more polluted than the air outside, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI). Your HVAC system can work as a filtration system for the entire home, collecting particles like pollen and mold. “Be sure to replace the filters in your AC and HVAC systems,” says Dr. Clifford Bassett, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI, founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York in New York City, and author of The New Allergy Solution. Most disposable filters last about three months before they need to be changed.
“Dust collects over the winter, so you don’t want a plume of dust and debris to go into the air when you turn on the air conditioning for the first time come spring,” says Dr. Tania Elliott, MD, FAAAI, FACAAI, clinical instructor at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City.
Even if it’s a beautiful, cool evening or a brisk spring morning and you’re thinking it would be nice to open the windows and get some fresh air, think again. “Keep the windows closed to reduce pesky pollens from entering your home,” says Dr. Bassett. The air might bring in some serious allergy irritants, so it’s best to let them stay shut.
While you might be keeping the temperatures inside your home low as they’re rising outside, don’t let the humidity levels go unchecked. Dr. Bassett suggests purchasing a low cost hydrometer to measure the moisture inside your house.
“You want to keep the relative humidity at less than 50%,” explains Dr. Elliott. “Higher humidity breeds mold and dust mites, and anything lower can make for dry, stuffy noses.” She suggests using a humidifier to help regulate the humidity levels.
We’re talking about rooms like the bathroom, kitchen, and basement. These areas all contain moist, humid surfaces, which are the breeding grounds for mold, explains Dr. Elliott.
“If you smell mildew, you’ve got mold,” says Dr. Bassett. When cleaning these rooms, it’s extremely important to be sure that they’re left dry, so when you’re mopping the bathroom floor or cleaning the basement carpet, Dr. Bassett recommends running a fan or opening a window, and to avoid using any aerosol cleansing agents.
“Be sure that there aren’t leaks, seal any that you find, and use a dehumidifier to keep the moisture at bay,” suggests Dr. Elliott.
Another sneaky mold trap in the kitchen? Dishes! “Keep dishes washed and dried to avoid mildew build up, which can happen if they’re sitting around for a long period of time,” says Dr. Bassett.
You bring more allergens into your house than you realize, and those particles follow you into your bed, which is the last place you want allergies to act up when you’re trying to get a restful night’s sleep. Both Dr. Elliott and Dr. Bassett recommend washing your sheets and bedding weekly, in hot water and dry them on the highest heat setting. “This will kill off dust mites,” says Dr. Elliott. “You can also get dust mite-proof bedding for your mattress, pillows, and box spring if you are really sensitive to allergens.”
Since a vacuum cleaner is generally a bigger purchase, be sure you’re buying one that will satisfy all your needs. A HEPA filter will help reduce dust, pet dander, and other allergens, according to the ACAAI. “HEPA filters help filter dust mites, which are the most common indoor allergen,” says Dr. Elliott.
Do inventory on your pillows, blankets, throws, area rugs, drapes, curtains, and upholstered furniture. “If it’s old and you can get rid of it, you should,” says Dr. Elliott. “Opt for leather, latex, or vegan products, which are easier to clean and don’t harbor dust mites the way that cotton and polyester do.” If your items aren’t old, or you’d just prefer to keep them, Dr. Bassett suggests finding a certified allergy and asthma cleaning company to properly clean things like rugs and carpets.
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