Spring Cleaning Tips to Reduce Allergies at Home
Spring has sprung, and with it, so has the season of spring cleaning and seasonal allergies. Rather than suffering through both, why not find ways to address both at once? For the more than 50 million Americans dealing with allergies each year, dust mites, pet dander, mold, household pests, and pollen are some of the most common allergens that trigger a reaction. If you want to freshen up your home and reduce some of these common allergy triggers that may be hiding in it, be sure to add the following house cleaning tips to this year’s spring cleaning checklist.
Freshen up your air filters regularly.
When was the last time you changed your furnace and air conditioner filters? Air filters are your first line of defense when it comes to reducing allergens and other particulate matter from the air you breathe at home. If you haven’t done so recently, replace the filters in your HVAC system as part of your spring cleaning. Clogged or dirty filters send dust, insect waste, pollen, pet dander, and other debris coursing through your home, which is enough to aggravate any indoor or seasonal allergies.
To keep your system working at peak efficiency and to maintain healthy indoor air quality, you should be changing your filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In most cases, this means every 1-3 months. If you or someone in your home suffers from indoor or seasonal allergies, you should replace your system’s filters more frequently.
You can maximize your home’s indoor air quality by looking for filters with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating between 8 and 13. MERV ratings determine the effectiveness of air filters based on the size of particles they can trap. The higher the rating, the smaller the particle, and the more effective the air filter.
In addition to equipping your HVAC system with an adequately rated MERV filter, you can also consider investing in a portable air cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter to reduce large and small allergens in specific rooms of your home. For further day-to-day allergy maintenance, check your air vent covers for accumulated dust, and wipe them down with a damp cloth as needed (a butter knife can help clean between the slats.)
Banish Bathroom Mold.
Mold spores are a common allergen that thrive in damp environments and can cause year-round allergy symptoms. With regular exposure to excess water and humidity levels, bathrooms are a hot spot for mold growth. When you spring clean your home, it’s a good idea to take a few extra steps to treat and prevent mold from popping up in these more vulnerable areas.
Use a hot water and detergent solution to scrub any damp corners and grout lines, especially in the shower or tub. Use the same solution to clean around the sink and toilet as well. If there are any cracks or holes in your tiles or grout lines, seal or re-caulk these areas to prevent mold from growing behind your bathroom walls and floors. While you’re cleaning, inspect all toilets and sinks to check for signs of active or past leaks. This also helps prevent pests like cockroaches, which need water to survive. If you do discover a leak or mold in your bathroom, call a professional to prevent a potential larger water damage or mold problem.
You can also curb the likelihood of bathroom mold issues in your day-to-day habits. Remember to run your exhaust fan or open a window when showering. Keep the fan running or the window open for 30 minutes afterwards to ensure humidity levels return to normal. Wipe around the shower and sink regularly to dry up any standing water.
Prevent pesky pests.
Waste products from cockroaches and mice are a primary asthma and allergy trigger. Although you may not always see these pests, about 63 percent of homes contain allergens related to cockroaches. The best way to curb infestations is to get rid of possible sources of food, water, and shelter, which you can take care of during your spring cleaning efforts to reduce allergens at home.
Kitchens are the center for all food supplies, so a top-to-bottom cleaning is a good starting point for preventing allergy-inducing pests. When you do a deep dive into your kitchen cleaning, be sure to empty out and clean inside all your drawers to remove crumbs and other buildup.
Piles of clutter around the house also offer hiding spots for roaches and mice to breed and rest. Another item to add to your spring cleaning checklist is to eliminate excess clutter by organizing and putting away what you can and throwing away anything else that doesn’t have a home (especially things like old newspapers and cardboard).
Deter pests with your day-to-day habits by always storing food in tightly sealed containers, clearing away crumbs, and promptly disposing of all garbage. If you do suspect a pest infestation, or if you want to take additional measures to prevent one, hire a professional pest control company for seasonal inspections and treatments.
Double down on carpet cleaning.
Carpets are magnets and sponges for common indoor and seasonal allergy triggers like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, pest waste and even mold spores. Because of this, carpet cleaning for allergies is a must-have on your spring cleaning checklist. The first step is to vacuum with the right kind of filter, and ensuring the filter is clean. Otherwise, vacuuming could actually worsen allergies by simply kicking up debris into the air. To effectively reduce allergens, make sure you’re using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which traps small particles and prevents them from becoming airborne again. If your vacuum filter is more than six months old, replace it before vacuuming.
Additionally, for maximum efficiency and allergy prevention, make sure your HEPA vacuum filter is a true or absolute HEPA filter, as opposed to a HEPA-type filter. True or absolute HEPA filters are certified to trap 99.97% of particles as small as .3 micrometers in size. (For more information on particle sizes and a reference image, see this article from the EPA.) Keep allergies at bay during day-to-day life by vacuuming once or twice a week with a true or absolute HEPA filter.
The second part of carpet cleaning for allergies is to schedule a carpet cleaning with a professional that uses hot water steam extraction. In order to kill dust mites with any kind of washing, the water must be 130 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter, and a professional steam cleaning unit exceeds this 130 degree minimum. The hot water extraction method utilizes the high temperatures of water and steam to kill and flush out dust mites and other microscopic organisms and allergens that may be embedded in your carpets.
Clean often-overlooked areas.
One last way to reduce allergens at home during your spring cleaning is to use these seasonal, thorough cleanings as a “catch-all” for addressing the places - big and small - you don’t normally think about cleaning. When these places are overlooked in regular cleanings, it allows for allergy triggers to settle in.
Large furniture and appliances offer great hiding places for allergens like dust mites, mold, and pests. During your “big cleans,” move these larger pieces around so you can get rid of the dust, dirt, food particles, and pet hair that may have settled underneath and behind them. With the furniture and appliances away from their typical places, inspect the areas of walls, flooring, and baseboards that are usually out of sight to ensure there is no water damage or mold growth. It’s also good idea to check for any cracks or holes and make necessary repairs, as these offer entry points for cockroaches, mice, and other pests.
Take the time to clean the crevices of your kitchen as well. This includes: under the stove, the corners of refrigerator shelves, the back of your drawers and cabinets, and inside and around garbage enclosures. Crumbs and other food residue tends to build up in these places, which invites pests and possibly mold growth. Empty and clean out refrigerator drip pans to remove excess water and prevent mold growth, and inspect the door seal for mildew or mold as well.
Although it’s impossible to remove 100% of allergens from your home or anywhere else, you can bring some relief from indoor and seasonal allergies by following these cleaning tips, not just when you spring clean your home, but anytime you’re completing a thorough cleaning. When you implement these steps to freshen up and reduce allergens at home on a seasonal basis, you can help keep common allergy triggers at bay all year long.