How to get an extra-clean house for allergy sufferers
If you live with someone allergic to dust mites, mould, pollen, pet hair or any one of the hundreds of allergens in household products, clean is not enough. A house needs to be extra-clean and allergen-proof to help make allergy sufferers as comfortable as possible. The alternative is sneezing, wheezing, coughing and watery eyes, all brought on by the presence of irritants that you can keep at bay with some extra attention.
Here’s how to get on top of some common irritants at your place:
1. Use allergy-friendly products
- Avoid using aerosol sprays as they are a common trigger for asthma sufferers. Even if you’re not standing near anyone, the high-pressure mist that the aerosol omits means the contents can spread a long way.
- Track down products that are labelled ‘sensitive’ or ‘hypoallergenic’. These products are less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
- Try to use environmentally-friendly products – what’s good for the environment is often better for us too.
- Avoid using products that contain harsh chemicals like ammonia, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulphate. Hunt out products that are free from these irritants or make your own natural cleaning products.
2. Keep a dust-free bedroom
It’s the dust mite droppings that many people react to (and news that there is dust mite poo in our bedding causes a reaction in the rest of us!).To keep bedding really clean, you will need to wash all bed linen regularly, preferably weekly. A man-made fibre like polyester is less likely to trap dust than natural fibres like cotton or linen.
Air out mattresses, doonas, pillows and blankets daily, hang them over the clothesline and beat them with a tennis racket to allow as much dust as possible to escape. Wash doonas and pillows at least monthly.
Use a hypoallergenic mattress topper, doona inner-cover and pillow protector and wash these at least monthly and replace them annually.
Keep stuffed animals to a minimum and wash those that remain regularly. Click here for instructions for washing fluffy toys.
Pull the bed out and vacuum underneath at least once a week, preferably daily. Don’t forget to dust side tables and vacuum underneath those as well.
3. Vacuum daily
Wooden or tiled floors are much easier to keep dust-free, but if you have carpet, a daily vacuum, especially in bedrooms, is a must. Use a vacuum cleaner made especially for allergy-sufferers – most will be fitted with HEPA filtration and powerhead.
Make sure you vacuum around the skirting boards and in crevices and vacuum around all beds at least twice. Empty canisters or vacuum bags regularly, sealing the bag well before disposal.
4. Empty bins daily
The rubbish bin can omit toxins without you even realising, and they are a breeding ground for mould and germs. Empty bins every evening and disinfect with a hospital grade solution before lining with a plastic bag.
5. Beat doormats every day
Pollen and dust is tracked into our home constantly. Make sure you have a doormat on the outside and inside at every entry point to your home and shake these out regularly. Vacuum each indoor mat when you do your daily vacuum run. It’s a good idea to place a mat in the doorway of an allergy-sufferers bedroom for extra protection. Better yet, leave shoes outside.
6. Inspect for mould weekly
Mould is a common allergy trigger and it’s present absolutely everywhere. Don’t give it a chance to breed – wipe away small mould patches as soon as you find them with a paper towel and throw the paper towel in an outside bin. You can use a solution of three cups of water to five drops of Oil of Cloves (find it at your pharmacy) in a spray bottle to kill mould spores and prevent mould from growing. Make sure you test for an allergy to Oil of Cloves first, of course! Tea tree oil is also a good antiseptic against mould – a teaspoon of oil to a cup of water wiped over mould-prone surfaces should do the trick.
Other mould preventatives:
- Air your home regularly.
- Pour away any standing water and eliminate drips and damp.
- Squeegee away condensation that collects on windows and in bathrooms.
- Use mould-resistant paints where possible.
- Use an humidifier if damp is a problem.
- Clean the ceilings with a stiff broom at least seasonally.
- Clean your toothbrush holder every other day.
- Clean drains at least monthly. Try pouring a cup of bicarb soda followed by a cup of vinegar down the drain.
7. Clean filters in your air-conditioning unit
Make cleaning the filter in your heating or cooling system a weekly task. A quick brush outside with a dust brush should do the trick. Inspect the filters for damage and replace when necessary.
8. Look for hidden dust
It’s not just the bedrooms that we need to keep dust-free, there are lots of hidden dust traps around the home. Check for dust:
- On electrical appliances – electronics like the TV and computer create a static field that attracts lots and lots of dust.
- On blinds and curtains – regularly wash blinds and curtains to keep them dust-free. You can dust timber slat blinds by putting a pair of pantyhose over your hands and running them along the slats.
- Wash ornaments regularly and brush with a soft toothbrush.
- Vacuum books using a low vacuum setting and the upholstery attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
- Pack away clothing and bedding that is not in regular use – use dust covers for blankets and pillows.
- Beat fabric couches and armchairs and vacuum them often – better yet, replace them with leather if you can.
- Dust the tops of picture frames and skirting boards weekly.
- Tackle down the side and behind your fridge at least monthly.
- Lift rugs and vacuum under them weekly.
- Dust your house plants monthly.
- Pull out couches and heavy furniture and vacuum and clean behind them at least monthly.
9. Clean your cleaning tools
We get so busy cleaning the house we often forget to clean the cleaners. Germs and dust can build up in our appliances, rendering them less effective and often making them an allergy-trigger, too. Regularly clean your vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dishwasher and other appliances.
10. Keep the bathroom pristine
Bathrooms are damp, closed spaces that can become a breeding ground for all sorts of mould and germs that spell trouble for allergy sufferers. Clean the bathroom every other day, using hypoallergenic products and lots of elbow grease.
- Wipe down all surfaces so they don’t collect dust.
- Shake out bathmats daily and replace them weekly.
- Replace towels every other day and dry them out thoroughly between uses (a heated towel rack is a godsend).
- Scrub away any traces of soap scum or mould.
- Use a squeegee after every shower to eliminate excess water.
- Make sure you clean the extraction fan regularly so it works properly.
- Ensure your bathroom is well-ventilated to prevent mould.
- Put some loo cleaner or straight vinegar into the toilet last thing every night and flush away in the morning.
Here are some tips for cleaning the bathroom while your kids are in the bath.
11. Air your home every day
Open your home and let fresh air flow at least once a day. Even on a rainy day, the air quality outside the home is generally better than inside (unless you live on a main road or under a flight path, in which case keep the windows closed!). Check your home for cross-ventilation and call in the experts to move windows and doors if you have to. Fresh air is absolutely essential for a healthy, happy home.
This article was written by Maxabella for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz
Last revised: Thursday, 23 October 2014
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.