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Monday, April 15, 2013

14 Ways To Make Your Home An Allergy-Free Zone

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Pollen...Pollen... (Photo credit: igor_nz)

Spring is finally here! This is great for those who hate the winter cold. Unfortunately, it also means that allergies are in full swing!

In my previous post about Spring allergies, I mentioned that an estimated 54% of the American population has a reaction to at least one allergen (a substance, often a protein, that causes an allergy, such as pollen or dust). Indoor allergens like dust mites, mold, pet dander and mildew can be problematic year-round, but pollen is probably the major cause of spring (outdoor) allergies.

Here are 14 ways that you can minimize allergens in your home, with little to no money at all:

  1. Dust everything! I'm talking windows, book shelves, furniture, air conditioning vents- all the things that collected dust and/or mold during the winter months. 
  2. Use a microfiber cloth which are eco-friendly, in that they reduce the use of cleaning products and paper towels or other disposable products, while efficiently removing dust, allergens and bacteria.
  3. Change your sheets and pillowcases often. This will help prevent build up of dust, pollen, etc.
  4. Wash your bedding, pajamas, and clothing as often as possible in hot (at least 130° F) to get rid of allergens. Pollen tends to stick to fabrics, which means you can leave allergens from your clothes on your furniture, sheets, pillow, etc.
  5. Protect your mattress by using an airtight, dust-proof, plastic cover.
  6. Take or wipe off your shoes: Estimates show that we track as much as 85% of the dirt in our homes in from the outside on our shoes or paws of pets. The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) specifically recommends that shoes remain outside the house. However, if going shoeless is not something that the whole family is willing to do, try getting them to wear house shoes, flip-flops or socks that are solely worn inside the house.
  7. Get clean! Take a shower after you've spent time outdoors to cut down on the amount of allergens that you bring into your home. 
  8. Use saline eye drops or cool water to rinse your eyes after you've spent time outside. This will soothe irritated eyes and remove any clinging pollen.
  9. Stay inside, or at least minimize the amount of time spent outdoors, when pollen counts are high. Peak pollen times are usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can receive up-to-date pollen information for the U.S. by visiting the National Allergy Bureau's site.
  10. Keep the windows in your home shut, especially on days when the pollen counts are high. Also, avoid fans that may draw pollen indoors.
  11. Replace/Clean Air Filters: Most of us change our air filters, but not often enough. If you want to reduce dust levels and extend the life span of your air conditioner and maintain its efficiency, the most important thing you can do is change the filter of your air conditioner or furnace once every 3 to 6 months. HEPA filters are considered the most efficient filters available, but need to be checked monthly since they can become choked up very quickly and can hamper the airflow if they become too clogged. Electrostatic filters probably offer the best combination of value and efficiency. They can cost twice as much as a good quality disposable filter, but you can just wash them with water when they become dirty, and reuse them (very eco-friendly)!
  12. Vacuum 2-3 times a week to remove allergens from the floor and furniture.
  13. Keep your pets off the furniture, especially the bed. Pollen can cling to your cat or dog after it's been outside.
  14. Decrease humidity levels by running the AC or using a dehumidifier. Humidity levels tend to rise with temperatures, so make sure that you maintain levels between 35%-50%. This will help prevent the growth of bacteria and mold.

For more helpful tips on coping with Spring allergies, please check out 10 Tips For Dealing With Spring Allergies.


Elena White is the founder and editor of  Life The Green Way, corporate sustainability coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother.  Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.