Dust, dander, pollen, mold – our homes may contain a number of allergens that can make our families sick. It's important to know what causes allergies around your home so you can create a healthier living space. To keep your home clean and free of allergens, start with these tips.
When shopping for sheets and pillowcases, look for linens that are labeled hypoallergenic. Opt for bedding made with fibers rather than down, which can induce allergies. For an added layer of protection from indoor allergens, use plastic covering on your mattress and box spring.
Regularly wash bedding and other linens in hot water to remove dust mites, then immediately dry them to prevent mold growth. While it may be more eco-friendly to dry items on a clothesline outdoors, stick to the dryer. Pollen and other allergens can latch onto linens hanging outside.
Air Circulation Systems
Keep clean, healthy air flowing throughout your home by investing in a high-quality air circulation system with a HEPA filter. Just be sure to change the filter at least every three months to ensure that the air remains clean.
In addition, avoid fans, which only circulate dust particles throughout your home. The exception is an exhaust fan in the bathroom to purify air and remove moisture that can cause mold.
Temperature and Humidity
Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments, so prevent their growth by keeping your home cool and dry. Turn the thermostat down, and use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air and help limit mold growth. You can also monitor temperature and humidity levels with a hygrometer.
Consistent housekeeping is one of the simplest ways to keep allergies at bay. Thoroughly vacuum your home on a regular basis, paying close attention to areas with high foot traffic. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, and empty the bag before it gets full.
Wipe down the surfaces of counters, tables, and shelves with a clean damp cloth to remove the buildup of dust and debris. Use an allergen-busting, upholstery-safe spray on sofas, drapes, and other soft surfaces.
If you have indoor pets, limit the spread of dander by keeping them off the bed, sofas, and other upholstered surfaces. Keep your pets neatly groomed, and bathe them regularly.
When you wear your shoes indoors, you carry in all the dirt, debris, and allergens that you pick up as you walk. Have family members and visitors wipe their shoes on a mat outside the door, and leave them by the entrance.
Cracks and Small Spaces
Even the tiniest cracks can open your home to allergens, as well as the insects and vermin that carry them. Seal small openings to ensure that no unwanted visitors can get through. Install screens for windows and doors to keep allergens from getting inside. On high-pollen-count days, keep doors and windows closed.
If there's one place in the home where you're bound to find mold, it's the bathroom. Give the tub, shower, and other bathroom fixtures a good scrub and bleaching. Check the faucets for any leaks that could produce mold. If you plan to remodel the bathroom, consider using natural biopaints that allow the walls to breathe.
It takes diligent housekeeping to prevent the spread of indoor allergens, but the health benefits resulting from a cleaner home make all that effort worth it. By knowing what causes allergies, you'll be ready to tackle any issues – and keep your family healthier as a result.
Julia is a freelance journalist specializing in health, tech, lifestyle, and culture reporting. Her work has appeared in People.com, USA Today College, Parents.com, and Healthline, among other publications.