Dear Ms. Green Clean,
It seems like the winter months are lingering on forever. I thought my allergies would be better now that I was locked inside, away from the pollen and mold spores, but they seem to be worse every day. Do you have any advice on getting rid of indoor allergens?
–Stuffy in Manhattan
There are countless potential allergens in your home, and studies have shown that indoor air quality can be significantly worse than the great outdoors, depend-ing on the area you live in and the condition of your home or office. I will address the four most common allergens in the home, what the concerns to each are, and how to improve your indoor air quality as it pertains to these particular allergens.
These “adorable” cousins of the spider are most often found in the bedroom, and thrive on dead skin cells. It is the mites’ waste that is the main culprit, and a single dust mite may produce as much as 200 times its body weight in waste. Most important to remember is that the dust mite is made of 80 percent water. Without moisture, the mite cannot survive. Control the moisture, and you can control the mite and at least some of your allergy issues.
Tips on Reducing Dust Mites
- Reduce the humidity in your home below 64 percent relative humidity.
- Don’t make your bed in the morning, instead expose all blankets and sheets to allow for your bodies’ moisture to evaporate and thus prevent the dark, wet environment that mites love.
- At least once weekly, give all of your bedding a hot wash.
- Remove excessive pillows and stuffed animals from your bed.
- Place an additional pillowcase over your pillow and remove one mid week.
- Cover mattresses and pillows with microporous material to prevent infestation.
- Open a window after a shower or bath or while cooking (if possible) to let steam out.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with high filtration features and vacuum your mattress weekly for twenty minutes at a time. I suggest the Dyson (www.dyson.com). It has a lifetime Hepa filter.
- Use only natural cleaning products; they disclose all ingredients.
- Hang rugs or blankets outside as much as possible.
- Reduce clutter.
Mold spores are nearly everywhere, and create a number of potential health concerns from allergies to asthma, to chronic illnesses. Mold thrives on dark, moist, bacteria-laden surfaces, most often found in bathrooms and kitchens. Controlling mold is largely a matter of controlling moisture.
Tips on Mold Control
- Keep plumbing in good repair.
- Control home moisture levels below 40 percent.
- Wipe your shower clean after each use.
- Run ventilation fans during and after you shower or cook.
- Open curtains and shades and let the light in to avoid mold growth.
- Check basement and roof for leaks.
- If you discover mold, hire a professional.
We love our furry friends, but their dander can cause a host of allergen issues. Interesting enough, it’s your pet’s dead skin flakes, urine, feces, and saliva that trigger allergies, and not their fur. Instead of removing your beloved pet from your home, consider the following tips.
Tips On Pet allergen Control
- Isolation measures should include keeping your pets out of your sleeping areas, off upholstered furniture, and even off of carpets.
- Vacuum all floors and carpets daily with a vacuum that contains a Hepa filter.
- Have carpets and upholstery professionally cleaned with a natural solution quarterly.
- Change your whole house filter monthly.
- Clean all areas where the pet sleeps and eats weekly.
- Have your pet groomed monthly to reduce dander.
- Place an air purification system in your bedroom.
There are a host of countless common household chemicals that create havoc when it comes to our indoor air quality. Formaldehyde, solvents, alcohols, dyes, and even artificial fragrances are just some of the main culprits off gassing in homes on a daily basis. Reduce the impact on your health, and prevent allergic reactions by following the tips below.
Tips on Chemical-Free Air
- Switch to safe, natural cleaning products that fully disclose all ingredients.
- If you must store a noxious chemical, make sure it is an airtight container, safely away from children and pets.
- Open the windows when you clean to allow the draft to remove contaminants from the air.
- When buying any new item for your home consider the adhesives, plastics, and materi-als that the item is made from.
By following these simple measures you can feel relief from indoor allergens and enjoy the cold months safely at home.