As cold weather approaches and living spaces are sealed tight against the elements, it’s even more important to reduce levels of indoor air pollution for the sake of your health and comfort. Here are some simple ways to freshen up your home for fall.
Fluff up curtains and draperies in your dryer on a low setting.If you have a steam setting, even better. You’ll be amazed at the dust that accumulates in the lint trap when you remove them. Add a dryer sheet as they tumble around to lend the drapes a subtle fragrance after you rehang them.
Wash, dry clean, fluff or replace decorative pillows, throws, table runners and tablecloths.These items tend to attract unseen dust and dust mites over time, which can aggravate allergies or asthma in sensitive people who eat or nap near them. A new season offers an opportunity to spruce up your home décor inexpensively with the fresh colors and textures of decorative fabrics, so consider replacing them altogether.
Vacuum upholstered furniture, even on the undersides, if possible.This will help keep dust and mites at bay, especially if you own a central vacuum system. Don’t forget the nooks and crannies; use a wand tool to vacuum between cushions.
Clean out clothes closets.Coats and other clothing that hang unworn for long periods of time are simply gathering dust. Purge unwanted items for donation, then vacuum the floors of your closet and dust any shelves inside. Hang sachets of herbs, such as lavender or sage, for a pleasant fragrance that will help repel moths.
More and more research is showing us the critical importance of a good night’s sleep. Since quality sleep contributes significantly to our ability to strengthen our immune systems, ward off the harmful effects of stress and process nutrients efficiently, anything we can do to enhance the health of our sleep environment is worth the effort. A good mattress is a solid start. But I have always wanted to know how do we keep it clean and free of unwanted particulate matter that we breathe in during the night?
Your vacuum system is your first and best tool of choice for maintaining a clean mattress. A central vacuum system is the best choice for cleaning mattresses because its high efficiency suction and hose will remove virtually all particulate matter and transport it to an air-tight container away from living spaces.
Using an upholstery attachment, vacuum your mattress regularly to remove the significant amount of dust and dead skin cells that accumulate from sleeping bodies—up to several pounds a year! This will also reduce the number of dust mites that live in your mattress, which contribute greatly to allergy symptoms.
If you have allergies, consider also using a washable mattress cover that you can remove and launder in hot water. This will prevent a great deal of dirt and dust from penetrating your mattress and also kill dust mites living in the mattress cover.
If your mattress becomes soiled or stained, use an upholstery shampoo, following the directions exactly. Or mix mild detergent with water until suds form, and then apply only the suds to the mattress with a sponge. Be careful not to over-wet the mattress. Wipe the area with a fresh sponge that has been wrung out with warm water. Allow to dry thoroughly. Aiming a fan at the damp areas will speed drying and prevent further water stains.
The air is crisp, the days are shorter. All around you people are enjoying harvest festivals, cheering at football games, and picking out pumpkins to carve. What’s not to love about fall?
Well if you suffer from fall allergies, you’ll be stuck inside while everyone else heads out for all the festivities. While I’m lucky enough to be a non-allergy sufferer, my poor husband Chet dreads this time of year. Before I knew more about his allergies, I always assumed that springtime was the worst time of the year for him, but boy was I wrong! Late summer and autumn are actually more problematic, as far as symptoms go, especially for those allergic to ragweed and mold. Ragweed pollen and mold are often heavily accumulated in damp leaf cover, and when those leaves are disturbed, sinus headaches, nasal congestion, asthma and itchy eyes are the result. All those symptoms may not seem like much, but every year, Chet and others like him are stuck at home, afraid to go out and have fun with their friends and family during this season. Last year, I thought I’d put a stop to this yearly cycle and find some ways for my allergy ridden husband to join in on the fall fun.
After searching around and talking with a good friend who happens to be an allergist, these are some of the things that worked best for Chet and had him ready for fall this year:
Avoid fall lawn work if at all possible, especially during the early morning hours when pollen counts are high. This wasn’t especially hard for Chet…But if you do spend any length of time outdoors, remove and wash your clothes as soon as you get in the house, and shower before going to bed. This will prevent pollens and irritants from spreading throughout your home.
Keep windows closed and use central air conditioning if you have it.
Don’t hang laundry on an outdoor clothesline.
Try over-the-counter medications first, and if they offer no relief, consult your doctor for next steps. The over the counter medications sometimes work for my hubby, but on days where we are going to be out for a long time, he usually takes something a bit stronger. Your general practitioner or allergist will be able to help you find what’s right for your specific allergies
Consider investing in a central vacuum system to more effectively remove the allergic particles that do enter your home. Allergy sufferers often complain about the fact that traditional vacuum cleaners, even those equipped with good filters, tend to suck up only a portion of allergens and dust, then disburse the remaining particles into your indoor air, which just makes everything worse. We have a central vacuum system in our home and I can tell you right now, that Chet’s allergies were improved year round after we started using it! A central vacuum system operates by attaching a lightweight hose to special outlets in your walls, and a series of interconnected tubes carries dirt, particles, and even fine grains of pollen that you track in from outside, away from your living quarters and into a sealed container located in the garage, basement or storage closet. Our installation only took one day, so the benefits can be appreciated almost immediately.
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can alleviate allergy symptoms, but if you aren’t getting the relief you need, think prevention. By taking a pro-active approach to allergens in your home, you can often stop symptoms before they start. Some solutions are easy and offer instant relief, some will require a change in habits or take a bit more time. All are worth the misery they save by keeping allergies under control.
A great deal of pollen and outdoor contaminants travel into your home on people’s shoes. I have my family members in the practice of removing their shoes at the door, and storing their everyday shoes in our mudroom. Bonus: You’ll save cleaning time and wear and tear on carpets and floors.
Your home should be smoke-free. The dangers of second-hand smoke are well established, and allergy sufferers are particularly sensitive to smoke. If someone in your household still hasn’t kicked the habit, insist they smoke outside, or at the very least, confine smoking to a single room of the home with an air purifier, with doors and registers of that room closed off from the rest of the home.
Invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, sized for your home.
I dust with a damp cloth (or you can use a special dusting cloth that magnetizes and traps dust, dander and pollen) that have settled on household surfaces. Dry dusting simply blows pollen and dust around in the air. Avoid feather dusters.
Keep pets restricted to certain areas of the house, preferably in rooms without carpeting. Make bedrooms off-limits for pets. I wash and brush my pets often, especially my cats that spend much time outdoors. If you are getting a new pet, research low-allergen breeds, as well as those that shed minimally.
Choose your vacuum system wisely. Vacuum often, and I recommend that you consider a system that transports dust, dirt and allergens to a central source. Central vacuum systems like Vacuflo®, Element and Dirt Devil® don’t recirculate particles back into the air.
Keep mold in check by maintaining the relative humidity of your home below 50%. I use a dehumidifier in the basement and don’t forget to empty and clean the units often. Bathrooms should be equipped with fans that vent to the outside; I always have my family run fans while showering. Periodically check pipes, faucets, appliances, duct work, ceilings and roofs for leaks that can cause moisture buildup in hidden places and create a breeding ground for mold.
Choose your cleaning products carefully to avoid contact with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) such as formaldehyde and ammonia. While a good air purifier will offset some of the harmful fumes of cleaning products, choose natural cleaners when possible, as well as products that do not contain artificial fragrances that can irritate allergies. Make sure to use proper ventilation and wear a mask when using paint, floor polishes or other substances containing chemicals.
Dust mites can be your downfall, though it’s not dust mites themselves that trigger allergies, but their waste products. Starve dust mites by reducing their food sources: dead skin cells and perspiration. Your prime battleground in the war against dust mites? The bedroom. Though dust mites live everywhere in the home, especially in upholstered or carpeted areas. Learn winning strategies in the war against dust mites here on my blog.