No matter what the time of year, allergens can be present in our homes. While they are difficult to completely get rid of, there are steps we can take to limit their impact.
If dust or house mites are a problem in your home, it's important to regularly vacuum carpets and floors to limit the build up of dust and dirt. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter will help keep dust from escaping back into the air (HEPA filters are capable of trapping particles as small as a 10th of a micrometer).
Bedding, including comforters and quilts, also needs to be washed regularly. Draperies need to be washed or vacuumed several times a year as well.
Regularly clean or change the filters in your home's heating and cooling system so that allergens and dust particles are not re-circulated throughout your home. When replacing your washer or dryer, consider purchasing units that have sanitizing or allergen reducing features.
Mold is another allergen found in many homes. It can grow any place where moisture can accumulate, including basements, attics and bathrooms. Mold growth often looks like spots, can be many different colors and may have an earthy or musty smell.
If you find mold growing in your home, you'll need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. If you plan to clean up the mold yourself, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using a commercial product specifically intended for treating mold or scrubbing the affected area with a solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Wear protective gloves and eye wear and provide adequate ventilation. Soft building materials such as drywall are not cleanable and will need to be replaced.
To reduce the potential for mold growth:
Many cleaning products can contain added fragrances or other ingredients that can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.
When purchasing cleaning products, always read the label and be sure to follow product usage instructions. Avoid the use of products that display warnings on the label, such as "caution" or "use in well-ventilated area."
Consider using green cleaners reviewed under the EPA's Design for the Environment program. Products bearing the DfE logo are checked to make sure they use ingredients that line up on the "green" end of the health and environmental spectrum but won't sacrifice product performance.
For further information about creating a safer home, download NSF's safer home fact kit.