76 Tips for Home Indoor Allergen Control

Authored by Tom Hefter

The following tips have been provided to promote health and wellness and to assist residents, outside of our service area, in the removal of dust mites and indoor allergens from their living environment. These tips are not intended to replace professional mattress cleaners. Always consult your physician when allergies persist.

1. Encase mattresses, pillows, and box springs, within zippered plastic covers, specialty coated fabrics, or finely woven (pore size < 10) vapor permeable fabrics. NOTE: plastic covers make for noisy sleeping areas and it’s possible that dust mite colonies will continue to thrive within your mattress. All you are doing is placing a barrier between you and them. 2. Most widely reported is the suggestion to use non-allergenic, impermeable synthetic fiberfill pillows (easier to wash than feather, kapok, or foam). *** Recent research, reported at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), shows that synthetic pillows may contain more pet allergens than feather pillows. Regardless of its material, if your pillow is washable, wash it regularly. 3. Thoroughly vacuum mattresses, especially seams, perimeter cording, top, bottom, and sides at least once per week using a vacuum equipped with a certified HEPA filter. 4. Vacuum the mattress then use a hair dryer, blowing on high and hot, placed upon different areas of the mattress, will effectively remove moisture and kill some of the dust mites. NOTE fecal pellets and other microbial allergens will still remain. 5. Launder sheets, pillow cases, and mattress pads in very hot, soapy water at a temperature of between 130o-140o F. However, this also requires raising the temperature of your water heater as most water heaters have a preset temperature to avoid accidental scalding (most important if young children are in the home). Additionally, keep in mind that guanine in dust mite feces is not water soluble. 6. After laundering, hang sheets and bed linens outdoors on a clothes line and in direct sunlight.
7. Purchase bedding and curtains which can withstand frequent washing. Bedding materials labeled “allergen-free” will still accumulate dust, dust mites, and allergens.

8. Blankets should be dry cleaned or laundered frequently (if laundering will not ruin them) at a temperature of between 130o-140o F.

9. Using an electric blanket spread out over the entire mattress for 8 hrs. per day, could reduce dust mite colonies.

10. Heating blankets for several hours in your clothes dryer, set at the highest temperature, will kill live dust mites and should remove exoskeletons, however take note that the guanine may still remain.

11. For cleaning purposes (and future sales), manufacturers’ of flooring materials suggest removing, or minimizing, wall-to-wall carpeting and replacing the carpeting with products such as hardwood, tile, vinyl, and linoleum. *** Of course carpet manufacturers’ claim that hard flooring should be covered with carpet as carpet tends to hold dust in place as opposed to lying around loosely on hard floors where the motion of simply passing by causes the allergens to become air-borne. Frequent cleaning (every other day) should resolve either issue.

12. Vacuum any type of flooring (carpeted or hard) using a vacuum equipped with a certified HEPA (or ULPA) vacuum is preferred over damp mopping as the latter will add humidity in the home.

13. Use microfiber dust clothes as these will collect dust more efficiently. Don’t forget to dust the tops of doors and window frames, as well as window sills and baseboards. Feather dusters only cause particulates to become airborne.

14. The use of A/C units and dehumidifiers to keep humidity in home to less than 40% reduces dust mite presence in carpets and drapery, BUT the microclimate within your bedding will still exist. ALSO take note, that lower humidity may irritate the nose, sinuses, lungs, and respiratory systems of some people and even more people if humidity falls to 20-25%.

15. Hire a professional to clean carpets with super heated steam (has less moisture than regular steam cleaning) or with chemicals and clean on a monthly schedule.

16. Ask your professional carpet cleaner about dust might inhibitors that he/she can offer. Generally, there are 2 types available, a spray consisting of 3% tannic acid or a benzyl benzoate powder. Both require repeated application and can be costly. NOTE that the use of either inhibitor may also incur health risks to some people.

17. Wear a well fitted dust mask while vacuuming, dusting, and making beds.

18. Make up all beds before beginning to dust or vacuum. If pillows are exposed to the airborne particulates, cover them with plastic until airborne particulates settle.

19. Open windows and air out rooms really well after vacuuming or dusting to reduce the airborne particulates.

20. Furnace mounted and portable air cleaners are available however, the costs of either maybe greater than the benefits achieved. These should certainly NOT be an alternative to previously mentioned allergen reducing tips.

21. Purchase and use media type filters that meet the stringent HEPA specifications.

22. Electrostatic filters are not recommended, unless they are wiped clean every 3-4 days, and only then will they be as effective as media type filters that meet HEPA specifications.

23. Special costly filters can be placed on air vents blowing into rooms, BUT and depending on the type, two negative results may occur. You may get less circulation to the room, or if more circulation occurs, airborne particulates may increase.

24. Air cleaning purifiers which generate ozone (as lightning does hence the “fresh” smell after a thunderstorm) should be AVOIDED as they have a negligible affect on airborne allergens and may even worsen allergy symptoms as the ozone produced may irritate the respiratory system of some people. OZONE ADVERSELY AFFECTS THOSE WITH ASTHMA! The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow manufacturers’ of these products to claim any health benefits from the use of same. I own two air purifiers and have unplugged them from full-time use. I do use my air purifiers for short time spans to eliminate cooking odors only.

25. It is more beneficial to dust thoroughly once per week than to dust “lightly” every other day. Always use microfiber dust clothes. ALSO, if using an aerosol dusting product, always apply spray to the microfiber cloth, NOT the surface to be dusted.

26. Vacuum carpets daily (especially if babies and toddlers are present in home and crawling on the carpet) BUT only utilizing a vacuum cleaner with a certified HEPA filter.

27. Hang small carpets, throw rugs and floor mats on a clothesline, outdoors, and in direct sunlight. Beat the dust and dirt out of them with a baseball bat, nine-iron, 2×4 boards, or a big stick. Wear a dust mask and eye wear, for your protection.

28. To clean pillows, stuff an individual pillow (without the pillow case) into the largest trash bag you have on hand, or better yet, a heavy duty Lawn/Leaf plastic bag. Insert the suction end of your vacuum cleaner hose with the crevice tool attached then collect the open end of the bag around the vacuum hose. Keep a tight grip and turn vacuum cleaner on. All the air will be sucked out of the bag and pillow, reducing the pillow to a hard mass about the size of an 8 lb ham. Turn vacuum cleaner off and allow pillow to natural return to shape while still inside of the bag. Repeating this process 2 or 3 times will remove nearly all allergens within the pillow.

29. You can also place pillows and stuffed toys into a chest type freezer for a few hours effectively killing live dust mites from within. NOTE this only kills live dust mites…allergens will still remain.

30. Some homeowners may have purchased and are using an additional foam pad atop their mattress. To clean foam mattress pads up to ¾” to 1” thick, use the same process as described in Tip #26 for pillows. Decorator pillows (often found on sofas) and seating cushions can also be cleaned in the same manner.

31. If possible and only on a sunny day with no chance of rain, tote your mattress outdoors and away from any entryways to your home. Let the sunlight shine on all surfaces of mattress. This is really effective when the outdoor temperature is less than 45o F and humidity is extremely low. At this time, you can also beat the living daylights (dust mites) out of the mattress with a baseball bat, tire iron, 2×4 board, trim limb or whatever you have that you can swing really, really hard. Again, just like you did with the rugs and floor mats, protect yourself with a dust mask and safe eyewear. This is in fact, up to the time that mattresses became too heavy and too large, the most common method of removing dust and dust mites (and other critters) from mattresses during the last few centuries.

32. Like carpets, dust mite inhibitor mists are available for mattresses. Easily available are odorless, all natural, non-toxic and chemical free, dust mite inhibitor mists that can be found on the Internet, or perhaps even locally. A king sized bed only requires about 4 ounces (mostly distilled water) and is very lightly applied (a misting only). Evaporation occurs in less than 5 minutes and beds can then be made up. STERILMATTRESS, uses a super concentrated product called “Kleen-FreeTM Naturally, which also contains enzymes, that over time, will “eat away” some stains.

33. If a plastic mattress cover is in use, a daily “damp” dusting (wipe) should be used.

34. When weather permits, open windows and introduce fresh outdoor air to rooms instead of simply continuing to re-circulate stale indoor air.

35. Replace woolen blankets with nylon or cotton cellulose blankets.

36. Furnish each bedroom with just one bed. If two beds are necessary, treat/perform the same cleaning to each bed.

37. Keep furry and/or feathered animals (I’m talking about pets) out of bedrooms and if necessary, for the severe sufferers, relocate pets outdoors.

38. If you do not increase the temperature at your water heater to 130o-140o F. (as recommended in Tip #4 and #6) then you should definitely use a commercial laundromat.

39. To reduce dust collection surfaces, keep furniture and furnishings to a minimum.

40. Avoid upholstered furniture all together.

41. Do not use Venetian blinds, mini-blinds, and heavy drapery.

42. Do use plain, lightweight curtains or washable, roller type, pull down shades.

43. Do not buy stuffed, plush toys (sorry Teddy!). Purchase only washable toys made of wood, rubber, metal, or plastic and store in a toy box, toy chest, or closet (obviously, only when not in use). Never store toys (or anything else) under the bed as this will hinder vacuuming.

44. Avoid the use of fuzzy wool blankets, feather or wool stuffed duvets/comforters and crocheted Afghans.

45. Remove clutter from rooms and don’t allow same to build up.

46. Keep closet doors closed to minimize airborne particulates to settle on clothing.

47. Remove pillow cases and place pillows and decorator pillows into clothes dryer and tumble pillows at the highest temperature possible for an hour or more.

48. Use small, synthetic and washable area rugs and to reduce tracked-in dirt and dust, remove your shoes and ask guests to do the same. If this is impractical, use industrial-grade doormats (outside the home).

49. “Damp” dust (wipe down) plastic hallway runners and stairwell runners.

50. Vacuum upholstered furniture, remove cushions and vacuum under same. Use the crevice tool to vacuum deep inside the nooks and crannies.

51. Decorate and furnish rooms with wood, vinyl, or leather furniture.

52. Avoid anything that collects dust such as: sculptures, art work, paintings, picture frames, macramé’s, wall hangings, tapestries, textiles, chandeliers, lamps and lampshades, tabletop ornaments, knick-knacks, books, magazines, magazine racks, newspapers, etc.

53. Clothing is also a source of dust mites and other allergens. In fact, clothing is the preferred method of transportation for dust mites from room-to-room, or house-to-house.

54. Keep clothing in closets (close the doors) or in dresser drawers, or armoires.

55. Never put damp clothes in closets, dresser drawers, or armoires.

56. Leave the dusting and vacuuming chores to someone who does not suffer from dust or dust mite allergies. Have the allergy sufferers vacate the room, or better yet, vacate the premises, when these cleaning chores are being performed.

57. If buying and installing carpet anyway…purchase “low-pile versus “high-pile”.

58. Encase pet sleeping cushions in allergy-proof covers.

59. Thoroughly clean pet sleeping areas.

60. Bathe pet(s) twice per week.

61. Close windows and rely on A/C during peak pollen seasons.

62. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and window sills.

63. The evaporation from simply watering indoor plants raises the humidity in rooms and homes. At the very least, remove plants from bedrooms and cover the potting soil with aquarium gravel to contain mold, mold spores, and other microbials.

64. Install and use exhaust fans to remove cooking fumes. Most stove top vents filter cooking particles without venting to the outdoors.

65. Wash dishes daily, scrub sinks and faucets to remove molds and food debris. Wipe sinks dry after use.

66. Clean refrigerators. Wipe off excessive moisture to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out of date food items. Regularly empty and clean the drip pan and clean moldy rubber seals around doors. Remove dust from behind and under the ‘fridge.

67. Check under sinks and cabinets for plumbing fixture leaks. Store food, including pet foods, in sealed containers.

68. Empty food wastes daily and keep covered in an insect proof container.

69. Use bathroom vents to remove moisture while bathing and showering.

70. Remove wall paper and install tile or paint with a mold resistant enamel. Keep grout clean.

71. Towel dry, tubs, shower enclosures, and sinks after use will reduce moisture and water spots.

72. Scrub mold from toilets, repair leaks, and leave toilet lid in the down position.

73. Use an exhaust fan to vent moisture from the laundry room and clothes dryer.

74. Clean behind and under washer and dryer. Inspect for water leaks and mold growth.

75. Treat, or hire a professional exterminator, for insects, cockroaches, and rodents.

76. DO NOT ALLOW SMOKING IN YOUR HOME. Provide a comfortable outdoor area for those who must smoke.

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