With allergy season upon us, you may be one of the 50 million Americans who experience allergy symptoms. When your allergies act up, you could suffer from symptoms ranging from itchy eyes and a runny nose to more severe reactions like difficulty breathing or chest tightness that may require medical treatment.
Your first thought may be to avoid time outdoors to reduce your pollen exposure and reduce the potential for allergy symptoms. However, another culprit may be your home—it’s likely housing unwelcome guests like dust mites, mold, and pet dander.
To prepare yourself and your family for possible allergies, it’s important to get to the source of your symptoms and maintain a clean home environment. With all of the tasks that come with taking care of your home and your health, we know that staying on top of spring cleaning can be a challenge. So we’ve created easy guidelines to follow to help minimize your exposure to allergens within your home.
Read on to learn how to remove allergens from each room of your house and prevent them from coming back in, or download our printable chore chart to hang on your refrigerator or in a cleaning closet to ensure you never miss an allergy-proofing chore. If you’re interested in ways to make cleaning fun for the whole family, skip to our printables with creative, kid-friendly cleaning activities.
For many people, the living room is the center of the home and where they go to unwind or spend time with family. While watching your favorite show or having a family game night, the last thing you want is to be interrupted by itchy eyes or uncontrollable sneezing. Due to the many hours you spend in your living room, it’s a good idea to be thorough and pay special attention to it when allergy-proofing your home.
Even within the cleanest of homes, it’s easy to bring outdoor allergens in on your shoes or your pet’s paws. It’s possible that your soft, plush carpet or area rug is housing dust that gets kicked into the air whenever your floors are walked on.
To help reduce allergens, sweep then clean hardwood floors regularly. The best way to clean your hardwood floors will depend on whether or not your floors are sealed. If a floor is unsealed, using water to clean it could cause the wood to swell and warp. If you have rugs or carpet, vacuum these weekly with a cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter.
Quick tip: To confirm whether your hardwood floors are sealed or unsealed, quickly rub your finger across the floor. If you see a smudge emerge, the floor is likely unsealed and you’ll want to avoid using water when cleaning.
Ensuring that your home is properly ventilated is the first step to help eliminate allergens from the air. Paper filters that are ordinarily used in your furnace and air conditioner are designed to trap large particles like dust that can accumulate on the motor and fans.
However, particles like mold, bacteria, and certain types of pollen are much smaller in size, so they slip through the fibers of those regular filters—meaning they get circulated through your ductwork and blown back into your space. Make sure you use HEPA air filters and replace them regularly. A general rule of thumb is to replace air filters every 90 days.
Quick tip: If weather permits and the pollen count isn’t high, opening a window for at least five minutes a day can decrease the concentration of indoor air allergens within your home.
Furniture can be just as inviting for allergens as it is for you and your family. To prevent dust build-up, you’ll need to dust commonly used living room items like electronics and furniture weekly, and dust more out-of-reach spots like ceilings, corners, ceiling fan blades, and door frames only as needed.
To make sure you’re not literally sweeping things under the rug, make sure to use a dusting tool. This way you’re not just spreading the dust back into the air and around your house.
Quick tip: Make your home a no-shoe zone and leave all outdoor shoes by the door. This way, you’re not bringing outdoor allergens into your house every time you walk through the front door.
With an abundance of food and moisture in your kitchen, it's an easy place for indoor allergens like mold to live. While the mold spores constantly floating in the air can trigger reactions, symptoms worsen when these spores attach to a wet surface and mold begins to grow. Below are a few cleaning tasks to prioritize to keep mold from growing in damp or hard-to-reach places.
Your refrigerator is prone to moisture buildup, which can promote mold growth, so make sure you are wiping up any excessive moisture. Also, make a note to regularly check for out-of-date food and toss it out to avoid mold growth.
Additionally, the dripping pan is a great place for allergens to live. Regularly empty and clean this out as needed, and remember to replace any moldy rubber seals around your refrigerator door.
Quick tip: If you can remove the shelves and drawers when cleaning out the fridge, make sure to do so. Then spray the removable parts and the inside of the fridge with a solution of vinegar and water thoroughly.
Make sure you wash your dishes daily, as mold and food debris can build up in your sink easily. The area under the sink where you do the dishes is also a great place for mold to hide. Frequently clean out the space under your sink and ensure that there are no leaks coming from your sink pipes.
Quick tip: Regularly treating your kitchen sink drain with a vinegar and baking soda solution is a great way to keep it clean and prevent mold from building up in your drain and pipes.
Spraying down and wiping up your cabinets and countertops should be a frequent occurrence in your home in order to eliminate allergens. This could be done as often as every day to wash away food crumbs and reduce the risk of mold growing.
It’s recommended to use eco-friendly sprays and detergents to cleanse these areas to avoid bringing harmful chemicals near your food. Additionally, heavy detergents filled with cleaning chemicals can cause allergic reactions for allergy-prone individuals or those with a previous diagnosis of asthma.
Quick tip: If you or someone in your home is allergy-prone or experiences reactions from cleaners containing harsh chemicals, consider using vinegar and salt as a surface cleaner to avoid a reaction.
We know you love your bed, but unfortunately dust mites like it too...a lot. The reason for this is that as we sleep we shed tons of dead skin cells—which is a dust mite’s favorite bedtime snack. Millions of these microscopic bugs can cozy up in a single mattress and leave droppings (gross, we know) causing people to have allergic reactions like skin rashes, sneezing, or congestion. Dust mites are a real problem, so make sure not to skimp out on deep cleaning the bedrooms in your house.
Your bedding accessories are a great place for microscopic dust mites to burrow. Since we spend nearly one third of our lives in bed, it’s very important to maintain clean bedding to reduce your exposure to dust mites and prevent a potential allergic reaction.
Adding a few additional layers of protection to your mattress and pillows, like dust-proof or allergen-blocking covers, makes it easy to keep your bed free of dust mites. Additionally, make sure to wash all bedding accessories and sheets weekly in hot water.
Quick tip: While sleeping with your pet can do a lot of great things for you like reduce anxiety and strengthen your bond, consider making your bed pet-free if you suffer from allergy symptoms, as pet hair and dander can also attract dust mites and other allergens to your bed.
Did you know that the typical used mattress can house as many as 10 million dust mites? If you suffer from allergies, it may very well be time to replace your mattress.
Dust mites on a mattress can significantly affect those with asthma as well, and could pose a significant health threat like difficulty breathing, chest tightness, or trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath.
Quick tip: You should replace your mattress every 7 to 10 years, not only to reduce allergens but also to maintain a proper sleep environment.
Curtains and blinds are also a common place for dust and other allergens to accumulate, so do your due diligence to make sure these are cleaned regularly. About twice a month, gently vacuum curtains and drapes using a brush attachment at the lowest suction setting.
A hairdryer on the cold setting can also be a great way to remove debris from delicate fabrics, but make sure you are vacuuming after so you are not just blowing dust onto other areas of your bedroom. If you have blinds, use a duster or dust rag to clear away dust that can build up between blind panels.
Quick tip: Place air purifiers in every bedroom to regularly filter out airborne allergens that may latch onto your curtains or blinds, in order to reduce your exposure to them as you sleep.
Children are our greatest gift, but let’s face it, sometimes they can get pretty dirty—from playing outside to touching and putting their mouths on everything. Cleaning your child’s room should be a priority on your cleaning list as it’s extra prone to housing both indoor and outdoor allergens. We’ve listed a few must-do cleaning tasks for allergy-proofing below.
Dust mites, mold, and pet dander will linger on children's toys so don’t forget to frequently clean them—this is especially important for small children who have a tendency to touch everything and put toys in their mouth.
You can clean most toys in either the washing machine, dishwasher, or with vinegar. None of these methods will require harsh cleaning chemicals and are instead safe for your children.
Quick Tip: If your child is prone to allergies, most experts recommend cleaning toys every one to two weeks.
Children can become attached to a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, meaning that they may bring it along everywhere they go—exposing these items to both indoor and outdoor allergens. Include the regular washing of stuffed animals and blankets in your cleaning routine.
If the stuffed animal or blanket is old or delicate, use mild detergents, cold water, and place items in a garment bag to prevent any damage or tears.
Quick tip: For stuffed animals and blankets that are non-washable, you can place them in the freezer overnight to freeze away dust mites.
As toys and other play items sit on the floor and out in the open, they are at risk of being contaminated by allergens, so encourage your children to store play items in plastic bins when they are not in use.
Additionally, make sure to declutter play bins every few months and get rid of items that your child has outgrown or no longer uses. This can help prevent the build up of allergens within the room and make cleaning a less daunting task.
Quick tip: Make cleaning fun for your kids and incorporate activities or competitions into their chores to encourage them to keep their toys put away and their rooms allergy-proof. Skip to our allergy-proofing activities and printables for kids.
Deep cleaning the bathroom can oftentimes be a daunting task, but it’s very necessary. Since the bathroom is a breeding ground for mold as moisture can build up easily, to properly allergy-proof your home it’s important to disinfect tubs, sinks, and soap scum or grime.
It’s recommended to scrub your tubs, sinks, showers, and faucets with bleach or cleaner each week. If you’re not a fan of bleach, making a “green” cleaning scrub of baking soda, castile soap, and essential oils is also effective for removing dirt, mold, and scum from your bathroom.
It is also a best practice to wipe condensation with a towel from all surfaces after showering or washing your hands in the sink.
Quick tip: Don’t forget to throw your shower curtain and plastic shower liner into a laundry cycle every week or two. You can wash both using warm water combined with either vinegar, baking soda, or a gentle laundry detergent.
On laundry day, don’t forget to wash any bathroom rugs or bath mats that have been used to soak up moisture and water near the shower or tub.
Not only can these rugs and bath mats collect dust and dirt, but they can store harmful mold as they soak up moisture and water near the shower or tub. Opting for bathroom rugs that are machine washable will make this weekly task easier.
Quick tip: If weather permits, try leaving the window open for one hour a day to lower the room’s humidity and moisture level.
Frequently scrub any mold away from the plumbing fixtures in your home with bleach or a toilet cleaner. Additionally make sure there are no plumbing leaks as unattended water spills will create mold.
Quick tip: Consider removing plug-in or spray air fresheners from your bathroom, as synthetic fresheners can be sneaky culprits in causing allergy symptoms.
We love our pets like our own children, and they’re a major part of the family—so don’t forget to eliminate their exposure to allergens as well. Your pet may also bring extra allergens into your house as they shed hair and dander, so you may want to take extra precautions when allergy-proofing your home if you have pets.
Pet hair and dander is a large component of dust, so regularly brushing away shedding hair is helpful when removing allergens from your home. Use a pet-specific brush that’s designed to really clear away excess hair, then properly dispose of it.
Quick tip: Have several lint rollers around your house to remove stubborn and itchy pet hair and dander from furniture, blankets, or clothes.
How often you bathe your pet really depends on the length of their hair, their activity level, and if they have any skin conditions or allergies. Most experts recommend washing your pet every four to six weeks, but use your best judgment here.
Use lukewarm water, and pet-safe detergents and shampoos. You can wash your pet in a sink, tub, or shower; portable pet tubs are also available.
Quick tip: If your pet is allergy-prone or has sensitive skin, there are several different types of hypoallergenic shampoos and conditioners you can use when washing your pet.
Similar to children’s toys, it’s important to frequently wash pet toys. It’s likely that they have rolled all over your home or even been outside, collecting both indoor and outdoor allergens along the way.
Be careful with cleaning toys as some may not be dishwasher friendly or machine washable. You will also want to avoid using harsh chemicals to clean pet toys. Many pet toys will have washing instructions on the tag. If not, there are many online pet owner resources that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to wash toys that will be safe for your pet to put in their mouth and play with.
Quick tip: Consider having a washing station by the front door for your pet to wipe dirty paws and for you to quickly rinse toys after being outside. All you’ll need is a storage container filled with water and a drying towel.
If you’re suffering from allergies, it’s important to get to the root of the problem to help prevent reactions in the future. A simple, at-home indoor and outdoor allergy test may help you pinpoint the source of your allergy symptoms and find a solution quicker.
Unmanageable symptoms like chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion, difficulting breathing, fevers, drowsiness, or any interference with day-to-day activities are signs that you should see an allergist, your general physician, and/or take an allergy test.
If you’re unsure about whether you’re experiencing allergy symptoms or suffering from a common cold or illness, it’s helpful to keep track of your symptoms daily. You can track when they occur, what you did that day, and how the symptoms make you feel. Below, you’ll find an allergy tracking chart that you can use to help identify the source of your allergies.
Allergy-proofing your home doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Get your family involved and turn weekly chores into fun activities. Below, we’ve listed a few ideas and included activity printables to help you get started.
Challenge your family to an epic Battle of the Bedrooms. Start the clock and give each family member or child one hour to clean their room. Whoever has the cleanest room at the end of the hour wins. The winner can hang their award (printable certificate above) on their bedroom door until the next battle.
Recruit your favorite cleaning detectives and have them investigate different areas of the house to determine what needs cleaning up. After inspecting a room, they can list out if a bed is unmade or if there’s a toy on the floor, for example. This is a fun and creative way to have children help create a chore list and identify messes.
Since we’re exposed to allergies almost every day, it’s important to stay on top of allergy prevention, especially if you or a family member are prone to allergic reactions. Leaving allergies unattended can be problematic as symptoms can worsen over time, so keep a close eye on how exposure to allergens may be affecting a loved one.
If the above allergy-proofing tips did not eliminate your or your family’s allergy symptoms it may be time to take an indoor and outdoor home allergy test, or speak with your healthcare provider to discuss options.
Sources: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology | Food52 | Arista Air | U.S. Home Filter | Research Gate | American Council on Science and Health | Romper | House Logic | The Dogington Post