Home Cleaning Guide for Allergy Sufferers
By Marilee Nelson |
As much as we all rejoice in the blooms, blossoms and greenery of spring, for some people it can also trigger some pretty uncomfortable allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, runny noses and just general discomfort.
For immediate relief, while we can’t control the amount or type of pollen (or other allergens) in our outdoor environments, we can take steps to reduce and remove indoor allergens and other toxins that bring down immunity and can make us more susceptible to allergy symptoms.
Allergy symptoms are one of the ways the body alerts us that our toxic burden is too high. Our extensive exposure to harmful chemicals in our air, water, food, products, homes, schools and workplaces is derailing and shutting down our ability to adapt to our natural environment. When you remove and reduce your exposures to toxins, many times allergies to natural pollens and foods disappear. Client after client has reported this to me.
Here are 16 simple cleaning tips for allergy sufferers, or anyone interested in creating a healthier home by improving indoor air quality and breathing easier.
Tip #1: Clean Up Your Air Quality
Even though people are buying non-toxic products right and left, most people still have products with harmful chemicals sitting throughout their homes. Even if these toxic products are not being used, they impact the air quality.
Think about how you can smell the products in the cleaning and pesticide aisle of the store. Those products are not only closed, they are also sealed... yet you can smell toxic VOCs emitting from the bottles.
The same thing happens in your home creating a low level chemical soup your body has to constantly detoxify. Exposure to harmful chemicals impacts our immune system. Tossing these toxic products increases our ability to adapt and allergic reactions are reduced or are eliminated!
Tip # 2: Clean Up Your Diet
Foundational to a healthy diet - regardless of whether you are going vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy free, keto, or raw - is removing harmful chemicals from your food. For example, gluten-free products that claim to be healthy and organic many times are full of harmful chemicals.
Eating organic, whole foods takes pressure off your immune system and is life-changing. This is especially true if were eating tons of processed foods like I was. I grew up with debilitating allergies that no treatment, allergy shot protocol, or medication alleviated. I was miserable regardless.
Yet, one of the unexpected byproducts of changing my diet was the complete disappearance of allergies bar one, an allergy to cedar, which took a little more time and effort. No more shots, no more Rast blood tests, or skin prick testing, no more runny nose and itchy eyes. I was set free!
Tip #3: Clean Often
To reduce pollen exposure, allergy sufferers will benefit from cleaning their homes more than once a week… at least during allergy season or flare-ups.
Now, if you’re thinking: “how the heck am I going to find time to clean more?” Know that we’re not suggesting you do a full clean every day or even every other day.
The main thing to focus on is removing allergens by wiping down and vacuuming or mopping high traffic areas daily. This includes your bedroom, entryway, and living room for example.
We’ll offer some tips on how to do this quickly and efficiently, including our favorite time-saving cleaning tools coming up.
Tip #4: Dust Properly And Thoroughly
Dust is an allergen in and of itself. And when combined with pollen for example, can create a double-whammy of itchy eyes, sneezing, runny noses, etc.
The easiest way to deal with this is by using a microfiber cloth/mop dampened with Branch Basics Streak Free or HEPA vacuuming to remove versus spread dust. Unscented disposable Swiffers are another effective option.
You can do this as often as daily or a few times a week to dramatically improve indoor air quality by reducing dust. Be sure to get the obvious and not-so-obvious spots like lamps, pictures, mirrors, window sills and fans.
Tip #5: Use A High-Quality Air Purifier
An indoor air purifier can make a world of difference for allergy sufferers or anyone concerned about their health.
We go over this in depth in: How To Choose The Best Home Air Purifier, but the main thing is you want a brand that removes VOCs, PM2.5 (fine particles like smoke and pollen), biological contaminants, asbestos and lead.
You also want a product containing a true medical-grade HEPA filter that removes 99.97% of particulates at 0.3 microns in diameter. That not only takes care of pollen, but also those other pesky toxins listed above.
Tip #6: A Certified Sealed HEPA Vacuum Is A Treat for Removing Allergens
Oftentimes allergy sufferers give up on regular vacuuming because it doesn’t seem to help, OR they feel worse during and right after vacuuming.
Why would that be?
When you vacuum with a non-HEPA vacuum or a non sealed HEPA vacuum it releases back a good portion of the dust, dander and allergens back into the air. Meaning, it can make your air quality worse than before you vacuumed. Allergies are often exacerbated after vacuuming.
This is why investing in a certified sealed HEPA vacuum is important to those with allergies (and everyone else who wants to reduce dust levels).
These units are completely contained systems, meaning no invisible dust and particulates will re-escape into your home. This is why abatement companies, for example, only use sealed HEPA vacuums when remediating homes for mold or other toxins.
Check out our favorite brands in: The Best Vacuums For Non-Toxic Living.
If a HEPA vacuum isn’t in the cards right now, consider renting one periodically or keep your windows open and air purifier cranked up when you are vacuuming and change the canister often.
Tip #7: Pay Extra Attention To Bedding
Throw pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals are great for decorating… and for trapping allergens. To minimize this problem, consider simplifying your bedroom decor down to the basics. For example, washable shams are a great alternative to throw pillows.
In addition, be sure to wash your quilt, duvet cover, duvet in hot water with Branch Basics Laundry or another non-toxic laundry soap to kill dust mites once a week during pollen season or allergy flare-ups.
HEPA vacuuming your mattress once a month is another great way to keep bedroom allergens at bay.
Tip #8: Don’t Stop Opening Your Windows
This may sound counter-intuitive, but opening your windows for just a few minutes a day is one of the best things you can do to improve indoor air quality.
Yes, some pollen will get in. But a daily fresh air exchange is essential for dispelling dust, household toxins, and other allergens. In other words: the benefits outweigh the risks.
Since pollen counts tend to peak mid-day, it’s generally best to open your windows first thing in the morning and in the evening.
Tip #9: Break Up With Fragrance
Fragrance is ubiquitous in most American homes. It’s also one of the world’s top allergens. The single word “fragrance” on an ingredient list is a toxic red flag that represents a proprietary fragrance recipe containing potentially hundreds of harmful chemicals.
The chemicals in fragrance recipes have been found to be asthmagens (trigger asthma), carcinogens (cause cancer), endocrine disruptors (impact hormones), neurotoxins (affect our minds, moods, and movement), and obesogens, (trigger metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and make us gain weight regardless of diet or exercise). These chemicals bring down our immunity and can irritate the eyes, lungs, nasal passages, and entire respiratory system which heightens your sensitivity to other allergens.
So imagine trying to clean to reduce your allergies while unknowingly spraying a bunch of fragranced products into the air… while you’re wearing perfume… and doing laundry with that signature “fresh scent” detergent.
Opt for cleaning, laundry, candles, air fresheners, and personal care products that are fragrance-free.
Learn more in: How To Remove Synthetic Fragrance From Your Home.
#10: Declutter Your Home
The less stuff you have, the less dust can accumulate on hard-to-clean surfaces like piles of paper, books or knick knacks.
We love the Marie Kondo method because it’s simple, you can take it step-by-step and it works. Buy the book, try the course, hire a consultant… whatever it takes, your life will be truly changed.
#11: Keep Outside Entryways Clean
Pollen and other allergens can accumulate in breezeways, doorsteps, etc. To help, either sweep (with a mask), pressure wash or spray/hose down the area regularly. It’s also a good idea to shake out your welcome mat outdoors regularly.
#12: Clean Mold Without Bleach
Mold and mildew can cause and/or contribute to all kinds of allergies. Thus, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to mold or mildew in showers, bathtubs, washing machines and other damp places.
One mistake people make is turning to bleach or bleach-based products to remove mold. Not only is bleach extremely toxic (and an EPA-registered pesticide), per OSHA
That’s because bleach doesn’t remove mold. It acts like a disinfectant and only kills surface mold. Dead mold can cause allergic reactions in people, so it is not enough to simply kill the mold. According to the EPA, mold should be removed by scrubbing the surface with soap and water.
Fortunately, you can remove mold and mildew in your showers, sinks, counters, front loader and more using Branch Basics Bathroom, plus Oxygen Boost if you want even more cleaning power. To do so, spray and scrub the surface until clean and dry completely with a towel. If you desire to disinfect (note, disinfecting isn't always recommended) then you can use Distilled White Vinegar or Hydrogen Peroxide.
We outline the whole process in: How To Clean Mold On Grout And Showers Without Toxic Bleach, How To Clean And Detoxify Your Washer And Dryer, and 5 Tips For Preventing Mold And Mildew In Your Front Loader.
#13: Wash Curtains And Clean Blinds Regularly
Window treatments can be a hotbed of trapped allergens, so it's wise to clean them regularly during pollen season.
Some (but not all) curtains can be washed on a gentle cycle using Branch Basics Laundry. If you’re unsure of the fabric, consider damp dusting them or gently HEPA vacuuming using an upholstery brush.
Blinds can be dusted with a microfiber duster, cloth, or blind-specific duster (we have a product recommendation for you in tip #16).
#14: Change Air Filters Once A Month And Use High Quality Filters
If you have seasonal allergies or suspect you have allergens in your home, it’s wise to change your return air filters once per month versus the standard once every 3 months. In addition, some whole home air purification systems require a monthly change out of HVAC filters.
We highly recommend Filtrete air filters which contain zero antibacterial or chemical treatments. To save money, consider buying them in bulk from your local price club (Costco has great buys on these).
This simple trick alone can make a significant difference to your indoor air quality and allergy symptoms.
#15: Keep A No-Shoes-Indoor Policy
It may seem like a small thing, but shoes can track in a lot of allergens and toxins. Research has shown shoes can harbor things like pollen, pesticides, large amounts of harmful bacteria, fecal matter, dust, heavy metals and more.
These toxins will not all necessarily cause an allergic reaction. But they will drag down your immune system which can make you more prone to allergies… or make them worse.
The easiest way to break the indoor shoe habit is to place a shoe basket, either outside your door or directly inside your door and label it “Shoes”. That way, everyone remembers to kick their shoes in the basket upon entry. It’s also helpful to give each family member a pair of indoor shoes.
When it comes to visitors, make your shoe basket super obvious and just ask them politely to take off their shoes. It’s may also a good idea to have some clean socks handy to lend, offer fun kid-friendly shoe covers or have your Branch Basics All Purpose ready to spray on soles for those who either can’t go without shoes or are uncomfortable doing so.
#16: Save Time And Effort With The Right Cleaning Tools
Cleaning more frequently to remove allergens is a lot less cumbersome with the right tools. Here are some of our favorite cleaning products and gadgets that cut down on time and effort and really work:
- Bona Microfiber Mop or Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop for hard floors used with Branch Basics at appropriate floor cleaner dilution: See our User Guide page 12 for Branch Basics Concentrate dilutions and tips for specific flooring.
- Invest in a high-quality HEPA vacuum
- Branch Basics Concentrate to dilute into All Purpose, Streak Free, Bathroom, and Laundry.
- Oxygen Boost for laundry brightening
- HIWARE Window Blind Cleaner with Reusable Microfiber Sleeves
- BOOMJOY Extendable Microfiber Duster
- Baseboard Buddy with reusable pads
- Magic Window Track Cleaner
- Cosywell Mop Slippers - Stick these on the kids and let them clean the floors, or put on your favorite music and slide
A combination of frequent cleaning of high traffic areas, utilizing a good air purifier, HEPA vacuuming, ditching fragranced and other chemical-based products in favor of non-toxic products, decluttering, keeping a no-shoe-indoor policy, and tossing the toxins to support immunity by improving indoor air quality and your diet is a perfect recipe for improving allergy symptoms (or even eliminating them altogether)
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.