Station a shoe rack by the door to encourage family members to remove shoes, which track in allergens from outside.
So okay, of course it's impossible to completely rid your home of allergens. And who would want to live that way, anyway? But for those of us who suffer uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating allergies, there are many easy and relatively inexpensive ways to minimize potential allergens while still maintaining a warm and hospitable home.
What You Need
Good vacuum with a HEPA filter
Allergy-control pillow, mattress, and box spring covers
Re-usable dust mop
Good quality handheld vacuum
1. If you're allergic to dust mites, pollen, or animal dander, it's wise to invest in a very good vacuum with a HEPA filter. HEPA filters provide filtration of smaller particles than standard vacuum filters. Miele vacuums, while pricey, are known for being among the best vacuums when it comes to trapping allergens.
2. Minimize carpets in your home. Hardwood floors are easier to clean; dust mites and allergens are inevitable with carpets. Of course, we all want to have rugs of some kind, so choose low-pile rugs (which don't trap allergens as easily as thick-pile) and vacuum them at least once a week. Avoid carpet in the bedroom completely.
3. Buy a re-usable microfiber dust mop. While not as effective as vacuums, these are so easy to use that you'll likely want to clean the floors more often (instead of having to drag out the vacuum every time). Dust mops do a good job of gathering up potential allergens from little nooks and crannies that the vacuum can't reach.
4. Focus on your bedroom. This is where you spend the majority of your time at home, and mattresses and pillows naturally develop dust mites over time. Use good quality dust-mite-proof pillow, mattress, and box spring covers. National Allergy covers are reliable (and recommended by allergists). They use a soft fabric that doesn't feel like plastic (unlike some other commercial allergy covers).
5. We all love to read in bed, but bookcases in the bedroom are a no-no for allergy sufferers too, as books gather a ton of dust. Just keep a couple of books on your bedside table and switch them out as you finish them. Also try to avoid upholstered furniture in the bedroom.
6. If you have a pet, buy a good handheld vacuum so you can easily vacuum your sofas and upholstered chairs. Even if your pet doesn't lie on the furniture, dander hangs in the air and gets trapped in upholstery. The Shark Handvac is inexpensive and reliable. It doesn't hold a charge very well (no handheld vacuums do), but if you just charge it for a few minutes before use, it will go for a while.
7. Consider making a shoe-free rule in your house. Even if you're uncomfortable asking guests to remove their shoes, you can always institute this rule among family members. Keep a shoe rack by your most-frequented door. This is the most effective way to minimize allergens from outdoors.
8. Avoid heavy draperies and blinds on your windows; both are likely to trap more dust than roller shades or washable curtains.
Minimizing allergens has made me feel more welcome in my own home. As hay fever season comes on, I hope these tips help some of you too! Anything to add? Feel free to weigh in below!
(Images: Susie Nadler for Apartment Therapy)