Organize & Clean

Is Your Home Making You Feel Sick? Here’s What You Can Do About It

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Homes are our personal havens. But when we have things in our homes that can make us sick, we’re definitely not as happy there as we could be. Here are some common ways your home might be making you less than comfortable —and what you can do to change that.

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Allergies are probably the most ubiquitous way that our homes can make us sick. Whether it’s dust, pollen, mold spores, or Fifi’s dander, our homes harbor allergens that can make us sneezy, watery eyed, and just plain miserable. The real rub is that cleaning often sets off even worse allergy attacks. To stave off allergies in your home:

  • Dust and vacuum regularly, wearing a mask. Make sure to vacuum upholstery also, or better yet, opt for leather when you can.
  • Wash bedding regularly or consider allergy covers. The bed is often the biggest allergen hotspot in your home since dust mites love its warmth, humidity, and steady supply of dead skin cells (their food).
  • Use HEPA air purifiers in the most occupied rooms of the home. Check for the smallest microns the unit captures and also be sure to consider air changes per hour to ensure that your investment in an air purifier will make a difference. Check out this air purifier buying guide.
  • Check pollen counts and adjust your behavior accordingly. If you are allergic to pollen, don’t walk around the house in shoes and take a shower when you get home to avoid spreading within your home. Also, refrain from opening windows during high pollen days, mostly in spring and fall.
  • Run the vent when you shower and cook to avoid moisture build-up and subsequent mold and mildew issues.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

If cleaning supplies, strong perfume, and off-gassing from new furniture or even new clothes give you a headache, sore throat, or make you queasy, you could suffer from multiple chemical sensitivity. To combat the onset of symptoms:

  • Choose natural cleaning products when possible. Using household items like coconut oil, lemon juice, baking soda, and vinegar are among the safest options and are unlikely to cause any negative reactions.
  • Avoid strong fragrance in candles, air fresheners, soaps, detergents and other household products.
  • Ventilate well when cleaning or working with paint, varnish, glue and all that good stuff when you’re DIYing.
  • Air it out outside when you have to bring items that have a strong “new” smell into your house. This could be carpeting, dry cleaned drapery, or even that new plastic shower curtain liner (which could be replaced with a fabric one). (If you need more convincing, read 2 Completely Disgusting Reasons to Wash Before You Wear.)