By Andrea Markowitz, Special to Tribune Newspapers
July 26, 2010
Some people joke that they're allergic to house cleaning. But in all seriousness, allowing dust and mold to accumulate in your home can be harmful to your health. Endotoxins shed by household dust and mold spores can cause serious allergic responses, including asthma.
Here are some helpful hints for reducing allergens around your home:
Mold needs moisture or water to grow, so your first line of defense is to get rid of leaks and prevent moisture from accumulating.
If you find mold, clean it up right away. MayoClinic.com suggests washing away mold with a solution of 5 percent chlorine bleach, and that you wear a protective mask when scrubbing off mold. Remove and get rid of contaminated, nonwashable materials such as carpeting.
Mold-proof bathrooms. Remove bathroom wallpaper. Use tile or mold-resistant enamel paint on bathroom walls. Scrub off any mold your find on grout, walls, ceiling and floors. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains, bathmats and area rugs. Remove wall-to-wall bathroom carpeting. Replace with a hard surface, preferably not wood. Dry the tub and shower after use and turn on an exhaust fan when showering or bathing.
Other considerations. Keep potted plants outdoors or place aquarium gravel over the dirt to help contain mold. Remove trash often and toss out older foods from your refrigerator and cabinets before they get moldy (or infested with bugs). Wipe moisture from your refrigerator, including the dripping pan and rubber seals around doors. Replace the seals if necessary. Don't leave dirty dishes out overnight. Vent your clothes dryer outside.
Common household forms of dust and dust-producing agents include pollen, pet dander, flakes of skin, dust mites, cockroaches and other insects and rodents. Dust accumulates everywhere there's a surface: ceilings, ceiling fans, walls, decorative molding, window sills, furniture, curtains, window shades, books, knick knacks, etc. Your first line of defense is to clear out or seal dust-collecting objects, and replace objects that trap dust with easier-to-clean versions whenever possible.
Reduce dust-producing agents. Keep your windows closed during high pollen seasons. Use dust-mite-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in hot water. Remove or cover bed comforters, or wash them frequently, and purchase hypo-allergenic blankets and comforters. Avoid down comforters and pillows because you may be allergic to duck feathers. Don't use wood-burning fireplaces.
Smart vacuuming. Use vacuums with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. In addition to vacuuming floors and carpets, vacuum ledges and decorative molding, upholstered furniture and mattresses (dust mites love them!). Vacuum under furniture and beds.
Dust away dust. Use dust cloths and mops that capture the dust without re-releasing it, such as those made with microfiber. (Don't use dusters with real feathers — they disperse a lot of dust, and you may be allergic to feathers.) Use damp cloths on objects and damp mops on floors that won't be harmed by a little moisture. Avoid chemical-based dust sprays and cleaning solutions; you may be allergic or sensitive to them. Start your dusting routine with the highest objects in the room, because any dust that isn't picked up by your cloth will float downward. Dry dampened cleaning cloths and mops quickly so they don't get moldy. Wear a dust mask while you dust.
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