Allergy season is a horrible time for most Austinites, and we tend to end up throwing money at our local allergy clinic to help resolve our problems. According to Live Science, Austin ranks #45 on the list of the worst US cities for people with allergies, but Austinites might argue that’s a bit low on the list.
While stepping outside during the springtime can be a death wish, there are a lot of indoor allergens that homeowners tend to overlook. According to the Journal of Allergens and Clinical Immunology, over 50% of US homes had at least six detectable allergens and over 45% had at least three allergens exceeding increased levels. These allergens include dust mites, pet dander, mold, and cockroach droppings. Without regular cleaning and home maintenance, these allergens can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms.
The average person can’t afford to seal off and sterilize their home, so we decided to create a guide to help Austin residents reduce the number of indoor allergens they’re subjected to on a daily basis.
Dust, Dust, Dust
Dust is the transportation network for dust mites — the most common trigger of asthma and allergy symptoms inside your home. Frequent dusting can help remove dust mites and other airborne allergens from irritating homeowners, but make sure that you’re using the right tools. Using a dry cloth or rag can cause dust to kick up and spread into the air. Use a damp or treated cloth that attracts dust rather than scattering it. Another great way to reduce dust is to reduce the clutter in your home. Cleaning and organizing closets — a place we typically throw and forget items — can help keep dust away from your clothes.
Wash and Clean Linens
Your bedding, pillows, curtains and other household linens are the hottest hangout spots for dust mites. Considering we spend a lot of time in our bedrooms, it makes sense that you’d want to have a clean place to rest. Dust mites are not fans of frequent cleaning, and they can’t survive a warm bath or drying cycle, so make sure that you’re using the hot setting on your washer when washing pillowcases, sheets, and blankets.
Make a Habit to Vacuum
Vacuuming is one of those simple tasks that you can do quickly one or twice a week. For the most effective allergen pick up, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. HEPA filters can trap small particles and prevent them from spreading throughout your home.
Replace Your Air Filter
Standard home air filters should be changed every 30-60 days, depending on the time of year and weather conditions. Add checking or replacing your home’s air filter to your spring cleaning to-do list. A fresh air filter will help decrease airborne allergens being thrown around your home and also may increase the airflow of your A/C system depending on how clogged up your current air filter is.
Deep Clean Your Carpet
Carpets are kind of like an air filter. They become full over time and must be properly cleaned to remove any embedded dirt and allergens. Hiring a professional steam cleaner to come into your home and deep clean your carpets can also restore the look of your carpet by removing any stains and dirt that get trapped from the daily traffic they receive.
Choose the Right Cleaning Products
Some cleaning products can aggravate symptoms for those who suffer from allergies or asthma. In this case, green or environmentally-friendly cleaners are the best bet to cleaning and removing allergens without any side effects. Green cleaners are typically made from plant-based or organic cleaning agents that aren’t as harsh if inhaled while cleaning. If you are the DYI type and don’t like to buy commercially made cleaners, you can make your own cleaning agents at home.
Remove Pet Dander
Austinites love their pets. In fact, Austin was named America’s most friendly city for dogs this year. If you’ve ever driven around the city or hung out at Zilker Park (or maybe you follow Zilker Bark), you know that’s one of the most accurate awards the city has ever received. While Austin loves their furry best friends, they are also essentially walking allergen magnets. Reduce the amount of animal dander in your home by vacuuming frequently and giving your pets a bath at least once a week if possible. Keeping pets off of furniture and out of certain rooms can also help reduce the amount of your home that needs cleaning.
Get Rid of Any Mold & Mildew
In such an active city like Austin, we are constantly showering between our workouts and happy hour. Molds and mildew coincidentally love damp areas like bathrooms and showers, so a regular bathroom cleaning can do wonders for reducing irritants. Much like pollen, mold spores can become airborne and irritate allergy sufferers. A couple of easy ways to reduce mold and mildew in your bathroom is to run the exhaust fan when you’re taking a shower or bath, and drying the shower with a towel after use. If your bathroom is covered with wallpaper, a good mold-reducing home project would be removing the old wallpaper and painting the walls with mold-resistant paint or bathroom tile. Tile is a great choice because it makes future cleaning a breeze, but it isn’t as cost-effective as painting.
Be Mindful After Going Outside
Pollen is great for the life cycle of plants but horrible for allergy sufferers. It’s bad enough to walk outside to your car being naturally painted green overnight, so the last thing you want to do is bring more pollen into your home. Remember to keep doors and windows closed, especially at night. Pollen is light and spreads with the slightest breeze, so you want to mitigate any of it spreading into your home. If you typically line dry your laundry, you’re going to want to stop doing so during the spring months, as your clothes will transport any pollen and mold that they collected while drying. If you suffer horribly from pollen, be mindful of local Austin allergy reports. Higher than normal levels may mean staying indoors for the day if that’s possible. In such an active city like Austin, it’s tough to use pollen as an excuse to stay inside on the weekends. So if you decide to venture outdoors during a high pollen day, make sure that you shower and remove any clothes you were wearing as soon as possible to reduce the amount of pollen that enters your home.
Bugs Are Not An Allergy-Sufferer’s Friend
Bugs are already annoying, especially when they decide to make a late-night appearance around your house. Cockroaches are the biggest offender and a protein found in their droppings can trigger allergies in some people. Using chemical pesticides can cause symptom flare-ups for those that suffer from asthma or allergies. So, instead, use traps and baits or boric acid. Make sure that you’re removing any garbage regularly and don’t leave food out, as it’ll attract some unwanted dinner guests. If the problem gets out of hand, you may need to bring in a professional exterminator to remove any insect problems.