Robin Wilson, author of the new book Clean Design: Wellness for Your Lifestyle, and an ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, offers this advice for spring cleaning that will turn any home into a healthy space free of the wheezes and sneezes:
– Pillows: Make sure you follow the rule of threes: wash zippered pillow covers every three weeks, wash pillows every three months, and replace your pillow every three years. If not, your face is up against thousands of dust mites for eight hours each night.
– Pets: If going pet-free is not an option, then keep pets out of bedrooms and off upholstered furniture. Clean the areas where your pet spends time as carefully and frequently as possible.
Bathe your pet once a week. After playing with your pet, wash your hands and launder your clothing.
– Walls: Always use low- to no-VOC paints because they self-seal to limit the release of toxins into the air. No off-gassing means no obnoxious paint odor that lasts for weeks after painting.
– Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting. Tile and hardwood floors are a much better choice, but must be vacuumed or cleaned on a regular basis to eliminate dirt and dust. Shake out and vacuum area rugs on a regular basis. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
– Lose the vinyl shower curtain: Allergy sufferers are told to shower often to remove pollen and pet dander from their bodies. But the phthalate chemicals in vinyl shower curtains off-gas with humidity and heat, and also attract mold and mildew. Replace your vinyl liner with a nylon shower curtain liner.
– Avoid closet and surface clutter: To keep pollen and dust buildup to a minimum, keep belongings in covered boxes, bins, drawers, cabinets and bookcases with doors. Better yet, store them outside of the bedroom. Not only do they collect dust, but also books—especially older ones—can be a source for growth of mold spores.
– Freeze stuffed toys – Your child’s favorite stuffed animals can harbor dust mites which can trigger allergies and asthma. Freeze all stuffed toys for 24 hours in a Ziploc bag to prevent buildup at least once a month.
– Keep the outside world from coming in – Always take off your shoes before going indoors, and keep all outdoor tools and toys in a garage or shed. If not, you will be dragging in the outdoor dirt and pollen into you living area, and provoking allergies and asthma.
– Beware of mold – If it’s wet and humid, mold can develop. Check refrigerator pans, dishwashers, drains, basements and other spaces where mold can accumulate. Monitor your home’s humidity, ventilate well, manage moisture in the basement and be on the lookout for standing water.
– Simple window treatments: “Dust collectors” is a good phrase to use for heavy draperies or curtains that are cleaned infrequently. For a modern space, consider side panel curtains made of linen or cotton, offset by mechanized window shades that are recessed into a soffit for a completely clean look. Also consider shutters, blinds or pull-down shades made of natural materials.