Indoor air quality has become an increasingly important factor when it comes to health as people spend more and more time at home. Many allergens can settle in hidden areas around the home, causing poor air quality. These allergens can include dust, cigarette smoke, wood-burning smoke from chimneys, wood-burning stoves, and pollen and car exhaust through windows and doors. Other triggers can be everyday items like fragrances from beauty products like perfumes, shampoo and makeup, air fresheners, scented cleaning products and detergents, and much more.
With about a third of the population likely to suffer from allergies, these allergens can significantly impact your family’s health and your own. Knowing hidden areas around the home where such allergens can be hiding can help you be more thorough in your cleaning habits to ensure cleaner air for all.
Whether area rugs or wall-to-wall carpet, this makes for a great hiding spot for dust, dust mites, pet dander, pet hair, and food particles. The debris that settles into the fibers can be difficult to dislodge. Make it a habit to regularly vacuum all your carpets, even when there is no evident dirt to be seen. Use HEPA filters that can catch finer particles. Consider using a steam cleaner from time to time. This will help reduce the amount of dust particles that will be kicked up into the air, and also, the heat from the vacuum will help kill anything organic. Be sure to allow the carpet to fully dry to avoid mold or mildew formation. If you have a sickly family member affected by allergies, consider removing all your carpets and leaving just hard flooring exposed. You can more easily keep this clean and detect dirt.
Fabric curtains do not easily show their dirt, especially when made of heavy and dark fabrics. It is one area of living space that people often forget about cleaning, yet it is highly exposed to allergens that originate from the interior and outdoors. Fabric curtains often have a heavy buildup of dust, skin cells, pollen, smoke, exhaust fumes, and insect debris. Giving them a good dusting, washing, or steam cleaning more regularly can help improve air quality. Experts also recommend switching curtains out for blinds or other non-fabric window coverings. These are easier to clean and less able to harbor allergens.
We often introduce potted plants into the home to improve air quality and add coolness and a natural aesthetic. However, plants can often harbor pollen and mold on their leaves, stems, and soil. Decaying leaves on the soil can also be a breeding ground for mold. You can help reduce the risk of propagating allergens here by regularly changing the soil with fresh sterile soil and removing dead leaves when they drop. Cover the soil’s surface with pebbles to help reduce the risk of mold spores being released into the atmosphere. Do not overwater to avoid leaving puddles of water, and try to keep the plant in a sunny area.
There is a good chance that you regularly change and wash your pillowcases as you do your bedsheets. However, this does not resolve the buildup of allergens that may have gotten into your pillows. Dust mites will often hide here and become a hidden trigger for allergic reactions. Fortunately, most pillows can be easily washed in a washing machine unless marked as dry clean only. The same should apply to any plush toys you keep and sleep with on the bed.
Pets can be a strong source of allergens. Their dander, hair, fur, and saliva can easily trigger a reaction in allergy sufferers. The first step should be to ensure they are clean by washing or brushing them at least once a week. Bathing and brushing should be done outside if possible to reduce the risk of stirring up pet allergens indoors. Try to keep your pets away from the bedrooms and regularly wash their bedding and toys. Also, vacuum any furniture and furnishings they tend to come in contact with more often. You can also add cheesecloth over your air vents to better filter out pet hairs and dander that can easily travel from room to room when you turn on the HVAC system.
As your HVAC system circulates warm or cool air through the home, it can also draw in allergens such as dust, hair, dander, odors, and insect debris, distributing them far from their source. Some allergens can even become trapped in parts of the system like ducts or the air filters. Upgrade to HEPA filters that are better at capturing fine particles. Check with your HVAC technician to see if you can also have your HVAC system’s evaporator fitted with a UV light that will help kill bacteria and bio-organisms. Make it a habit to run your AC unit for at least 20 minutes, even on days you do not need it. Doing this will help circulate stale indoor air and bring in fresh air.
Having your HVAC system maintained regularly will ensure it gets a thorough cleaning and that any dirt that is likely to build up and clog the system is removed before it interferes with the optimal running of your unit.