15 Bad Habits That May Make Your Home an Allergy Haven
Are you sneezing a lot lately? Wheezing? Suffering from itchy eyes and a runny nose, too? You’re not alone! According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. In fact, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. If you experience allergy symptoms, your first thought may be to avoid time outdoors. However, another culprit may actually be your home. Indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, mold, and cockroach droppings can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms in millions of allergy sufferers.
A survey published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that at least six allergens were detectable in more than 50 percent of homes. But there is good news: A (relatively) allergen-free home is possible. By knowing which allergens are present in your house, how they got inside, and where you can find them, you can take the steps necessary to reduce your allergen exposure and breathe easy inside your home.
Read on to learn about fifteen bad habits that could be turning your home into an allergy haven – and how to break them.
1. USING HARSH CHEMICAL CLEANING PRODUCTS
If you have allergies, you know that regularly cleaning your home to remove dust and dirt helps keep you symptom-free. But did you know that your cleaning products could be making your allergies worse? People with asthma and allergies can react to harsh chemicals in cleaning products. These chemicals may not cause a true allergic reaction, but they can be extremely irritating. This irritation can cause many of the same symptoms as allergies and sometimes even worsen existing allergies. Common ingredients found in conventional cleaning products that people with allergies should avoid include ammonia, bleach, D-limonene, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), synthetic dyes and fragrances, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), among others.
Don't sacrifice your health or the health of those around you for the sake of cleaning. There is a better way! Vital Oxide will replace your current household cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants with one product designed to enhance your environment. Vital Oxide is an all-purpose cleaner, EPA-registered hospital disinfectant, NSF-certified food-contact surface sanitizer (no rinse required), mold killer, odor eliminator, and allergen neutralizer. It’s fragrance-free, dye-free, VOC-free, and free from harsh chemicals, noxious odors, and harmful residues. Vital Oxide’s formula contains a unique form of stabilized chlorine dioxide. With a neutral pH of 8, chlorine dioxide is not irritating to the skin. You can read the entire label here.
2. WEARING OUTSIDE SHOES IN THE HOUSE
Not only is wearing outside shoes indoors a health risk, but it can also increase allergens. Wet leaves stuck to the bottom of your shoes can bring in mildew, and pollutants from grass often get trapped on the bottom of shoes. Take your shoes off outside, or put them inside a washable tray as soon as you walk in the door. Taking just a few seconds to remove your shoes each time you come in from the outside can reduce allergens (as well as bacteria and germs) in living areas.
3. KEEPING THE TEMPERATURE TOO HIGH
Many allergen sources such as mold and dust mites (the number one household allergen) thrive in warm environments. Keeping the temperature of your home cooler – around 70 degrees Fahrenheit – can help keep them at bay.
4. NOT CONTROLLING THE HUMIDITY
As an allergy sufferer, finding the right level of humidity in your home is essential. Allergen particles, such as animal dander, are more likely to fly around if there's too little moisture. Too much humidity, and you could have a problem with mold, mildew, and dust mites. Depending on the conditions inside your home, try using either a humidifier or a dehumidifier as needed to keep the humidity at about 40 percent. During warmer months, run your air conditioner, which will also help control mold and dust mites by reducing humidity. Air purifiers can also help to reduce allergens in the air. If you use one, try an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Check out our selection here.
5. IGNORING PESTS
We all know that having bugs in the house is a total nuisance. But did you know that a protein found in cockroach droppings can trigger allergies in some people? To eliminate cockroaches, use traps and baits or boric acid rather than harsh chemical pesticides, which may exacerbate asthma or allergy symptoms. In addition, consider calling a professional exterminator.
To help prevent cockroach infestations, store food in tightly sealed containers, empty and wash pet bowls daily, and enclose or promptly dispose of all food garbage. Vital Oxide is proven effective in neutralizing cockroach allergens. Clean your home regularly and thoroughly with Vital Oxide to eliminate any lingering cockroach waste and allergens.
6. ALLOWING CLUTTER TO ACCUMULATE
One of the best ways to control indoor allergens is by banishing dust. Clutter tends to accumulate dust and makes cleaning more of a challenge. Clutter can include things like piles of paper, old mail, cardboard boxes, magazines, knick-knacks, and misplaced items like clothes, toys, and shoes. By reducing clutter, you’ll give dust and dirt fewer places to hide, and you’ll make your cleaning routine more manageable. It’s a win-win!
7. NOT HAVING AN ALLERGY-FRIENDLY CLEANING ROUTINE
Your cleaning routine is as important as the products you use in your home. If you or a loved one suffers from allergies, it’s vital to clean your home regularly, including weekly dusting and vacuuming. When dusting, use a cloth lightly damped with Vital Oxide to capture dust and debris and neutralize allergens. When vacuuming, consider using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help remove allergens from your floors (and avoid reintroducing them into the air). While you’re at it, don’t neglect the special attachments and nozzles that your vacuum comes with! From dusty walls, ceilings, shelves, windowsills, fans, couches, upholstered chairs, mattresses, and hard-to-reach corners – all these can be quickly taken care of with the help of a vacuum cleaner – and it’ll make the rest of your dust-busting routine a total breeze. Damp-mop any tile, hardwood, or linoleum floors regularly with a solution of one part Vital Oxide to nine parts water to remove dust and debris and neutralize allergens.
Related: Cleaning The Allergy-Friendly Way
8. CLEANING IN THE WRONG ORDER
Make this your new allergy-friendly cleaning mantra: Clean high before you clean low.
Remember, dust doesn’t just collect on shelves and floors. Ceilings, overhead lighting fixtures, and ceiling fans are just as prone to getting grimy, but they don’t get cleaned as often and tend to sprinkle dirt and dust onto the space below them when they finally do get cleaned. Since cleaning these high-up features will inevitably lead to the area below getting dirty too, always start with the ceiling in each room and then work your way down the walls and the furniture and finally to the floors. While you’re cleaning, be sure to vacuum all surfaces (ceilings, walls, trim, fans, furnishings, items, and anything else in the room) using a HEPA vacuum and make at least two passes over each surface. If you have allergies or asthma, it’s a good idea to wear a protective mask while cleaning dusty areas or ask someone else to do it for you.
9. FORGETTING TO CHANGE THE AC FILTERS
Never run your heating or air conditioning system without the proper filters, and be sure to change them at least every three months or more often if needed.
10. NOT VENTILATING YOUR BATHROOM
Your bathroom is the most naturally humid room inside your home, making it attractive to mold and mildew. Opening the windows or using an exhaust fan (and making sure it's vented to the outdoors) helps to reduce moisture accumulation during and after showers and baths.
11. FORGETTING TO CLEAN YOUR SHOWER CURTAIN & LINER
Mold and mildew love to grow on our shower curtains and shower curtain liners. To keep these allergens at bay, wash your shower curtain and liner once a month (or more if needed) with the following method:
- Remove the shower curtain and liner, place them in the washing machine, and a couple of white towels. The towels will provide extra scrubbing for better cleaning. Note: Generally, most shower curtains are washable, but to be on the safe side, always check the instructions on the care tag before washing.
- Add the regular amount of laundry detergent along with ½ to 1 cup Vital Oxide to sanitize.
- Wash in warm or hot water at the highest level.
- Allow fabric curtains to run through the spin cycle, then hang to dry. There's no need to put it in the dryer. If the curtain is plastic, there’s no need to run it through the spin cycle. It’s ready to hang in the bathroom right after it rinses.
To keep your plastic shower curtain liners clean and healthy, clean them weekly by wiping them down with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any grime. Next, spray with Vital Oxide and let air dry.
12. LEAVING WET TOWELS & SHOWER CURTAINS BUNCHED UP
Want to spend less time scrubbing mold and mildew from bathroom surfaces and cut down on laundry? Don’t leave wet towels in a heap on the floor and damp shower curtains bunched up. This is one of the simplest bad habits to break. By closing the shower curtain after each use, it will dry more quickly and discourage mold and mildew growth. By remembering to hang wet towels to dry, you'll be able to get a second or third use and lighten your laundry loads.
13. NOT BATHING PETS REGULARLY
The protein found in the saliva, urine, and dander (dead skin flakes) of our furry friends is a common allergen for many people. Not to mention, our pets can bring outdoor allergens like pollen inside the house. These allergen particles can become airborne and trigger symptoms in those who are sensitive. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to reduce pet dander and pollen brought inside by frequently vacuuming, dusting, and mopping the floors with a solution of one part Vital Oxide to nine parts water, and washing your pet regularly with an Anti-Allergen Pet Shampoo.
Other measures you can take include keeping your pet out of your bedroom and off the furniture and designating certain areas of the house as pet-free zones.
14. NOT WASHING AWAY ALLERGENS EFFECTIVELY
Dust mites tend to thrive in bedding, pillows, towels, and throw rugs. And since we spend so much of our time in the bedroom, it's especially important to reduce allergens there. At least once a week, wash pillowcases, sheets, and blankets with an Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent to neutralize allergens.
15. NOT TACKLING MOLD IMMEDIATELY
At the first sign of mold or mildew – for example, a mysterious musty smell, weird dark mark on the wall, stained grout, condensation, etc. – it’s crucial to find it as soon as possible. The sooner you find the mold, the easier it will be to remove it. Basements, bathrooms, and garages tend to be hot spots for mold growth. If mold and mildew infestations are caught early, you can easily tackle them with the appropriate tools and a little bit of elbow grease. There are a few basic precautions everyone working in moldy areas should follow. First, always avoid breathing in mold or mold spores. Undisturbed, mold isn't likely to be airborne. But during the cleanup, spores will float on air currents and enter the lungs unless precautions are taken. A disposable respirator (such as an N95) will provide suitable protection for light cleanup. It’s also a good idea to wear heavy-duty work gloves and safety goggles or other protective eyewear without ventilation holes, as well as a hat if you'll be cleaning up mold on ceilings. Those who suffer from respiratory issues or a weakened immune system should avoid entering the space entirely.
Finally, you need the right product to tackle mold and mildew. Think of Vital Oxide as your secret weapon to combat fungus. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant and mold killer that eliminates mold and mildew on a molecular level – neutralizing spores and inhibiting fungal growth – without damaging the surfaces treated. Unlike bleach and other harsh products that are only effective on hard, non-porous surfaces, Vital Oxide can also penetrate surfaces like carpets, upholstery, drywall, concrete, and wood – and destroy the roots of tough mold and mildew. Read more about using Vital Oxide for mold remediation here.