Allergies occur when foreign substances or allergens somehow make their way inside or onto your body and cause your immune system to react adversely. And according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, a staggering 40% of children and 30% of adults suffer from one form of allergy or another, including asthma, which is the 5th leading chronic disease for people of all ages in the US.
If you or a member of your household is prone to allergies or has a family history of asthma, the good news is that there are ways to decrease the presence of allergens, especially at home. Having allergies doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy certain luxuries like rug carpets, stuffed toys, or thick comforters. It just means that you have to work harder to keep everything clean and allergen-free.
#1 Vacuum-Clean Your Home Once a Week
You should vacuum your home as much as you should be changing your bed sheets – at least once a week. If you’re especially prone to allergies and/or asthma, twice a week would be even better. However, if your schedule only permits a weekly vacuuming, it can still make a huge difference for your health.
While frequent vacuuming seems like a little too much work, it’s actually the only way to completely eliminate dust and allergen particles in the air. Dusting with traditional cleaning materials can keep dirt off hard-to-reach areas and surfaces, but even if you do it with a microfiber cloth, it’s also just bound to scatter dust and other particles into the air.
So if you must wipe and dust, go ahead, but follow it up with a thorough vacuuming. Don’t forget to wear an allergy mask to protect your lungs and nasal passages. If you’re especially sensitive to dust, it might be a good idea to wear gloves as well.
#2 Use a Vacuum With a HEPA Filter
HEPA means High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter. According to professional air quality consultants, you don’t need a HEPA filter to trap dust, dirt, human and animal hair, dust mites, and even pollen particles. Regular vacuum filters can easily deal with that stuff.
However, when your canister vacuum cleaner is fitted with a HEPA filter, it becomes able to trap smaller and potentially more dangerous foreign matter, like most types of bacteria, microbial spores, pathogens, combustion soot particles, soil particles, and even virus particles hitching a ride on relatively larger objects.
HEPA filters are designed to trap 99.97% of all airborne particles that have the diameter of just 0.3 microns (for comparison, the average human hair is around 100 microns in diameter). This means that even if you don’t have any allergies, you can still benefit from using a HEPA filter to thoroughly clean the air inside your home.
#3 Vacuum From the Top Going Downwards
This means that you should vacuum your carpets last and your top shelves, curtains, and draperies first. The reason for this is that any disturbance throws dust into the air, and then later allows it to settle wherever gravity and the wind may take it – usually the floor or the carpets. You’ll end up with a cleaner home if you follow a top-to-bottom vacuuming routine:
- Special soft brush attachments work well for high shelves and most other solid surfaces.
- Just remember that when it comes to vacuuming stuff and surfaces that tend to yield more, like draperies (even heavy ones), it’s best to use less suction power from the vacuum to prevent damaging anything.
- As you vacuum an entire room from top-to-bottom, do not overlook hidden areas like the spaces above cabinets, different sides of picture frames and framed artwork, hidden angles on windowsills, and the wall space behind furniture.
- When it comes to upholstered furniture and other stuff that can hold tons of dust (and even dust mites) in its crevices, take it slow so the vacuum has time to dig in and work.
- Do the same with heavily textured furnishings like relief artworks, lampshades, or stylized furniture pieces.
Make sure not to use any attachments that have already been used on the floor or carpet. That’s another reason why it’s best to vacuum from the top to the bottom. The bottom of any room is much dirtier than any other area; you don’t want to transfer the dirt and bacteria from this area to higher parts of the room.
#4 Efficiency of the Vacuum
Carpets are where dust and other tiny allergens tend to pack up and accumulate, so you need all the suction power your vacuum can manage.
This means cleaning out the bag or the bin if it’s full and replacing or cleaning the filter according to the attached instructions. Also, make sure that the special vacuum attachment for carpets is 100% clean and functional. No visible dirt or debris should be able to get in the way of your vacuum’s mouth and your HEPA filter.
Remember to still wear an allergy mask when you’re doing this because opening the inside of a vacuum can send allergens into the air. If you do all this right, you can ensure that your handheld vacuum cleaner is functioning at its best, so you can start on the carpets.
#5 Be Gentle, Slow, and Methodical
Don’t press the vacuum cleaner attachment too hard on the carpet as that’s just going to keep the dirt more compact and harder to suck up. Make sure that no visible debris on the carpet itself will get in the way of your vacuum’s suction power; remove visible hairs and other debris by hand instead of by vacuum cleaner. You need all the vacuum’s power to suck up dust and invisible particles.
Take it slow to give your dustbuster more time to do its work. Work on carpet fibers in all directions: left to right and top to bottom; this ensures a much more thorough cleanup job. Pass over each area of the carpet up to four times to ensure the maximum collection of dirt and allergens. Don’t forget to vacuum the underside of the rug carpet as well.
If you’re cleaning wall-to-wall carpeting instead of a rug, a crevice tool or attachment can come in handy for vacuuming edges and corners. This will be especially useful for when you’re vacuuming carpeted stairs and steps.
A thoroughly and regularly vacuumed home is a big step towards avoiding allergy attacks that can result in chronic insomnia and other serious conditions. It may seem like a lot of hard work, but if it helps minimize or even eliminate allergens at home, it’s undoubtedly well worth it.