You know the signs: runny eyes, sniffling, sneezing, itchiness. Ah, the joys of allergies. And sure, you could attempt to dust and vacuum your house into oblivion trying to eliminate any potential allergens, but if that’s not quite cutting it, it may be time to think beyond basic housekeeping. Ahead, nine simple changes that will bring sweet relief to any allergy sufferer.
De-Clutter Your Bed
We love an array of perfectly coordinated throw pillows as much as anyone, but the more bedding on your bed, the more places that can harbor dust mites, one of the most common indoor allergens, says Sandra Hong, M.D., a staff allergist at the Cleveland Clinic. (The microscopic bugs leave behind droppings, which is what people are actually allergic to. SO gross). Keep your bedding minimal, and be sure to wash all of it weekly.
It’s no surprise that carpet can harbor all kinds of allergens, both indoor and those that you trek in from the outside, like pollen or grass. Any kind of hard surface—wood, laminate, tile—is the best option for allergy-sufferers, says Hong. If that’s not an option, low-pile carpet is the lesser of two evils.
Beware of Potted Plants
Sure, they’re a great décor element, but because the soil never gets fully dry after you water, houseplants are a prime breeding ground for mold (you guessed it, another common allergen). If you absolutely don’t want to get rid of your beloved ficus, keep it in a super sunny area and water it in the morning so it can dry out as much as possible. Layering aquarium gravel over the soil can also help keep it from getting waterlogged.
Scrub Your Kitchen Sink
That pile of dishes isn’t the only thing that needs washing. Because it’s constantly moist and damp, the corners of the sink are another perfect place for mold to proliferate and then go right into the air. (It goes without saying, but keeping a stack of dirty dishes in there will only make matters worse.) After the dishes are done, scrub down the sink with antibacterial soap, advises Hong, who recommends doing this at least once a day.
Wipe Down Your Pets
Not only can your furry friend’s dander be an issue, but anytime he goes outside, all the stuff that gets trapped on his coat—pollen, grass, ragweed—gets a direct route into your home. While weekly baths are ideal, for a more realistic fix, Hong suggests brushing or wiping pets down with a damp cloth right before they come into the house.
Go Gas When it Comes to Fireplaces
Granted, gas fireplaces don’t give you that delightful sound of crackling wood, but wood-burning fireplaces can lead to a condition known as vasomotor rhinitis. It causes allergy-like symptoms, which are triggered by a strong scent and can make you more congested and increase post-nasal drip, says Hong. Not to mention that wood-burning fireplaces can exacerbate asthma. Hey, gas fireplaces are easier to clean, anyways.
Lower the Humidity
“Both dust mites and mold proliferate in environments that are over 50-percent humidity,” explains Hong, who notes that dust mites get their fluids from the moisture in the air. If your furnace doesn’t have a humidistat that allows you to control the humidity, invest in a dehumidifier, especially for moist areas like the basement.
Ditch Upholstered Furniture
Consider this your excuse to finally get those Kartell ghost chairs or leather sofa you’ve been lusting over. Like carpet, fabric upholstery traps and harbors any and all allergens, not to mention is trickier to get completely clean.
Don’t Line Dry
We’re all for the eco-benefits of line drying, and it’s lovely to see your laundry swinging in the fresh breeze as it dries in the sun, but all of those outdoor allergens are just going to get trapped on your clothes. Stick with the dryer, and always use high heat to kill off any allergens, adds Hong.