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Allergic to Cleaning? 13 Ways to Keep Allergies in Check When Spring Cleaning

Pollen and dust mites and mold—oh my! Don't let allergens stop you from getting through spring cleaning.

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Wear gloves and a mask

Before you start cleaning, put on a face mask and rubber gloves, recommends board-certified allergist Neeta Ogden, MD. The mask will help you avoid breathing in allergens, and the gloves will keep them away from your whole face. “Even quickly touching your eye or face can lead to allergens reaching your eyes and portals to your airway through the nose and mouth,” says Dr. Ogden.

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Clean one window at a time

Spring-cleaning is the time to hit spots you don’t clean every week, like windows. But keeping the panes open too long could let pollen, mold, and other allergens inside. “I would do one window at a time,” says Stephen Kimura, MD, allergist and immunologist with the Medical Center Clinic in Pensacola, Florida. “Open it, clean it, and shut it right away.” Keep the AC running as you go so the air can filter, he says. Check out these other tricks that make window-cleaning easier.

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Let clothes dry inside

No matter how much you love the idea of letting clothes dry in the natural sunlight, stay away from an outdoor clothesline. “If you’re pollen or mold allergic and have clothes out there, they will attract those pollens and you’ll be exposed in high quantities to those allergens,” says Dr. Kimura. Any clothes that can’t go in the dryer should hang dry indoors.

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Pick the right vacuum

Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which is designed to keep dust in the vacuum instead of blowing back up into the air, says Dr. Ogden. Also look out for new models with complete seal technology to keep even more allergens in, she suggests. “You definitely don’t want to go with a regular old vacuum,” she says. Tired of fur on your carpets? These are the best pets for people with allergies. 

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Leave carpet shampoo to the pros

Shampooing a carpet obviously means getting your carpet wet. The problem is, dust mites love spots with more than 50 percent humidity and might start gathering in the damp wood or padding under the carpet, says Mark Aronica, MD, allergist with Cleveland Clinic. “It should be done by a professional cleaner, where things are cleaned up and dried as quickly as possible,” he says. Check out these other surprising things that make allergies worse.

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Don’t dust dry

Dusting with a dry cloth could work against you, says Dr. Ogden. “Dusting in and of itself is not very helpful if you’re just disseminating dust back in the air,” she says. She recommends using a damp cloth or a vinegar solution when wiping down surfaces to actually trap the dust. Don’t miss these other weird ways your house can make you sick.

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Pay attention to clutter

Don’t ignore your usual decluttering when you’re spring cleaning. “Piles of books and magazines and things collect dust,” says Dr. Kimura. Toss the junk while you spring clean to keep the allergens in your home low. Start with these effortless habits of clutter-free people.

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Clean mold hands-off

Mold can trigger allergies, so cleaning it out effectively can be a challenge. The last thing you want is to hover over the shower scrubbing away at the allergen, so Dr. Ogden suggests using a product you can spray. “You can hold them away from yourself and spray into the shower,” she says. “You return in 15 minutes and run the shower, and that’s it.” Use a solution that’s 10 percent bleach, which is strong enough to kill mold but weak enough for your allergies to tolerate, says Dr. Aronica.

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Use natural products

Stick with fragrance-free cleaning products because scented options can make allergies worse. “It’s not a direct allergic reaction so much as an irritant to a nose that’s already inflamed or irritated,” says Dr. Aronica. Use natural cleaning products when you can, like mopping with a vinegar and water solution, suggests Dr. Kimura.

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Run a fan

Opening windows to air out fumes will just bring allergens in, but running a fan can help. “Make sure you’ve got the exhaust hood running in the bathroom or kitchen to keep strong odors from bothering you,” says Dr. Kimura.

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Invest in a mattress cover

Make sure you use an allergy cover on your mattress, pillows, and duvet. “The covers are impermeable to dust mites,” says Dr. Aronica. “What does accumulate during the week gets killed in the laundry.” Wash your sheets in the hottest setting, or at least 120°F, to kill any mites, he says. Use these laundry day hacks to make chores more bearable.

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Give your dog a bath

Spring-cleaning doesn’t have to mean your house only—make it an opportunity to give your cat or dog a good wash, too. “That cuts down on whatever pollen they have on their fur or coats, and also cuts down on dander,” says Dr. Kimura.

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Clean out your dehumidifier

A dehumidifier will help avoid mold at bay in basements—but only if you clean it regularly. “Rinse it out and use a weak bleach to kill mold spores,” says Dr. Kimura. Make sure to refresh it during your spring-cleaning chores. Check out these other spots not to miss when cleaning.