If you or a member of your family has allergies, then you should know that health risks are present in every corner of your home. Studies show that mould, dust mites, animal dander, and cockroach droppings can cause the immune system of allergy prone individuals to overreact, leaving them sniffing, swelling, and itching. In fact, indoor air pollution is one of the five primary environmental threats to public health. Studies show that 50% of all health conditions are either directly or indirectly caused by polluted indoor air.
With millions of Australians suffering from bio-pollution induced allergies, you should seek to reduce your family’s exposure to allergens that trigger allergy or asthma episodes.
AllAces have some recommendations on how to keep your family safe, that we would like to share with you.
Create an Allergen Control Plan
The first step to keeping your family safe is to identify the allergens that affect you or the members of your family. This will allow you to target those issues in your preventative measures. Your regular doctor should be able to help you with the identification of this. Use simple, easy, and cost-effective ways, like cleaning to control these allergies.
It is important that you prepare a cleaning plan for every room in your home, starting with bedrooms, since this is where most people spend their time. The cleaning process should include:
- Cleaning window frames and seals
- Vacuuming and damp dusting
- Mopping your hard floors
Dust mites are found in every home and are a major trigger for allergies and asthma flares. You may not be able to see them, but they feed on your skin flakes, which means that they will be found in your bedroom where you spend most of your time. Dust mites can be found in your mattresses, pillows, bedding, and bedroom carpets. They can be controlled by minimising dust and keeping your bedding clean.
You can buy mite-proof overs that prevent dust mites from entering pillows. They are also known as allergen impermeable covers. If you do not use these covers, you should be washing your pillows every three months, and should be replacing them every year.
Additionally, you should have your carpets, upholstery and mattresses professionally cleaned twice a year. The most common method for reducing allergens in mattresses is the extraction method. Alternatively, professional cleaners can reduce allergen irritants by applying a neutralising spray between regular cleanings.
While it takes a professional to eliminate dust mites from your home, you can help control them by doing the following:
- Washing your sheets in hot water every week.
- Using mite-proof covers or washing pillows a minimum of four times a year.
- Washing comforters and blankets at least once a month.
- Getting you mattress professionally cleaned every six months.
- Using air filter devices in your rooms.
Warm and damp conditions like those found in your bathroom provide the perfect spots for growth of mould and mildew. These tiny plants release undetectable “spores” that float around in the air, causing allergy and asthmas reactions. Moreover, the spores begin to grow new mould wherever they land, including on appliances like humidifiers, extraction filters and air conditioners. Cleaning these appliances regularly and carrying out maintenance practices as required by manufacturers can be beneficial for your allergies.
You can also find products that control or remove mildew by reading their labels. Remember to follow the instructions that are indicated on the product, such as wearing protective clothing if required. Cleaning toilets and bathrooms regularly and using antibacterial products can prevent mould from growing again. Also, make sure to clean soap scum frequently and keep the under section of sinks clean and dry.
Cockroaches come in second place to dust mites, as the most populous indoor allergens. They are attracted to the kitchen where there is plenty of food and moisture – including water, cooking grease and crumbs. Cockroaches are most active at night, so you should make sure to cover all water and food before going to bed.
Cockroaches look for damp places that have food spills such as the refrigerator area. This area is also favourable for mould. Because of this, cleaning the refrigerator and surrounding areas as per the instructions provided by the manufacturer can help to control allergens. Other sanitary measures to control kitchen related allergies include:
- Keeping your food in containers with tight fitting lids.
- Daily cleaning of the stove and other cooking areas – to remove any food crumbs and grease.
- Cleaning counter tops and floors to remove food crumbs and spillages.
- Keeping damp kitchen areas dry. For example, below the sink.
- Cleaning both inside and outside the fridge
- Emptying the trash daily
- Washing the floors on a weekly basis
- Using approved products to eliminate cockroaches, such as gels and bait.
Often, children are exposed to allergens in the living areas as they play and crawl all over the floor. As such, you should ensure that your carpets, furniture, and other upholstery are clean and dust free. It is important to seek regular professional carpet cleaning services. The frequency of these services is dependent on multiple factors including the number of people living in your home, presence of smokers and pets, and the level of dust and pollution in the area surrounding your home.
If the cleaning is not done by a professional, you should ensure that the person vacuuming is not allergic. You can also have the individual wear protective attire like goggles and a dusk mask to protect themselves from the allergens that can be thrown into the air as they are released from the carpet and upholstery. You should vacuum once a week or more if there is a house pet.
You should use a vacuum with an efficient HEPA filter or one that has a specially designed bag to contain allergens. Depending on whether the bag is disposable, you can throw away or empty is when half full.
To clean the carpets, you can use an upright vacuum or a canister that has a powered nozzle. For upholstery, blinds draperies and light dusting tasks, you can use a non-powered canister vacuum. Use professional cleaning services to restore carpets that have been wet for longer than 24 hours to prevent mould and germs from growing. Other living area cleaning guidelines include:
- Regular professional cleaning of carpets and upholstery
- Removing damp carpet and having them restored.
- Using proper vacuuming to clean carpets on a weekly basis.
- Using a proper vacuuming to clean furniture and upholstery regularly.
- Cleaning window frames and seals regularly.
- Cleaning light fixtures and ceilings fans at least once a month.
- Using washable door rags to catch pollen, dust, and soil, and cleaning them at least monthly.
- Dampen hard surface floor before mopping at least once a week.
Air Handling System
Most homes and office buildings have heating and cooling systems, as well as their air conditioning systems. Modern homes prefer the central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system – HVAC. Regardless of what system you have installed, you should ensure that it is cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.
The air duct systems conceal dust mite allergens, animal dander, mould spores and dust due to the condensation process in the system. As such, you should ensure that the moisture in the air conditioning system is drained properly, and that the drip pans are cleaned thoroughly. Changing replaceable filters monthly and using filter enhancer spray on disposable filters to enhance their efficiency is beneficial.
If there is someone in your home who suffers from allergies and you have never cleaned you air system, then it is best to seek the services of professional cleaners.
While manufacturers test their products to ensure that they are safe for human use, accidents do happen. As such, it is important for you to go through the ingredients listed on the product label before purchasing it. Other guidelines to ensure safe use of cleaning products include:
- Ask allergenic individuals to leave the room when cleaning and open all windows for proper ventilation.
- Cleaning buckets should not be left unattended since they can trap young children and pets and are a drowning hazard.
- Do not mix products since they can release toxic fumes
- Make sure that the products are kept away from food and hidden from children.
- Keep cleaning products in their original, well labelled containers.
- Always read the instructions on the label before using the cleaning product.
- Avoid products with high level of volatile organic compounds – VOCs
- Just in case an accident does happen, keep the number of a local poison control centre close by.
Prepare a Clutter Plan
Leaving item all over the room not only causes it to clutter, but also makes cleaning more challenging and provides a place for dust and allergens to collect. To tidy up and prevent allergens from collecting, you should prepare a clutter plan that includes:
- Sorting out the clutter – beginning with bedrooms, remove everything from the closets, drawers, boxes, shelves, and beneath the bed. Put things in different piles, such as frequently worn clothes, clothes that are not worn, shoes, books, school supplies and sports equipment.
- Finding a place to put it – Once all the items are sorted into piles, you should put them where they will be easy to access for their different purposes. For instance, items that are not used should be put into storage of given away, and school supplies should be kept in a drawer or desk.
- Covering it – The items should be covered to prevent dust from colleting on them. You can put them in drawers, containers, closets, or boxes and label them.
With your clutter plan ready, review it with the other members of the family. Having a clutter plan will greatly reduce the amount of built-up dust and other allergens around the house.
Water incursions can greatly damage your home and property. When your flooring, carpets, and walls become drenched for longer than 24 hours, bacteria and mould begin to grow on them. This can cause allergens to be released, such as mycotoxins from mould that produce toxic substances and affect internal organs and the immune system.
As such, it is important that your repair any damaged water systems, broken pipes, leakages, and damaged roofing immediately. You should also take the necessary steps to hire a professional water damage company to dry the room and its contents.
Mould can grow in moist places between your house walls or under flooring, while remaining undetected for a long time. Therefore, you should contact your insurance company whenever you have a flooding problem – whether caused by natural floods or damages to home water systems. Other precautionary measures against water incursions include:
- Contacting a plumber to stop the flow of water from broken pipes.
- Contacting your insurance company immediately after your home floods
- Turning off the main power switch when you notice standing water.
- Getting an electrician to check your electrical appliances before turning them back on
- Getting the services of a contractor to dry your home and contents
- Avoiding drying your floors with newspapers.
Cleaning with Allergies or Asthma
Cleaning practices like dusting or vacuuming cause dust and allergens to float in the air. Similarly, fumes from cleaning products can fill the air and trigger an allergic reaction. Not cleaning is not an option since allergens like mould and dust will only worsen with time. Consequently, it is necessary to clean your home for your good health and that of your family. If you are the person cleaning, and have allergies or asthma, you should follow the following tips:
- Stick to the manufacturers instructions when using cleaning products. You should follow the directions indicated on the labels.
- When using spray products, spray into the wiping cloth instead of directly onto the surface.
- Use non-scented cleaning products since different scents may cause you to react.
- Also use “green” cleaning products that do not contain toxic ingredients like VOTs
- For thorough cleaning, prepare a cleaning schedule that distributes the tasks over several days instead of one day.
- Ensure that the room is well ventilated when cleaning it. Be sure to open all doors and windows and turn on the exhaust fan. Also leave the room after cleaning until the room has had time to air out.
If in doubt, call a professional. You can call AllAces Cleaning & Restoration on 1800 00 1010 to talk to one of our friendly staff about our services.