Like many of you and your pets, we’re excited to see the sun and the warmer temps, crack the windows and get some fresh air, and make plans for bountiful summer vegetable gardens and barbecues. Also like many of you, I’ve already felt my seasonal allergies flare up. Between the allergy attacks and the muddy paw prints on the floors from the spring thaw, I got to thinking about what we needed to do to reduce the dirt and allergens in our home for us AND our pets and did a little research towards that end. As your lungs, throat, eyes, and nasal passages are affected, so too can your pets’ health be affected. More and more, dogs are struggling with allergies. I wanted to pass along some cleaning tips that I’ve picked up and will be enacting this spring. I hope some of these help you and your pets breathe easier and enjoy this beautiful time of year a little more!
- It’s time to wash the dog! When temperatures get warmer, there’s no excuse not to give your dog that monthly or bi-monthly bath—this helps his itching and general health maintenance, and helps reduce the dust and dander that he contributes to the home. Just don’t bathe too much as it can dry out his skin.
- Change your air filter and do so about once a month—use one specified to trap pollen and dust mites. EPA studies show indoor levels of pollutants may be 25 to 100 times higher than outdoor levels! In general, indoor air is four to five times more polluted than outdoor air!
- Maintain proper humidity levels—not only in your basement but especially in your bedroom where dust mites thrive in the higher humidity produced by body heat and respiration during the night (if you shut the door and have a dog or two in there with you it can get downright tropical!). The EPA recommends indoor humidity levels be between 30%-50% relative humidity. Mold, dust mites, and other allergens can be controlled by maintaining these levels. Obtain a small de-humidifier for your bedroom to help in this effort.
- Dust mites run rampant in your bed and bedding. In fact, a mattress can DOUBLE in weight over the course of ten years because of dust mites and dust mite “debris.” These mites cannot be killed off with regular laundry detergent. Use de-Mite Laundry Additive or another similar product on your bedding, your pet’s bedding, and clothing. Wash in water that exceeds 130 degrees to kill off these mites.
- Use an anti-allergen spray on upholstered surfaces.
- Vacuum about once a week and use a bag-less HEPA-filter model to ensure dust mites and allergens are not being re-circulated. For extra allergy protection, use a carpet dry-cleaning solution specific for allergens and dust mites, such as the Capture Carpet Care Kit.
- Run a room air purifier. We have a model that traps dust and allergens and includes a UV light to kill microbiological contaminants like viruses and bacteria. There are a variety of models and sizes available—with a little research, you should be able to find one that fits your room and budget.
- Use a steam mop on tile and hard wood floors. The heat from the steam sanitizes without harsh chemicals, which is a bonus for your pets and the environment. The steam kills dust mites, allergens, bacteria, and any other buggies that may be tracked in on the bottom of yours or your pet’s feet. Some models come with upholstery attachments that can be helpful in removing the dust mites from your bed and other furniture.
- Remove shoes when coming indoors—even if they’re not muddy, you’re tracking in pollution, pollen, and other allergens that are invisible to your eye. Do the same with clothing after working outdoors for a period of time or when spending time outside on high pollen or air pollution days.
- Use pet wipes to lightly wipe down dogs when they come in from romping outside to remove the dust and pollen that cling to their coats and feet.
- Obtain “allergy filtration bedding” for your mattress and pillows to keep dust mites out. They come in a range of prices, but Aller-ease is a relatively affordable option.
- When dusting, use a cloth that attracts and holds dust (not a feather duster) and make sure to get those places that you don’t typically think of: on top of the bathroom vanity lights, the top of the ceiling fan, tops of books in the book shelf, and inside and on top of light fixtures. If you have a lot of stuff sitting around that collects dust, either commit to keeping the items dust-free, or do some de-cluttering.
- Remember to launder your linen shower curtain and clean or replace any vinyl curtains regularly as they can quickly collect mold.
- Consider professional air duct cleaning service. It’s recommended by professionals in the industry to have your entire HVAC system cleaned every 3 to 5 years, especially if you have pets and allergy sufferers in the home. Stanley Steemer is just one of many providers you can find if you search online and many offer a free inspection/estimate.
- Hard floors are easier to clean and keep free from allergens and dust mites than carpeting. If tearing up your carpets isn’t in the cards, at least perform an annual or bi-annual deep steam clean of all your carpets.