Dust seems like something you cannot always escape from. It is outside and easily carried inside. Along with dust come the risk of dust mites and a number of other potential allergens that can wreak havoc on your health and day-to-day plans. How can you remove dust mites and other allergens from your living space? It helps to understand how allergens work, as well as the best methods to controlling their presence indoors.
What Are Allergens?
Simply put, an allergen is anything that causes an allergic reaction. You may be familiar with food allergens that can trigger an allergic response in some individuals. There are also environmental allergens that can do the same thing, and your home is likely to have some as well. Some of the most common allergens found in a home include the following:
- Dust mites are microscopic pests similar to insects. They tend to cause a lot of the dust around a home. Interestingly, people are not usually allergic to the mites themselves but react to their droppings.
- House dust can be made from dust mites as well as a variety of other environmental cast-offs. This can include skin cells, dead insects, dirt, pollen, plastic specks, fibers of clothing and hair.
- Fabric can sometimes be an allergen depending on the person. For example, some people are allergic to polyester. Upholstery around the come could be the source of some allergies.
- Pet dander consists of skin cells from pets that have fur or feathers. In most cases, this is caused by a pet bird, cat or dog. Unless the dander is properly cleaned, it can linger around a home for six months and longer.
- Pests such as cockroaches can leave parts of themselves around a home and trigger allergies.
- Pollen comes from plants and usually gets into a home either from an open door or window or through air ducts. Air purifiers and duct filters may help reduce the pollen in a home.
- Mold spores may be an allergen in a home if mold or mildew develops in damp areas, such as the bathroom or under the kitchen sink. If left untreated, mold in a home can spread and cause worse health issues for those living in the house.
If you or someone else who lives in your home consistently has allergic reactions while at home, you probably have some sort of allergen. Sometimes this is more obvious, such as an allergy to pet dander or mice. Sometimes, the problem is harder to identify because the allergen has penetrated surfaces of the home, such as the furniture or carpet.
How Do Allergens Get in Your Home?
Keeping allergens out of your home can be extremely difficult if not impossible in some cases. Food-based allergens get into your home on any food that you purchase and bring inside. Other environmentally based allergens get in other ways. There are three main methods for such irritants to get into your house:
- They go through an opening. Exterior windows and doors all provide an entry point for allergens whenever they are open. There really is not a whole lot you can do to prevent this other than to keep windows and doors closed as much as possible on days when you know allergens are at their peak (such as on days with a high pollen count).
- They hitchhike on a host. Skin cells and hair or fur fall off of people and animals and leave a trail around the house. Clothing that brushes up against plants could have pollen on them. Fabric may contain other allergen culprits simply from their material makeup.
- They grow. This is true in the case of mold and mildew. The allergen is not necessarily brought into your home, but the issue actually grows from there. Mold and mildew like damp, dark places, such as basements, areas under sinks or closed-off spaces such as behind your drywall. If you notice any leaks in your home, it is a good idea to have those fixed and investigated right away. If your carpet gets damp, you should have it cleaned and dried thoroughly. A professional steam cleaning of your carpet may help prevent or treat mildew and mold contamination in the fibers.
What Are the Signs of Dust Mites and Other Allergens?
You can usually tell if you have dust mites in the house because dust will also be present. If you are a regular duster, however, there could be other allergens about the home. How do you know that what you are dealing with are allergen particulates? You or your family members may suffer from any of the following:
- Atopic dermatitis: This is a fancy way of saying the skin develops a rash. If you are constantly battling rashy skin, there is probably an allergen around you.
- Allergic rhinitis: This is a runny nose or congestion that is triggered by allergies. It is different from congestion and a runny nose due to a cold or flu.
- Epiphora: Also known as watery eyes, epiphora can be triggered by allergens and may be accompanied by a runny nose or congestion. The area around the eyes may also appear a little red and puffy or swollen.
In addition to these symptoms, allergens such as mold and mildew can cause fatigue and respiratory issues. You can usually identify specific allergens a person is susceptible to by consulting with a doctor and going through allergy testing if needed.
How Does Air Harm or Help Home Allergens?
Some people may think that opening up all of the doors and windows of the home to increase airflow is the best way to ward off allergens in the home. However, this often invites outside allergens in. You actually may be better off closing the doors and windows if you are sensitive to seasonal allergies. If you need to cool down your house, using air conditioning may be the better choice to keep allergy risk lower. On the other hand, good airflow can be better for your health generally, so how can you do that while fighting the allergens in your home?
The answer may be an air purifier and possibly a dehumidifier. Using an air cleaner designed with a HEPA filter can help to reduce pet dander, pollen and even smoke from tobacco. The dehumidifier can be beneficial to maintaining a humidity level of 40% or 50% to prevent mildew and mold growth.
In short, opening your home to outdoor air could do more harm than good for family members who are susceptible to allergy attacks, depending on their triggers. To prevent the buildup of potentially harmful allergens, consider the benefits of air purification and, if the climate calls for it, dehumidification.
What Do You Need To Know About Furniture, Linens and Carpet?
When it comes to dust mites, your furniture, linens and carpet may be covered in them. While you can tell when lots of dust build up over time, even going a week without dusting can lead to allergen collection. Upholstered furniture and heavy curtains are prone to dust collection and should be cleaned regularly to prevent buildup. Wool blankets, down quilts and stuffed animals are also attractive to dust. If you want to reduce the amount of dust in a room, avoid a lot of shelf decor and books.
As far as carpets are concerned, the less carpet you have, the easier the dust may be to manage in that you can sweep and mop hard floors. However, carpet also makes a house feel cozy, so switching to all hardwood might not be appealing to you or your family members. To manage dust and allergen collection on carpets, vacuum and dust regularly and steam clean your carpets once or twice a year. Where possible, use washable throw rugs or area rugs to add protection, and clean them regularly as well.
How Do You Clean Your Home of Allergens?
Preventing allergens from getting into your home is tough, and you probably will not be able to keep all particles from getting in. When your home is already invested with dust mites and other contaminants, how do you get it clean?
- Dust all parts of your home. This may mean decluttering and removing decor in order to clean under, over and around everything. Wipe down shelves and hard parts of furniture, too.
- Wash all washable items. Everything from bedding and rugs to curtains and stuffed animals, give everything a good washing to clean off the dust and more.
- Damp-mop hard floors. Dry mopping can be useful for a quick cleanup, but if there is a lot of dust buildup, it may just push particles into the air. Using a damp mop helps trap the particles.
- Steam clean or wet vacuum carpets. You may have a household cleaning machine that you can use to clean your carpets on your own schedule. You can also have your carpets professionally steam cleaned. When done correctly steam cleaning kills dust mites, cleans up allergens and other particles in the carpet, and even reduces odors in the home.
What Can You Do To Control Home Allergens?
You have cleaned your house from roof to basement and are satisfied that most of the allergens are taken care of. So, how do you control them going forward? Without some action, your home will have a layer of dust mites and more at some point. Here are steps you can take to control allergen levels within your walls:
- Air out your house and keep humidity low. Airing out the house means investing in a good air purifier, not opening your doors and windows. Lots of allergens thrive in humid environments, so if your situation permits, keeping the air in your home drier can also help control dust mites and other home allergens.
- Use ascaricides. Ascaricides are chemicals that eradicate dust mites specifically. They can usually be used on both upholstered furniture and carpeting. However, not all ascaricides are very effective, and some types can be expensive. If you try them, you may wish to evaluate the results to see if the process is beneficial for your family.
- Wash and dry linens at higher temperatures. Approximately twice a month you should wash all bedding: mattress covers, sheets, pillow covers, pillowcases and comforters. The ideal temperature to wash these items and kill off dust mites is about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or 54.5 degrees Celsius. Since your family members are likely to spend most of their time in the bedroom sleeping, cleaning the bedding is a vital step to controlling home allergens.
- Use allergen-proof covers. You can purchase covers for furniture as well as box springs, mattresses and pillows. However, keep in mind that by themselves, allergen-proof covers will not prevent dust mites and other particle buildups. You still need to regularly wash bedding and clean the home for the covers to be most effective.
- Mop hard floors every day. If you have hardwood floors, they should ideally be cleaned every day to control dust mites. You have to take care to not get some wooden flooring too wet as it could soak through and lead to mold or mildew. Instead, use a damp mop to clean the floors every day. You can also dry mop, but damp mopping is likely to give you the best results.
- Vacuum and dust twice a week. Clean off the dust from surfaces two times a week to prevent buildup. You should also vacuum when you dust. Wet-vacuuming is more likely to get out the dust mites, but this may not always be practical. Dry vacuum and dust regularly, and wet vacuum a few times a year.
- Hire professional steam cleaners. Steam cleaning is the best way to kill dust mites that are in your carpet. Your carpets should be deep cleaned at least once a year. However, depending on your family’s foot traffic and the presence of pets, you may need to steam clean more often. Some families would benefit from a monthly or quarterly steam cleaning. Talk to the professional cleaners at Safe-Dry to determine what sort of schedule can help keep your carpets looking the cleanest.
How Does Professional Carpet Cleaning Help With Allergens?
Hiring an experienced company to do carpet cleaning for you comes with a lot of benefits:
- Steam cleaning provides the necessary heat to kill off dust mites and get rid of other allergy-causing particulates.
- Most cleaning companies not only clean carpets but can also sanitize rugs and furniture for you. This may be beneficial if you have a lot of upholstered furniture around your home.
- With certain professional cleaners, you can schedule how often you want your carpets and furniture cleaned. This means you do not have to stress about finding time to do it yourself.
- Professionals are likely to have access to cleaning agents that are harder for you to find. These are not necessarily ascaricides; the cleaners likely have safer chemical options that will not irritate the skin or the respiratory system of sensitive family members.
While regular cleaning of other parts of your home also plays an important role in controlling dust mites and other problem particles, Safe-Dry can help keep your carpets sanitized for the health of your family. Contact us today at 1-88-817-8339 to learn more about our services, or schedule an appointment conveniently using our online form.