Stop your sneezing
Your home harbors a surprising number of sneaky allergy-causing culprits. Here’s where they're hiding, and how to send them packing.
Clutter gathers dust
A messy home = nice digs for dust mites, bugs, mold, and mice. Recycle old newspapers, magazines, cans, and grocery bags weeklyand keep the bins outside if you can.
Carpet harbors dust mites
Dust mites and pet dander love carpeting and rugs, so bust out your vac weekly. Make sure it has a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap tiny particles. (Non-HEPA vacs just recirculate ’em.) Our pick: The Bissell Pet Hair Eraser ($170), which alerts you when it’s filter-replacing time. To really ditch allergies, leave your floors bare.
Banish mites and mold by washing bedding in 130-degree water weekly. Ready for an appliance upgrade? The Ultra-Capacity SteamWasher from LG ($1,799) has a special cycle that removes more than 95 percent of allergens.
Moist bathroom or basement walls love to breed mold. Wipe them down with a chlorine-bleach solution (1 ounce bleach to 1 quart H2O) to keep fungus at bay. In the fall, mold also moves indoors via wet leaves on shoes and damp firewood. Store wood in a separate dry space, like the garage, and keep the yard leaf-free. Also, see: 10 ways to remove mold.
Crumbs in the Kitchen
Crumbs and overflowing garbage lure mice and roachesand their droppings can aggravate allergies. Keep your space clean. One nontoxic surface-spiffer we like: EcoDiscoveries Kitchen cleaner ($7). Also, try boric acid and traps for the pests.
Open windows bring outdoor allergies in
Refreshing fall breezes are greatunless they usher ragweed pollen indoors. Keep windows shut between the high-pollen-count hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (If it’s warm, keep the air conditioner running; it filters out pollen inside your home.) Change the AC (or heater) filter monthly. And remove shoes outside to avoid tracking in pollen particles.
How to fight basement mold
Fight mold with a dehumidifier set between 35 and 45 percent humidity. Dehumidifiers come in several sizes, starting at $25. Before you buy, get a humidity gauge ($9; home-improvement stores) to assess how much de-moisturizing muscle you need.
Houseplants can hold mold
Your potted plants can harbor sneeze-producing mold on their leaves. Remove any moldy leaves immediately, and don’t let water pool in the pot’s tray. Check with a plant-care specialist if the problem persists. Find the healthiest plants for your home.
Pet dander and saliva spell trouble for 30 percent of allergy sufferers. Washing or brushing your pet weekly (do it outside) can lower your home’s dander level. Keep dogs and cats out of the bedroom, and cover air vents with cheesecloth to keep dander from spreading from room to room. Here's more information on how to eliminate pet allergies from your home.
Fabric furnshings hold dust and dander
Dust weekly. Wash blankets and throw rugs in hot water (or have them dry-cleaned). Pick up pet fur with your vac’s upholstery attachment, and try to keep pets off furniture. Make sure the air temp is below 70 degrees, too: Mites, as well as fungus and roaches, dislike cool temps.