Living With Allergies

How Do I Remove Every Last Allergen From My Home?

Photo of a person walking through their home wearing sneakers and carrying a backpack.
Photo by Allie Lehman via Death to Stock

Your home is your sanctuary. Your safe haven. The place you go to put your feet up and get away from it all. So, realizing that it might be full of things that could be triggering your allergies is a bit of a rude awakening.

Here’s the good news: There’s something that you can do about it (hint: cleaning). We’re sharing everything you need to know about how to get rid of allergies in your house.

What could I be allergic to in my house?

The fact that there are allergens in your home is by no means a dig at your cleaning or hygiene habits. In fact, household allergens are super common, with one study finding that 99% of homes in the United States have at least one major allergen present.

What are some prevalent allergy triggers that could be lurking in your home sweet home?

Detergents with chemicals and strong scents

It’s strange to think that the solutions you use to clean—like your laundry detergent, fabric softener, or room sprays—could be causing your allergy symptoms. However, you could have a reaction to something in those products, whether it’s a strong fragrance or another cleaning chemical.

Mold and grime

The mere thought of mold growing in your home is enough to make you queasy, but this fungus is both persistent and prevalent, making mold allergies common. As the CDC explains, it frequently shows up in buildings and homes—especially in places with a lot of moisture. That means it could be anywhere from your damp basement to a humid bathroom.

Pet dander

When you’re on a mission to solve the “how to get allergens out of my house” puzzle, the last thing many seasonal sufferers expect is for your four-legged friend to be a culprit. But, pets with fur are another common allergy trigger in many households. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that as many as three in 10 people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.

Dust mites

Dust accumulates quickly, but can a dusty house make you sick? The short answer is yes—at least if you have an allergy to dust mites (which is likely, since the Cleveland Clinic says these critters are the single most common trigger of year-round allergies and asthma). What are house dust mites? Well, they’re microscopic little bugs that live primarily on soft surfaces like your bedding, curtains, carpets, or mattresses. Is your skin crawling yet? Ours too.

How do I get allergens out of my home?

Knowing all of that, you’re probably more ready and willing to admit this fact: There are allergens in my house. Say it one more time.

But now let’s get to the part that you really want to know: how to get rid of them. Be prepared to invest some elbow grease, because most of it comes down to careful and thorough cleaning. Here are a few tips:

Use unscented cleaning supplies

Before you start emptying out all of the soaps, detergents, scrubs, and sprays from under your kitchen sink in order to deep clean your home from top to bottom, it’s worth looking at your cleaning products themselves.

Start by looking for products that are totally unscented—meaning they don’t contain any fragrance. One study found that some scented consumer goods products can emit 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are already classified as toxic or hazardous.

If you want to be extra cautious, look for products that are marked certified with the “Safer Choice” label from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This program indicates products with ingredients that are safer for both human health and the environment.

Try deep vacuuming during days when the pollen count is high

If you’re specifically wondering how to get pollen out of your house, you need to turn your attention to your vacuum cleaner. It can help suck up any pollen grains that may have found their way into your home.

The Mayo Clinic says that to be most effective, you should look for a vacuum that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Make sure you vacuum soft surfaces (remember, this isn’t just carpets—you can vacuum your furniture and curtains too!) on days when pollen counts are high in your area. You can monitor pollen counts using a weather app, your local news, or a dedicated pollen tracking app.

Regardless of whether you get yourself a fancy new vacuum or not, do a thorough job (known as deep vacuuming) rather than a quick pass. This should include:

  • Doing at least five to 10 passes in one area
  • Moving furniture instead of vacuuming around it
  • Using appropriate attachments to vacuum smaller areas

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Set up a HEPA filter or air purifying system

Cleaning can help you eliminate or at least minimize the allergens that have collected on surfaces. But, what about the ones—from pet dander to pollen—that are floating through the air?

While the EPA explains that removing sources of allergens and ventilating with clean outdoor air are the best first steps to take, an air cleaner or air filter can help supplement those efforts and keep allergy triggers at bay.

There are smaller, portable air purifiers that you can look into if you have limited space or budget. Or, if you’re looking for a larger investment, you can also work with a professional to add an air purifier to your home’s existing HVAC system.

Whichever one you choose, again, you want to look for a HEPA filter. The EPA says that they can theoretically remove at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns.

Clean hard-to-reach areas more often

Cleaning isn’t just about wiping down the areas of your home that you can easily see and access. In fact, getting to the hard-to-reach areas is just as important for ensuring that you’re getting rid of as many allergens as possible.

A few spots in your home to focus on include:

  • Ceiling fan blades
  • Tops of light fixtures
  • Window blinds
  • Underneath appliances

There are specialized tools that can help you get over and under these tricky spots, without having to do risky tricks like balancing on a chair.

While you’re at it, make sure you wash your linens (bedding, towels, and even curtains) frequently. One study shows that four out of five homes in the United States have detectable levels of dust mite allergens in at least one bed.

How often should I clean my home if I have allergies?

Cleaning your home is an effective way to get rid of allergens, but let’s face it: It also requires a pretty significant investment in time and energy.

So, how frequently do you need to clean to keep your allergies under control? It’s tough to say since a lot can depend on your location and what allergy triggers are prevalent. However, cleaning your home once per week is a good rule of thumb.

That doesn’t mean you need to find the time to deep clean every square inch of your house like clockwork. You might find it helpful to create yourself some sort of cleaning schedule so that you’re doing a general wipe-up every week, but doing the deeper cleaning tasks on a steady rotation.

Home sweet (allergy-free) home

There’s nothing quite like the comfort of home, so the last thing you want is a safe haven that triggers sniffling, sneezing, and scratching.

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to get rid of allergies in your house. After that? You can put your feet up on the couch or lay your head on your pillow at night—without thinking about all of the allergy triggers that are lurking on that surface.

ARTICLE REVIEWED BYAmina H. Abdeldaim, MD MPHPicnic Medical Director
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