What can I do to reduce allergens in my home?

Is allergen control in the home worth my time?

Absolutely! Some of the benefits include:

  • Your child's asthma and/or allergies will get much better. With the right environmental changes, sometimes allergy medications can be eliminated entirely.
  • Your house will be cleaner -- and easier to clean.
  • Allergic and asthmatic guests to your home (about 20% of the population) will be more comfortable.

It will be impossible to make every change listed here; some are expensive and inconvenient. Don't let this discourage you, though. Go step-by-step through each room of the house and take a hard look at things you can change.

What can I do to reduce allergens in my home?

In your house:

  • Keep indoor humidity less than 50% with a dehumidifier if necessary. Be sure to empty the dehumidifier daily and clean it at least weekly.
  • Don't forget to lower the humidity in the basement!
  • Use air conditioning, not fans. Air conditioning lets you keep doors and windows closed in warm weather and at night. After all the trouble you take to remove allergens from your home, don't let allergens blow in from outside.
  • Change air filters regularly and clean out air-conditioning ducts and heating ducts yearly.
  • Don't allow strong odors in your home, like wood stove smoke, paint or cleaner fumes, strong personal care product odors (like hairspray and perfume), and strong cooking odors (especially from frying.)

In the bedroom:

  • Wash all bedding weekly in hot (>130 F) water. (Cold water is less effective at killing allergenic organisms.)
  • Encase the mattresses, box springs, and all pillows with non-permeable casings. Casings with tightly woven fabrics (pore sizes of 6 micrometers) are the most effective.
  • Switch from feather down pillows and comforters to synthetic, hypoallergenic materials.
  • Stuffed animals should be washed weekly. If they can't be washed, put them in a bag in the freezer.
  • Remove carpets and use wood or tile floors. Small throw rugs should be washed weekly.
  • Remove or clean all heavy draperies and blinds. Use synthetic fibers instead of natural fibers for curtains where possible.
  • Remove or replace upholstered chairs and sofas, or cover with light slipcovers that can be washed weekly.
  • Remove things that accumulate dust (like magazine piles, knick-knacks, and clutter.)
  • Arrange furniture so it is easy to vacuum and dust.

In the living room: With your pets:

  • Most pets, including cats, dogs, birds, and rodents, make allergies worse. Consider finding a new home for them, or making them outdoors-only pets. Tropical fish are ideal pets for people with allergies.
  • Cats are especially bad for allergies. Cat allergen can persist 24 weeks even with vigorous cleaning, and has been shown to last in mattresses for up to 15 years!
  • Keep all pets out of the bedroom. Never sleep or nap with pets.
  • Wash pets twice a week.

In the car:

  • Keep car windows closed while traveling.
  • Don't forget to clean and vacuum your car. Dust and debris can build up there too.

With smokers:

  • NEVER SMOKE INSIDE THE HOUSE. Wear an old shirt or bathrobe over your clothes when you smoke, and leave it on the back porch or in the laundry room when you come inside -- it’s contaminated with allergenic cigarette ash.

When cleaning the house:

  • People with allergies should leave when the house is being vacuumed, cleaned, or dusted. If this isn't possible, wear a paper mask.
  • Use a damp cloth to catch dust. A dry cloth will stir dust up.
  • Clean moist areas, especially in and around the sink, toilet, and bathtub, weekly to kill mold.
  • Contact an exterminator if cockroaches, mice, or other pests inhabit your home.

You can also review our tips for reducing allergen exposure outside.