Spring is the traditional time to spruce up your home with a thorough clean. If you have an allergy sufferer in the household, then it is extra important to get the cleaning right. You also need to be careful as any cleaning activity stirs up dust and dirt that can trigger allergens, which kind of defeats the purpose.
However, if you follow our 7 tips for spring cleaning your home, you should be in good shape.
1. Gather tools and supplies
Before you get started, you want to make sure you have the right cleaning equipment and products. If the allergy sufferer in the home is going to be doing the cleaning, then it’s best if they wear protective masks and gloves—there’s going to be a lot of dust and dirt flying around that could exacerbate a condition. Rather than latex gloves, go for cotton-lined, as they won’t irritate the skin.
A good vacuum is a must. Ideally, it should have HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration to trap dust, pollen and bacteria. (If you don’t have one, try doubling up the vacuum’s bags to collect as many fine particles as possible). Whatever your vacuum, make sure to keep the filters clean.
When wiping down surfaces, it’s a good idea to use microfiber cloths as they are better at collecting dust than regular cloths or paper towels. If using commercial cleaners, stay away from anything too harsh.
You might need bleach in the bathroom (especially if you’re tackling mold), but otherwise look for natural products—or make your own. Distilled white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice make for great cleaners.
2. Make a plan, moving from top to bottom
Have you ever considered an air purifier to help you or your family deal with allergies?
It’s easy to get carried away with spring cleaning only to find that by lunch time you’ve run out of steam having only half started every room. Instead, make a plan to tackle one room at a time, thinking about the logical flow of your home. The kitchen and bathroom are usually the biggest jobs, so put those at the top of the list.
Similarly, consider how to go about cleaning each room. In particular, don’t spend time vacuuming and mopping the floor to then find that you forgot to dust the ceiling fan or book shelves. First, clean everything at the highest points—think window ledges, picture rails, crown moulding—then work your way down.
Make the floors the last job in each room. If you’re cleaning a staircase, clean that before you do the first floor in case dirt makes it’s way down.
3. Go on a mold hunt
Mold is a common allergen that can turn nasty if left untreated. Check the bathroom for mold—start in obvious places, such as on plastic shower curtains and tiles. Scrub away at any soap scum, as that can be a breeding ground for spores. You should also check window frames and walls for any damp spots that could harbor mold.
Next, look in the hidden spots, concentrating on places that could be damp—under the sink, behind the toilet, around the bath. Fix pipe leaks or drips. If you find mold, tackle it with a speciality mold cleaner and definitely make sure you are wearing a mask and gloves.
You also need to do the same check in your kitchen. Pay attention to the sink area, and make sure you take a look under the sink (use a flashlight if you need to). Clean out your fridge and throw away expired foods. Don’t forget to check water dispensers or drip trays as well, as they are attractive areas for mold.
Finally, you should inspect the attic, basement and garage. Pay particular attention to pipes, condensation, the water heater and furnace. Check for damp spots in the attic roof, as that could spell mold trouble, and make repairs as necessary.
4. Clean your pet bedding—and pets
If you have a dog, now’s the time to give Fido’s bed a wash. Most pet bedding can be safely washed with a regular mild detergent. Unless the instructions say otherwise, use hot water to help kill off any mites. It’s a good idea to shake out the bed beforehand and vacuum it if it’s covered in hair.
You should also clean any dog sweaters and other clothes. Also pay attention to places where your pets like to nap—if the cat has a favorite cushion, then that should go in the wash.
Take the opportunity to give your dog a bath as well—dog fur is great for snaring pollen and bringing it into the home. A clean dog also reduces the amount of dander.
Finally, if your pets have toys, those will need cleaning, too. Wash plastic ones in warm soapy water, giving them a good rinse to get all the detergent off. Soft toys should be bound for the washing machine—if they can handle it, use a high temperature as that will help take care of any mites that may have moved in during the cooler months.
5. Take time to declutter
There’s not much point spring cleaning if you have stacks of magazines, papers and other things lying around collecting dust. They also make obstacles that are difficult to clean around.
Piles of old clothes and unused blankets are essentially magnets for dirt, so donate them if they are no longer needed. If you have toys, especially stuffed ones, that your children have outgrown, now’s the time to get rid of them. Go through knickknacks and storage as well, sifting out things you no longer need.
If you are putting away any winter clothes, give them a wash first so they aren’t packed away with bacteria and dirt. Store them in plastic containers with lids or zip-locked garment bags. Don’t put clothes in cardboard boxes as the box can hold moisture which attracts mold.
6. Check your filters
Take the new season as a sign that it’s time to check the filters in your home to see whether they need cleaning or replacing. This includes large devices such as HVAC systems, central heating and furnaces, as well as things like your vacuum cleaner and air purifier.
Filters are a great defense against lint, pollen, pet dander, smoke, mold spores and other allergens – but if they are clogged and dirty, they won’t work properly.
It could also be time to upgrade, especially if you aren’t using the most effective filters. While you want a HEPA filter in your vacuum (as described above), you’ll want a filter in your HVAC that has the highest MERV rating—for allergy sufferers, 11 and above is considered the baseline.
7. Use a fan and air purifier
You might be tempted to open the windows while cleaning—in fact, the EPA recommends increasing ventilation to improve the air quality in buildings—but unfortunately that’s a sure way to let pollen and other allergens into your home. Instead, if you need to get air circulating when cleaning, run a floor fan. And if you’re scrubbing away in the bathroom or kitchen, switch on those extractor fans.
It could also be a great idea to use an air purifier as well. Cleaning throws up a lot of dust and dirt, and a purifier draws allergens and other pollutants out of the air. Just make sure the unit is powerful enough for the size of the room by checking its Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and frequency of air exchange.
It’s also a good idea to look out for air purifiers that are part of the American Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) Verifide program, which measures clean air delivery rates at a nicely fresh five exchanges per hour.