by Anne Rivas
I grew up on stories about good housekeepers whose homes were always immaculate and ready for company. I heard about moving the stove and refrigerator to clean behind and underneath them, about taking the rugs outside to beat the dust out of them, and washing the feathers and re-stuffing the featherbeds and pillows. I know no one who actually did these things, but there’s a reason for the stories.
Dust mites, dander and mold – Oh My! These all live in our houses, along with bacteria and viruses, and can cause anything from minor irritation to serious illness.
Hundreds of thousands of dust mites can live in bedding, mattresses, and upholstered furniture. They generate some of the most common substances that can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. There are no indoor spaces without mold spores. Problems arise when materials remain wet long enough for mold to grow.
Pet dander is composed of tiny flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents and birds – in short, by everything that has fur or feathers. Pet dander is very light and small, and remains suspended in the air for a long time. It sticks to furniture, fabrics and items carried into and out of the home. It is easily spread and can be found in homes and buildings without pets.
Above are the reasons for those tales of heroic housekeepers. The American Lung Association offers the following recommendations for keeping our homes healthy:
- Have adequate ventilation to combat viruses, bacteria and mold
- Keeping humidity levels in our homes under 50% creates a less hospitable environment for mold and dust mites
- Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom
- Take care of leaks and spills quickly
- Keep refrigerator drip pans clean
- Use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter, or a central whole-house vacuum system
- Damp mop hard floors and dust with a damp cloth
- Damp dust and mop regularly
- Use rugs that can be taken outside and cleaned instead of carpeting, which collects and holds onto dust, dust mites, and pet dander
- Remove shoes when entering the house
- Replace your furnace filter regularly
These steps are an easy way to improve our air quality and keep our families healthy.
It’s early for spring cleaning, but it feels good to at least open the windows while we can!