It's the week I dread. No, not because I need to cook an edible Easter meal for a house full of guests or attempt to keep the kids busy during spring break. With the heralding of spring comes spring cleaning, and I can't say I enjoy the task.
If you're one of the 40 million people who suffer from allergies, particularly dust or chemical sensitivities, spring cleaning can be more than unpleasant -- it can be downright dangerous, causing wheezing, sneezing, itchiness, and other allergic reactions. To avoid these problems, follow the general guidelines below before you begin to tackle the room-by-room checklist that follows.
- If you're allergic to pollen, do your spring cleaning early in the season (like now), so you can keep all of your windows open for full ventilation. Once the pollen's out, you'll want your house closed up.
- Wear a mask, especially when vacuuming or dusting.
- Use electrostatically charged cleaning cloths or damp-dust so that you trap the dust instead of sending it airborne through your house.
- Use a good HEPA filter on your vacuum and replace it as recommended.
- Schedule to have your air-conditioning ducts professionally cleaned, and be sure to change the filters once every few months or per the manufacturer's instructions. Likewise, if you're still turning on your heat, change your furnace filter regularly too, since dust and dander can accumulate if it's not changed regularly during the winter months.
- Consider buying or renting a vapor steam-cleaner, which can more than pay for itself because of its effectiveness. You can use vapor steam-cleaners throughout your entire house to wipe out germs, grime, and dust from floors, furniture, drapes, tiles, countertops, and more without aggravating allergies. (Be sure that the machine is a vapor steam-cleaner instead of a water-extraction cleaner which uses a chemical cleaning solution and water, since those types can contribute to mold and mildew.)
Before You Begin:
Feel the urge to purge: Take a day to sort through any clutter, organizing it into boxes: to save, to store, to giveaway and to sell (eBay here I come). Less clutter means less dust and an easier time cleaning in general.
Make this room your first priority. The biggest bedroom threat is usually dust mites, because they thrive on moisture and live off of human skin. They are also the chief indoor allergy culprits.
- Wash all bedding and sheets on the hottest setting and vacuum or vapor steam-clean the carpeting. If you have throw rugs, wash them according to the manufacturer's instructions.
- Dust fan blades by wet-dusting or using Murphy's Oil Soap as directed. Damp-dust window sills and shelves.
- Now is a great time to collect all of your kids' stuffed animals and launder them on the hottest setting. If they cannot be washed in hot water, put them in the freezer for a few hours, then wash them in cold water. It helps get rid of the dust mites.
The Living Room/Dining Room
- Dust mites also thrive in upholstered furniture and carpeting, so vacuum or vapor steam-clean all upholstered furniture and carpeting. (In the future, consider installing hardware floors instead.) Use a vacuum cleaner with an attachment to clean out every crevice in your couch.
- Thick draperies and curtains can accumulate a lot of dust, which you can remedy by vacuuming or vapor steam-cleaning. When you're vacuuming curtains, don't use too use much suction, because the material can get clogged in the nozzle and tear. Check for further cleaning instructions on the label. (In the future, consider purchasing mini-blinds or sheerer curtains, which don't retain as much dust.)
- Dust and gently wash chandeliers and sconces.
While bathrooms and kitchens are by far the germiest places in most homes, the good news is, most bathrooms are relatively small, so cleaning them doesn't take as long, relatively speaking.
- Dust the outside of vents and fans. Take down light fixtures and gently wash and dry.
- Dissolve soap scum on shower doors with a commercial cleaner of your choice.
- Launder or clean your shower curtain, or replace it if it's spotted with mold or mildew. Now is a good time to replace a dirty shower curtain liner. Clean the inside of the tub and shower.
- Wash the sink, sink basin, fixtures and toilet.
- Clean the bathroom mirrors.
- Wash the bathroom throw rugs as directed.
Typically the kitchen will be the most time-intensive room, so you should devote a morning or good chunk of a day for a big kitchen.
Wash the walls of any grease, grime, or sloshed food or drinks.
Dust any lights, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and fan blades. You may need to use a gentle cleanser like Murphy's Oil Soap.
Now is a great time to clean the oven, both inside and out, using your cleaner of choice. While the inside oven is being cleaned, move to cleaning the inside of the refrigerator; make sure to clean out the drip pan, which can cause odors and mold.
Lastly, once the inside of your home is clean, wash or replace the mats leading into your home, as any dirt and grime on them will likely be tracked into your home. While your lifestyle may leave you with more dirt-and therefore more cleaning to do-this will surely get you started on a cleaner, clutter-free spring without the sneezes.