Staying Healthy During Spring Cleaning (page 3)
What to Use
There any many products that have received the “green” seal of approval and are easy on the environment. Many of those products are derived from plant or natural sources rather than harsh chemicals. Harsh chemicals in cleaning products can aggravate or create symptoms in people with allergies and asthma. An easy alternative to purchased cleaning products can be cleaners that you make yourself from ordinary household ingredients such as lemon, vinegar and baking soda. Find out more about green cleaning.
Where and what to clean: Problem areas in the house
Often the center of the household, kitchens should be meticulously cleaned and sanitized.
- Wipe down the sink after doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher.
- Wipe down the stove top. Use an exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture.
- Wipe down the counters.
- Sweep or vacuum the floor. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily
- Mop the floor.
- Wipe up excessive moisture in refrigerator to avoid mold growth. Discard moldy or out-of-date food. Regularly empty and clean dripping pan and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors.
- Wipe the cabinets, backsplashes, and appliances.
- Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water.
- Check under-sink cabinets for plumbing leaks.
- Store food — including pet food — in sealed containers.
- Wash the dish rack.
- Wipe the switch plates and phone.
- Wipe the inside of the garbage can.
- Empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator.
- Empty and clean the insides of the utensil drawers.
- Scrub down the cupboard exteriors.
- Clean the stove-hood filter.
For carpeting, vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly. Mop hard surface flooring weekly.
Use washable curtains made of cotton or synthetic fabric. Wash seasonally.
Keep windows closed and rely on air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills with a solution of chlorine bleach (3/4 cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water). Always wear a protective mask when cleaning any mold.
Remove anything that collects dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines. Store children's toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins.
Keep the family pet out of the bedroom. Bathing pets at least twice a month may reduce the amount of allergen they shed.
Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity at 30% to 50 %. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.
Control cockroaches and mice with inexpensive traps from the hardware store. If that's not effective, hire a professional exterminator. To remove allergy-triggering insect and mouse residue, thoroughly vacuum carpeting and wet-wash hard surfaces. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other entryways.
Use an exhaust fan to reduce moisture while taking baths or showers. Remove carpeting if possible and use wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs.
Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.
Towel dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub and faucets. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats. Repair any leaks as they appear.
When you live in an older home, basements can be a challenge. Not only can they be damp and dusty, but they can harbor hidden dangers such as rodents or mold that family members may be allergic to. Always wear gloves and a mask when cleaning a basement that has either of these problems. If using a vacuum, empty it outside, still wearing a mask, and place the bag directly into a trash bag, tie and put in the trash container immediately.
Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use cement or linoleum flooring. If that isn't an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Install plastic sheeting (vapor barrier) under carpeting to prevent moisture seepage.
Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness, and clean it once a week. Store collectibles and clothes in plastic storage bins. Use an exhaust fan to vent moisture from a clothes dryer outside.
You can mop or wash down concrete floors and walls with a solution of bleach and water (3/4 cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water). Allow the bleach solution to sit for 5 minutes, then rinse and dry. You can put a fan in front of the area to dry if you wish. Always wear rubber gloves when working with bleach or even vinegar solutions.
If you have a section of carpet that has mold or mildew you can clean the back of the carpet with one part hydrogen peroxide to five parts water. If you can remove the carpet, then place it outside in the sun to dry. If not, prop the section up and place a fan to blow on the area until it's dry.
If you have mold or mildew on basement walls you can try using one of these solutions to clean, but you must also find a way to remove the moisture from the area — such as fans to circulate the air or a dehumidifier — and open windows if you can.
Cleaning Option 1: Straight vinegar sprayed on the walls! Don't rinse, just air dry.
Cleaning Option 2: Mix 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups very hot water, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 cups borax. Apply solution to area and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Apply the solution again, scrubbing with a soft bristled brush and rinse well with plain water.
Spring is just around the corner! You’ve got all the tools you need to safely and healthfully clean your house!
If you are experiencing asthma symptoms (such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or chest tightness), see an allergist/immunologist. He or she will be able to tell you about the best way to control your symptoms and prescribe medications to help manage the disease.
Jeffrey Demain, MD, FAAAAI is an allergist/immunologist based in Anchorage, AK.
Evaluation of cleaning activities on respiratory symptoms in asthmatic female homemakers Jonathan A. Bernstein; Dominique Brandt; Maziar Rezvani; Carol Abbott; Linda Levin Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Vol. 102, No. 1, pp.41-46
Reprinted with the permission of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. © 1996-2008 American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. All Rights Reserved.
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