No one’s favorite part of spring is the cleaning, but for allergy sufferers this yearly hassle is both necessary and tricky. After all, scrubbing away a winter’s worth of dust, mold, and who-knows-what-else is a lot tougher when you’re sneezing the whole time. And don’t even think about cracking open a window to let out all that dust—you might as well roll out a red carpet for pollen.
So where do you start? We’ve got you. We tapped board-certified allergist and Picnic Medical Director Dr. Amina Abdeldaim to get the advanced spring cleaning tips you won’t find anywhere else. (Because you already know to dust your shelves.)
Mattress covers are a pretty cheap way to put a barrier between your bed and indoor allergens like dust mites. Don’t forget to find covers for your pillows and box spring too. Not just any cover will do the trick though, make sure it’s labeled “allergen impermeable” before you put it in your cart.
And if you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress and pillows for a few years (or decades), you might want to think about replacing them before you before you buy a case for them.
Another great way to defeat dust is to wash your sheets and other bedding once a week in warm water (which we’re sure you’re already doing, right?).
Once your sheets are clean, you’re probably going to want to keep them that way. “Shower before bed to remove allergens from your hair and skin so you don’t contaminate your bedding,” Dr. Abdeldaim recommends.
If you have outdoor space, moving your bin to the backyard or balcony is an easy way to keep cockroaches from setting up shop in your home. Many perennial allergy sufferers’ symptoms are caused by the invisible particles cockroaches leave behind, including their saliva, feces, and shedding body parts (yuck). Wherever food goes, roaches tend to follow, so keep kitchen trash—especially compost—outside.
Just like cockroaches love food, mold feeds off of piles of damp paper. You might be tempted to keep scrolling if you live in a dry climate, but the paper doesn’t have to be soaking wet for mold to grow on it—even normal amounts of indoor humidity could be enough.
To be on the safe side, part ways with the piles of random receipts and old tax documents you’ve been hoarding. If you think you might need them someday, snap a pic or scan them so you’ll have a digital, mold-free record.
Of course, your filing cabinet probably isn’t the most damp place in your home. Spring cleaning might be one of the few times a year that you really get into the nooks and crannies of your place, so take the opportunity to check your pipes and surrounding areas for signs of leaks or water damage. If you see anything, call a plumber ASAP so there’s as little time as possible for mold to grow.
While it’s tempting to let the sunshine in, you can probably guess that throwing open your windows invites in plenty of unwanted guests. That’s especially true if you’re allergic to tree or grass pollen, which fills the air in the springtime.
The same rules apply when you’re on the move, so be sure to roll up those car windows.
We likely don’t need to tell you to keep the AC running during the warmer months (especially when you can’t open your windows), but doing so doesn’t just keep you cool—it also helps filter airborne allergens out of the air in your home.
While you’re thinking about air quality, it might be a good idea to invest in a dehumidifier. Dust mites and mold thrive in humid environments, so it could be a big help to have a dehumidifier ready to use before summer rolls around and things get really sweltering.
If you’ve been sitting on the same upholstered armchair or couch for a few years (or decades), it might be time to move on to something new. Upholstery fabrics can attract allergens in the same way that carpets do. If you can’t bear to part with a treasured piece, consider having it reupholstered with leather or vinyl.
We know: This isn’t a task you’ll want to tackle every spring. But if you’ve scrubbed every inch of your home and are still suffering, your floors could be the culprit. You’ve probably heard that you should avoid carpeting if you have indoor allergies, and that’s with good reason—all that soothing shag can trap dust, pollen, and pet dander.
But wood floors come with downsides too. Hardwood flooring can leak harmful chemicals leftover from the manufacturing process (called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) into the air. Inhaling them can cause congestion, coughing, sneezing, and other allergy symptoms. As if that’s not scary enough, experts aren’t sure how long the chemicals stick around, meaning they could be tormenting you for years.
Ultimately, the best choice for you is going to depend on your specific allergies (and home decor preferences), but tile and stone are generally a good way to go because they’re easy to clean and don’t make a cozy home for allergens.
Hopefully this gives you all the info you need to allergy-proof your home this spring. But of course, the real fun of the season doesn’t usually happen indoors. Luckily, you don’t have to be a hermit for half of the year if you don’t want to.
If you do go outside, Dr. Abdeldaim recommends using an over-the-counter nasal spray or saline rinse when you get home to wash away any allergens you’ve been exposed to. Need a recommendation? Take our quiz to get an expert-approved Allergy Pack tailored to your specific needs.