As the seasons shift and warm weather days start to crop up, it’s that time of year to break out the rubber gloves for spring-cleaning. And while many people think that means reorganizing your closet and shifting a few things around, Dr. Tanya Altmann, pediatrician and founder of Calabasas Pediatrics in California, encourages others to rethink the way they approach a deep clean of their house. After all, there’s plenty of health benefits to overhauling your environment.
More than just organizing
Some of the most common misconceptions about spring-cleaning are that it’s really just about organizing and making things look cleaner and prettier in the house. But there’s much more to it than just the aesthetic value. Altmann suggests that people should consider spring-cleaning an opportunity to get rid of things like dust and allergens and fix up areas that may be collecting mold.
Another thing that people mistake as ritual for spring-cleaning is the use of harsh chemical products to get the deep clean that people desire. Really, you don’t need the next brand of military-grade bleach to clean up your space. Altmann says that people should focus more on dusting and vacuuming as well as using products that help get rid of more germs and more things that would irritate you on a daily basis. This is especially important because irritants like dust mites and allergens run rampant throughout the home during the springtime.
Since March is when things start blooming, that means the presence of tree and grass pollens. If you plan to clean, it’ll help prepare your house for the season and remove any existing allergens leftover from before. Ideally, this means you won’t have to sneeze every few seconds or spend your break at the doctor’s office.
It’s also important to note that although cold and flu season is winding down, there are still a lot of springtime viruses.
Tips and tricks
Altmann has a few tips and tricks to help you get started with this year’s spring-cleaning:
Keep your windows closed to keep pollen from entering your home.
Change the filters on your vacuum and AC to high-efficiency particulate air filters. This is especially helpful for those with kids and pets since it works even harder to trap harmful particles that cause allergic reactions, like pollen, pet dander, dust mites and even tobacco smoke.
Get a new mattress cover and pillow cover! If you’re allergic to dust mites, this can be especially helpful for you, since your old ones will probably have some buildup. You can even look toward hypoallergenic options or for specific kinds of covers meant to prevent allergens from affecting you.
Use disinfecting wipes to clean up areas of your house that might accumulate buildup and then go over it again with diluted white vinegar. Sometimes household products like vinegar — or even just water with a mild soap — can do a great job with cleaning, no harsh chemicals necessary.
If you have children or pets, put toys in either the freezer or the dryer — which will help to kill dust mites and other threatening allergens that could cause a reaction.
Things to keep in mind
If you’re not into spring-cleaning or it isn’t something on your mind post-winter, it’s never too late to start. Although it can seem like an overwhelming prospect to completely scrub your home, it’s much simpler than it sounds. Sometimes, starting with the place that you spend the most time can help you out a great deal.
“When you’re focused on your health, spring-cleaning your bedroom would be the most important thing you can do,” Altmann said, especially considering how close things are to your face when you go to sleep.
She also explains that allergies typically occur in layers: “You might just be a little allergic to dust mites and a little to your dog, but then you open your window and the tree pollen gets blown in and puts you over the edge.”
A version of this story was published April 2017.
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