October may be defined by glorious spring days but, here in the Cape, it’s also a red flag month for allergy sufferers. It’s the time of the year when grasses and fungal spores peak, and Port Jackson, Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Plane trees flower.
The pollen count is sky high, and this is bad news for the one in five South Africans, who sneeze, splutter, cough and wheeze their way into summer.
On its own, household and office cleaning won’t completely prevent allergies, but it can mitigate the effects of the Cape’s pollen season by significantly reducing allergens in the indoor air you breathe. This can make a significant, positive difference, especially when combined with other measures – like staying indoors in the early morning and evening (when pollen counts are highest); using over-the-counter antihistamines; and getting plenty of liquids.
Here we offer some cleaning tips that can help you wage war on allergies.
Gear up for dust-busting
Cleaning stirs up the dirt and dust, so it’s essential you protect your eyes and airways from the allergen onslaught. A practical solution is to wear a dust mask and goggles while you work.
Your choice of cleaning gear also matters. Only use equipment that actually traps the dirt – microfibre cloths, blind cleaners and mops – and invest in a vacuum cleaner fitted with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter; it can capture minute fungal spores, pollen and bacteria.
Get rid of dust traps
Clear shelves, cupboards and surfaces of clutter, such as books, ornaments, boxes and clothing. These are magnets for dust and dirt. Wipe individual items with a damp microfibre cloth, and shake out the books and empty boxes.
Wash all the clothes on a hot water setting. You’re half way to an allergy-free home.
Overhaul the air con
A neglected air conditioner circulates spores, pollen and dust around the room. That’s why it’s essential to replace the filter, wipe down the frame and clean the air ducts on a regular basis. Fans and humidifiers require similar attention.
Vacuum the house from top to bottom at least twice a week. Pay attention to nooks, crannies and hard to reach places, like under furniture and behind doors. When it’s time to empty the bag or canister, remember to do it outside in a sheltered area.
Clean curtains and blinds
Dust, mildew spores and pollen particles flow in from the outside and get trapped in curtain folds and blinds. That’s why it’s a good idea to have your window coverings professionally cleaned at least once a year. Thereafter, regular maintenance with a microfibre blind cleaner or vacuum cleaner will keep the allergens at bay.
Sanitise the sheets
Dust mites are tiny bugs that thrive in cosy areas, like your bed. They also cause nasty allergic reactions, from sniffles and sneezes to difficulty in breathing. The easiest way to get rid of dust mites is to wash your bed linen once a week on a hot water setting of 55 degrees Celsius and above.
Focus on rugs, mats and soft toys
Loose rugs, mats and soft cuddly toys attract and retain allergens and bacteria. If they’re washable, throw them into a hot water machine wash once a week.
Alternatively, give them a good shake outdoors, and leave them in the sun for an hour or two. Sunlight reduces bacteria and encourages dust mites to move along!
Bombard bathroom mould
Mould is a known trigger of allergic rhinitis, and the best place for mould and mildew to flourish is in damp areas of the house. A nail brush or long-handled dishwashing brush and bleach are the easiest way to tackle the black spores that build-up in the shower, and around the bathtub and kitchen sink.
Scrub exterior patios, decks and pathways
Lots of dirt, dust and allergens are brought into the house underfoot. You can prevent this by sweeping or scrubbing all entryways to your home – pathways, patios and decks.
Placing a mat at the front door, and encouraging people to wipe their feet or remove their shoes before entering your home, is also a good idea.
Tumble dry laundry
Tumble dry your laundry rather than letting it air dry outside. This will prevent your linen and clothing from being “invaded” by pollen, dust and spores carried around in the wind.
Consider professional cleaning
Professional, deep cleaning of the home can reduce the amount of pollen, dust, mould spores and other allergens in the air you breathe indoors. At Chelsea Cleaning, we offer expert, affordable cleaning of upholstery, carpets, rugs, curtains and mattresses, in the greater Cape Town and Helderberg areas.
If you’re prone to spring allergies in the Cape, we hope these cleaning tips for allergy sufferers make a difference!