For those who suffer from pollen allergies in the spring and ragweed allergies in the fall, winter can seem like a welcome relief from potent allergy triggers. But while it's true that winter may mean a respite from many outdoor allergens, your indoor environment may be worse than at any other time of year. This is because you are spending more time indoors. In addition, because your home is closed off from the cold weather, and receives minimal air circulation, indoor pollutants and allergens gather in the home in concentrations higher than at other time of the year. One of these most potent allergy triggers is dust.
Vacuuming Away Those Winter Allergens
Although winter allergens can include an increase in mold and other environmental allergens vacuuming regularly to keep dust and pet dander at a minimum will have a profound effect on your winter allergy symptoms. Following are some important tips for vacuuming thoroughly:
- Start out with a clean vacuum. In order to maximize suction and therefore the effectiveness of your vacuum cleaner, start each major vacuuming session with a cleaned out vacuum. If you have a bagless
vacuum cleaner, such as a
sure to wear a
dust mask when you empty your unit so you don't inhale dust and debris. In the case of a vacuum cleaner that uses bags, such as Miele, Sebo, or Electrolux vacuum cleaners, make sure that bags aren't full and check them periodically. Also make sure to maintain vacuum filters - check them regularly and replace according to manufacturers recommendations.
- Vacuum everything that can be vacuumed. Vacuum cleaners arent just for carpets
. Just about anything that can collect dust can be vacuumed. For instance, window blinds or shutters are virtual dust magnets; make sure to vacuum them, too. Use your vacuum cleaners brush attachment, or for mini-blinds, attachments like the Miniblind Vacuum Attachment, make this task a breeze.
Ceiling fans are another dust collector. Although you could get up on a chair and use an electrostatic dust cloth to clean the blades (dont ever use a feather duster or plain rag, as they will simply stir more dust into the air), why not incorporate this chore into your vacuuming routine? The Ceiling Fan Vacuum Attachment makes the task quick and easy.
But thats not all: Even your pets can be vacuumed! The Pet Brush Vacuum Attachment lets you groom loose hairs off your pet before they collect on upholstery or in carpeting.
Drapery is another big dust collector that can often be vacuumed. And dont forget your mattress and upholstered furniture favorite spots for dust mites and pet dander. Vacuuming them regularly can help keep allergen levels under control.
- Vacuum top to bottom. Start with the highest surfaces in the room like the tops of bookshelves and ceiling fan blades. This way, dust that is stirred into the air inadvertently will get picked up when you move to vacuuming the floor and carpeting.
- The dust is in the details. Dont overlook small surfaces like door frames, window frames, and molding. These surfaces may not receive much regular cleaning, and they may be layered with dust. Once a first-time cleaning is performed, make sure to go over these surfaces regularly to keep dust from collecting.
- Practice good technique. In addition to making sure to vacuum everything that can be vacuumed and not forgetting any of the details, the way you vacuum impacts your vacuuming routines effectiveness. Moving the vacuum cleaner slowly over surfaces maximizes the amount of dust and debris the vacuum cleaner picks up. In addition, its a good idea to pass the vacuum cleaner over each area about four times, especially when vacuuming carpeting and upholstery. Vacuuming in a few different directions also enables the vacuum to pick up more dirt. Take care not to press the vacuum cleaner down onto the carpet, as this will mat the fibers and make the carpet harder to clean in the future.
- Dust collects fast; vacuum frequently. Although it may not be necessary to do a completely thorough vacuuming routine this often, we recommend that allergy sufferers vacuum their entire homes at least twice a week. At least, high traffic areas and bedrooms should be vacuumed this frequently. All carpets and rugs should be vacuumed at least once a week. Mattresses, upholstery, and drapery should be vacuumed regularly. And if pets are present, its a good idea to be especially frequent and regular with your vacuuming routine.
Vacuum Cleaners: Our Top Picks
Following are top picks in two general categories: an upright bagless unit, and a canister bag system vacuum cleaner.
||The Miele Luna Vacuum Cleaner offers the best of the best with a more affordable price tag. Running at about half the price of its most luxurious cousin, the Miele Capricorn, the Miele Luna features a HEPA filter to trap microscopic allergens and a completely sealed system to ensure that dust and debris stay trapped within the vacuum cleaner. This Miele also boasts an activated carbon filter to clean chemicals and odors from your indoor air. A special floor brush allows for gentle yet effective cleaning of wood and tile floors. On-board tools include a Crevice Tool, a Dust Brush, and an Upholstery Tool. Built to last for 20 years, the Miele is durable yet lightweight. At under 11 pounds, you wont have to think twice about hauling this vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs.
Regardless of the Miele you choose all are HEPA capable and now come with free expedited shipping.
The Dyson DC17 Animal Vacuum Cleaner, with its superior cyclone technology, is ideal for pet owners who suffer from allergies. Level 3 Root Cyclone Technology sucks up pet dander, dust, and other allergens while a lifetime HEPA filter keeps microscopic allergens from re-entering the air. In addition, the Dyson Animal comes with a host of tools to make your vacuuming routine easy and thorough at the same time. The tools, such as the Mini Turbine for cleaning stairs and the Low Reach Floor Tool for cleaning easily under beds and other hard-to-reach areas, are stored directly on the unit for easy access. The Dyson Animal is certified Asthma Friendly by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Indoor Air Quality: Worse During Winter
So why is indoor air so bad during the winter time? A combination of more time spent indoors by both people and pets as well as the lack of ventilation is mostly to blame. Common household pollutants such as fragrances, cleaning products, and off-gassing from various materials from upholstery to dry-cleaned clothing, are trapped inside the home, which is tightly sealed to keep the cold out and the warmth in. Smoke from a fireplace is also a potential cold weather indoor air pollutant.
Furthermore, factors such as humidity from showers or the kitchen may not ventilate properly and could lead to mold and mildew production. Dust mites, too, thrive in increased humidity. (This is why it is important to monitor humidity, especially if you are counteracting dry air problems, with a humidity gauge or with your humidifying units built-in hygrometer.)
In addition to loving the excess humidity that may be present in your home during the winter, dust mites also love the increased amount of time you are spending indoors (especially if youre spending more time snuggled up in bed, where dust mites congregate, waiting to feast on your shed skin cells) their food supply is abundant. To add to the trouble, furnaces stir up the dust that has settled on surfaces, and may even introduce dust from dirty air ducts into the air that you breathe.
Winter allergies are in large part a product of this elevated population of dust mite allergen combined with your increased exposure time due to the longer hours spent indoors. Many times, people assume that the sniffling, headaches, itchy eyes, and sneezing they experience during the winter are extended or recurring colds. Actually, many times these are allergic reactions to the dust that accumulates during the winter. Maintaining a dust-free indoor environment can go a long way in keeping you and your family from feeling like you have a perpetual cold. The key to keeping excess levels of dust mite allergen under control during the winter months is frequent and thorough vacuuming.
For more information about effective vacuum cleaning, see How to Vacuum Your Home to Reduce Allergens.