Floors, windows, paint — all have the potential for contributing to an allergy sufferer's red eyes, congestion and general state of misery. Designers with the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers penned these decorating and cleaning tips for alleviating airborne allergens in and around the house.
1. Ditch the drapes. They're dust-catchers and aren't easy to clean on a regular basis. Replace fabric window treatments with metal or wood blinds, shades and shutters. They will get dusty too. But these materials are easier to clean — and to keep clean on a regular basis. Microfiber cloths work well on hard-surface blinds and shutters, according to Park Ridge-based designer Hilary Sopata of Interior Visions Designs. For a fiber-based honeycomb shade, use a low-setting on your vacuum and a basic attachment (not a brush attachment). "If you do choose fabric draperies, vacuuming them every other week will keep the dust down," Sopata says.
2. Watch what's underfoot. Hardwood floors, stone or ceramic tile are better options than rampant carpeting. Carpeting can harbor all kinds of irritants, as well as releasing volatile organic compounds, particularly when carpeting is new. Area rugs that can be washed or dry-cleaned regularly are another option. If you simply must have carpeting, opt for very dense and low-piled; dirt and other irritants will sit atop these carpets and be easier to remove.
3. Choose "green" paint. Look for "low VOC" or "zero VOC" paints. "In the past, there have been problems with coverage," Sopata says of them. "But new technology has improved the way it covers the wall." Low VOC paints are readily available in mainstream paint stores; most major paint manufacturers make them. Find zero VOC paint in some mainstream paint stores, in "green" home center stores and online.
4. Keep it clean. On a weekly basis, vacuum carpets, rugs, vents and baseboards — and be sure you're using a HEPA filter in that vacuum. Install proper-size exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen to remove warm and humid air, which can lead to a mold. And establish a place just inside your family entrance for shoe removal. A shoes-off policy will keep all sorts of dust, bacteria and pollen from being tracked into the house.
5. Cover it up. When it comes to furniture, instead of overstuffed upholstery, consider wood-framed sofas and chairs with removable cushions that have covers that can be washed or dry-cleaned. And in the bedroom, cover comforters, mattresses, box springs and pillows with allergen-proof covers. Find them in the bedding department of major department stores, Sopata says.