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15 Tips to Allergy-Proof Your Home

By ROBIN WILSON

It's time for spring cleaning. This year instead of just sprucing up your home, why not make it a truly healthy living space and take steps to eliminate wheezes and sneezes for the entire family?

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Here are some healthy, eco-friendly tips to take your spring cleaning routine to the next level:

1. Clear Out Your Closets
Start with your closets, so you're not dumping everything into a room you've already cleaned. Closets are dust mite havens because of the clothing and junk that sits and collects dust.

2. Remove Vinyl in the Bathroom
Get rid of vinyl shower curtains -- they hold mold more easily and give off gas. Use a nylon curtain instead. Always lower the toilet seat when flushing to ensure that spraying particles do not land near or on towels, toothbrushes and soaps.

3. Breathe Easy in Bed
Use hypoallergenic pillows and comforters. Be sure to wash pillow cases once a week, pillow protectors at least once a month, and replace pillows every three years. To protect against dust mites, cover your mattress with a non-toxic hypoallergenic cover, made without formaldehyde-based fire retardants, and wash every two months.

4. Freshen up the Floors
Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting. Tile and hardwood floors are preferable, but don't forget to vacuum on a regular basis. Each spring, remove everything from the room as if you were moving, and mop or steam clean the floor.

5. Purify the Pantry
Store all food in sealed containers and all food waste in containers with lids to control pest issues. When cooking on the stovetop, run the exhaust fan to prevent food particles from cycling through the room.

6. Oust Old Shelving
When updating shelves, choose metal as opposed to particle board which contains glue that can emit gas for up to 10 years. Avoid displaying trinkets which collect dust. Always dust using a damp towel to more effectively attract dust.

7. Pick Non-VOC Paint
Spring is a great time to paint a room. Use non-VOC paints which won't emit gas or leave an obnoxious odor and stir up asthma or allergies. It looks just the same on your wall.

8. Mind the Mold
Hot spots to look for mold build-up are dishwashers, the water pan under the fridge and sink and bath drains. Change water dispenser and icemaker filters at least once a year. Write the date on the filter, so you'll know the last time you changed it.

9. Wash Stuffed Animals
Wash or freeze stuffed animals to kill dust mites. Keep all toys, games and stuffed animals in sealed bins when not being used.

10. Lighten up the Living Room
Consider using slipcovers on upholstered sofas which can be washed regularly and have come a long way from the slipcovers of 10 years ago. Eliminate dust-catching drapes and horizontal blinds and try washable rolling blinds or shutters instead.

11. Clean With Newspaper
Use newspaper to clean your windows. Newsprint is a cousin to paper towels, but its high absorbency makes it more effective and will leave windows sparkling. Newspaper is also recyclable. But be careful -- the one downside is wet ink can stain wood moldings, so use extra caution. Use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels on floors, tile and countertops. They do a great job sanitizing and can be reused.

12. Groom Your Pet
Groom your dogs or cats once or twice a week and keep them away from bedrooms and any rooms that contain carpets.

13. Get a HEPA Filter:
Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter will better manage dust particles in your home, especially since dust can be a leading trigger for allergies and/or asthma.

14. Toss Artificial Air Fresheners - and Use This Instead!
You can make a natural air freshener by combining 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon lemon juice with 2 cups hot water. Use a new spray bottle or one that has never contained chemicals. Remember that even if you've rinsed out the bottle, residual chemicals might remain. You can also zest a lemon or orange for a refreshing scent, or include cinnamon and cloves for a warm, welcoming aroma.

15. Fend Off Fire-Retardant Furniture and Mattresses
Not only are flame-retardant chemicals a hazard for allergies, but they can also cause cancer with prolonged exposure. When buying mattresses, sofas or any home furnishing containing foam always ask your retailer directly if furniture contains flame-retardants. You may want to avoid them in order to protect your health.

-Robin

Robin Wilson, healthy space designer and president of Robin Wilson Home, is an ambassador for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. She also has a line of hypoallergenic bedding products at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

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