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Allergies, Carpeting, and You

Woman sneezing in a field of flowers

Spring is here! But for all too many of us, it goes by a different name: Allergy season.

When you’re in the middle of a long string of sneezes, or enduring the stuffy-head congestion of a particularly bad allergy day, it might seem like there’s no possibility of relief in sight other than waiting for the calendar to roll around to winter again.

You simply can’t get rid of your allergies altogether. Fortunately, with some diligent cleaning and careful planning, you can at least keep them in check.

Allergies are your body’s response to a foreign substance that your immune system has identified as harmful. The symptoms you experience are caused by your immune system’s production of antibodies to try to combat this “invader.” That’s why your sinuses seem like your worst enemy when the pollen count is high. For some people, allergies are just a minor irritant. For others, they can severely affect their quality of life.

Carpet as a culprit

Your carpeting can be a magnet for the worst kinds of allergens. This means pollen, dander, mold, dust mites, and anything else that you, your kids, or your pets might drag in from the outside. One extreme way to remedy this is to tear up that carpeting in favor of hardwood flooring. Hardwood floors aren’t as inviting a haven for those nasty little irritants as carpeting is. But this dramatic move is not an available solution for everyone, in particular allergy-sufferers who are renting and others who don’t have the option of performing a major interior-decorating overhaul.

Fortunately, since your allergies are a reaction to your overall environment, there are often much simpler things that you can do to alter your surroundings and thereby make your allergy-plagued life a little more livable.

If you can’t remove your carpeting, the next best thing you can do to fight allergens is—you guessed it—keep that carpeting clean! An effective way of doing this is to leave your shoes at the door. If you designate the interior of your home a “shoe-free zone” then a lot of the nasties that make you sneeze won’t be able to venture very far inside. If you don’t have tile or some other material that you can mop in your entryway, consider placing your shoes on a mat or a rug that you can put in the washing machine. And though Rover would probably rather not take a bath, keeping him clean will be of great benefit to anyone in your family who loves him but not the way he sheds!

Suck it up (the dirt, that is)

Vacuuming your carpeting regularly also goes a long way toward keeping your home allergen-free. And it’s not a bad idea to have your carpets deep cleaned by a team of professionals every six months if possible. The pros can get those spots that you often can’t reach on your own—and they have the specialized equipment needed to do a thorough job.

But when the task of vacuuming is yours, it helps to know that there’s a right way (and a wrong way) to vacuum your carpet. You might think that it’s enough to just turn the machine on, give the floors a few quick passes, and then send the vacuum back to its place in the closet until next week. Obviously, this is better than doing nothing. But if you want to make sure to remove (nearly) all of the dirt, dust, and dander from your living space, then it pays to follow these vacuuming-themed guidelines in mind.

First of all, if you’re really serious about cleanliness, then you’ll want to invest in the proper machine to help you get the job done right. This is especially true if you own pets, have young children, or live with someone who suffers from severe allergies. In order to remove an overwhelming majority of allergens from your carpeting, a vacuum with a true HEPA filter is your best bet.

Using the proper tools and methods

HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air. If your vacuum is a true HEPA model, then it has been tested and shown to remove 99.97 percent of every piece of dirt, dust, or dander that is over 0.3 microns in size. (To give you some perspective, the low-end measurement for the width of a human hair is around 17 microns.) True or absolute HEPA vacuums will have a serial number on them showing that they meet this standard. Vacuums that are not true HEPA, but merely HEPA-like, will not display this certifying mark. And these inferior devices will likely not pick up as much dirt and dust as true HEPA vacuums will. In fact, they may just end up blowing those tiny allergens all around your house instead of trapping them for you to haul away!

If you find a proper vacuum, then you should next make sure that you’re vacuuming your carpet in the right way. Don’t be in a rush to finish. If you take your time and give the vacuum a chance to do its job, you’re going to pick up more of the nasty stuff that keeps making your carpets dirty. And obviously, it’s better to vacuum several times a week than several times a month. Your home will stay cleaner if you don’t let that dirt collect in your carpet for too long!

Beyond getting the right type of vacuum and then using it properly and frequently, it also pays to stay vigilant when it comes to the care and maintenance of your vacuum. Check the vacuum’s filter regularly to see if it needs to be washed off or replaced. And if you have a vacuum that uses a bag, you should replace the bag when it gets full. By doing this, you can ensure that you will maintain optimal suction.

In conclusion

When your allergies are at their worst, you might almost feel completely helpless. But know that you don’t have to resign yourself to weeks and months of misery. By striving to keep allergens out of your home and then using the proper vacuum to keep them under control, you can improve your quality of life dramatically.