Before You Start Cleaning

This content has been clinically reviewed by Jennifer Shih, M.D.

Spring is in the air!

Unfortunately, that means so are allergens. If you have children who suffer from allergies or asthma, a deep house cleaning in the spring can help get rid of two top allergy culprits—dust and  mold—and help your kiddos breathe easier.

Before you start spring cleaning, though:

  • Keep in mind that harsh chemicals and scents in common household cleaners can aggravate or trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. Shop for unscented “green’’ cleaners, or make your own using ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda and lemon. Good Housekeeping magazine has some simple cleaner recipes that you can make at home.
  • To keep children with allergies out of the dust you stir up, consider scheduling a play date at a friend’s house on cleaning day.
  • Don’t forget to protect yourself. You might want to wear a mask to keep dust and mold out of your own nose and mouth.  

Now that you’re ready to get out the elbow grease, here are some room-by-room tips to help eliminate allergy and asthma triggers.

Living Areas

Dust mites are the most common trigger of asthma and allergy symptoms inside the home. As their name suggests, they thrive on dust, so regular dusting is a must.

Always dust your furniture with a nontoxic cleaner before vacuuming. Then use a damp mop on wood floors and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter on carpets to avoid sending dust particles into the air. Here are some other things to remember:

  • If you have wall-to-wall carpet, you might want to consider having it professionally steam cleaned. If you do this, keep kids with allergies out of the house for four to six hours afterwards to avoid irritating fumes.
  • Wash or dry-clean area rugs.
  • Remove window treatments, since they’re usually dusty. Wash or dry-clean curtains, and use a damp rag to wipe blinds clean.
  • Dust books, picture frames, vases and knick-knacks. Remember that clutter attracts dust, so reduce it whenever possible.
  • Vacuum the cushions and crevices in your furniture.
  • Wash pet beds in hot water.
  • Replace the filters on all air conditioning units. These workhorses keep pollen outside—but only if the filters are working. 

Bathrooms

Mold thrives in damp areas such as the bathroom. Mold spores can also float in the air like pollen and trigger allergy symptoms. During spring cleaning, run the exhaust fan in the bathroom while you scrub away mold from tiles and bathroom surfaces. Use a dehumidifier or fans to circulate air, and open windows if possible.

  • If your shower curtain is moldy, throw it away and replace it with a new one. Consider buying a hemp or cotton shower curtain since vinyl and plastic curtains give off fumes that can irritate allergy and asthma sufferers.
  • If you have carpet in your bathroom, consider removing it and installing wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs instead.
  • If you have wallpaper in your bathroom, remove it and paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.

Bedrooms

  • Wash sheets, pillowcases, blankets and comforter covers in hot (130 F) water. Dry in a hot dryer, not outside on a clothesline where they’ll get covered in pollen.
  • Remove piles of books and magazines, which collect dust and can aggravate nighttime symptoms. Keep books in bookcases outside of bedrooms.
  • Store toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins with covers.
  • Once the room is clutter free, it’s time to dust. Be aware that dust may hide on top of ceiling fan blades, on lampshades, under the bed, on blinds and on walls, which should be wiped down.
  • Vacuum your mattress and encase pillows, mattresses and box spring in dust-mite-proof covers.

Kitchen

  • Spills and moisture in and around your refrigerator grow mold, so keeping this appliance clean is important for allergy and asthma sufferers. Empty the refrigerator first, and clean the walls, shelves and drawers.
  • Don’t forget to clean mildew on the rubber stripping around the refrigerator door using a solution of 3 tablespoons of bleach to 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Clean and rinse the stove-hood filter. Use this exhaust fan regularly to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture.
  • Check under your sink for any plumbing leaks that could lead to yucky, moldy surprises hidden out of sight
  • Empty and clean any drip pans.
  • Clean the inside of the garbage can.
  • Scrub the cupboard exteriors and backsplashes.
  • Mop the kitchen floor regularly.

Basements

Damp basements can harbor molds and rodents, so you should always wear gloves and a mask when cleaning. After vacuuming (if necessary), empty the bag outside and place it directly into the trash, while still wearing a mask.

  • If you have mold in a basement, you must remove moisture in the air with a dehumidifier (clean the fluid reservoir at least twice a week to prevent mold growth) or fans to circulate the air. Open the windows if possible.
  • Wash concrete floors and walls with a solution of bleach and water.
  • If you have mold on basement carpet, the best thing to do is remove the carpet.
  • If you have mold or mildew on basement walls, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends two options:
    •  Spray full-strength white vinegar on the walls. Don’t rinse; just air dry.
    • Mix 2 cups vinegar with 2 cups of very hot water, ½ cup salt and 2 cups of borax. Apply this solution to your walls, and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then apply solution again, scrubbing with a soft bristled brush and rinse well with plain water.
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.