With cooler weather and the first frost of the season just around the corner, the outdoor allergy season is winding down. However, spending more time indoors during fall and winter means that indoor allergens can be a big problem, even in the bathroom. Being proactive and taking a few strategic steps can help decrease the amount of allergens in the home and minimize allergy symptoms.
1.) Clean Up
Regular cleaning is one of the best ways to reduce allergens in the home. Use a commercially prepared mildew-fighting spray or bleach solution to scrub away mold and mildew from faucets, tubs, showers, and shower curtains. Wipe the sink and counters daily and towel-dry the tub and shower doors after use to remove standing water and reduce humidity. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America recommends washing towels and floor mats weekly to remove any mold spores. While diligent housekeeping is essential for reducing allergens, be careful not to inadvertently create new problems. Fumes from strong, commercial cleaning products can cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction in some people. Homemade cleaning solutions made with household staples like hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or baking soda effectively remove allergens and germs without aggravating allergies.
2.) Clear the Air
Airborne allergens, like dust, pollen, and pet dander, are major allergy triggers. Forced air heating systems can circulate airborne allergens and exacerbate symptoms. Radiant heating systems rely on convection, the natural tendency of heat to rise, rather than blowing air, which can circulate airborne allergens throughout the house. Using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter may provide additional help.
3.) Reduce Humidity
Mold and mildew thrive in warm, humid conditions. Taking a long, hot shower may be relaxing, but a bathroom that is poorly ventilated or maintained retains moisture, creating a breeding ground for allergens. Keep humidity to 50 percent or less. Adequate ventilation is essential. Remember to use the bathroom fan while showering and a dehumidifier if necessary. Damp towels can be home to one of the more common allergy-producing molds. Heated towel racks aren’t just a luxury. with radiant floor heating, they can reduce humidity, keeping bathrooms warm, dry and less hospitable to mold and mildew.
4.) Fix Leaks
Keeping up on home maintenance can eliminate other potential problems. A leaky pipe or toilet can allow water to seep into drywall, wood, and insulation, causing damage to floors, walls, or ceilings. Fix plumbing leaks and replace damaged construction materials that may be harboring mold and mildew.
5.) Remodel with a Purpose
Make strategies to reduce allergens part of your bathroom remodeling plan. Choosing the right materials and techniques can help keep allergens down. The Mayo Clinic recommends replacing carpeting with tile, vinyl, wood or other easy-to-clean, hard surface floor covering. When decorating, select washable rugs, and launder them regularly to minimize accumulation of dust mites, pet dander, mold spores, and other allergens. Moisture can get trapped under wallpaper, allowing mold and mildew to grow. Take down old wallpaper and cover walls with decorative tile or mold-resistant enamel paint.
So this fall and winter, plan ahead to protect yourself and your bathroom from allergens. With a little cleaning and creative prevention, you can relax and breathe easily as you chase away a winter night’s chill with a long, hot bath.