I’m allergic to dust. Yes, you read that properly, dust. Everyday house dust. (Read post 1 and 2 about this allergy.) As you can imagine, this makes things very complicated. Doctor’s orders say I’m supposed to stay away from dust, especially airborne dust, which also means keeping my house as dust free as possible. Do you see the catch?
Cleaning is very complicated due to the dust issues. First of all, let me emphasize the importance of good air filters if you have a dust allergy or sensitivity. Air filters are CRUCIAL!!! They are also necessary when cleaning. I have two different types of air filters, three filter units total. I have two Winix True HEPA filters, and love them. After we got them, we cleaned thoroughly, and it took significantly less time for a dust layer to accumulate. They also automatically sense air quality and will adjust the fan speed as necessary (if on “auto”) and can be put on a quiet “sleep” mode for overnight. We have one Winix on the main level of our house, and one in our bedroom. We also have a small Holmes HEPA mini-tower air purifier (I bought it from Target about 5 years ago). We buy the best filters we can for the Holmes, and it runs 24/7 in the office. All the air filters run 24/7. I’m not getting anything for these links, but these are the ones we use and I definitely recommend the Winix ones.
How to Clean and Dust Your House When You’re Allergic to House Dust
- N95 respirator mask
- impermeable or barely permeable gloves
- microfiber or Swiffer cloths
- vacuum with a HEPA filter (I love mine)
First, take the max dose (2 pills) of Benadryl (or something else you can take with your prescriptions, ask your doc or pharmacist if you don’t know). Trust me. Even if Benadryl makes you sleepy, having it in your system while you’re disturbing the dust will make you feel much better than taking it later.
Next, no matter how dorky you feel, put on your protective gear. I hate wearing all of it. When getting a respirator, I recommend getting one with a vent, because it makes breathing easier. Also, store the respirator in a Ziploc when not in use, because apparently they can only be used for about 40-50 hours before they stop working properly (source: Dr N, my allergist). Make sure that the mask is dry before you seal the bag or you risk mold. I also wear dish gloves that are specifically for cleaning. The gloves keep me from getting contact dermatitis from the dust, which will happen. I do not wear goggles because I need my glasses, but my eyes definitely feel it when I clean without anything over my eyes. Wearing all of this isn’t fun, but it is better than the lasting effects the dust will have if you don’t.
Now, you can start cleaning.
Start at the top and work your way down, that way any dust you knock around will fall on the dirty shelves or a dirty floor and not onto areas you’ve already cleaned.
Use the appropriate vacuum attachment for the surface, and give it a thorough vacuuming.
After vacuuming hard surfaces, take a microfiber (or Swiffer) cloth and go back over the area you’ve just vacuumed. I know it seems unnecessary, but once you do it and look at your cloth, you’ll be glad you did. Seriously, vacuuming doesn’t get all the dust. Vacuuming gets up the big stuff, and will get probably about 80-90% of the dust, but when you’re allergic you want to get as close to 100% as possible. The microfiber will grab almost all the rest. If your surface allows it, a damp microfiber cloth will grab even a little bit more.
Make sure you move EVERYTHING. Also, dust/clean everything that you move too. Dust settles on everything. Even run the microfiber over the vertical surfaces, you’ll be surprised at how much dust defies gravity.
Work your way down towards the floor.
Make sure to run your vacuum and a Swiffer or microfiber over the baseboards.
After you’re done, turn the air filter on as high as it will go. You can do this before you start, but the air can blow the dust around more and irritate you; so I’d recommend you finish your dusting first.
Leave the air filter running on high while you vacuum the floor. Even if you have hard surface flooring, I’d recommend vacuuming (just turn off the brush to keep from scratching the floor) first. For hard surface flooring, you can also sweep instead of vacuuming, or you can do both. For hard floors, mop (or similar) after you have vacuumed/swept, this will ensure that you get up as much dust as possible.
Stay in your protective gear for a few moments after you’re done with the floors, since there will still be enough dust in the air to bother you. After a few minutes, you can remove the protective gear. Leave the air filter running on high for quite some time.
I’d recommend doing this super thorough job to your whole house once a month, or to one area every week (whatever you have time for). Between deep cleans, make sure you are dusting (basic job, from the top down) and vacuuming at least once a week… though my doctor recommends doing light dusting and vacuuming/sweeping two to three times a week. Light dusting doesn’t involve the pre-vacuuming, nor does it necessarily require that you move every single item.
Be sure that every time you dust you put on the gloves and respirator, and every time you vacuum put on the respirator.
Run your air filters 24/7 and check the filters before the filter change lights come on (just to be sure they’re okay and that your indicator isn’t broken).
7 thoughts on “How to Clean with a Moderately Severe Dust Allergy”
Hi Elizabeth! I love your blog and I thought of your post about dusting with severe allergies recently. “Shape” magazine, a monthly glossy magazine recently ran a women’s health focused on avoiding dust allergens. The writer mentioned wearing an N95 mask *after* dusting, which I never did until reading your blog. It’s saved me so much hardship, and I hope that the magazine gives you proper credit for starting this very fashionable trend. 😉
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Oh interesting! Thank you for sharing about the magazine article, I’ll have to go take a look at it. And thank you for thinking of my blog when you read the magazine!
This is why I outsource it. OK, I outsource because lazy. But I do have a dust allergy!
This is by far my most annoying allergy. I can’t stand it! If I touch something dusty (and I’m lazy, so something is always dusty) my hands get a burning sensation. Not fun!
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I’m allergic to cockroaches. That’s more interesting than anything else. The dust allergy gives me hives…not fun.
Good advice for Asthma sufferers too. 🙂
Indeed! I have asthma, I just was always too lazy to do any of this before I got diagnosed with the dust allergy. 😛 My asthma is definitely happier when I clean with all the protective gear on than when I don’t! Thanks for pointing it out!