Toby Saville, chief microbiologist at vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson, gives us the lowdown on how to fight back against these creepy critters that could be making you sick.
The culprit: These tiny spider-like creatures with hairs and pads on their legs are barely visible to the naked eye, but their droppings – the allergen – can wreak havoc.
Hangouts: Warm and humid environments – in mattresses, duvets, pillows, stuffed animals, carpets and fabric couches.
The fix: Use a de-humidifier, vacuum the carpet, the couch and the mattress once a week minimum. Wash pillows and duvets in 60 degrees C water, and put stuffed animals in a freezer for at least 48 hours.
The culprit: A green, white, orange or black furry-looking fungus, whose spores can cause allergic reactions when released into the air.
Hangouts: Wet and humid environments like tiles and grout in the bathroom and kitchen, and over-watered potted plants.
The fix: Ventilation helps prevent mold from forming. Open a window when you have a shower or bath, or install an exhaust fan. To get rid of existing mold, mix up a thick paste of baking soda and water and scrub the area using a cloth or old toothbrush. Remove mold on soil with a tissue.
The culprit: House dust can include skin flakes, soil, sand, mold, clothing fibres, pollen, pet hair and dander, dust mite droppings and body parts, food crumbs, and more. “Whatever allergens you have in home will be in the house dust,” says Saville.
Hangouts: Carpets, window sills, blinds, curtains, shelves, TVs, computers, and picture frames.
The fix: Vacuum often and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth. Using a dry cloth or dusting brush will only raise the dust into the air and re-distribute it.
The culprit: It’s the dander (shedding of the skin) and the substance in a pet’s saliva that’s the allergen, rather than their fur. But when your pet grooms, it puts saliva on its fur, which is then scattered throughout your home as he or she sheds.
Hangouts: Wherever your pet roams.
The fix: Avoid sleeping with Rover or letting Kitty curl up on the couch. “You’ll be breathing in the allergen all night,” warns Saville. Also brush and wash your pet regularly and restrict the pet to certain rooms to contain the clean-up.
After conducting this interview, Deena Waisberg, who generally keeps her home clean, rushed home to vacuum.