Indoor air pollution is something that every household struggles with. Dirt, dust, pollen, and other contaminants can linger in the air, causing unsuspecting symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. One of the biggest offenders in households with pets is dander, a combination of dead skin cells and hair. Pet dander can trigger allergic reactions and asthma attacks in some people, especially in homes with multiple pets. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to improve air quality and effectively alleviate pet allergies in the home.
1. Keep Your Home Clean and Tidy
Clutter spread among too many surfaces can attract pet dander and other pollutants in the air. Cut down on pet allergies in the home by keeping surfaces tidy and organized. Regularly vacuum flooring and furniture, especially your pet’s bed. Dust with a damp cloth instead of a dry one to trap dust instead of releasing it into the air.
2. Bathe Your Pet Regularly
Over time, allergy-causing dander builds up on your pet’s skin and fur. Reduce the amount of dander on your pet by bathing your cat or dog on a regular basis. One study that compared the levels of dog dander allergens before and after a brief bath found that the bath reduced the dogs’ allergen levels by 85%. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a shampoo that supports healthy skin and coat.
3. Install a HEPA Air Cleaner
Pet dander often stays in the air for several hours before it settles down on your carpets, clothing, and furniture. This can negatively impact your indoor air quality and contribute to your allergy symptoms. Use a HEPA air cleaner with your central cooling and heating system to remove these impurities from the air. For the best results, run the air cleaner for at least four hours a day.
4. Create a “Pet-Free” Zone
If you have pet allergies, it’s important to create a pet-free zone in your home. Having a place you can go for relief can minimize your symptoms. If possible, make your bedroom the pet-free zone as this will provide you with a solid eight or more hours of reduced exposure.
5. Comb or Brush Your Pets
Allergies are more common in households with longer-haired pets. To reduce your exposure to dander, comb or brush your pet thoroughly on a weekly basis to get rid of excess hair shed. Use a quality grooming tool specifically designed to remove the bulk of loose fur. If you have allergies and there is no one else in the household to complete this task, bring your pet to a professional groomer.
6. Change Air Filters
If you have pet allergies, it can be helpful to clean or replace your air filters as frequently as every one to two months. During the cooling and heating seasons, air filters collect dirt, dust, pollen, dander, and other contaminants. If you fail to change the air filter, your system is forced to work harder, resulting in increased energy costs. The filter will also not perform as well when trapping allergens.
7. Try a Vapor Steam Cleaner
Many pet owners rave about the benefits of a vapor steam cleaner. Steam cleaners provide homeowners a chemical-free way to remove bacteria, dust mites, mold spores, and pet allergens on carpets, upholstery, and other surfaces. Steam cleaners are also effective at reaching the allergens that are deeply embedded in upholstered surfaces.
8. Replace Dander-Attracting Furnishings
While it’s not always possible to replace items in your home, replacing certain pieces can significantly reduce your exposure to allergens. Carpets and upholstered furniture are the biggest culprits for trapping pet dander. Consider replacing these items with materials that do not attract dander, such as tile, wood, vinyl, or linoleum. Fabric curtains and horizontal blinds can also collect dander. Replace these items with roller shades or other window treatments that will not collect allergens.
9. Keep Pets Off of the Furniture
One easy way to improve indoor air quality is by simply keeping the pets off of the furniture. When the weather is nice, allow your pets to spend time outdoors. While indoors, train your pets to stay off of the sofas, beds, and other upholstered furniture. It may take time to train your pet to stay off the furniture, but with time and persistence, most pets can learn to follow the rules.
10. Keep Your Home Well Ventilated
Proper ventilation is key when trying to reduce indoor air pollutants. If the weather is nice, open the windows to let fresh air in. If you have a window fan, use it to improve ventilation. If your system doesn’t already have one, add a fresh air intake to your forced-air heating and cooling system ducting. This will allow fresh air to enter the home when you’re using exhaust fans.
11. Install UV Lighting in Your HVAC System
Installing an ultraviolet (UV) light in your HVAC system has been found to eliminate contaminants as they pass through the HVAC system. While not everyone needs an HVAC UV light, those with pets and family members with pet allergies may find them beneficial. UV lights can be particularly effective if you live in a humid climate.
12. Cover Bedding with Allergy-Free Covers
Most people spend a large chunk of their time in their bedrooms. While leaving the pets out of the bedroom is best, pets that are allowed to sleep on the bed can cause accumulated dander on the sheets and blankets. Reduce exposure to pet dander in the bedroom by switching to allergy-free pillows and beddings. You may also want to replace your mattress with a low-allergen alternative or cover it with an allergen protection cover.
Approximately 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to a 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey. While dogs might be man’s best friends, dander can be rough on your respiratory system. Take the necessary steps to improve air quality in your home and keep pet dander to a minimum.