Allergies? Feeling ill? Check common culprits in your home for causes.

The cold weather that’s hit us recently is here to stay for a few months, and we’re doing our best to seal our homes from the creeping draft. However, stopping this fresh (but mean) cold air from coming in could have an effect on our health, by creating an environment in which dust, dirt from outside, fumes & general yuck thrives.

How can we do our best to create a clean, livable & warm home this winter? Apart from regular daily cleaning, here’s what you can do:

1. Purify the air

Pot Plant

Fill  your home with plants! Not only do they beautify your living space, but they help to process the foul air & produce clean, breathable air. Starting with our personal favourite, the aloe plant, here is a list of great indoor plants you can use to clean the air in your home (among other awesome traits). You can view the original list here.

2. Clean the bedding & bed

bed

Dead skin, parasites, sweat. None of these sound attractive, right? I hope not. Really, I hope not. Here’s a list of how often you need to clean your sleeping area for optimal health & sleep:

  • Bedding (blankets, duvet covers, sheets, pillow covers): once per week.
  • Pillows (the actual pillow, not just the slip): twice per year. Read this post on Bright House for instructions on cleaning your pillows.
  • Mattress: use a mattress protector, if you can. They’re relatively inexpensive & can do wonders for your mattress maintenance. Got your kids jumping into your bed when they’ve had a bad dream? Then you NEED the mattress protector, as those nightmares often cause little toilet accidents too. Yup, your mattress can get all manner of gross if you don’t maintain it. Do a mattress flip twice per year as well, and vacuum it too, if you can. The important thing is keeping it dry to prevent mold & bacteria from developing, so if there are stains or spills, dry that as quickly as possible. Also, change your mattress every 10 years.

3. Clean your rugs & carpets

rug

This one should be pretty obvious, but sometimes we don’t realise how often we really need to clean those carpets. Dust gets caught in the fibres, as well as wild amounts of other junk, and this could have your allergies reacting like crazy. Vacuum your carpets weekly (or more), and give the rugs a spring clean regularly. If you’re remodelling anyway, and suffer from allergies, pull up those carpets & put in an easy-to-clean replacement (wood, laminate, tile) in areas in which you don’t mind having slightly cooler floors (e.g. living rooms).

4. Clean your couches

couch

Short of searching for lost keys between the cushions, we don’t generally pay much attention to what’s going on in our couches. And, can I say: gross. If you can lift your cushions or, even better, remove the covers, then don’t forget to do this regularly. When I was younger, my parents made the mistake of purchasing a white couch with REALLY tight covers, so each week was a fight with the cushions to get them cleaned & back on once they’d shrunk in the wash. But on the plus side, they were always regularly cleaned AND we got a workout! This helps to get rid of a lot of dust in the house, especially if you have pets. If you can’t remove your cushions or covers, then try to vacuum your couch regularly, and make sure you get between the seat & the arm, as lots of gunk can get down there.

4. Air out now & then

window

It’s not particularly enticing, but seize any opportunity you can to air your home out. Winter in South Africa, especially here in Cape Town, isn’t chronic. Every now & then we’re favoured with a mildly sunny day & instead of only using those days to get our laundry done, we should also remember to air the place out as best we can. Cancel your appointments and get cleaning, open all the windows & then see how fantastic you feel afterward. Also, check that your air vents are not clogged (because most of the air vents in homes I’ve lived in were horrendously clogged or painted over or filled with bees. Yes, bees.).

5. Treat mould immediately

mould spray

Do this to prevent it spreading. Mould spreads especially quickly during winter months, as steam from kitchens & bathrooms have nowhere to go when all the windows & doors are closed. Check for mould above your stove, in your bathroom, and in your bedroom. You’ll be surprised at where it can come from, and it’s pretty unpleasant to have it (and treating it is such an unpleasant chore when you have a lot of it to treat). You can get mould & stain cleaner for under R50 at Pick n Pay, but remember to wear a breathing mask & clothing that you don’t mind getting damaged in case it falls on the fabric.

6. Take off your shoes

slippers

If you have very bad allergies, it may be best to just remove your shoes when you step in the door. A very popular practice in areas like Asia & Scandinavia, it could be really practical to just have slippers set at your door along side a shoe rack for when you come in. It can be a little irksome for guests, but if you have to choose between allergic reactions & cranky guests, your guests will probably understand. Now try getting your kids to do it!

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