Home and Garden Special Section: Summer is the perfect time to desensitize your home

Published on Wed, Jul 25, 2012 by Kelly Sullivan

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Summer is once again poking out between grey clouds, which means allergies are kicking into high gear.

Unfortunately the sunshine and warm breezes often increase the pollen and particles that cause runny noses, itchy eyes and scratchy throats. Sometimes it may feel inescapable, even in your own home. There is hope yet – ridding your environment of the factors that cause physical discomfort is easier than you think.

Low to no allergy painting

When sprucing up the colors in your home, be aware the sharp smell that irritates your sinuses or causes itchy skin is avoidable when it comes to painting.

Chuck Handy, owner and manager of Pacific Paint & Decorating in Ferndale, said those who are irritated by paint emissions should look for products with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Usually people open the window, but the emissions are still there, he said. He suggests trying two of Benjamin Moore’s lines, Aura and Natura, which have low to zero VOCs.

VOCs are released even after the paint has dried, but are less noticeable, according to the EPA. Beyond the physical discomfort people feel, VOCs are carcinogenic and harm the environment.

Handy believes all paint will eventually have low to zero VOCs.

Covering your windows without covering your nose

Minor allergies can present in the form of inflamed sinuses, skin irritation, coughing and sneezing – and the list goes on.
Lorraine Vinish, owner of Lorraine’s Window Coverings in Bellingham, knows all too well draperies are dust collectors and sources of allergies. In fact, the fabric of the coverings themselves may cause allergic reactions.

Vinish’s company carries a line of fabrics used for window coverings called ADO, which has no polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic that has a strong odor.

The only problem with non-PVC based products is that they deteriorate faster than PVC based ones, Vinish said.

While many people go for fabric-based window coverings, there are solar screens that can reduce intense smells, Vinish said.
Fabrics even exist that can be hung in a bathroom to absorb the odors that come off freshly hung shower curtains.

The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips to allergy proof your home:

Entire house

Temperature and humidity: Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperatures at 70°F and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.

Smoking: Don’t allow smoking anywhere inside your house. Smoke is an irritant that is hard to get out of furniture and fabrics.

Bed and bedding: Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in water heated to at least 130° F.

Pets: Keep animals out of the bedroom. When you can, bathe pets at least once a week. Doing so will reduce the amount of allergen in the dander they shed.

Clutter: Remove items that collect dust, such as knickknacks, tabletop ornaments, books and magazines.

Stove: Install and use a vented exhaust fan to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Many stovetop hoods filter cooking particulates without venting outside.

Sink: Wash dishes daily. Scrub the sink and faucets to remove mold and food debris.

Refrigerator: Wipe up excessive moisture to avoid mold.


Shower and tub: Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub, shower and faucets with bleach. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats.

Toilet and sink: Scrub mold from fixtures. Repair leaks.

Walls: Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.

Living Room

Flooring: Install low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and vacuum weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats weekly and shampoo wall-to-wall carpets periodically.

Furniture: Consider replacing upholstered sofas and chairs with furniture made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.