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7 spots where allergens hide in your home—and how to fight back

You know that the pollen in flowers, grasses and weeds can leave you with a runny nose, itchy eyes and scratchy throat, but spending more time indoors may not be the key to alleviating all your allergy symptoms.

In fact, concentrations of pollutants can be two to five times higher indoors. An estimated 50 million Americans are affected by dust mites, dander, mold and other allergens found inside the home—and you might be surprised at where those allergens are hiding.

Devoting a little extra time to cleaning these seven allergen-prone areas of the home can have you breathing a little easier.


One study found that almost 75% of bedrooms had three or more detectable allergens. Dust mites love to bed down in your mattress and bedding.

Washing your bedding in hot water every week and drying it on the hottest setting will help kill dust mites and keep you from sniffling and sneezing while you slumber. You can also protect your mattress.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American recommends using a zippered allergen-resistant or plastic cover on your mattress, box spring and pillows to reduce contact with dust mites and other allergens.


Studies have shown that allergen levels are higher in homes with carpeting compared to those with hardwood or tile floors. You don’t have to rip up your carpet to reduce allergens.

Vacuum weekly using a vacuum with a high energy particulate air (HEPA) filter that catches fine particles and significantly reduces allergy-causing particulates in the carpet. Removing your shoes in the house could also keep you from tracking pollen inside.


The stuffed animals your kids love to snuggle are stuffed full of allergens. “Stuffies,” like bedding, need to be washed on a regular basis. If the toys are machine washable, run them through the machine on the hot water cycle and then toss them into the dryer on the highest temperature setting.

You can also put stuffed toys in the freezer for at least 12 hours; the frigid temperatures will kill dust mites and prevent eggs from hatching, according to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.


Few things are cozier than relaxing in front of a crackling fire—unless the fine particle pollution in your fireplace causes your allergies to flare.

Schedule an inspection with a certified chimney sweep before lighting your first fire of the season, and have your fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned to remove particles that can cause allergies. You can also reduce airborne allergens by keeping the glass doors closed when you have a fire burning.


While your ceiling fan circulates cool air, the spinning blades can also spread pollen and dust around the room. These airborne allergens can cause symptoms like sneezing, sniffling, runny nose, itchy eyes and coughing.

Wipe down the ceiling fan blades with a damp cloth to remove all the dust before turning it on. Box fans also need to be cleaned: Unplug the fan, remove the cover and wipe down the fan blades with a damp cloth before reassembling and turning it on.

Furnace filters

Furnace filters were designed to trap allergens and keep them from escaping into the air. If you don’t change your furnace filter regularly, it becomes clogged and allows more allergens to escape into the air.

Furnace filters need to be replaced, not cleaned. You should replace the filter every 30 to 90 days (check the packaging for recommendations). This will reduce dust, pollen, mold and other airborne allergens, and it will also boost your furnace’s energy efficiency.

Window screens

On warmer days, it’s tempting to open the windows and air out the house. While screens do a good job of keeping pests out of the house, they don’t prevent seasonal pollen from blowing in.

If you don’t want to keep your windows closed, install window screen filters to reduce exposure to allergens—and remember to clean your window screens in the spring and fall to remove the pollen that gets trapped in the screen.

Cleaning the screens is as simple as removing them from the window, scrubbing with a few squirts of dish detergent in a bucket of water, rinsing with the hose and letting them dry completely before reinstalling.

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