Cleaning for Allergies and Asthma

Asthma affects 3.8 million Canadians – it doesn’t have a cure yet, but by keeping your home clean using the tips at HealthyCleaning101, you can manage it more easily.

Cleaning to Control Allergies and Asthma

If you or your child have allergies or asthma, you already know that many things can bring on, or “trigger,” an asthma flare or episode. Some things that trigger asthma attacks are called allergens. Some people get symptoms from only one allergen – like dust mites. For other people, more than one kind of allergen can trigger an episode.

The most common allergies are:

Pet dander


Dust mites



Cleaning can help control these allergens; It’s one of the easiest steps you can take to help reduce allergy or asthma flares (episodes) with the following tips:

Start with an allergen-control plan

1. Work with your regular doctor or clinic to figure out which allergens affect your child or you the most.If asthma flares happen a lot, you may need to see a doctor. He or she may suggest that you make changes in your household furnishings – like removing carpeting from a sleeping area.

2. Concentrate on controlling those allergens.

  • Ask your doctor or clinic for asthma education information.
  • Join an asthma support group.
  • Keep an asthma diary.

3. Start with the easiest, least expensive ways, like cleaning.Set up your cleaning plan one room at a time, beginning with where the allergy-sufferer sleeps:

  • wash bedding and curtains
  • dust and vacuum
  • clean window sills and frames
  • wet mop floors

CCSPA also recommends using different methods to clean each room of your house:


Dust mites in the bedroom are a trigger for people with allergies and asthma. Every home has dust mites. You can’t see them; they feed on invisible skin flakes in pillows, bedding, upholstery and carpeting. You can control them by keeping bedding clean and by controlling dust.

To control dust mites in the bedroom, use special dust mite-proof covers to keep dust mites from going through pillows and mattresses. They’re sometimes called “allergen-impermeable” covers. Wipe covers with a damp cloth every week. If you don’t use covers, wash pillows at least 4 times a year, and replace them every year.

Don’t use carpet in the bedroom. Use linoleum, vinyl or wood flooring and washable area rugs. Wash rugs once a week.

  1. Use special dust mite-proof pillows and mattress covers. Wipe them off weekly with a clean, damp cloth.
  2. Wash sheets weekly.
  3. Wash blankets and bedspreads monthly.
  4. Use smooth blinds or washable curtains. Wipe blinds weekly with a clean, damp cloth. Wash curtains monthly.
  5. Dust furniture weekly, using a dusting product or a special cloth that attracts dust (a dry cloth spreads dust around).
  6. Vacuum and wet mop floors weekly.

Other tips:

  • Keep closet doors closed.
  • Set up a play area in another room where stuffed animals and other toys can be stored.
  • Use vinyl, linoleum® or wood flooring instead of carpeting.


Mould and mildew are tiny plants that grow where it’s warm and damp – like in the shower. They release invisible “spores” into the air. The floating spores trigger allergy and asthma episodes. And wherever they land, the spores start growing new mould and mildew.

Mould and mildew are most often found hiding where the floor meets the tub or shower, under the sink and on window frames or sills.

Mould and mildew also grow on “wet” appliances – like air conditioners, dehumidifiers (appliances that remove moisture from the air) and humidifiers (appliances that add moisture to the air). Follow manufacturer’s instructions to change filters and clean appliances regularly.

If the label says:
Mildew Remover: The product simply removes mildew and its stains.

If the label says:
Disinfectant: If the label says the product “controls” or “prevents” the growth of mould and mildew, the product will kill mould and mildew. You need to clean the area before using the disinfectant.

If the label says:
Disinfectant or Antibacterial Cleaner: The product will clean the area and kill mould and mildew. Read the label to see how long to leave the product on the surface (usually from 30 seconds to 10 minutes).

If the label says:
Shower Cleaner: The product will keep mildew from growing. Use it after every shower.

Use a disinfectant or disinfectant (antibacterial) cleaner two to three times a week to prevent mildew from coming back.

  1. Clean shower stalls and bathtubs weekly.
  2. Clean soap scum weekly; mildew grows on it.
  3. Wash shower curtains monthly.
  4. Wipe up water around tubs and showers daily. Clean weekly.
  5. Wash towels and bathmats weekly.
  6. Keep area under the sink dry and clean. Have leaks repaired!
  7. Wash small area rugs weekly.

Other tips:

  • Wipe down shower walls after showering or bathing.
  • Keep shower doors and curtains open so walls can air dry.
  • When possible, open windows or use an exhaust fan to air out the room and remove humidity during and after showering.
  • Use linoleum®, vinyl or tile for floor.


Cockroaches are attracted to food and moisture – including crumbs, cooking grease and plain water. It’s important to remove or tightly cover all food and water, especially at night when cockroaches are more active.

Cockroaches are often found around the refrigerator because of food spills and dampness. These spills and moisture also grow mould and mildew. Keeping your refrigerator clean is an important part of controlling allergens.

If you have the Owner’s Manual, follow the cleaning instructions.
If you don’t have the Manual, use these steps:

  • Turn controls off.
  • Unplug the refrigerator.
  • Remove the grille and clean, using a hand dishwashing detergent or an all-purpose cleaner. You may need to ask your maintenance people to do this.
  • Remove drip pan, then clean and disinfect it.
  • Clean mildew on the rubber stripping around the refrigerator door using a solution of 3/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon water (or 3 tablespoons bleach and 1 quart water).
  • Clean walls and shelves with all-purpose cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water.
  • Wipe up any water in the inside drawers, and then clean them regularly.
  • Clean up spills immediately, especially raw meat, poultry and fish juices.
  1. Clean food and grease from stove daily. If possible, clean under and behind stove.
  2. Clean up food spills, crumbs and liquids on countertops and floors immediately.
  3. Empty trash daily. Clean and disinfect garbage cans and recycling bins weekly. Let the cans dry out before you put in a new garbage bag.
  4. Keep the cabinet under your sink dry and clean. Have leaks repaired.
  5. Clean the outside and inside of the refrigerator. If possible, vacuum underneath.
  6. Wash and dry dishes as soon as possible after eating.
  7. Wash floors at least weekly.

Other tips:

  • Keep food in closed containers.
  • Don’t leave water sitting in open containers.
  • Cover any food (including pet food) that will be left out overnight.
  • Use baits or gel products to get rid of cockroaches. Follow instructions on the product.
  • Seal any cracks around the walls or cabinets where cockroaches can get in.
  • Throw away paper grocery bags. Roaches like to live in them.

Living Areas

When children play and crawl on the floor, they breathe in allergens. Keep carpets, furniture and curtains as clean and dust free as possible.

When you vacuum, some of the allergens trapped in carpets and upholstery are thrown into the air. Whenever possible, have someone with no allergies do the vacuuming. Or, wear a dust mask and goggles if eye allergies are a problem.

Tips for vacuuming:

  • If possible, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter and/or exhaust filter; or use a special bag that holds allergens inside the bag.
  • Vacuum at least once a week. Vacuum more often if you have a pet.
  • Empty the dirt bag when it’s half full (or throw it away if it’s disposable).
  • An upright vacuum or a canister with a powered nozzle is best for carpet. They pick up a lot more dust than a canister vacuum without a powered nozzle.
  • A canister vacuum without a powered nozzle is good for cleaning upholstery, draperies, blinds and light dusting.

If the carpet gets wet, mould, mildew and germs can grow. Carpets that have been damp or wet for more than 24 hours should be removed or professionally cleaned.

Special Allergen Equipment for Vacuum Cleaners

For the vacuum you already have, use:

  • A special bag that holds allergens inside the bag.
  • An exhaust filter.
  • If you get a new vacuum, get one with a HEPA filter and special bags that hold allergens.
  1. Use smooth blinds or shades instead of fabric curtains when you can. If you use curtains, buy washable ones. Wipe blinds weekly with a clean, damp cloth. Wash curtains monthly.
  2. Clean and dry window frames and sills regularly. The dust that collects there is full of pollen, mildew and dust mites.
  3. Clean ceiling fans and light fixtures at least monthly, using a clean, damp cloth.
  4. Vacuum or use a damp cloth to wipe down air vents weekly.
  5. Use washable rugs at doors to catch dust, pollen and mould spores. Wash rugs weekly.
  6. Dust hard furniture weekly.
  7. Vacuum upholstered furniture regularly.
  8. Vacuum floors and damp mop at least weekly.

Other tips:

  • Keep toys, books, “knick-knacks” and stuffed animals in closed cabinets or plastic containers.
  • Use filters over air conditioning and heating vents. If possible, change them regularly.
  • Use smooth, easy-to-clean furniture, if possible.

Cleaning for those with Allergies or Asthma

Since many allergens float in the air, they are hard to avoid. Cleaning (like dusting and vacuuming) can stir up the air and the allergens in it. Just like other particles in the air, sometimes cleaning products can “trigger” an asthma attack. But, it’s still important to clean. If you don’t, the mildew, dust and other allergens will build up, making asthma symptoms worse.

If you have allergies or asthma, here are some important tips:

Read and follow label directions on cleaning products. The label directions give the proper amount of product to use, how to use the product and any special safety advice.
If you use spray products, spray the cleaner on a cloth or sponge first instead of on the surface.
Break your cleaning into small tasks. Spread it out over several days instead of doing it all at once.
Clean in a “well-ventilated” area – open a door and a window or turn on an exhaust fan. Leave the room when you are done cleaning and allow the room to air out.
Try using cleaning products that have no scent or are perfume free.
Try different products to find the ones that work best for you.
If your asthma is severe, have someone else do the cleaning, and try to leave home when the cleaning is being done.
If you must do the cleaning yourself, wear a mask.

Safe Use of Cleaning Products

Cleaning products are tested by their manufacturers to make sure they are safe to use. But accidents can still happen, especially with young children.

  1. Open windows when using cleaning products, especially if the asthmatic person is home while you are cleaning. Ask that person to go into another room when you are cleaning.
  2. Don’t leave cleaning buckets where children or pets can get into them. Young children can drown in very small amounts of liquid. Large buckets are especially dangerous.
  3. Close caps and spouts and put cleaning products away right after you use them.
  4. Store cleaning products out of the reach of young children and pets and away from food.
  5. Keep products in their original containers with their labels. It’s important to know what the product is if a child accidentally swallows it. Never re-use an empty bottle or box for a different product.
  6. Read and follow label directions. Call the toll-free (1-800) number on the label if you have questions.

Read the Label

Different products work in different ways and can have different instructions for using them. The label is where to find how to use a cleaning product. Follow the directions to get the best results.