RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you’re hosting guests during the holiday season, there are some visitors you definitely don’t want lurking in the corner—dust bunnies. And it’s not just a cosmetic thing, either. Those seemingly innocent balls of fluff contain allergens like dust mites (and their waste), animal allergens, including pet dander, skin flakes, urine, and even cockroach particles. Even worse, a 2009 study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that indoor dust bunnies can also be often laced with lead, arsenic, and other harmful substances.
THE DETAILS: In the study, Arizona researchers found that much indoor dust is trudged in or blown in from outside. (See, your mother really did have a good reason for making you take your shoes off at the door!) Once inside, it can mix with indoor allergens, including skin cells and carpet fibers, and even dust containing pesticides you apply to your pet or flame retardant chemicals from your couch and electronics.
WHAT IT MEANS: When you’re expecting guests, the ambiance is just as important as the food. But dust, scented candles, air fresheners, and even chemicals in holiday decorations could all trigger allergy problems in the estimated 50 million people living with various types of allergies. That’s why proper holiday cleaning and careful planning in consideration of your guests—and your family—are a must.
Here’s how holiday cleaning and prep work can keep your guests sneeze-free.
• First, find the right cleaners. A new Environmental Working Group study analyzed contaminants in common cleaners and found that many contain possible carcinogens and asthma and allergy triggers. To make a cheap and effective general cleaning solutions that kills many germs, mix 1 part white vinegar with 9 parts water. Wipe the extra-dirty areas down with warm, soapy water and then finish off with the vinegar solution. It dries shiny and the smell goes away within an hour. Use a damp cloth or mop to wipe up dust on uncarpeted areas, and use a good vacuum cleaner, preferably one with a HEPA filter, to drag allergens out of carpets.