According to Allergy UK, about 40% of the population in Britain will suffer from allergies at some point in their lives. Allergies, unfortunately, can develop at any age – which means that you might not have any problem today, but you might start to develop a sensitivity to pollen in the coming years. Hay Fever, of course, is the most common complaint, as it affects over one-quarter of the population. Food-related allergies, such as eggs or dairy products or even nuts, are a lot less frequent than we might think, as they affect less than 6% of the population. But what do allergies have to do with home decor, you might ask? You’ll be surprised to know that the likelihood of developing allergies in later age is defined by some of the components of your lifestyle and household.
Indeed, frequent exposure to irritants can lead to the apparition of weaknesses in your immune system – which cause allergies among other health conditions. When it comes to your lifestyle, you are in control of everything around you. For instance, you can’t manage urban pollution – but you can find ways, at home, to reduce its impact on your everyday life. Additionally, you can also create an interior style that leaves little room for allergies to develop – or, to put it in simple terms, you need a decor that doesn’t encourage the accumulation of irritants and pollutants inside your house.
More often than not, when homeowners think of an allergy-friendly decor, they tend to associate with it the cold and impersonal interior you can find in a medical centre. In reality, you can inject plenty of personality into your interior, while keeping your family safe from allergies. If you’re worried about creating a clinical atmosphere with safe materials, items, and products, you can relax. Modern homes can be both stylish and allergy-free – or as much as possible – if you’re careful about what you choose and how you maintain your interior.
A hygienic work surface
Did you know that your kitchen sponge is a bacteria petri dish? You may not like the idea, but your sponge is dirtier than your toilet bowl. The most common reason for this silent and invisible bacterial invasion is the fact that most people tend to keep their sponge for too long. You should replace it at least every 3 weeks. Failure to do so means that everything your sponge gets in contact with is likely to become a terrain for bacterial growth. Simple gestures, such as replacing your sponge regularly, and keeping a series of sponges for different cleaning purposes – for instance, you can have a sponge for wiping the work surface while you use another one for your pots and pans – can make a significant difference in keeping your family healthier. Additionally, your work surface in the kitchen is the second danger area when it comes to invisible bacteria. Porous surfaces, unfortunately, tend to attract and keep germs. While natural and impermeable tops, such as granite worktops, are less likely to accumulate bacteria. Aside from being a stylish addition to your kitchen decor, a granite top also improved the overall hygiene in the room. Besides, it’s easy to clean, so it’s a win-win in terms of style and health.
Your washable living room
Nobody likes dust. But, as dust is a natural byproduct of life – we shed dead skin cells every day which ultimately turn into dust –, we need to figure out ways of managing it. The presence of dust itself doesn’t cause any allergy in a typical case. Bearing in mind that dust is technically an accumulation of human skin and hair cells – as well as external particles –, being allergic to dust means being allergic to the human body itself. However, the accumulation of dust creates a favourable terrain for dust mites, which are a major cause of allergies in the household. In other words, removing dust acts as a preventive measure against mite invasion. Don’t be fooled, however, into believing that your vacuum cleaner can tackle the issue. Indeed, vacuuming focuses principally on the floor area, which fails to address furniture and walls. Choosing items you can easily wash, such as regularly renewing your living room upholstery when the previous patterns got old and worn out, can help you to reduce risks. More importantly, when choosing elements such as upholstery, cushions, and bed throws, it’s essential to consider materials that can be removed for washing purposes.
Nothing says cosy like hard flooring solutions
Carpets are soft and fluffy. Who doesn’t like the feeling of a comfortable carpet under their toes in the morning? Carpets, however, tend to accumulate dust and particles between the fabric fibres. Even your most powerful vacuum cleaner is unlikely to dislodge all allergen and dust particles, which means that over time your carpet can turn into a ticking allergy-bomb in the waiting. Professional carpet cleaners can provide effective extraction solutions; however, you need to be ready to keep up with regular maintenance schedules – up to several times a year!
On the other hand, hard flooring solutions, such as hardwood or even concrete-based floors are more likely to present cleaning advantages. Hardwood, for instance, is not only more durable than a carpet, but it also reduces the presence of allergens. One word of warning, though, wood-based flooring solutions require maintenance and varnishing every few years. A concrete floor can be just as stylish – you can find plenty of elegant patterns – and is less likely to need extensive care.
Are you spreading particles inside your home?
Air conditioning units and air purifiers serve a specific purpose in the household. They help you to keep your indoor air clean. Indeed, the presence of toxins inside your home is surprisingly high. The use of chemical products, artificial materials and natural ventilation – aka opening your windows – can attract toxic particles inside your home. The most commonly ignored source of toxins at home is the paint on the wall. It can release particles for years after it’s been applied! While these particles are invisible, they can gradually affect weak immune systems and lead to allergic reactions and other health complications. Consequently, modern households tend to rely on air-cleaning systems that capture dirt and toxins and keep them away from your family. However, the air filters without the units need to replaced regularly. As a rule of the thumb, the average home should replace their air filters every 90 days. If your household is already struggling with allergies, you might need to replace your filters every 20 days. If you can’t stick to the maintenance schedule, your air solution ends up releasing harmful particles back inside your home.
The antique you can’t trust
Nothing creates a better accent in the room than an antique piece of furniture. Unfortunately, old wood can generate mould spores, which can be toxic, especially for young children and elderly people with a weak immune system. Additionally, terpenes, an active compound typically found in plants containing resins and oils can lead to severe allergies. Another issue with antique furniture refers to the type of varnish and paints that might have been used throughout the years. Old chemicals can release harmful toxins, which are likely to lead to respiratory discomfort, eye itchiness, and blocked sinuses – in other words, another kind of allergies. If you can’t sanitise old furniture before rehoming them, you should focus on modern and eco-friendly materials.
You’re never too cautious with wallpaper
When was the last time you cleaned your wallpaper? Indeed, your wallpaper attracts dust, which in turn attracts dust mites. Therefore, it’s crucial to consider giving your walls a good clean. Vinyl-based wallpaper or coated materials can be cleaned with a wet sponge, for instance. You should avoid, however, getting plain paper fabrics wet. Typically, a dish soap and water solution is enough to remove both dirt and dust. For plain paper wallpapers, you need to focus your efforts on dusting the surface – with a soft brush attached to your vacuum cleaner.
Your green decor
The addition of houseplants can transform your decor by bringing more colours and freshness to the interior. More importantly, many houseplants play a significant role in purifying your indoor air – by removing toxins and injecting more oxygen. But, unfortunately, not all your greens are suitable for your household. Philodendrons, Dracaenas, and Areca Palms are some of the worst plants for allergy-sufferers as they can increase your symptoms. Sneezing, runny nose, congested sinuses and itchy eyes in the vicinity of your indoor garden are a sign that you need to look for safer plants!
Move towards a chemical-free environment
Last, but not least, chemical products and especially those used in the household to clean surfaces can also release toxic particles in the air. The accumulation of particles can lead to allergic reactions. Switching some of your beloved cleaning products for a safe and home-made alternative can make a significant difference. You can, for instance, replace your window cleaner with a mixture of cornstarch, water and white vinegar. Lemon, white vinegar, baking soda and warm water make the perfect multi-purpose cleaner.
Your home is not safe from allergies. Contrary to popular belief, we are surrounded by allergens all the time. But creating a mindful interior that reduces risks can transform your family health without affecting your home decor dramatically.