As your calendar pages fly by, carrying you through October and into November, many of you will participate in that age-old tradition called fall housecleaning. You’ll be packing up the swim toys, summer clothes, picnic baskets, and oscillating fans. Then you’ll dig out the winter coats, boots, comfy afghans, fireplace tools, and, if you are lucky enough to live where snow falls, sleds and ice skates.
You’ll be busy cleaning out the dust and grime tracked in by kids and dogs and by breezes blowing through open windows all the busy summer long. Before you snuggle in for the winter to enjoy family evenings around the crackling fireplace or have those holiday gatherings with all their hustle and bustle, you’ll probably wax, polish, and clean your house until the fireplace glow is reflected throughout the room.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this time-honored tradition. Not only can you make your home clean, well ordered, and homey, ready for the long winter months, but you can actually make it a healthier place for your family and improve your own personal health as you work.
As you do your fall housecleaning, remember to focus on those areas that contribute to allergies. A multitude of things in your home can trigger allergies, from mold, to dust in bedding and on furniture, to your family pet. Even those friendly, burning candles can contribute to toxic air and allergy problems. Let’s discuss these allergy-producing problem areas.
You can find mold in damp basements, refrigerator drip pans, air conditioners, garbage pails, shower stalls, and closets. There are non-toxic cleaning products that will get rid of existing mold. As an extra precaution, use exhaust fans in kitchen and bathroom and open windows on low humidity days to refresh household air. Don’t forget to dust and clean heating units and oil burners, checking for foreign objects in heating elements.
As you attack all that summer dust, remember that it contains allergy triggering, microscopic dust mites that feast on shed human and animal skin cells. These fecal-producing dust mites thrive in warm and humid places like beds, furniture, and carpets. After you vacuum and dust thoroughly with a vacuum that filters dust and does not allow it back into the air, use hot-water washing and high-heat drying to launder all bedding and stuffed toys. For further protection, put anti-allergen covers on bedding, even box springs and dehumidify the air, including closets and cabinets.
Remember that your family pet also contributes to toxic air and allergies. Pet dander (skin flakes) is a nearly invisible pollution that your pet releases as it grooms, releasing dander and proteins from saliva into the air. Bathe pet, using dander-reducing shampoo, and follow up with an anti-dander spray. To help keep pet dander allergies down, install HEPA filters in air and heat systems to help keep the air clean.
Have you been wondering how all this work is going to improve your own personal health? Well, I’m sure you have heard that any physical activity that raises and keeps your heart rate in its target zone for at least 20 minutes a day helps you lose weight and get fit. That includes serious housecleaning. As you scrub and polish your home, you can also tone, exercise, and oxygenate your muscles. After warming up with light activity like dusting and tidying up rooms, build up your work intensity and speed to raise your heart rate to your personal workout zone.
As you vacuum or mop, breathe deeply and lunge, switching sides to work out both arms. Put your whole body into mopping, scrubbing, or stair climbing. Swing your arms, pump your legs, and fill waiting time at the dryer or microwave with squats, push-ups, or other exercises. Turn on energizing music and dance your way through your chores. Stretch your body in every way possible as you keep your heart rate in the zone for 20 minutes. Cool down with lighter chores and enjoy your workout, knowing that not only will your fall housecleaning be done, but you will have contributed to your own personal wellness and fitness at the same time.
There’s another very pleasant thing you can do this fall that will contribute to the humidity balance and oxygen level of your home and quietly clean pollutants, gases, and toxins out of the air. You can decorate your home with air-cleansing houseplants. Palms, ferns, and ivy are especially good at removing toxic gases from the air. A plant for every 10 square yards of floor space will both cleanse and beautify your home.
As each room is completed, you may want to set a homey scene with aromatic candles. Unfortunately, candles, especially if they are scented, release toxic soot, carcinogens, and even lead (from wire wicks), that flood the air with enough pollution to ruin computers and furnishings and affect breathing, especially for people with asthma, lung, or heart disease. Fragrance oil candles and container candles don’t burn cleanly and are even more dangerous than open-flame candles. You can use diffusers for aromatherapy and choose unscented candles with no petroleum products and wire-free wicks for atmosphere.
When your fall house cleaning is finished, sit back, put your feet up, relax with a cup of herbal tea before the fire, and know that both you and your family will enjoy your cleaner, healthier home in the winter months ahead.