If you’ve got seasonal allergies, the American Lung Association says that you’re probably also allergic to pet fur and dander. But if you’re like most of my dog- and cat-loving clients, getting rid of the animals just isn’t an option. The good news is, there are plenty of other options for reducing pet allergens in your home—and you don’t have to give up good design to do it!
Here are eight tips for making life with your furry friends a little friendlier to your health.
1. Get the Right Equipment
First things first: Make sure you have the tools you need to make de-dandering as convenient as possible. Start with a serious vacuum. There are actually many models made specifically with pets in mind. Make sure to choose a model that comes with a HEPA filter to reduce allergens further, as well as one that works on a wide range of surfaces, from hard wood to high-pile carpet. Then, pick up a microfiber duster that actually picks up dust, rather than just redistributing it.
2. Cancel the Carpet
Let me reiterate that the right vacuum is key, no matter the materials your floors are made of. That said, do your best to avoid carpet, or at least phase it out over time. Choose area rugs that can be easily and thoroughly cleaned, or replaced when the time comes. For your floors, go with hardwood surfaces, laminates or tile wherever you share space with pets. This has the added bonus of peace of mind: You know the floor is clean because you can see that it is.
3. Cancel the Curtains, Too
Working your way up from the floor to eliminate allergens, your next stop is the windows. Go for Roman shades and roller shades that don’t come in contact with the floor and contain less extraneous material to collect fur and dander. Bonus: Roman and roller shades give you more control of light in the room, and have a way of accentuating great views by framing them.
4. Find Fur-Free Fabrics
When it comes to furniture, the trio of leather, “pleather” and microfiber are the best fabrics for areas where people and pets may regularly mingle. Treated correctly, scratches and stains only add character to leather, and microfiber is a tough material that can withstand the harsh chemicals used by many carpet and fabric cleaners. While you’re at it, do your best to make darker shades work, simply to reduce the visible evidence of pets as much as possible.
5. Set Boundaries (and Keep Them)
Create individual spaces for pets in each room you share. Pet beds come in so many fabrics, patterns and colors that you can easily find something that works well with your own style. Now the hard part: training pets to choose their furniture over yours. Even if you can only control that while you’re home, you’ll dramatically decrease the allergens that get caught in the furniture you spend so much time on. If at all possible, create some safe space for allergy sufferers by keeping a couple of rooms of the house off-limits to pets completely.
6. Get Good at Grooming
If you’re serious about decreasing dander, then you have to go to the source: the pets themselves. Regular washing and grooming is the best way to do that. Consider converting a corner of the garage or laundry room to a pet-washing station. Your laundry room already has the plumbing—and your garage probably does, too. Add a large standing sink for smaller pets. If you’ve got larger pets, a half-shower stall that pets can walk into is your best bet. This one requires skill or pro pals, but when you weigh the costs of sending them out for grooming versus doing it yourself, you may be surprised at what a good investment it can be.
7. Create Your Own Fresh Air
Make use of the great technology available to help keep the air clear and clean. Buy an air purifier with HEPA filters as a secondary method of capturing fur and dander that isn’t caught by your first line of defense—a great vacuum. Models come in very simple and discreet styles that won’t overwhelm the room. Also, make sure to change your HVAC filters regularly, and splurge for the best filters you can get. Better filters catch more material.
8. Create a Cleaning Calendar
It takes a lot of effort and energy to stay ahead of your allergies. To keep it from getting overwhelming, find the right cleaning routine. Let’s face it: we can’t clean everything in every room, every week, so make a simple schedule. Deep clean one element each week: Carpets week one, furniture week two, window treatments week three, etc. When you factor in those weekly or biweekly bathing dates, you’ll be glad to have a system.
What are your best tips for eliminating allergens in a pet-loving home?