For allergy sufferers, a comfortable home comes down to improving air quality and cutting down on dust and dust mites, pet dander, mold, mildew and pollen. When you're cleaning, Clifford Bassett, an allergist in Manhattan, says these chores should be on your top 10 list:
* Clean air conditioners, change filters.
* Clean exhaust filters in fans.
* Use a vacuum with a HEPA-filter so allergens are not spewed back into the air. Otherwise, use a multilayer vacuum bag filter.
* Store sweaters and woolens in airtight plastic bags to prevent buildup of mold and dust mites. Don't use camphor mothballs, which irritate nasal and sinus passages.
* Launder pet bedding.
* Place stuffed animals in a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer for four or five hours a week to reduce dust mites and other allergens. Or try this Good Housekeeping Institute tip: Put stuffed animals in a pillowcase, tie it closed, and run it through the air fluff cycle in the dryer.
* Look for mildew on shower curtains. Clean with a diluted bleach solution, making sure the room is well ventilated. Clean carpets in basements. Actually, it's better not to use them there if allergies are a problem. Use dehumidifiers.
* Dry clean or launder curtains and bedding. Wash in 130-degree water on hot cycle. Use impermeable covers for pillows and mattresses to protect from dust mites.
* Consider some of these suggestions: Use window shades instead of curtains or blinds, because they don't attract as much dust; vertical blinds are easier to clean than horizontal ones. Choose leather and wood furniture over upholstered pieces and wood floors over carpets. Throw pillows are a no-no.
* Get rid of dead batteries and partially used cans of paint, insecticides and other hazardous materials. Dispose of them of properly.