Keep your home free of allergens without sacrificing taste

Wednesday January 22 2020

Instead of fabric, opt for easy to clean leat

Instead of fabric, opt for easy to clean leather upholstery for your chairs. Photo by Ismail Kezaala 

By Carolyne B. Atangaza

It is always disconcerting when a guest enters your living room and begins to sneeze uncontrollably. If you have been experiencing a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watering eyes, wheezing, a cough or breathlessness, chances are you might have some allergens in your home. Common allergens include dust, pets and mould spores among others. Keeping these at bay might not be as exciting as choosing curtains or wall paint but it will ultimately affect the experience you have in a home.

Dr Moses Semulya, a general practitioner at Le Memorial Hospital, Kigo, advises having an allergy profile done to find out the exact cause of your allergy reactions. In the meantime, he urges keeping the home free of house dust mites, moulds and pet fur in order to reduce triggers.

“One way of reducing allergens is by limiting surfaces where they can thrive. For example, if one is allergic to pollen, they should not have a flowering plant or fresh flowers in the home,” shares Dr Semulya.
Instead of flowering plants, opt for non flowering plants. These too, will enhance beauty of your home.

Dr Semulya also says: “Fabric upholstery, wool and fibre carpeting easily harbour allergens such as dust and pet fur.”
Zainab Sula, an interior designer, advises homeowners with respiratory allergies to invest in leather rather than fabric upholstery. “Leather upholstery can be easily wiped down to remove dust mites, fur and pollen,” she says.
Sula further advises: “To avoid dust getting trapped in the carpet, use plastic carpets or washable area rugs.”
Also, instead of carpets, one can opt for hardwood floors, tiles or concrete flooring.

Easy to clean furniture
She also advises choosing easy-to-clean bedroom furniture such chairs, dressers and nightstands made of leather, wood, metal or plastic.

Humidity, moulds
Dr Semulya warns: “Moulds grow in humid places, such as in plant soil or in carpeting in bathrooms.”
Keeping the bathroom clean and dry, replacing broken tiles and changing bathtubs and sinks regularly will discourage mould growth behind walls.


Reducing clutter is an efficient way to shrink the surfaces onto which dust can collect, according to interior designer Sula. Those knick knacks and framed photos you have so lovingly collected over the years and are proud to show off, might be providing a haven for allergens such as dust to hide. Try keeping them to a minimum; when in doubt about how much to keep, remember less is always more when it comes to home décor.

Open plans
Much as the open plan is trendy, it can be a nuisance for someone with respiratory allergies when they have to cook and live in the same room. To remove cooking fumes, install and use a vented exhaust fan. Likewise, avoid any other activities that release smoke that can be trapped in the home such as smoking or burning incense, among others.

Paint instead of paper
You do not have to sacrifice your taste because of allergies. For instance, choose paint over wallpaper, since mould and dust are less attracted to painted surfaces. To create patterns and designs that mimic wallpaper, consider painting the trim a different colour or using stencils.

Wall art
When selecting and placing wall art, choose art that can be easily removed and dusted regularly. It is also advisable to hang it in easily accessible areas so it is easy to reach when cleaning. The gap between kitchen cabinets and the ceiling is a favourite place for dust, and most people rarely get around to cleaning this area, instead choose cabinets that reach the ceiling.

Blankets, pillows
Instead of blankets which trap allergens, opt for duvets. Also, ditch the sponge pillows and buy fibre pillows. Fibre pillows can be got online, in big stores, and interior showrooms in Kampala and other towns, at about Shs50,000 depending on where you buy them. However, you should frequently wash the duvets and pillow cases.

The danger in your pillow
A mattress company based in Kampala conducted an independent survey asking 1,000 people about their pillow habits and their allergy issues. The survey suggests that while almost 90 per cent of people wash their sheets one to three times per month, 20 per cent have never washed their pillows, and nearly 45 per cent only wash their pillows once a year. Furthermore, while nearly 70 per cent of individuals surveyed said a comfortable pillow is important to getting a good night’s rest, many of them are keeping their pillows much longer than the recommended two-year time limit.

Unfortunately, this means that most of us are sleeping on pillows that are no longer fluffy, and are full of dust mites, sweat, dead skin and other allergens.

Dustmite-free pillow covers
If you are like 80 per cent of respondents who indicated that they struggle with allergies, experts recommend that you purchase dust mite-proof sheets and pillow covers.

Frequent washing
Sula recommends washing beddings such as sheets, pillows and blankets as often as possible to get rid of dust mites, dead skin and pet fur that can be allergy triggers.

Make sure to wash your pillow every three to six months in hot water with liquid detergent. However, the pillow cases and sheets should be washed more frequently, at least once a week.

Pests such as rodents and cockroaches tend to spread more allergens throughout the home than dust mites because they are more mobile. Cockroaches and their waste tend to be concentrated in insect hiding spaces such as inside cracks and crevices, behind appliances or large furniture, or in any other place that is not easy for humans to reach.

By keeping your home free of food debris and plugging up any insect and rodent-friendly cracks and crevices, you can keep your home free of pest infestations and reduce the concentration of insect allergens in your home.

Use a damp cloth to clean other surfaces, including the tops of doors, windowsills and window frames. If you have allergies, either wear a dust mask or get someone who does not have allergies to do this job.

Lay down two doormats at each entryway; one outside, one inside to keep outdoor irritants from finding their way inside. Or, have your family and guests remove their shoes when they enter, so they do not spread allergens around.