Tips for Allergy-Proofing the Bedroom

Conquer sneezing and wheezing with these tips for reducing allergens.

create a dust-free room
Astronaut Images/ Getty Images

Have you been catching more sneezes than z’s in the bedroom lately? Have you been waking up with itchy eyes, a runny or stuffy nose (or both at the same time), a scratchy throat or a low-level headache? You might be joking that you’re allergic to your bedroom, and that’s not far from the truth. The typical room harbors a wide range of allergens, including:

  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Dust
  • Pollen brought in from outdoors
  • Mold spores

You spend one-third of your life in the bedroom, so if you’re susceptible to allergy attacks, a room filled with triggers might cause you to wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed. But don’t despair. You don’t have to start sleeping in a sterile laboratory or a space suit to escape allergens. Instead, you can take these simple steps towards an allergy-proof bedroom.

Start With Your Bed

You spend several hours every night in your bed, and over time, your mattress becomes the happy home of thousands of dust mites, along with bacteria, mold and pollen brought in from outside on your hair and skin, then deposited on the sheets. This makes the average bed a hot zone for allergens. Reduce the problem by:

  • Encasing the box springs, mattress and pillows in mite-proof covers
  • Wash your bedding at least weekly in the hottest water safe for the fabric
  • If you are very prone to allergies, stay away from common triggers like feather-filled pillows or mattress toppers, and be cautious with wool or foam, both of which can harbor mold spores and other irritants. Instead, choose allergy-safe synthetics.

    Get Rid of Clutter

    You don’t have to go minimalist, but a bedroom low in clutter has fewer places for dust mites and other allergens to hide.

    • Knickknacks and collectibles are fun, but they collect dust. Limit your bedroom accessories to just those pieces you truly love.
    • It’s wonderful to read in bed before sleeping, but keep your library in another area of the home. Books and magazines tend to become very dusty, and old paper can attract bugs.
    • While it’s tempting to use the area under your bed for storage, this is a prime hiding zone for dust mites, along with irritating dust bunnies and general grime. Move your boxes and items needing storage to another room or the garage.

    Vacuum Frequently

    Vacuuming at least once per week can significantly reduce the amount of allergens in your bedroom. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, and make sure to get into the bedroom’s corners, under the bed and other furniture and along the surface of your dresser and windowsills. 

    Carpet and area rugs feel wonderful underfoot and add to the style of your bedroom, but if you suffer with significant allergies or asthma, you are better off with bare wood, tile or laminate floors. If you just can’t bear to part with your carpeting, make it a little more allergy-proof by choosing low-nap carpet, and make your bedroom a shoe-free zone.

    Check the Windows

    Heavy draperies collect dust and allergens. Instead, use washable, lightweight fabrics, or cover the windows with blinds or shades that can be washed or wiped down periodically. Freshen the air in your bedroom by opening the windows on clear, still days to release indoor pollutants like fumes from cleaning products or cigarette smoke.

    Keep the windows shut, however, and the house fan running, on windy days or times when outdoor pollen counts are high.

    You can also help keep pollen out of your bedroom by showering at night before slipping between the sheets, and changing out of your daytime clothes before entering the room.

    Give Pets Their Own Space

    Hard though it may be to resist when Fido or Mittens look at you with their soulful eyes, it’s best to keep pets out of your bedroom, or at least off your bed. Sleeping in blankets speckled with pet dander is a sure way to send your allergies into high gear. Instead:

    • Give your pet its own bed, preferably outside your bedroom
    • If you can’t bear to lock Mittens out of the bedroom, at least keep her on the floor
    • Vacuum more frequently if pets sleep in your bedroom
    • Bathe your pet regularly to remove dander

      Purify the Air

      You’re breathing the bedroom air for eight hours every day, so keep it as pure as possible.

      • Run a room air purifier round the clock if possible, or at least during your sleeping hours.
      • Keep windows closed when pollen levels are high.
      • If you live in an area with high humidity, consider using a dehumidifier in your bedroom to cut down on the risk of mold.
      • Change your furnace and AC filters regularly so they don’t blow dust back into your bedroom.
      • Liven up your bedroom with several potted plants. Peace lily, dracaena, pothos, English ivy and Chinese evergreen are especially good at purifying the air.

      You can’t eliminate every source of allergy symptoms from your bedroom, but you can go a long way towards lessening their impact. If you’ve been waking up miserably looking for the nearest Kleenex, taking steps to allergy-proof your bedroom might leave you breathing a little easier.