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Spring Cleaning for Allergy Prevention at the Workplace.

Are you planning on doing some Spring cleaning at your business ahead of returning customers and staff? If so, we’re sending you a smiley face emoticon and a thumbs up for the outstanding foresight.  As the Covid-19 vaccines make their rounds and become available to all ages, life as we knew it will soon return to normal (fingers crossed!) With many commercial offices still partially vacated, there’s no better time than the present to re-assess your cleaning conditions.  In this post we’ll dive into Spring cleaning for allergy prevention at the workplace.

The annual ritual of Spring cleaning is carried out for many reasons: aesthetics, a fresh outlook, and promoting good health.  In this post, we’ll put a focus on allergies and why quality cleaning on a regular basis is vital for keeping the allergy-sufferers in your office happy and productive.  

Spring cleaning in North America during the month of March is a tradition that goes back centuries.  Prior to the invention of the vacuum cleaner, March was the ideal month because it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t warm enough for insects to pose a problem.  Therefore, you can open your doors and windows with little worry, letting in clean air and sunshine. UV light and fresh air will aide in the fight against indoor allergens as we’ll detail below. 

Dust and Dust mites

Man looks for dust mites on the carpet with a magnifying glass.
Dusty environments can be home to a great number of unpleasant surprises

Allergies occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, mold, dust mites or pet dander. It’s estimated that over 20 million Americans are allergic to the microscopic bugs that feed upon dust, called dust mites. These close cousins to ticks and spiders are too small to see with the naked eye.  If that’s not creepy enough, you can rest uneasily knowing that they prefer dusty carpets, upholstery, and bedding where they can feast on your dead skin cells.  Some people’s immune systems can’t handle prolonged exposure to these bugs and as a result they may feel as if they’re suffering from the common cold.

Microscopic view of dust mites
Common dust mites as seen up close through a microscope.

Symptoms include:

Red, watery, itchy eyes

Itchy, runny, stuffy nose

Sneezing

Limiting dust and dust mites:

Limit your exposure to excess dust by thoroughly extracting or removing it.  Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter (high-efficiency particulate air).

Vacuum upholstered furniture.

Make sure your HVAC vents are periodically cleaned out by an HVAC professional.

Keep the air regulated at a cooler temperature.  Dust mites prefer warmer temps over 70F.  

Keep the humidity down, utilizing a dehumidifier when necessary.  A hygrometer can be used to measure the humidity of your interior air. 

Wet wipe furniture and property to remove the dust rather than spread it around.

Mold Allergies

Mold and mildew are fungi, and trace amounts can be found almost everywhere. Mold will thrive wherever there’s moisture.  Water damage from things such as leaky pipes, roofs, and windows can become a breeding ground if not remediated.  Mold will feed on drywall, wood, carpeting, upholstery and much more.  Poorly lit interior spaces with high humidity and poor air circulation are also something to watch out for. Molds reproduce by releasing spores into the air.  Breathing in excessive amounts of these airborne spores can be problematic for the lungs of the allergy sufferer. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, indoor molds can cause continual allergy symptoms all year round.  

mold and mildew growth on shower tile and grout
Icky mold and mildew growth on shower tiles & grout.

Symptoms include:

Red, watery, itchy eyes

Itchy, runny, stuffy nose

Sneezing

Congestion

Dry, scaling skin

Hay-fever like symptoms

Trigger asthma

Methods to reduce mold and mildew growth:

Detail cleaning of showers and tubs.  Fungi thrive on soap and other films that coat tiles and grout.

Open the window blinds. UV light from the sun kills microbials such as mold and mildew. 

Reduce air humidity.  Use an electric dehumidifier when necessary.  Hygrometers can be used to monitor humidity.  You want to keep levels below 45%

Run exhaust fans when cooking and showering.  Open windows during these activities.

Promote good air circulation by getting your HVAC system’s air filters changed out on a regular basis. 

Avoid using excessive amounts of water when wet mopping floors. 

Install higher rated HVAC system air filters with a rating of MERV 5 – 8 as they are able to stop fibers, dust, and pollen, along with mold spores.

An air filter that is showing one side clean and one side dirty.
Clean filter on the left and dirty filter on the right

Pet Allergies

Over the past decade many companies have adopted the trend of allowing dogs at the workplace.  While this can be fun, it also presents a myriad of cleaning challenges. Namely, animal dander, which can trigger allergies.  More companies should take animal dander into consideration when crafting their pet policies.

A dog sitting in an office chair at the workplace.
Dogs are great companions, even at the workplace!

At BCS we like to joke that the only ones who are bummed about the lifting of Covid-19 stay-at-home orders are our dogs.   …Unless they’re one of the lucky ones who get to lounge around at the office all day.  According to the mayo clinic, a pet allergy is an allergic reaction to proteins found in an animal’s skin cells, saliva or urine.  Pet dander is essentially a combination of animal skin flakes and shed hair.  Dander is a legitimate concern because it is very small and can remain airborne for extended periods of time. It tends to stick to upholstered furniture and clothing. As does saliva. Allergy suffers can get a multitude of bad reactions. It can negatively affect their lungs, eyes, nasal passages, and skin. 

Symptoms include:

Sneezing

Runny nose

Itchy, red or watery eyes

Nasal congestion

Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat

Coughing

Difficulty breathing

Chest tightness or pain

Raised, red patches of skin (hives)

Eczema

Itchy skin

Things you can do to prevent dander allergies at the office:

Frequent vacuuming utilizing HEPA filter units.

Vacuuming of upholstered furniture.

Regular changing of your HVAC system’s air filters. 

Install higher rated air filters with a rating of MERV 9 – 12.  These can capture smaller allergens including pet dander which works well for those with allergies.

We hope you’re just as excited as we are about Spring cleaning for allergy prevention at the workplace. At BCS we can’t help it….promoting clean work spaces is what we do.  Whether your Spring cleaning is motived by a strong urge to simply re-arrange the furniture, or you’re trying to obtain Zen through cleaning, we’re glad to hear that you’re prioritizing being clean.  If you need help or advice on keeping your office clean, our service consultants are available.