Sneeze-Free Spring Cleaning. How to Tidy Up When You’re Allergic to Cats

Understand Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are caused by a protein called Fel d 1 that is found in cat saliva, skin, and fur. When cats groom themselves, Fel d 1 gets on their fur and dries into small particles or dander. This dander is very lightweight and easily becomes airborne. When someone allergic to cats breathes in the dander, it can trigger an allergic reaction. (1)

Common cat allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, and skin rashes. In severe cases, exposure to cats can trigger asthma attacks. It’s estimated that 10-20% of people worldwide have cat allergies. For sensitive individuals, even being in a room where a cat lives can cause reactions. The proteins that cause cat allergies can linger in fabrics and carpets even after the cat has left. (2)

Reduce Allergens in the Room

One of the most effective ways to reduce allergens is to keep cats out of the bedroom or any other room you are cleaning as much as possible. According to the Purina article, cat allergens can be found in every room or home where a cat lives. Restricting your cat’s access can help reduce levels of cat dander and allergens in the air and on surfaces.

It’s also important to wash bedding, blankets, pillows, curtains, and any fabric items in the room weekly in hot water temperatures above 130°F. High heat helps to destroy and remove allergens that have accumulated in fabric. Be sure to dry them thoroughly as well. According to the OSU vet school article, washing items weekly can reduce allergens by 84% [1].

Using a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter or air purifier is highly recommended for allergy sufferers. HEPA filters are able to capture 99.97% of particles in the air as small as 0.3 microns, including cat allergens. Keep the HEPA filter running in the room at all times to continually cleanse the air. The Midwest ENT article notes that HEPA filters are essential for removing allergens from the air [2].

Clean Regularly

One of the most important things you can do to reduce cat allergens in your home is clean regularly. Dust and pet dander tend to accumulate quickly, so it’s recommended to dust and vacuum every 2-3 days. Be sure to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can trap over 99% of allergens. Microfiber cloths are also great for dusting, as they attract and hold on to dust particles electrostatically. The Mayo Clinic recommends wet mopping floors once a week to remove allergens like pet dander.

Here are some tips for regular cleaning to reduce cat allergens:

  • Dust and vacuum every 2-3 days using a vacuum with a HEPA filter [1]
  • Use microfiber cloths for dusting surfaces
  • Wet mop hard floors once a week
  • Wash bedding frequently in hot water to kill allergens
  • Use high-efficiency washing detergent to trap allergens

With diligent and regular cleaning, you can help reduce allergen levels and keep your home more comfortable.

Use Protective Gear

When cleaning a room with cat allergies, it’s important to wear protective gear to avoid direct contact with allergens. Some recommendations include:

  • Wear an N95 mask to filter cat dander particles from the air you breathe.
  • Wear gloves to prevent dander and allergens from touching your skin and causing reactions.
  • If your eyes are affected by cat allergies, wear safety goggles to protect against airborne allergens.

Protective gear forms a barrier between you and the allergens, reducing exposure and allergic reactions during cleaning. Be sure to get well-fitted masks and goggles to prevent leakage of allergens. Proper gear allows you to clean thoroughly without worsening allergy symptoms.

Avoid Dry Dusting

Dry dusting can make cat allergies worse because it stirs up allergens into the air instead of trapping them. When you use things like dry cloths, feather dusters, or brooms, you end up kicking up cat dander and other allergens that then circulate in the room (Beck, 2022). This exposes you to more allergens and makes your allergic reaction worse.

It’s better to use wet dusting and mopping instead. Damp cloths and mops will trap allergens instead of stirring them up. The moisture also helps loosen stuck-on particles like cat hair and dander so they can be removed more easily. Using a microfiber cloth moistened with water is an effective way to wet dust surfaces. You can also use electrostatic dusters and damp mops on floors and walls (The Ohio State University, n.d.).

By avoiding dry dusting and using wet methods instead, you reduce the amount of airborne allergens and make cleaning safer and more effective if you have cat allergies.


Beck, L. (2022, September 20). Is it better to dust with a wet or dry cloth? Air Purifiers.

The Ohio State University. (n.d.). Allergic to your cat? Easy tips to prevent and control your allergy.

Use Allergen-Reducing Cleaners

Using specially formulated cleaning products can help reduce allergens when cleaning a room. Look for products that are designed to trap or neutralize pet dander and other allergens. Some options include:

Soap and water – Using warm water with a small amount of fragrance-free soap can help wash away allergens from surfaces. The soap helps capture allergens so they can be rinsed away.

Vinegar solutions – Mixing equal parts white vinegar and water makes an effective cleaning solution for most surfaces. The acidic vinegar helps break down pet dander and other particles. Be sure to avoid getting vinegar solutions on hardwood floors as it can damage the finish over time.

Green cleaning products – Look for plant-based or green-certified cleaning products as these are often formulated to be non-toxic and contain fewer irritating chemicals. Products with eucalyptus can help clear nasal passages.

Avoid using heavily fragranced cleaners or products with strong fumes as these can further irritate allergies. Focus on mild, fragrance-free cleaners as much as possible.

Clean the Air

Cleaning the air can help reduce allergen levels and minimize allergy symptoms. Here are some tips for improving air quality:

Open windows frequently when possible to allow fresh air to circulate. This will help remove allergens like pet dander from the indoor air. Just make sure to close windows when pollen levels are high if you have outdoor allergies.

Use portable air purifiers with a HEPA filter to remove allergens from the air. HEPA filters are highly effective at trapping pet dander, dust, pollen and other allergens. Purifiers with activated carbon can also help remove odors. Place air purifiers in bedrooms and main living areas. According to Sylvane ([1]), air purifiers should be used at least 4 hours per day.

Consider installing a whole-house air purifier or UV filter on your HVAC system to remove allergens. Consult with an HVAC professional for recommendations. Clean or change your HVAC filters regularly.

Use fans to improve air circulation. Position fans near open windows to pull fresh air in and force stagnant air out.

Avoid using humidifiers as they can encourage mold growth which can also trigger allergies.


Be Thorough

One of the most important aspects of cleaning for cat allergies is being extremely thorough when cleaning. This means meticulously cleaning all surfaces in the room including floors, walls, vents, furniture, and any other areas where cat dander and allergens can accumulate.

When cleaning floors, make sure to get into corners, under furniture and beds, and don’t forget closets. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and attach crevice tools to get into tight spaces. Mop floors with an allergy-friendly cleaner containing ingredients like tea tree oil that help trap allergens. For carpets, use a deep cleaning method like steaming.

Clean walls from top to bottom using hot water with a small amount of mild detergent and microfiber cloths. Don’t forget wall hangings, baseboards, and windowsills which can collect dust and dander over time. Thoroughly wipe down vents to remove any allergens that may have accumulated.

When cleaning furniture, move pieces around to clean the tops, sides, underneath, and any hidden areas. Use the hose attachment on your vacuum to reach corners and crevices. Clean beneath furniture and beds, since allergens can gather in these spots out of sight.

The key is leaving no surface untouched by thoroughly cleaning the entire room top to bottom, including areas that are easy to miss.

Wash Hands Afterwards

Allergens can stick to skin and clothes after cleaning around cats. It’s important to wash your hands and shower after you finish cleaning to remove any allergens on your body. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology recommends showering and changing clothes after cleaning to reduce continued exposure to allergens that may still be present on your skin or clothes. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water after cleaning to remove cat allergens. Pay extra attention to washing under your nails where allergens can hide. Washing up afterwards can help prevent continued allergy symptoms from allergens on your body.


Consider Allergy Shots

Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots can be an effective treatment option for people with severe cat allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, allergy shots work by helping your immune system build up a tolerance to cat allergens over time through gradual exposure[1]. The shots contain small amounts of the allergen and are given on a regular schedule, usually starting with once or twice a week. Over 3-5 years, the dosing is gradually decreased. Studies show allergy shots can significantly reduce allergy symptoms and the need for medication in many people.

If your cat allergies are severe enough to impact your daily quality of life, consider consulting an allergist to discuss whether immunotherapy is right for you. The shots involve a commitment in terms of time and money, but can provide long-lasting relief of symptoms when avoidance and medication are insufficient. Work closely with your doctor to determine the optimal treatment regimen and schedule if you decide to pursue allergy shots.

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