How to Allergy-Proof Your Car and Garage

Probably the last place you expect allergen overload is in your car. You don't live in it, (although sometimes it seems that way), but you do shed skin flakes, spill coffee, and let mold spores in unknowingly. The dear old auto needs a little attention, too, and this is how you should deliver it:

  • Make sure the carpeting is clean and dry, then cover it with plastic, washable, grooved floormats. Shoes can deliver plenty of junk to car carpets, including dirt, mud, grease, tar, pollens, rainwater, and snow. These will sit on or soak into uncovered carpeting, making nice rest stops for air-traveling mold spores.
  • Check it out -- does something smell sour in your car? Look underneath the seats for any moldy, long-forgotten french fries or other foods. If all appears clean and clear, consider the air-conditioning ducts as the odor's source. Mold spores dig the damp conditions. Change the air filter, and if the smell continues, take the car into the shop to have the ducts thoroughly examined.
  • Check to make sure weather stripping is intact and all doors shut properly. Faulty weather stripping on car doors can cause slow, unnoticeable leaks, especially if the water infiltrates the back seat and dampens seat cushions.
  • Vacuum upholstered seats whenever you wash the car, as they harbor dust mites just like your family-room couch. With all the sweating and shedding of skin you do while stuck in traffic, mites have a free ride. Avoid furry, carpeted, or wooly seat covers since they only attract more dirt, dust mites, and mold spores. Leather seats are best for allergy sufferers, but they're not always affordable or practical.
  • During pollen season keep windows closed and use the air conditioning, but only on the recirculating cycle.
  • Avoid air fresheners. Some contain chemicals that irritate nasal membranes.
  • If you purchase a shiny new auto, leave the windows rolled down for a few days, if possible. You may be fond of that new car smell, but those fumes come from the new carpets, new upholstery, and molded plastics and can be irritants. Savoring that smell isn't worth the price you'll pay for allergy problems.
  • Damp dust the dashboard and wipe off window film frequently.
  • If you carry an animal in the car, consider using a crate. It's not only safer for the animal, but it will (somewhat) reduce the amount of fur and dander flying throughout the car.

Allergy-Proofing Your Garage: General Tips

Face it: You're going to have six-legged or eight-legged critters in the garage. It's just the nature of the place. However, whom you decide to let in is often determined by the invitation. Is there a buffet of garbage waiting? Plenty of hiding spaces? No human interference?

Unwanted insects (cockroaches in particular) aren't the only problems that park themselves in the garage. Invisible fumes emitted from chemicals and the car can cause irritation to your sensitive sinuses, aggravated airways, and touchy skin. Cleaning (and maintaining) a garage is a big task but thankfully one that doesn't need to be done on a daily basis. Establish the garage as low allergen and irritant area through these recommendations:

  • Keep garbage in a sealed container. Garbage should be placed in plastic bags prior to placing it in the container.
  • Put all newspapers and recycling items in covered plastic bins. Remove weekly.
  • Don't let your pets sleep in the garage, even if you've created a comfortable corner for them. Curious cats, in particular, will explore during the night and, come morning, they'll bring dust, mold spores, insect parts, car grease, chemical residues, and dirt into your home via their fur.
  • Attached garages, while convenient, often allow exhaust emissions easy access to the household. Always keep the house door shut. If you plan to open chemicals (paints, lawn-care products, oil), make sure the garage is well-ventilated, either with an exhaust fan or simply by leaving the garage door open.
  • Never leave the car running in an enclosed garage for more than a minute or two.
  • Take all nonessential hazardous materials (unused paint, outdated cleaning supplies, old batteries) to a proper disposal center. Don't let them sit around.
  • Designate a broom and a heavy-duty vacuum for garage and outdoor area clean-ups. Don't bring either inside for household work.
  • Don't put wet gardening equipment or recreational items into enclosed boxes or storage units. Dry everything first.
  • Use open metal shelving to store items.
  • Try to store boxes and other items off the ground.
  • Establish an area in the garage for "outdoor" shoes. Make it a habit to remove grassy, wet, muddy, or dirty shoes in this designated spot.

We will finish our look at allergy-proofing your home with a guide to household chemical allergens in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.