Cleaning Tips for Allergy and Asthma Sufferers

These simple steps may reduce your risk of developing allergy and asthma symptoms when you clean:

Use an exhaust fan on a regular basis to remove cooking fumes and reduce moisture. Place garbage in a can with an insect-proof lid and empty trash daily. Store food—including pet food—in sealed containers, and discard moldy or out-of-date items.

Each week, mop the floor and wipe cabinets, backsplashes and appliances. Clean cabinets and countertops with detergent and water, and check for plumbing leaks. Wipe up moisture in the refrigerator to avoid mold growth.

Empty and clean drip pans and clean or replace moldy rubber seals around doors. Wash the dish rack, and wipe the light switch plates, phone and inside of the garbage can.

Seasonally, empty and scrub down the inside of the refrigerator and the utensil drawers. Scrub down the cupboard exteriors and clean the stove-hood filter.

Living Areas
Encase pillows, mattresses and box springs in dust-mite-proof covers. Wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets weekly in 130o F water. Remove, wash or cover comforters.

Clean carpeting weekly with a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. Wash area rugs and floor mats, and mop hard surface flooring weekly. Use curtains made of cotton or synthetic fabric. Wash seasonally.

Keep windows closed and use air conditioning during pollen season. Clean mold and condensation from window frames and sills with a solution of chlorine bleach (3/4 cup chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water). Always wear a protective mask when cleaning mold.

Remove anything that collects dust, such as knickknacks and books. Store toys, games and stuffed animals in plastic bins. Keep pets out of the bedroom. Bathing animals twice a month may reduce allergens.

Hot, humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintain temperature at 70o F and relative humidity at 30 to 50%. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in-room air conditioners at least once a month.

Control cockroaches and mice with traps from the hardware store, or hire a professional exterminator. To prevent re-infestation, seal cracks or other entryways.

An exhaust fan can reduce moisture while taking baths or showers. Remove carpeting if possible and use wood or linoleum flooring. Use washable rugs. Remove wallpaper and install tile, or paint walls with mold-resistant enamel paint.

Towel-dry the tub and enclosure after use. Scrub mold from tub and faucets. Clean or replace moldy shower curtains and bathmats. Quickly repair any leaks.

Basements can be a challenge. Not only can they be damp and dusty, but they can also harbor rodents or mold. Always wear gloves and a mask when cleaning a basement that has either of these problems. If vacuuming, empty the bag outside, while still wearing a mask, and place it directly into a trash bag, tie and put in the trash container immediately.

Remove moldy or water-damaged carpeting. If possible, use cement or linoleum flooring. If that isn’t an option, use low-pile instead of high-pile carpeting and use a vacuum cleaner that has a small-particle or HEPA filter weekly. Install plastic sheeting (vapor barrier) under carpeting to prevent moisture seepage.

Check for and repair any sources of leaks or water damage. A dehumidifier can reduce dampness – clean it once a week. Use an exhaust fan to vent moisture from a clothes dryer outside.

Wash concrete floors and walls with a solution of bleach and water (see above). Allow the solution to sit for five minutes, then rinse and dry. Always wear rubber gloves when working with bleach or vinegar solutions.

If you have a section of carpet with mold or mildew, clean the back of the carpet with one part hydrogen peroxide to five parts water. If possible, remove the carpet and place it outside in the sun to dry. If not, prop the section up and use a fan to dry the area.

If you have mold or mildew on basement walls, use one of the solutions listed below to clean, but you must also remove the moisture from the area. Use a dehumidifier or fans to circulate the air, and open windows if possible.

Cleaning Option 1: Straight vinegar sprayed on the walls. Don’t rinse, just air dry.

Cleaning Option 2: Mix 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups very hot water, 1/2 cup salt and 2 cups borax. Apply solution to area and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Apply the solution again, scrubbing with a soft bristled brush and rinse well with plain water.

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Women still do most of the cleaning: is it putting their health at risk?

In February, California’s legislature began considering AB 708, a bill that would require cleaning product manufacturers to disclose all ingredients on product labels. Although the bill doesn’t directly address female exposure to chemicals, if it passes, it could have had significant and wide-ranging impacts on women – the primary users of cleaning products.

While gender roles have changed in the last few decades, a 2014 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that women still perform about 55-70% of household cleaning, about 30% more of the cleaning than men. In addition to eating up time, this extra work could leave women more susceptible to any negative impacts of chemicals in cleaning products.Professionally, the gender difference in cleaning is even more stark: 89% of home and hotel cleaners – whose exposure to these chemicals is quadrupled – are women. The majority of those women are minorities, according to the most recent US Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Demand for green cleaners

When it comes to chemical exposure, women are flying blind. Some companies voluntarily disclose the ingredients in their cleaning products, and some states are beginning to consider regulations that would require more explicit labeling. However, there are no federal laws on the books that require companies to list the ingredients in their cleaning products.

Not surprisingly, many consumers, particularly women, are increasingly buying green cleaners. Between 2007 and 2011, retail sales of green cleaners more than doubled, going from $303m annually to $640m, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. In 2013, Walmart followed the trend, launching Great Value Naturals, a new line of “all natural” cleaning products.

To capture the burgeoning natural cleaning market, more companies are producing green cleaning products and disclosing ingredients, either on labels or on their websites. Several have also launched ingredient-screening programs, showcasing lists of safe ingredients on their websites.

But green cleaners don’t always live up to the hype. In Deep Clean, a report released this week on cleaning products, nonprofit Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) noted that many companies are not disclosing the criteria they use for evaluating the ingredients that they deem “green”. The group reported, for example, that independent lab testing has uncovered that SC Johnson’s cleaning products contain synthetic musk, a known endocrine-disrupting chemical.

Still, Deep Clean give SC Johnson its highest score: it tied with Clorox for a B-, thanks to its efforts to both disclose ingredients (this year it became the first company to begin disclosing fragrance ingredients) and respond to consumer concerns. Its top competitor, Procter and Gamble, on the other hand, scored an F.

The American Cleaning Institute (ACI), a trade group representing cleaning product manufacturers, claimed that Deep Clean failed to take into account the industry’s efforts at consumer protection. “It ignores the fact that an enormous amount of resources are dedicated to assuring the safety of products, including significant investments in research, development and testing before products ever hit the shelves,” ACI said in a statement.

But while ACI called its members’ safety screening process “rigorous” and touted their efforts to “share more information than ever about ingredients”, WVE was not convinced. The group says that a rigorous screening process wouldn’t let hormone-disrupting chemicals through, and adds that companies need to be completely transparent about their products.

California cleans house

When California’s legislature announced plans to review AB 708, the cleaning product labeling bill, public health advocates were quick to offer their support. They decried the health impacts of cleaning products and touted consumers’ and workers’ right to know what’s in their products.

On the other side, ACI opposed the bill, stating that several other state and federal regulations already do or will require labeling of ingredients of concern. Moreover, ACI claimed, requiring companies to list every single ingredient – irrespective of its relevance for health – would not be of value to consumers.

“Some products may have hundreds of ingredients in tiny amounts,” the group wrote in its opposition. “The broad requirement of AB 708 to list all ingredients on the label is likely to frustrate the goal of enhancing consumer protection.”

Once again, ACI touted the chemical industry’s voluntary labeling efforts. It drew attention to the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative, an industry program that aims to communicate ingredients to consumers. Under the initiative, ACI explained, participating consumer cleaning product manufacturers list all ingredients except those that they determine “incidental”.

AB 708’s sponsors – nonprofit environmental health organizations Breast Cancer Fund and Environmental Working Group – disagree with ACI. In public comments on the bill, Nancy Buermeyer, senior policy strategist for the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund, wrote that voluntary labeling is not sufficient to educate the “disproportionately low-wage workers, women, immigrants and people of color” who work with many “complex and often hazardous cleaning solutions”.

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Be a Food Safe Office Mate: Help Keep the Office Refrigerator Clean

When it comes to safe food handling everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean— including the refrigerator and freezer. You probably keep your refrigerator at home clean, but the office refrigerator may be a problem because it’s typically a shared responsibility. Here are some tips that may help.

Keep it at a Safe Temperature — 40 °F or Lower

Refrigeration slows bacterial growth. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140 °F, the “Danger Zone,” some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. A refrigerator set at 40 °F or below will effectively slow the growth of most bacteria. The freezer temperature should be 0° F. Be sure to check  your refrigerator and freezer temperatures periodically with appliance ther­mometers.

Keep it Clean

If your office doesn’t already have a schedule for cleaning, why not start one? Make it a habit to throw out perishable foods left in the refrigerator at least once a week. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage for cooked leftovers is 4 days.

Wipe up spills immediately before they turn into a major cleaning job. Clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water and  then rinse.

Refer to the Storage Times for the Refrigerator and Freezer chart for storage guidelines of perishable products in the refrigerator. Print a copy and post on the refrigerator door as a reminder for all who use it. To search for a specific food visit the Food Marketing Institutes’ “Food Keeper” website for more storage guidelines.

To keep the refrigerator smelling fresh and help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf. Avoid using solvent cleaning agents, abrasives, and all cleansers that may impart a chemical taste to food or ice cubes, or cause damage to the interior finish of the refrigerator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Storage Basics

  1. Check storage directions on labels
    Many items other than meats, vegetables, and dairy products need to be kept cold. For instance, mayonnaise and ketchup should go in the refrigerator after opening. If you’ve neglected to properly refrig­erate something, it’s usually best to throw it out.
  1. Check expiration dates
    If food is past its “use by” date, discard it. If you’re not sure or if the food looks questionable, throw it out.
  1. Be on alert for spoiled food
    Anything that looks or smells suspicious should be thrown out. Mold is a sign of spoil­age. It can grow even under refrig­eration. Mold is not a major health threat, but it can make food unappe­tizing. The safest practice is to throw out moldy food.
  1. Share the responsibility
    Do you feel like you are the only one concerned about the cleanliness of the refrigerator? Make it a food safety issue! Not everyone may realize the importance of keeping all food contact surfaces, like the refrigerator, clean. Because bacteria are everywhere, cleanliness is a major factor in preventing food poisoning.

By Howard Seltzer, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

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16 ways to stay productive at work

Staying focused at work isn’t easy; all of us get distracted or feel uninspired at some point during the working day. But with so much work to plough through, we often have little choice but to be productive and get on with the tasks at hand.

So how can you boost your productivity? How do you make sure you get the most out of each day? Especially as you’ll want to keep your evenings and weekends free to relax.

Well, there are lots of ways to stay productive at work and here are my top 16 tips to help you stay focused while at your desk, ensuring you get all your work done on time.

Eat breakfast

Start each day with a healthy breakfast, and by healthy I mean porridge, oats, wholemeal toast, eggs, fruit and yogurt – whatever takes your fancy. Try to opt for some low-GI choices to ensure you provide your body with slow-release energy to keep you going until lunchtime. If you have an unhealthy breakfast, or skip on eating anything at all, it will just leave you feeling tired, agitated and distracted.

Sleep well

Get some decent shut-eye every night. Experts recommend around seven to nine hours’ sleep. If you’re always having late nights, you’ll regret it the next day because you won’t feel rested or rejuvenated and ready to handle what’s thrown your way. A good night’s sleep will reflect in how productive you feel the next day, so ensure you make sleep a priority.

Can’t sleep? If you’ve got things whirring around in your head every night, keep a notebook by your bed and write down any niggles, worries or tasks you need to remember. If that doesn’t work, then figure out why you can’t sleep. If you’re working late into the evenings, it might be because you’re not giving your brain enough time to wind down and relax.

Exercise daily

To keep stress levels at bay, get out and exercise every day. Even if it’s just half an hour of walking on your lunch break. Exercise will help clear your mind and keep you focused. You may think that being chained to your desk will mean that you get more things done, but it actually works against you.

Get outside

A good dose of fresh air and daylight, away from the unnatural environment of an office, is good for the soul. Particularly if your office environment is stuffy and dark and relies on air conditioning. Experts suggest that being outside brings all sorts of health benefits and that a bit of daily daylight is a stress buster, helping you to stay on track when you’re back at your desk.

Make to-do lists

Whether you use the Task Manager in Outlook or you have something like Things for the Mac, make sure you keep a simple to-do list every day and give yourself a realistic set of tasks to get through. What I find helps is to tackle a difficult task first and then do lots of easy jobs to reward myself. You feel great once you’ve got a big job out of the way and that only boosts your productivity.

Give yourself deadlines

When facing each task on your to-do list, try and give yourself a deadline. That way, you’ll be less inclined to procrastinate or waste time on other things.

Schedule email checking

Emails are a productivity killer. That’s a fact. And it’s all too easy to keep checking for new messages every five minutes. But doing so can mean you spend all day writing emails, instead of focusing on your work. Force yourself to check emails at certain times throughout the day. I try to check my emails every morning at 8am and then I don’t check again until 12pm. So make sure you limit time spent on checking and replying.

Keep phone calls short and sweet

Chatting on the phone to clients, friends or suppliers can consume a lot of time. Try and limit each phone call by explaining to the other person that you’re “on deadline” and can’t talk for long – obviously, you won’t be able to do this with some clients. In that case, turn off your phone when you’re especially busy and ensure your voicemail explains that you’re currently unavailable but will be checking messages later that day.

Limit social media use

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. They’re all so tempting to look at and can be very distracting. Like emails, you should only check your profiles at certain times during the day and limit how long you spend using them. Make sure you don’t leave Twitter or any social media tools open on your desktop, they’ll just keep interrupting your work flow.

Use anti-distraction tools

There are so many tools to stop the temptation of browsing the web or checking social media profiles. If you really can’t stop looking at the internet, download ananti-distraction tool like Freedom. It’s a really simple productivity application that locks you out of the internet for up to eight hours. Beautiful. And compatible with both Windows or Mac.

There’s also things like SelfControl, which blocks access to incoming and/or outgoing mail servers and websites for a predetermined period of time. Or you could try Think, which blanks out everything on your screen and allows you to focus on what you’re actually working on.

One thing at a time

Concentrate on one task at a time. Multitasking might seem more productive, but it can really slow you down. Tackle one job before you start anything else, otherwise you’ll never get anything done. This is one of my worst habits and I often find I’m trying to write emails, update Twitter and complete an article all at the same time. It’s hopeless trying to do everything at once, because you’ll never be able to focus properly.

Split big tasks into bite-size chunks

If you’ve got a particularly large project that seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller and more manageable chunks. Then tackle each one at a time. Keep a list and feel the sense of achievement when you tick off one of those smaller tasks; feeling unproductive can often come about if we’re daunted by our work. Don’t be hard on yourself, just take it one step at a time and you’ll soon plough through the project.

If you get stuck, move on

With a list of tasks to get through, you’ll undoubtedly come across something you can’t finish. If you’re stuck, simply ditch what you’re working on, take a break and then start something new. You might find that inspiration strikes later that day and you’re able to return to that difficult task.

Cut out background noise

Get your environment right and ensure you have no noise to distract you from your work. If you work in an office or from home and you find it’s too noisy, try some ambient background noise in some headphones to cancel it out. You could listen to Sleep Sound, which offers free relaxing sounds like the ocean or a crackling fire. Alternatively, if you like to listen to music during your working day make sure you keep it light-hearted and not too heavy or distracting.

Tidy desk, tidy mind

Make it a daily ritual to tidy your desk or workspace before you finish or leave. De-clutter and get organised and you’ll start each day with a clean slate. If your desk is messy, you’ll almost certainly struggle to stay productive. Get magazine files, drawers and helpful storage solutions to keep your desk in order.

Recognise the signs

Finally, if you’re still feeling unproductive and not tackling your work load as quickly or easily as you’d like, keep a notebook throughout the day and jot down all the things that distract you or kill your work flow. You’ll soon see patterns emerging and start to understand where you need to make some positive changes.

And those are just a few of my top tips on how to stay productive at work. If you’ve got any tips you’d like to share, please comment below.

This content was originally published by Creative Boom


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