Cleaning Tips for People with Lung Conditions
Welcome back to BreatheLiveFit! This week I wanted to focus on cleaning tips. Energy conservation and avoiding triggers are key components to being able to clean your home when you have a lung condition. Sure, it would be nice if we could all afford a “crew” to come in and clean our homes from top to bottom, but the odds are many people with lung conditions don’t have the financial means to pay someone to clean their home so it is these tips that we can use in order to get things sparkling around our home. In this article I’m going to give you tips on how to avoid breathlessness with the activity of cleaning your home, I’m going to give you ideas for products that are “lung friendly” and some safety tips to consider when cleaning your home. There is a lot to cover so let’s get into it!
Some basic ideas BEFORE you start cleaning your home are:
1.Enlist help if possible – If you have a loved one or a friend that can call to come over for a short period of time and help you with the “hard stuff,” I encourage you to do so. There’s an old saying that “many hands make light work.” This will prove to be true if occasionally (maybe 1-2 times a month) a friend or loved one could come over to mop, vacuum, and “get low” with cleaning. Keep in mind, often our loved ones want to help out and just don’t know what to do to best assist you. It could be they don’t want to offend you by asking if they can help you clean… so ask!
2. Wear a mask – we are going to talk about cleaning products you should avoid when cleaning but the mask will help you to avoid inhaling and dirt/dust that could irritate your airways and trigger a flare-up
3. Declutter – before starting the cleaning process you must pick up, get rid of, and remove clutter from your home. It will add to the difficulty of cleaning your home if you have trip hazards and other items cluttering your space. Start out a few days in advance putting things away so that you aren’t doing it all at once.
4.Prioritize and make a “to do” list.- Having a list of the rooms that you want to tackle first and hotspots that you want to hit first will help you to focus on the task at hand. This list will also assist anyone that you have engaged to help you know where to begin. Crossing items off your list as you complete them will also give you a sense of accomplishment (and everyone could use that).
5.Make a cleaning schedule. - No one with a lung condition wants to clean the entire house all at once. Focus on one room at a time and have realistic expectations on what you would like to accomplish each day. Sticking to one room at a time will help you to avoid walking back and forth throughout your home from one room to another.
6.Prepare your lungs – Before you begin the activity of cleaning your home, make sure you use your breathing medications. I often recommend using your “rescue” inhaler before you exert yourself to help you get through the activity with less breathlessness. If you use supplemental oxygen, wear it while cleaning. One of my patients recommended to me that they wear an apron while cleaning and tuck their oxygen tubing behind it so they don’t have to worry about it getting in the way. The pockets on their apron allow them to have easy access to rags, carry products they are using to clean, or stow away Knick knacks they find while cleaning.
7.Ventilate the room – Although you should avoid cleaning products that have fragrance, it is wise to ventilate the room. This will allow floors if mopped to dry faster and any fragrances to dissipate quickly.
Let’s get down to cleaning…
1. Use products that are “lung friendly” – The chemicals and fragrances in traditional cleaning products are typically not lung condition friendly. Some of these products release chemicals, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and others contain harmful ingredients like bleach and ammonia. The fumes and chemicals released from these products can easily put you in a tailspin of breathlessness and wheezing. Try avoiding these products and use other safer cleaning alternatives. The good news is that these “cleanser alternatives” are often stocked in our homes. Often soap and water will do the trick. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. Mixing vinegar and water can clean glass. Never use any more of a cleaning product than you need. Remember, just because a cleanser is “green” doesn’t mean it won’t trigger your shortness of breath. Make sure the cleaners that you use are fragrance free as well.
Here’s a recipe for a decent cleaning solution that a support group member had shared with me: 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups hot water, ½ cup salt, and 2 cups borax. *I have not tested this recipe myself so make sure you test on an inconspicuous surface so that you know it won’t damage what you are cleaning.
Here is a link to other homemade cleaning products.
2. Pace activity and use breathing techniques. – You all know that I love breathing techniques! Use breathing techniques like pursed-lip breathing while you are cleaning. Do your cleaning at a time of day that you have the most energy. Take frequent breaks in order to rest and catch your breath. I loved the idea of using a caddy to transport cleaning supplies like this one from Amazon.
3. Use a long handle items to clean - I loved the idea of using a mop to clean your tub without getting on your hands and knees or bending over to scrub it. Long-handle dust pans will help you to avoid crouching down to sweep up dirt. Using the right tools will make and cleaning job a bit easier. I love my Swiffer duster with the extendable handle to help me get the cobwebs that can form by the ceiling. The duster head really traps dirt, it doesn’t push it around like a feather duster, and it is disposable (no extra work washing more rags). Avoid using stepladders because a fall can be devastating to the health of someone with a lung condition. Remember to start from the top and work down in the room so that the last thing to be done is clean the floors.
4. Use “set and forget” cleaning products – try using inserts in the tank of your toilet to prolong the need for scrubbing the bowl. I also love products that can be applied and work to clean the surface without the need to scrub or be rinsed off.
5. For floor surfaces like tile and hard wood avoid using a soaked mop. – One of the hardest things about mopping is the weight of a wet mop and having to push and pull it along the surface (not to mention the weight of the bucket of water!) It is also hard to avoid getting the floors oversaturated leaving wet spots to potentially slip on. One of the products that I use in my home weekly is the Bona free and simple Hardwood Floor Cleaner. It comes with a microfiber pad (which is washable) that you attach and then just spray on the surface of the floor and wipe away. It scoots through our house with ease and is asthma and allergy friendly with no fragrance. The liquid cartridge is also refillable. Win! You all will thank me later and you avoid lifting a heavy wet mop in and out of a heavy bucket of water.
6. Let clean dishes air dry – Standing and cleaning the dishes can be very taxing to people with lung conditions. If you have a dishwasher, use it to avoid standing for extended periods to scrub dishes. Give dishes a quick rinse if you plan to wash them later. Having dried food stuck on them will cause you to have to do more work to get them clean. As mentioned before allow dishes that you have to hand wash to air dry and put them away later.
7. Invest in an automatic vacuum – Yes, this is an investment but when automatic robot vacuums like the Roomba came out I was like….YES! Not only do I love the set and forget feature but I know that pushing and pulling a vacuum is so difficult with a lung condition. I know many of my readers are on fixed incomes but maybe the idea of mentioning this as a Mother’s day, birthday, or even Christmas gift could work. I see the value in having this little beauty vacuum your floors and keep the workload at a minimum. I’m not a sales person, I’m a respiratory therapist so no pressure, but I would think about it.
Some other tips worth mentioning:
· Never mix cleaning products as they can create dangerous compounds
· Avoid air fresheners. Try sprinkling baking soda on carpets prior to vacuuming or grinding citrus peels in your garbage disposable for a more natural fresh scent.
· Use good body mechanics and avoid moving furniture or other items that are extremely heavy.
Do you have any other cleaning tips that you would recommend? I would encourage you all to research more homemade cleaning products especially if you are highly sensitive to fragrances.
Happy Cleaning and Thanks for Reading!
Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!
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