Advice on vacuum/carpet cleaner and dealing with allergens needed.

The phouka household has been sick. Dad had a cold that turned into pneumonia. I caught his cold and had two weeks of asthma, sinus infection, and misery. Mom got the same cold and missed three days of work, which is unheard of.

We are under orders to get rid of all the allergens, and I need help.

Stuff we’ve done:

  • washing sheets twice a week, pillows and comforters once a month.
  • cat gets brushed daily, puppy gets bathed weekly.
  • carpets are vacuumed every other day.

While it would be best to remove the pets from the bedrooms, that’s just not possible. The cat is 18 years old, half-blind, and cannot tolerate the puppy. So, she lives in my bedroom. She sleeps on my bed or sometimes on my face. Not much to be done there. The puppy sleeps in my mom’s room (parents maintain separate bedrooms because their sleep habits are diametrically opposed). Puppy sleeps on the bed, in the chair, and sometimes in her crate. The likelihood of Mom permanently removing the puppy from her bed is similar to me hitting a Kuiper belt object while playing fetch.

The carpet is near the end of their life, but replacing it is a very large investment in time, money, and inconvenience, and the parents have not considered it.

Mom wants to purchase a carpet cleaner, but the previous cleanings we’ve done don’t appear to help much, and now I’m told that it can cause mold to grow under the carpet and padding.

Mom is very much impressed with the Kirby vacuum - 2.0 horsepower motor, excellent engineering, HEPA filtration on the bag, dry carpet shampooer - but it is $1300 on sale. She is leery of a used Kirby because of horror stories she’s heard (told mostly by the salesman, but still).

So, I am tasked with developing options to laying out the $1300 for a new Kirby or getting ripped off on eBay for a fake/used Kirby. I turn to you.

Removing the pets is not an option. However, we must cut down on allergens - especially pet dander, dead skin cells, mites, and mite poo. I’m looking for alternatives to the expense of the Kirby (or possibly accolades which say it’s totally worth it), ideas for further eliminating respiratory stressors, and experiences you’ve had with similar problems. All advice is gratefully accepted.

If you cannot get rid of all of the carpet, at least get rid of the carpet in the bedrooms.

Get dust mite proof covers for the mattresses and pillows.

Go to the library and look at the Consumer Reports guide to vacuum cleaners. (hint: the Kirby vacuum is not rated the highest for cleaning) If you must have a Kirby, refuse to pay the $1300.00 cost. The salesman will lower the price-I’ll bet you can get it at least under $900.00 if not lower.

My Dyson dc07 does an excellent job, and has a washable HEPA filter. I highly recommend it.

Would a central vacuum system be in your budget? They can be retrofitted into existing homes without having to tear out walls, or so I’ve heard. They’re pricey, but you can have them vented to the outside so they literally suck the dust and allergens out of your home, rather than recirculating them the way an upright or canister vac would.

Anything but a Kirby… They’re overweight, overpriced and overhyped. Just for giggles, I bought one on craigslist a couple of years ago for ten bucks. Ten whole dollars got me a “Heritage” upright vac and a box of attachments. The poor thing had been relegated to the barn. Cleaned it up and took it to the local vacuum shop to see if it needed anything. They pronounced my ten dollar find to be in proper working order and not needing anything except maybe upgrading to “allergen” bags. Didn’t have the heart to tell them that I bought a $1200 cleaner for ten bucks.

I’d second the recommendation for a Dyson. They’re the only vacuum cleaner I’ve ever had that didn’t start to stink like an old vacuum cleaner after a couple of months, which seems to imply that nothing but clean air exits the machine. They also seem to fit together and stay together better than a lot of mass-market “HEPA” vacuum cleaners. I’ve had vacs where plastic panels warp and no longer seal, transforming a vacuum cleaner into a dust-broadcasting machine.* ACHOO!*

If you don’t like Dyson for whatever reason, Hoover’s “Platinum Collection” upright has been doing pretty well for us as well.

You know it might not be prohibitavely expensive for you to rip up the carpet and put in that floating hard wood floor stuff in. It just snaps together, its not a big deal.

In '07 we got a Miele cannister vacuum for $900. Includes HEPA filtration. I think they may have cheaper ones that also include HEPA filtration. Also quieter than others we checked out. Before you get the Kirby, see if you can find someone near you who sells Miele.

I also recommend the Dyson. We have had ours for 6+ years and never had anything happen to it that a little elbow grease would not fix. It is built to last and cleans very well.

Okay, I’m getting the general consensus that Kirby is not favored. Hmm. I’m a bit surprised because the demo on the family room carpet cleaned the carpet better than anything else we’ve used.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Dyson, so it’s high on my list.

I would love to swap carpet for wood or tile, but Dad needs $10K in dental work, so we just aren’t taking on any other projects until that’s cleared. Same goes for central vac.

I will bring up the mattress/pillow covers with Mom.

Thanks all.

Do you have forced air heating? Has anyone mentioned having your ducts cleaned?

There was a thread about duct cleaning on here not too long ago, and while some folks said it was a ripoff, others said it did help with allergies. I think an HVAC guy chimed in and said it was a good idea. Plus, in my area at least, it’s not THAT costly.

I have a whole-house air filter on my furnace/AC and I can definitely tell a difference in my allergies when I keep the house shut up and have that thing running. I don’t know if it does much with allergens that are already in the house (mites, dander) but it does help keep the air clean with regards to outside air.

Also, you might want to get the carpets professionally cleaned, even if they’re pretty ratty. Assuming that it’s pretty dry at the moment where you are, now is not a bad time to get it done. The systems that companies like Stanley Steemer use have much more powerful suction and will be able to suck up the vast majority of the water, taking a lot of dirt and dust with them. And if you’re nervous about mold, you could run a dehumidifier on full blast for a couple of days after they’re done. Actually, cutting down on humidity is important anyway, as dust mites require a decent amount of humidity to survive.

Some other things to check:

  • Allergen encasings on pillows and mattresses.
  • Get the ductwork cleaned out, as mentioned previously.
  • Get an allergen filter for the furnace. The Filtrete filters from 3M are less than $20 and replace the blue fiber filters, and catch much more dust and dirt.

You could do all that AND still buy a high-quality vacuum with a HEPA filter and not spend $1,300.

Another vote for allergen covers for the pillows and mattress. You might consider changing your pillowcases more often than the sheets, also.

Do you have drapes or curtains? Those are another huge dust trap. Everyone I know with bad allergies switched to mini-blinds, which they clean regularly. At the very least, you should be vacuuming these regularly, preferably washing/cleaning them.

Get some good entryway mats. Not those silly little “welcome” mats, you want something that will grab the dirt off your shoes. You want at least 6 feet of cleaning mat, preferably 6’ each outside & inside. This will drastically reduce the amount of dirt & allergens that get carried in. (Ignore this if you remove shoes at the door.)

Find a HEPA filter for your heat&air system, to help keep stuff out of the air.

The doctor recommendation that I’ve seen for people with allergies to keep pets is weekly bathing with daily brushing & washing (damp washcloth). That’s for cats & dogs. I realize it might be difficult to accustom your antique cat to this routine ;), but the puppy should be fair game. (You probably could get away with using a damp washcloth on the cat, but you know your cat better than I do.)

If there are allergies involved, the animal absolutely shouldn’t be sleeping in the bedrooms. Again, I understand about the cat, but the puppy is easy-peasy. It just takes a little time. Our pup prefers to sleep in her crate - she’ll go find you to let her in when she’s tired if the door to that room has gotten closed. Can you convince your mom that the crate is better for the dog (“she’ll be more secure and happy and sleep better”)? Even if she stays in the crate instead of on the bed, it should help a little.

I don’t know anything about vacuums, but I know several people that love their Animal Dyson for getting critter hair off carpets and furniture. Don’t forget to be sure the one you choose has extensions for furniture & drapes.

No drapes, thank heavens.

Really crappy forced air heat. Normally Dad takes care of maintenance such as swapping out filters, but I will absolutely bring it up with Mom.

We have mattress covers, but I don’t know if they’re mite proof. Pillowcase covers we don’t have.

Extra pillowcases are an excellent idea.

The cat will put up with a wet washcloth if I distract her with peanut butter. The puppy is currently cutting her adult teeth, so it may not be a huge effort to get Mom to relocate her. Dog is chewing on everything, including people, to soothe her gums.

Another Dyson convert here. I love my Dyson. It sucks up everything. I have also been know to vacuum off my comforter with it, between washings. I feel like that helps. Also, how old are your pillows. You may think about replacing them.

Vacuuming houses are really important, but there is times when even vacuuming constantly does not have a major affect, it’s really only temporary. My house is really dusty and all of the dust collects onto the carpets and everywhere else, and leaves a bad odor, I think that the only permanent solution is to change your furnace filter’s a lot.