The second thing worthy of note is that if the home has not recently undergone a thorough spring cleaning, the process might cause an asthma episode. Therefore it's best to hire this process out or bribe someone else to do some of the more *dirty* tasks. If you must do this alone, make sure the rooms are well ventilated and cool enough that you can wear a mask. These can be bought in the self-help section of department stores and they prevent dust and dirt from entering the nose and mouth.
There you are, clad in your cleaning duds and face mask...now that you're ready to clean - what do you clean with? The most important tool you have is a "surface cleaner". This can be anything from an assortment of brooms and dust gadgets on poles to a vacuum cleaner with attachments or a cleaner specially designed for Asthma patients.
Never use the first items without a mask and without first sprinkling them with water (to hold some of the dust). Only surface cleaners with a HEPA filter or greater (yes they do exist, though they may be costly) clean without repolluting the air via the exhaust. If you use a vacuum without a HEPA filter, you may as well use a broom...And brooms are more economical! Besides cleaning the floors, you use the surface cleaner on the ceilings, walls, woodwork, frames, baseboards, shelves and standing objects, electronic equipment (never use an electronic vacuum or majestic attachment on a gel screen television), and upholstery.
Another friend in your cleaning army is the "damp cloth", especially if you are not using a HEPA-type surface cleaner. This cloth is not WET, you will not want it wet enough to leave streaks or moisture behind to cause mold; but it is damp and will capture dust and dirt. Do not use feather dusters or dry rags to dust furniture regardless of what your Mamma did...It merely moves the dirt from the surface and into the air to be breathed in rather than removing it from the environment. I have not tried the new swiffer duster, it may be worth a try.
Another consideration for asthma proofing your house is the collection of cleaners you use. I'm probably going to offend a lot of people but if I get through to you it will make me content. You are being ripped off by the detergent industry. You do not need industrial strength glass cleaner, pledge, scrubbing bubbles, toilet cleaner and floor cleaner. First of all, most of these items emit noxious fumes into your home and poisons into either the ground water or public water supply. Here is a cut down list of necessary cleaners, I can clean everything with these: natural dishliquid, Oxyclean, White Vinegar, Paste wax (for use 2x/yr) and baking soda (for scrubbing when I need gritty detergent). When I choose to use premixed cleaners and specialized cleaners, I have switched to natural ones such as Veriuni and Melaluca and have felt much better for doing so.
When using the "cheap and easy" route...I use hard natural wax on the few items in my home that need waxing; I only do so 1 or 2 times per year and buff it up in between with a soft cloth. For the few times that I need to clean glass that water alone will not clean, vinegar water works well. It also will clean a floor, in case you are not comfy using dish detergent on the floor. The detergent I use on just about everything and if I need to scrub I use baking soda.
A dry sponge is a good cleaning tool for walls and wallpaper. It removes most all dirty marks without water and detergent, so you do not ruin wallpaper and flat paint. You can find these wherever wallpaper is sold and again...it does not strip away paint.
Another set of Asthma busting cleaning tools is the sink, bathtub, garden hose and dishwasher. You wash nic-nacs that are capable of going into the dishwasher in there - you get rid of all stuck on dust and are left with a really clean nic-nac and experience NO distress at all. You can hand wash items that are more fragile. I take the pictures out of the frames, wash the glass in the dishwasher and the frames by hand at least twice a year to get rid of dust and mold. Showers work well for large items, fake plants, and venetian blinds. A porch and garden hose can make quick work of some larger items that have a lot of dust (like wicker furniture) and you can dry them in the sun.
Lastly I recommend using furniture bags...not for everyday, but for cleaning purposes. You can get them from any self-storage place, and if you can't find them email me and I will find a place you can order them. At the very least you need a mattress storage bag big enough to fit your mattress in, and there are other ones which are designed for other furniture. Get them if you believe they will hold the entirety of the piece of furniture. What you will be doing is placing the mattresses, stuffed animals, pillows, etc, into the bag and using the vacuum-type tool to suck the air out of these things 2-4 times a year. The purpose of this is to get foul air, dust mites, dust, hair, etc out of the upholstery and mattresses. You can also treat the family's coats this way, which would be really good if a family member smokes. This obviously works best with a HEPA filterd vacuum.
A few words on harsh cleaners. Sometimes they are necessary. Use them only as needed. I do use oven cleaner when I do not have a self-cleaning oven. It's better than cleaning the oven every night. I have not found an earth friendly, asthma friendly way to clean this appliance and must use regular harsh means. When you use them, use them with the windows open, all filters and exhaust fans on and wear a mask. Or bribe someone else to do it. IF your bathroom is coated with mold, one concentrated cleaning which will likely put you in jeopardy of an attack could prevent a chronic problem because the mold is no longer there. By all means, bleach that junk out. Soak paper towels in it and lay them on the areas which are mold-infested and leave them there with the exhaust fan on, the filter running and the window open for a few hours and then come back to collect them. It's likely the mold will be dead and gone...now is your chance to prevent it from happening again. Seal it. Better to do it once and do it right.
Now that you understand your cleaners, how do you asthma-bust your house? My first recommendation is to give someone else a list and have them do it, or to have them help you. The second is to take it room at a time unless you have a small army helping. I also want to note that you are not required to remove crayon and food splatter unless you want to do so. We are going after dust and residues which lay on walls and in corners and such. Crayon is annoying but it is not an asthma trigger, so that step isn't listed. If you choose to remove regular things like crayon and spaghetti splatter, add the step where it would logically go. The exception to ignoring dirty walls: If you have cigarette smoke residue on walls, you will have to get that off.
When you do the first deep cleaning, you will need to do everything, all at once. Afterwards the goal is to keep things under control. Under each section there will be an "M" symbol and then some instructions given. This is the maintenance recommendation from me; in other words, it is what I am doing. You of course are free to make and keep your own schedule; I gave mine for an example. The basic idea is that you keep everything clean and keep irritants out of the house as much as you can.
The first thing you need to do is clean or replace all filters and then clean the air ducts and vents. I'd set aside one whole day to do this as it is a very dusty job and you may not be able to do anything else today. Soak all vent covers in soapy water with Oxyclean and use a surface cleaner to get all dirt and grime from the air ducts. Let dry and replace everything.
M Monthly change filters and surface clean air ducts, you do not need to remove the vent covers.
Next remove all remove all wall hangings, nic-nacs, books, ornaments, and such from the room you are cleaning. Wash what you can in the dishwasher and sink; wipe the books with a damp rag. If you have things that cannot get wet and things you can't use a wet rag or vacuum on (like things with dried plants or odd crafty things) you can blow-dry them to get the dust off.
Remove all draperies, throws, quilts and the like and either wash them or send them out to the cleaners. You can use the mattress bag on delicate items or really old heirlooms that you do not trust to the washer or cleaners.
M Bag monthly, Wash/cleaners once a year except for bedspreads, wash them every 2-3 months.
Next move the furnishings away from the walls and use the surface cleaner to clean ceilings, walls, down behind the furniture, baseboards, and the floors behind there also. Use warm soapy water to wash dusty residue from woodwork, doors, frames and baseboards. Here you would use the dry sponge on the wall if you do not have smoke residue and want to clean the walls. If you do have smoke residue you are going to have to wash the walls also. Use a moist rag, you may want to dry behind yourself also to avoid streaking. Replace the furnishings.
M Behind 1-2x per year depending on environment. 1x week on what is showing, when you do the floors.
If this room is a bedroom, remove the bedclothes and wash them in HOT water. Put Mattress and stuffed animals and pillows into bag and remove the air with the surface cleaner to get rid of mites.
M- Sheets, weekly, Mattress, Monthly
Use the surface cleaner or damp rag to clean all surfaces. If you have Venetian blinds put them in the bathtub with oxygen cleaner and hot water. Let them soak. When they are clean, drain the water away and let them dry before moving them back into the room.
M Dust, once a week, blinds monthly.
Use a furniture bag and surface cleaner on all upholstery. Do the procedure 2-4 times for each item if you use the bag. If you use the surface cleaner and tools, be sure to go slow enough to catch a good bit of the allergens inside.
Reassemble the room with all the clean items and then surface clean the floor. Close all the windows and turn off all exhaust fans... Enjoy your new environment!! And take a shower, it will help with any bad reaction you may have.