Dander is a sticky substance that attaches to clothing and causes allergies in people who are sensitive to the allergens in animal dander. Learning how to eliminate pet dander on clothing and in your environment is difficult, but it can be done by washing clothing a specific way and being vigilant about cleaning the home.
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What is pet dander?
Pet dander is defined as the dead skin cells shed by animals with fur or feathers, including cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, rodents, and other animals kept as pets. This dander contains proteins to which an estimated 10 to 20 percent of people worldwide are sensitive. Their body makes antibodies to attack the allergens, thereby causing an allergic reaction. Fur and feathers that are shed may contain some of the dander and help it spread as they float through the air. Dander is light and often microscopic, so it can stay airborne for long periods of time.
How pet dander gets on clothing
Dander easily gets on clothing in many ways. When a person pets an animal, dander gets on the hands and onto the clothing through touching or rubbing. Animals transfer their dander to people as they rub up against them, and dander falls off the animal into the person's environment, ready to attach to clothing when the person sits on an area on which the pet sat. People may also catch the microscopic dander that floats in the air unseen. Dander can stay in a home, on carpets, and on upholstery for months.
In fact, dander travels so easily that it has been found in areas animals have not visited, like school classrooms, and it is brought into homes without pets by latching onto people's clothing. It's hard to say how long pet dander stays on clothing, but at least some will most likely stay on until the clothing is washed properly.
How to eliminate pet dander on clothing
Pet dander is not like human dandruff that can just be brushed away with your hand because pet dander is sticky. Some of it can be removed by going over clothing with a lint brush or sticky tape wrapped around your hand, but to have a shot at removing most of the dander, you need to wash clothing in hot water (not warm) and dry it in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes.
For clothes that cannot be washed in hot water, go over them with a lint brush to remove allergens before washing. Special dog hair detergent has not been proven to be more effective than regular dog shampoo or detergent, but bathing pets twice a week helps keep down dander.
Getting rid of pet hair gets rid of the dander stuck in it. Before washing, tumble clothing in the dryer without heat for about 10 minutes to relax the fibers so they release the hair. Remove hair from the dryer's lint filter. Shake off excess hair from clothing over a trash can. Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the washer's rinse load and rinse the clothes a second time without adding vinegar.
How to clean pet dander
The best way to get rid of dander is to keep it out of the house in the first place. Brush dogs and cats outside or in a special closed room so much of the hair and dander does not come into the main living areas. Sweep up pet hair often so it can't carry dander around the house. Vacuum upholstery and carpets with vacuums containing special allergen HEPA filters and dust with a damp cloth. Keep pets out of the bedrooms and keep bedroom doors shut so you're not sleeping with dander all around you.
Other pet allergens
It isn't only dander that causes allergic reactions; pets also have allergens in their saliva, urine, and feces. So, when they lick themselves while grooming, as cats routinely do, they are spreading more allergens all over their fur. These allergens get on anything on which they sit and transfer to you when you sit there as well as when they rub against you and when you change the litter box. Pet hair also traps other potential allergens, like pollen and mold, and brings those into the house.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: Pet Allergy
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences: Pet Allergens
- Mission: Allergy: Animal Dander Allergy
- Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research: Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges
- Speed Queen: How to Remove Unwanted Pet Hair from Laundry