The simplest way to keep allergy symptoms at bay? Avoid exposure to the substances that provoke your sneezing, wheezing, and itchiness. But how? We looked at the research, spoke to leading experts, and reviewed our own product tests to determine what can help and what to skip when you're trying to allergy-proof your home. Read on to find out which of the five following strategies really work.

Anti-Allergy Bedding

Swathing mattresses, box springs, and pillows in allergen-impermeable covers can entrap dust mites and animal dander as long as you use covers that are made from woven fabrics, according to research studies. Non-woven covers are less durable and won’t protect you from dust mites long-term. Plus, their dimpled surface can allow a variety of allergens to collect there. So before you buy, check product labels for a fabric pore size (the size of openings in the weave) no greater than 6 micrometers or microns, and for words such as “woven fabric.” 

Washing Bedding in Hot Water

Researchers have found that washing bedding in very hot water (in some studies, above 130° F) will kill dust mites—ubiquitous, microscopic creatures that may provoke allergy symptoms. A hot water wash will also reduce animal dander (tiny skin flecks), another common allergen.

But to avoid scalding, two leading organizations for allergy specialists recommend laundering linens at 120° F. Hotter water will kill only a few extra mites, says Jay Portnoy, M.D., division director, allergy/asthma/immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Many drown in the wash anyway, he notes, and a cycle in a hot dryer should do in the rest. But weekly laundering is a must to keep allergy symptoms at bay. 

Using a Vacuum With a HEPA Filter

Vacuuming regularly can help subdue allergens. Our tests of vacuums found that those with regular filters sucked up similar amounts of dander and dust as those with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. And some, but not all, were just as good as those with HEPA filters at keeping small particles from escaping from the vacuum and blowing back into the air. If you’re the allergy sufferer, give someone else the task of vacuuming. And avoid bagless vacuums, which can stir up dust when you’re emptying the bin.

Purifying the Air

Air purifiers are available in two configurations: portable models you can move from room to room and whole-house air filters, which can be used only in homes with forced-air heating and/or cooling. Typically, those are thin filters used in place of regular furnace or central air filters. Thicker models that may require professional modification of your heating and/or cooling system are also available. 

Cutting the Humidity

Keeping your home’s humidity to 30 to 50 percent on a constant basis minimizes the growth of moisture-loving dust mites and mold, Portnoy says. Because dehumidifiers should generally be used only in basements (they generate a lot of heat), a better strategy is running a properly sized air conditioner.  

Our Top-Rated Tools for Fighting Allergies

Air purifiers: Our top-rated portable air purifiers include the Honeywell HPA 300, $250, for large rooms and the GE AFHC21AM, $230, for medium rooms. The Honeywell did an excellent job of removing dust, pollen, and smoke from the air at high speed and a very good job at low speeds. The GE did a very good job at high speed and a good job at the lowest speed. The Lennox Healthy Climate CarbonClean 16, $100, and the Filtrete Healthy Living Ultra Allergen 4 MPR 1550, $29, both whole-house filters, were very good at removing dust, smoke, and pollen at high and low speeds.

Vacuums: Look for models that scored well for emissions, such as the Kenmore Elite 31150, $350; Hoover Wind­Tunnel Max UH30600, $180; and Miele Dynamic U1 Twist, $450.

Air conditioners: For a small room, our top-rated air conditioner is the GE AEM05LS, $210. It’s also a CR Best Buy. 

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the April 2016 Issue of Consumer Reports on Health.