Dust mites, a member of the arachnid family (yes, they share a lineage with spiders, ticks and chiggers) feed off of human skin cells. They live in our bedding, upholstered furniture and in our favorite floor covering carpets.
For those suffering from a dust allergy, bare floors are the best solution. With a mop or a broom, dust can be seen and easily removed. If carpets are unavoidable, there are options available to keep dust mites, and dust allergy symptoms, to a minimum.
Regular vacuuming, with a conventional vacuum, can stir up dust and release much of it back into the air. Other options such as HEPA vacuums, central vacuums or vacuums with an electrostatic filter are better choices.
HEPA Vacuum Cleaners
HEPA stands for “high-efficiency air filtration system”. This type of vacuum differs from others because it contains a filter that traps extremely small particles. It literally traps the dust inside the filter.
The quality of HEPA vacuums varies greatly. Consumers should look for
- a pre-filter, which helps prevent dirt and dust from clogging the main filter.
- a system that has the HEPA filter after the motor to ensure the exhaust is emitting allergen-free air.
- a washable HEPA filter.
- bag and motor components that are completely sealed by rubber gaskets so there is no leakage of dust-filled air.
Central vacuums are often thought of as the most allergy-friendly vacuums because they eliminate the re-circulation of dirty air inside your living area. The dust and dirt are carried through the house walls to an out-of-the-way container which can be located in the basement or garage.
Dirt can also be exhausted directly out of the house. Bags or filters only need to be changed 3-4 times per year. Central vacuums can contain HEPA filters and can be retro-fitted to install in existing homes.
Vacuums with an electrostatic filter
Electrostatic filters use electrostatically charged filtration to attract tiny particles. A safe static charge is produced by forcing air across the filter. The dust and dirt attract, and then trap, fine dust particles. It works almost like a magnet and can be an effective method for trapping dust mites.
No matter what type of vacuum cleaner you choose, the person with the dust allergy should not be the one doing the vacuuming, and certainly shouldn’t be the one to change the bag or filter.
There are other products to help keep carpets free of dust mites. These products, in the form of powders, foams and sprays must be used regularly to keep dust mites to a minimum.
Tannic acid solution
Tannic acid breaks down dust mite allergens (as well as pollen allergens, mold spores and animal dander) into harmless materials. It can be sprayed directly on carpets or upholstered furniture. The solution inactivates the allergen and it no longer causes allergy symptoms.
Tannic acid works fast and is easy to use. The problem is that the effects don’t last long because mites remain and the allergen continues to build up. This requires frequent application of the product. There have been complaints that the solution has stained some carpets and upholstery fabrics, so always do a test spot before treating the whole carpet.
Dust Mite Pesticides
A pesticide, such as Acarosan, actually kills the mites and helps your vacuum cleaner remove them, and their waste products, from your carpeting. Available in powder or spray, this product needs to be applied every one to months.