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Controlling Dust, Dust Mites, and Other Allergens in Your Home - Topic Overview

Cleaning

  • Damp-mop hard floors (tile or hardwood, for example) once a day.
  • Dust and vacuum once or twice a week to remove the buildup of allergens. Use a dry cloth to wipe hard surfaces such as countertops, tables, and other furniture.
  • Vacuum the carpets and cloth-covered furniture to get rid of as much dust as you can.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or a special double-thickness bag, which collects dust-mite particles and pollen. Standard paper bag filters may allow the stirred-up allergens to escape back into the room.
  • Dusting and vacuuming stir up dust, making the air worse until the dust settles. Wear a mask if you do the cleaning yourself. If possible, try to have someone without allergies do the cleaning.
  • Consider wet-vacuum cleaning when possible. This can help remove allergens from carpeting because it actually washes the carpet. Also, consider steam cleaning carpets when possible. In addition to cleaning the carpet, the heat of the steam kills dust mites.

Controlling dust mites

Dust mites are visible only through a microscope. People are allergic to dust mite droppings, not the dust mites themselves. Allergy to dust mites is a year-round problem.

  • Keep the house aired out and dry. Dust mites do well where humidity is greater than 50% but do not do well in dry conditions. Try to keep the moisture level (humidity) below 50%. This may be difficult in some seasons and some climates. Plants and fish tanks add to humidity, so keep these out of the bedroom.
  • Dry vacuuming doesn't pick up dust mites. Consider steam cleaning carpets when possible. In addition to cleaning the carpet, the heat of the steam kills dust mites.
  • You can buy chemicals (ascaricides) that kill dust mites and that you can use on carpeting and furniture. But many experts do not consider them effective enough to be worth the trouble and expense of using them.
  • Wash bedding, including pillowcases and mattress covers, in hot water [130 °F (54.4 °C)] every 1 to 2 weeks. You can also dry bedding at high temperatures.
  • You can limit your contact with dust mites by using allergen-proof covers on your mattress, box spring, and pillows, and washing them regularly. This works well as part of an overall plan to reduce allergens in your home. It is not enough to use mattress and pillow covers without some of the other methods mentioned above.

Adults spend one-third of their time and children spend half of their time in their bedrooms, so it is important that you take steps to prevent allergens in this room.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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