Monday, 27 February 2012

Why you should...

... probably vacuum your mattress, especially if you have allergies.


(Let me state first and foremost, that the opinions in this posting are mine, unless I have linked to other facts and information.  They are not as a result of any formal education on my part, for I am not an expert, but are based on my research and personal experience.)


Why on earth would I write a post about this?


Well, every month I vacuum our mattress. I have done so since we purchased a water filtered Rainbow vacuum cleaner in the early '90's.  The salesman aptly demonstrated why mattresses should be vacuumed.


Saturday was 'vacuum mattress day' :)  Whilst I was doing so, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps not everyone knows what I know.  And, "sharing is caring"...


Warning: the following may offend sensitive people.  Read further at your own risk.


You spend roughly a third of your life sleeping.  And, every night when you lay in your bed, your skin sheds dead skin cells.  The cells are called dander.  The average person rids their bodies of roughly 5.7 - 10gms (1/5 - 1/3 oz) of dander a week.  During the day this dander is eliminated by the rubbing action of clothing / furniture / carpets.  But at night the cells are deposited in your pyjama's -> sheets / pillows -> mattress protector / pillow slips -> mattress / pillows.  In addition, cats and dogs add to that dander.


Shedding skin cells is beneficial to the human body.  But - and this is the offensive part - something lives off those cells, and they are called dust mites.  They are 8 legged arachnids, but they don't bite.
Dust mite
Dust mites are not bed bugs.  They are not parasites, as they only eat dead tissue. Dust mites are roughly 1/2 mm in size - thus very difficult for the human eye to see. They prefer warm, moist surroundings such as inside warm pillows and mattresses. When you make your bed in the morning, and your shake off your sheets, a vast percentage of the "material" floating in a sunbeam is dander.


A mattress can contain hundreds of thousands of dust mites and each mite apparently produces 20 waste droppings a day.  These droppings, as well as their corpses, contain a protein to which many people are allergic.  This allergy ranges from itchy eyes to respiratory problems (asthma).


If you consider that 10% of the weight of a pillow, which is two years old, is composed of dead mites and their waste, you will realize the significance of the mite incursion in the average bedroom.


The University of Manchester performed a 2005 medical study of pillows that found up to 16 species of fungi in a single pillow. They tested feather and synthetic pillows in a range of ages, finding thousands of spores of fungus per gram of pillow ; more than is found on an average used toothbrush.


For those individuals, inhaling the house dust allergen triggers rhinitis allergica or bronchial asthma. People with allergies to house dust usually also have allergic reactions to house dust mite fecal material and cast skins. Studies have shown that the most potent house dust allergens can be extracted from the feces produced by dust mites.


The protein substances in the dust mite feces produces antibodies in humans who are allergic when these are inhaled or touch the skin. These antibodies cause the release of histamines which causes to nasal congestion, swelling and irritation of the upper respiratory passages. The Mayo Clinic, WebMD and NIH collectively provide this list of typical symptoms of an allergy to dust mites;  You may experience all or just some of them:


Hay fever
  1. The most effective means is to enclose the mattress top and sides with a plastic cover or other dust mite impervious cover (available here, click on allergy bedding on the left in the new page), thoroughly vacuuming mattress pillows and the base of the bed. Put an airtight plastic or polyurethane cover over your mattress. This is the method recommended by Consumer Reports (see their article here). This tip is number one for a reason: it is in your bed (including the baby's crib) that you are closest to the mites and their feces and enclosing the mattress and pillows in a dust mite cover virtually eliminates the mites here.  There is a website, The Allergy Store, that sells allergy controls, like the dust mite-proof fitted sheets. Mattresses covered with "fitted sheets" help prevent the accumulation of human skin scales on the surface.  These sheets have the advantage of being waterproof, too, which helps protect your mattress from spills, babies and toddler's waste, too.
  2. Wash your sheets, pillows and blankets in very hot water.  Wash the sheets and blankets at least every two weeks. Wash your pillow every week or put a dust mite-proof cover (available here) on it and wash once per year. Your pillowcase goes over the dust mite cover.  How hot is hot? The water used to wash your sheets and blankets should be at least 130°F (54°C).   For fabric which may not be washed in hot water, just pop it into the freezer for 24 - 48 hours to kill dust mites.And for those who travel and stay in hotels (or with less hygienic friends and family): Take a dust mite impervious cover (available here), along for when you stay at hotels - just think how disgusting their pillows must be!
  3. Use Synthetic fabrics: Replace feather and down pillows with those having synthetic fillings. Replace woolen blankets with nylon or cotton cellulose ones. And don't forget the children's stuffed animals: be sure to get washable stuffed animals in the future! Memory foam mattress manufacturers claim that their mattresses create an environment that is unfavorable to dust mites.  Even so, an encasement (dust mite impervious cover) is still advised, also because it can stop bedbugs (which are a rapidly growing problem)
  4. Reduce temperature and humidity: Dust mites love warm, humid conditions, above 70 F (21 C) and 50% or greater humidity. Temperature: Keep the thermostat in the house below 70 degrees.Humidity: Effective control of mites would require the maintenance of relative humidity's below 50 percent. 
I'm not advocating that you rush out and purchase polyurethane covers for your mattress and pillows - for goodness sake who wants to sleep on that type of surface every night?  Nor am I suggesting that you buy a dehumidifier, unless you have a life-threatening reaction (respiratory problems) to the mites and their debris, for that would add to your energy bill and eco-footprint on this planet.

Merely keeping your environment cool and less dusty should be adequate.

And vacuum your mattress like I do :)  My wonderful Rainbow machine has bitten the dust, and the cost of repairing it exceeds the original cost of the entire machine - go figure!  Nonetheless, I still use whatever vacuum cleaner we have.  And I do that because, without getting totally neurotic about it, I don't fancy inhaling an ever-increasing accumulation of the corpses and the waste of dust mites while I sleep.
One month's worth of dust mites
vacuumed from the mattress surface - 
who knows what lurks within the mattress...
Try and shake your sheets (and mattress protector) outdoors LOL  Open your windows to allow the cooler, fresh air to circulate.  And when I make the bed each morning, I also ensure that the duvet is turned over, so that the warmer side (which was against the body last night) is exposed to the dryer, cooler air of the bedroom, and the cooler side is now facing the mattress.

I didn't know, and I also don't use the hot cycle on my washing machine, so I guess I'm going to follow the other option above and freeze the (dirty) sheets (in a large ziplock bag) for 24 - 48 hours.  Why waste unnecessary power?


Simple, eco-friendly pest control solutions, without the use of unnecessary energy from the grid, nor pesticides.


As WebMD recommends:


Control humidity, vacuum and tidy the room, do not have a lot of dust-gathering collectibles lying around, and hang up things or put things in drawers.


And, for those of you without vacuum cleaners - I suggest that you take your mattress outside once a month and thump it with a broom handle, like they did to carpets in times of yore - that will be better that nothing... :)


(Where I have quoted from web pages, the text contains the link.)

23 comments:

  1. That's what I thought you'd say. Can't hurt to vacuum it while the sheets are off. But really, with the 4 house critters, two grown adults, and windows and doors open every chance I get, my house is probably just infested with all kinds of nasties.

    Can I expect a visit from you anytime soon Dani? @;>

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    1. Tami - Reckon we all have nasties lurking within our "castles". It's just knowing what I do about mattresses meant I couldn't keep it to myself :) Sorry if I offended anyone...

      Oh, I'd love to visit - reckon we'd get on like a house on fire. And, as for RMan and SM - they would click as well - it's really weird how similar "we" are and "they" are LOL But I won't look in any of your corners, nor look on top of your cupboards ;)

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  2. Y.I.K.E.S. Just emailed my other half and said "we're vacuuming the mattress tonight". :-)

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    1. 1st Man - LOLOLOLOL - and the cats...? Are you sure you're ready for what you're going to find in the vacuum container / bag?

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  3. Yuck. The thing that always makes me sick is Hotel beds. And most people give no thought to how they are cleaned at all. I stopped staying at hotels over ten years ago because of the ick factor. We travel with our RV everywhere and at least only sleep with out own dust mites ;)

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    1. Jane - Me neither. Haven't been in a hotel for more than 22 years. Very glad about it too LOL

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  4. I knew you were probably going to post a icky picture ;-) Mites are part of life .. and keeping them to a minimum is a good practice to get into. Today it was 8F this morning .. maybe I should open the bedroom window for a bit to give the bugs a case of frostbite.

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    1. Mrs Mac - Frostbite would probably do the trick :)

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  5. Been living with this for the last 64 years so I guess I'll carry on as usual. Of course when I get the new hut built I guess I could just add bunk hammocks instead of bunk beds. Would be easier to fold them up against the wall to. At least they could be taken out and thrashed thoroughly occasionally. ;) Dust is just something you have to live with down here and there is no escaping it.

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    1. David - Now, hammocks are a good idea! And they also use less space, and if you haven't made it that day, it won't be as obvious as a bed / bunk bed LOL

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  6. LOL, I knew you were going to mention old shed skin cells! We live beside a dirt road but there's not much passing traffic and I'm sure the hours that my sheets spend drying in the sun help kill or deter the dust mites even if I have shake a little dust off sometimes before I return them to the bed after vacuuming the mattress. Solar energy and UV rays to the rescue! I read somewhere that putting your sheets in the dryer on the hot setting also kills dust mites (as it does lice!) so I do this, after line drying for as long as I can, on wet/winter days. It actually works out a bit cheaper for me than the hot wash method, especially when you dry 3 lots of sheets one lot after another.
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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    1. Robin - Yeah, I've also heard that if one has fleas, putting the bedding in the sun causes them to depart that medium and look for cooler, shady areas LOL

      Don't have a tumble dryer - it's the sun, or my indoor laundry room that gets my washing - summer and winter :) Air drying is the only route I use.

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  7. Thanks for the info. We washed sheets today and added vacuuming to the duty!

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    1. Sorry Jody - didn't mean to add to your household chores. But, better forewarned - allergies are a terrible thing - and the corpses and waste of those little critters LOL

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  8. Good post Dani. Here in the US(or at least in Texas) there is a mattress commercial telling you that you need to replace your mattress every eight years for the same reason you mentioned...dustmites and their deposits!

    Did not give it a second thought as I figured they just wanted you to buy a new mattress. Guess I might just have to buy me a vacuum cleaner.

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    1. MsBelinda - Might be cheaper if you were to buy the polyurathane mattress and pillow covers...? :)

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    2. Or even borrow a family member's vacuum cleaner every so often?

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  9. Well good job Dani, you got Mrs. H all riled up.:) After she read this yesterday morning the matress got a good vaccuming top and bottom and the pillows are washed.

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    1. Oh dear, Mr H. I'm sorry if I've started something.

      Question is - how did the vacuuming of the mattress go...?

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  10. Really gross and really informative! We have a cover on our mattress that I take off occasionally and launder and I do the same for our pillows. Do you think that the dander and mites still manage to cling on even after a turn in the wash? In any case, I think I may vacuum our mattress (for the first time ever) tomorrow. Scary!

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    1. Tanya - Sorry and thanks :) Prepare to be "shocked" when you vacuum your mattress...

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  11. Hi Dani - I came over and read this past week and had to laugh. my mom taught me at a very young about vacuuming our mattresses. I don't remember the "why" behind it that time, just that it needed to be done. I also remember learning to throw my covers back and let it air out. Most of my life I have done those things. Then last week I had a conversation with a friend who had just come from the allergy dr. with her son and learned all the things he was allergic to so I started talking about things to do in the bedroom - like vacuum mattress, pull back bed covers in am, and more frequent vacuuming in bedroom at least until they narrowed it down to what he was reacting to. I forwarded her your post. Great post.

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  12. Emily - Mum's always know best LOL Thanks - hope it helps your friend.

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