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Steam cleaning carpets to remove dust mites: does it prevent eczema?

Carpet steam cleaning for eczema and dust mites

To steam clean the carpets or not? That is the question we are often asked at the Eczema Life Clinic. Well today I had the carpets steamed cleaned and here is my review …

Why did I have the carpets steam cleaned?

We live in an old house (circa late 1800s), and the carpets look quite literally about a hundred years old, even thought the cleaners said they were about 10 years old. When we first moved in, my daughter’s eczema briefly returned when she sat on the carpet so she went back on Skin Friend AM and her skin cleared up, but I have been worried about dust mites ever since.

Totally paranoid.

In fact, my kids are sick of hearing “Don’t put your clothes or towel on the carpet, there’s dust mites!” If something touches the carpet I have to wash it.

I am sick of it too. And I want to sit on the floor, occasionally, without getting stressed.

So I finally booked a carpet steam cleaner in Sydney.

Steam cleaning is often recommended for people with eczema or asthma because it does the following:

  • It kills bacteria and dust mites
  • It washes away the dander (dust mite poo), which is a skin irritant
  • It does not use harsh chemicals (like dry cleaning does)
  • No unpleasant fumes (although I could smell some faint pleasant smell, probably the natural solution used for people with allergies)
  • It removes stains (that was a bonus as I was mainly concerned about the mites)

You can also have your mattresses cleaned to remove dust mites. But you can also buy special allergy friendly mattress protectors.

I was advised when I rang a steam cleaning company that, “Yes, steam cleaning kills the dust mites but they also live on things other than the carpet.”

This got me thinking…

Dust mites also live in bedding, mattresses, soft toys, cushions, beanbags etc.

So I did the following dust mite preventatives:

1. I threw out all of our old pillows. My daughter has so many decorative cushions (which end up on the dust-mite riddled carpet… eeeekkk) so most of them had to go, except for her favourite 3 which I kept the coverings and washed in warm water and dried them in the dryer to kill the dust mites. I will buy new fillings from Spotlight.

  • Using a dryer for more than 20 minutes will kill the dust mites – I recommend using the dryer until the fabric is completely dry.
  • Sunlight can also kill dust mites BUT it does not wash away the dander (poo) allergen so you need to wash the items first.
  • If you don’t have a dryer, you can wash your sheets and pillows in hot water. Research shows that 100% of dust mites are killed in hot water at a temperature of 60°C (140°F).
  • Your pillows should be replaced every couple of years, so when you get your carpets steamed cleaned it’s a good time to buy new pillows and get rid of old stuffed toys.

2. I washed some of the bedding and I will do the final washing today (as I think it’s best to wash everything the same day as the carpet cleaning).

  • Remember to use “sensitive skin” labelled washing powder, not the regular stuff.

3. I also got rid of the beanbags but I kept the coverings (as my mother made them) and did the wash/dry routine to make the covers dust-mite-free.

4. I had two rugs steam cleaned on the undersides and the tops of the rugs. These are now drying in the sun, and I will flip each one over to dry the top and bottom. Note that steam cleaning companies usually only steam clean the top side of the rug so you will have to request this extra step in order to make the rug free of dust mites on both sides.

5. I got rid of most of my son’s fluffy toys (sorry mate). I asked him which ones I could “give away” but he basically wanted everything and as he does not have eczema I decided to keep a few. He is 10 and I’m sure he will want them disposed of shortly as he is almost at the age when stuffed toys become uncool. The ones I am keeping will be washed today and dried to a crisp in the dryer. The massive teddy with the stuffing falling out had to go to council clean up, as it would not fit in the washing machine and is probably a dust mite haven.

If I did not have a dryer I would have probably thrown them all out or stored them, like I did when my daughter Ayva was a baby. Ayva had eczema so the first thing we did was pack away her favourite fluffy toys, and give away the rest, which made me feel a little sad as she could not play with them like a normal child. On saying that, she did have plenty of plastic and wooden toys that were perfectly okay for kids with eczema. 

She is now a teenager and has a couple of her original stuffed toys on her bed so she gets to enjoy them now (and they are washed frequently). 

How to prep for carpet steam cleaning:

carpet steam cleaning for eczema dust mites

You will generally have to move most of your furniture, as the carpet cleaners will not move most things. They will move easy items like uncluttered tables and our cleaners moved Ayva’s bed so they could clean the entire floor. If you have eczema, ask them to move beds so they can clean all the way under them, as their machinery cannot reach the middle if your bed is large.

  • tie up your curtains so they do not touch the floor and cover your bedding (see image, above, which also shows the dehumidifier at work after the steam cleaning)
  • we moved everything that wasn't too heavy...
  • we put chairs and small bookcases onto our balconies
  • small items were sorted and stored in wardrobes and on top of the wardrobes
  • the chest of drawers and suitcases filled the bathroom
  • paintings, tables and other chairs were moved to non-carpeted rooms
  • we gave away to charity everything we did not love or want anymore - this felt great
  • and we booked a council clean up to take away the beanbags and old pillows as I did not want to pass on dust mites to anyone else.

When to begin the pre-steam cleaning clean up

I started the sorting and cleaning a couple of weeks before the carpet cleaners were coming so it did not seem overwhelming at all (well maybe a little, last night I was totally exhausted).

Thankfully it’s a sunny day today and the carpets are clean. Now we will wait 24 hours before putting the furniture back in place. I have a dehumidifier running in one of the rooms, which will speed up the drying process. It cost about $700 and is good for damp houses (and people with asthma or house mould problems). However, dehumidifiers are not so good for eczema as it dries out the air and makes your skin feel drier. If you have eczema or asthma, an allergy-approved air purifier would be a better option for you (see resources, below). 

Do dust mites cause eczema?

Dust mites are not usually the CAUSE of eczema, but they can certainly irritate the skin when your skin barrier is broken, like in the case of eczema and other rashes. And dust mite allergy is common in people with eczema. So I recommend steam cleaning if you have eczema and carpets. Ideally it’s best to have no carpet in your home but that is not always possible.

If I steam clean the carpets will it get rid of my eczema?

Everyone is different so it’s hard to say, but I do know that dust mites can flare up eczema and make it much worse. Will it cure your eczema? … It is highly unlikely.

My daughter was diagnosed with dust mite allergy so being on carpet did make her eczema visibly worse. Taking away her fluffy toys and avoiding carpets did not get rid of her eczema but it helped to minimise angry skin flareups (red skin). But it was the dietary changes that really helped her eczema to stay away long term.

Having clean carpets has given me peace of mind that our carpets are clean and safe for my children. So for me, I think steam cleaning is worth it.

It cost us AU $400 for 3 rooms, a hallway and staircase and two large rugs to be cleaned with a natural anti-allergen solution that kills dust mites and fleas (if any). A regular steam clean for 3 rooms and a hallway/staircase (without rugs and no special anti-allergen solution) was priced at AU $220, and this also kills dust mites.

How often should you steam clean your carpets?
Ask any steam cleaner and they will probably say "At least once a year" but there is no way I will move all the furniture in my home that often. If you have eczema and asthma, you might want to have your carpets cleaned once a year. For me, I would personally only do it every 2 or 3 years as it’s a lot of work. Plus my daughter no longer has eczema as we used diet and a supplement program to prevent her eczema naturally from the inside out.

Have you tried carpet cleaning for controlling dust mites? 

{Top image: do not store your mattress like this under your bed. Keep your bedding off the floor!}

Further reading: 

Allergen minimization

The Allergy Shop: bedding (mattress protectors etc)

Sensitive Choice: Air Purifiers Review

Does sunlight kill dust mites?

Eczema Association Australasia: Managing eczema

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