Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
13 Jul

Dust Mites, Off-Gassing and What to Do With Your Mattress

dustmitesDust mites are everywhere. They are true survivors, able to make it in virtually all climates and at any altitude. They thrive, however, in our homes, especially bedrooms, enjoying the humidity generated by all the breathing, perspiring, and drooling we do at night and feeding on all the skin flakes we produce. For these tiny creatures, we’re living, breathing humidifier-refrigerator-landlords who charge extremely competitive rates. Why wouldn’t they infest us?

In the last couple weeks we’ve taken a look at sleep posture, how to improve it, and modern bedding. Today we’ll take a closer look at your mattress, investigating what may be lurking inside and what you can do about it.

In “Toward a Comparable Developmental Ecology of Human Sleep,” Carol Worthman presents a potential motivation for the relative “minimization of bedding” among hunter-gatherers, apart from logistical, technological, or climatic limitations: the avoidance of allergenic dust mites and other parasitic bed-mates. All that cloying, billowing fluffiness we like to ensconce ourselves in provides room (and even board) to vast numbers of dimunitive, multi-legged squatters. Our bedding, you might say, can play host to a host of parasites, especially if you live as many traditional hunter-gatherers live (and lived) – in close, often direct contact with the natural environment. Worthman mentions an increase in asthma rates immediately following the introduction of Western-style blankets to the highland tribes of Papua New Guinea, presumably caused by the hordes of dust mites finding new purchase in the blankets.

Dust mite detritus is highly allergenic to humans. It can trigger asthma in people, and common side effects of exposure to dust mite allergens include itchiness, red or watering eyes, eczema flare-ups, runny nose, and clogging of the lungs. These are your basic, garden-variety allergenic symptoms, but they’re no less annoying or frustrating. They can drive a person up a wall and really hamper quality of life; I for one know that when it comes to itchy eyes, nose, or throat, I turn into a huge complainer. Maybe it’s because colds, sniffles, and allergies are relatively rare since embarking on this Primal journey, and maybe I’ve simply grown soft and unable to deal with what most folks think are inevitable, “just deal with it” ailments, but either way, they’re no fun. No one should have to deal with this stuff. Many of us do, though, because we enjoy the creature comforts of modern living. Now, before you toss out your mattresses, burn your bedding and renounce your Tempurpedic, there are other ways to deal with dust mites.

Dealing with Detritus

It’s not the actual dust mite that bugs us (yes, pun intended); it’s the allergenic refuse that it creates. Experts suggest around 18% to 30% of Americans are sensitive to dust mite detritus, so habitual cleaning/removal of the offensive material should help us avoid the allergenic reactions. A few companies offer either intensive ultraviolet-C light treatment or high-powered steam treatment to kill the mites, followed by a vigorous vacuuming to remove the dead mites and their waste material. Although corroborating research is scant, it seems plausbile that ultraviolet light and high-powered steaming would kill a large amount of near-microscopic arachnids.

And vacuums certainly work. In fact, weekly, thorough vacuuming of your house is pretty effective at removing dust mite droppings, and it can even take care of the mites themselves. Do the carpet, the drapes, the furniture, and textiles, all of which can house mites, making sure to dust everything beforehand (consider using a damp cloth, instead of a dry duster, which often just spreads the dust around). One study found that while deep vacuuming was effective at reducing allergens, deep vacuuming coupled with steam cleaning resulted in longer-lasting reductions.

Some more do-it-yourself options: install special zippered covers for all your bedding (sheets, mattress, pillows, comforter, etc); regular hot water washings of sheets (be sure to use hot water – 140 °F or 60 °C is most effective – and maintain a strict laundering schedule, as research shows that “compliance” is often more important than laundry method), casings, and adjacent stuffed animals; conversion to hardwood floors; and maintain a tidy room free of excessive clutter.

Since dust mites are attracted to humidity, lowering your humidity may help keep the population at bay.

Furry pets can also provide food for dust mites. While I think the benefits of a good, loyal pet by your side outweigh any threat posed by dust mites, it’s something to keep in mind. Consider extra vacuuming, at least.

Beds that Pass Gas

Last week’s bedding post also garnered questions about off-gassing – also known as out-gassing – which describes the slow, gradual release of a gas that is contained, absorbed, or present in a material. In our case, off-gassing refers to the presumably toxic/potentially harmful release of chemical gases from bedding. Flame retardants, especially, have been targeted as potential dangers.

Research is scant, and a definitive answer cannot be given, but we do know that new mattresses often give off powerful “chemical” odors for a the first few weeks, especially in enclosed rooms, and there are plenty of anecdotal reports of illness, dizziness, brain fuzziness, among other negative effects, correlating positively with the arrival of the “new mattress smell.”

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) are effective flame-retardants. When flame is exposed to a material treated with PBDE, bromine is released that robs the air of the oxygen necessary for fire. They are also pretty effective at disrupting hormone levels in the thyroid gland, affecting neuronal pathways, reducing fertility, and impacting the regular brain development of young children and infants. Until quite recently, many foam mattresses were made using PBDE as the retardant. Flame-retardants are required by law to be incorporated into mattresses (although retardant-less mattresses are made available to those with doctors’ notes proving they have an intensely negative reaction to the chemicals contained therein), and PBDE was simply one of the most effective and readily available. Luckily, most governmental bodies have banned the use of PBDE. The EU no longer allows it, and certain states, including California, Washington, and Maine, have instituted state-wide bans on the sale of products containing PBDE. That’s all well and good, but the stuff is persistent.

“No matter where we’ve looked – whether it’s the Arctic or an urban center or the Antarctic, [PBDEs] are everywhere,” says Michael Ikonomou, a research scientist with Canada’s Oceans’ Institute of Ocean Sciences. It shows up in human breast milk, especially US breast milk, along with the infants and tots who consume it. Altough, as Ikonomou points out, PBDE is everywhere, perhaps the most concentrated source of exposure to it comes when we sleep, for six to eight hours each night, on mattresses imbued with PBDE. The longer we own the mattress and the more it breaks down, the more PBDE is released, is off-gassed.

Avoid mattresses manufactured before 2005, unless the manufacturers specify they’re PBDE-free.

Read mattress labels. Avoid anything that’s made with polyurethane foam. That’s probably full of PBDE.

Toss out old mattresses, especially if the actual foam is exposed and beginning to degrade.

Most mattress manufacturers are wising up and curtailing the use of PBDE, but always do your own research before purchasing a mattress, especially the memory foam variety. A potential problem remains, of course: we still require flame retardants in mattresses, so companies have simply moved on to a new retardant known as antimony trioxide.

Antimony trioxide is a known carcinogen, but most research has been conducted on miners, smelters, and other professions where people are actually inhaling the stuff. It remains to be seen whether sleeping on mattresses that use antimony trioxide is harmful, but in the end, you’re still dealing with a toxin.

You could go always go for natural latex mattresses, which are naturally flame-resistant, as many of my readers have, but then you’re dealing with the looming specter of latex allergy, which some sources claim affects up to 12% of the population.

Again, I’d suggest you seriously consider tossing your old mattresses, since we know that PBDE is definitely bad stuff (especially for the young ones and the mothers, who should probably be more vigilant about bedding choices), and make cleaning/vacuuming to remove detritus a regular habit. Whatever you do, though, don’t let the decision control your life, paralyze you with fear, or make you feel like you have to sleep on the (non-treated) hardwood floor. (You won’t see me giving my bed up anytime soon!) After all, life is increasingly about navigating a world of chemicals and trade-offs, and you have to sleep somewhere. Simply avoid the flagrant, obvious bedding dangers and get on with your Primal life.

Let me and the MDA community know your thoughts in the comment board and Grok on!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I’m wondering what Tempurpedic matteresses are made of and if they tend to harbor dust mites.

    Jesse wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • As far as I am aware Tempurpedic is a closed-cell foam, so dust mites shouldn’t be able to get inside it. They’d still live in your sheets and stuff though.

      Uncephalized wrote on July 13th, 2010
  2. I love my latex mattress.

    glorth2 wrote on July 13th, 2010
  3. I have a tempurpedic. They are solid and dustmites definitedly cannot live in these. You can get a cover for it made by tempurpedic that is good. Dustmites can however still live in your sheets, pillows, and covers.
    I have a tempurpedic pillow as well, it’s worth it even if you don’t have a bed.

    I believe that Sleep Number beds are also ‘immune’ to dustmites.

    mikewootini wrote on July 13th, 2010
  4. Since I’m allergic to the stuff I got the zippered covers for all my bedding.
    I’m still having symptoms (much less though), but I can’t say how much of it is due to the covers because I can’t exclude other probable causes (how clean my house is, diet, etc.).
    However it is said that 90% of all the dust mites are inside of your bedding, so if you’re allergic you should definitively look into that.
    (In my country, The Netherlands, you can get the covers for free if you got a doctor’s certificate of your allergy to dust mites).

    I have a question however, could they also be hiding inside your clothing/closet?

    Tom wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • Hi there,
      We recently moved to the Netherlands. I was wondering where is the best place to buy the dust covers from? I saw an online store called Allergyshop.nl – is that a good store or do you recommend somewhere else? Our doctor unfortunately does not know about this.

      Fera wrote on August 15th, 2014
  5. I think I’ll switch to a hammock! :)

    Greg wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • my 16 yr old daughter did and she sleeps great, loves the support, and just hooks it out of the way when she needs the open room space! everyone but me thought she was crazy, and now they’re eating their words…i also read the patients with Huntington’s Disease reap great benefits from sleeping in a hammock.

      Merry wrote on December 15th, 2012
  6. Really interesting. I never thought about potential chemicals in mattresses.

    Janet wrote on July 13th, 2010
  7. My wife and I switched from a foam mattress which we hated to one made by this company http://www.sleepworks.com/index.html I’m in no way affiliated with them but have been sleeping on their product for two years and still love it. They are made of all natural materials and allow your body to stay cool and move freely throughout the night unlike the foam mattress. The foam mattress conforms to your body once it gets warm therefore not allowing you to move freely as you need to. Also the foam mattress made me so hot all night long as it held the heat against me. I used to wake up in a man shaped puddle :-( Now I sleep well all night long and wake up not soaked in sweat.

    Greg wrote on July 13th, 2010
  8. I’m not one to freak out over every possible carcinogen that I come across, though I do a pretty good job of avoiding chemicals in general…but this is pretty gross. The bit about PBDE being found in breastmilk is disturbing as well.

    At least I’ll know what to look for in buying an infant mattress, so thank you very much for this post!

    Hannah wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • Infants are better off cosleeping. Crib mattresses are costly and sleeping solo is not very “Grok”. We coslept with both our girls as long as they wanted.

      Naomi wrote on July 13th, 2010
  9. I don’t know about all this.

    From the reality POV, I don’t think it is that important. Its what I would call fine tuning.

    Jean-Patrick wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • Reality point of view? Please explain….I’m not sure how this post doesn’t deal with reality.

      Ben wrote on July 13th, 2010
      • this may not be what you two are talking about, but the first thing that sprang to my mind when i started reading was, how does this subject correspond to the idea that modern society is too obsessed with sanitizing everything?

        of course, the off-gassing aspect IS cause for concern. but if “dirt” (as in “soil”) is beneficial to us, surely “dust” isn’t a very big issue! the human animal has definitely been living with mites — and much nastier bugs — for a very long time….

        tess wrote on July 13th, 2010
        • I was thinking the same thing. Isn’t our obsession with sterile living one of the causes of certain allergies?

          Tom wrote on July 14th, 2010
        • I completely agree. However, I think emphasising that point would be a good excuse for a lot of the guys I know to live in absolute squalor :).

          I think there’s a balance between being a germophobe, sanitizing everything, using anti-bacterial everything, and just keeping it clean and tidy.

          Rebecca wrote on July 14th, 2010
  10. I am so glad my boyfriend and I just bought a new mattress! I didn’t realize how bad they were. I knew they had some toxins. I’m 24 years old and soon to be thinking about things like marriage and kids. I guess now is a good time to go fully primal, this includes vacuuming more!

    Caitlin wrote on July 13th, 2010
  11. Thanks for this post. Perfect timing. We’ve been looking for a mattress for our baby’s crib, and I’ve been researching it for a while. Surprising thing is, information is really sparse, and most of the info on the need for all natural/organic is written by someone selling something. It’s hard to determine what’s really important – especially since the price shoots up very quickly the more natural you get on these things…

    Jon wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • Forget the crib entirely and cosleep!

      Naomi wrote on July 13th, 2010
      • Yeah! Who needs a love life with your partner/private time in general/space to stretch out/etc./etc.?! LOL

        Unamused Mouse wrote on July 13th, 2010
        • We cosleep with a full-sized mattress (not even a queen or king). Our boy’s six months old and we have very few issues either getting private time or with space. Besides, we’re both primal. I doubt Grok was always on his furskins or pile’o’leaves when he & the missus made the next generation of Groks.

          Katie wrote on July 17th, 2010
      • Do not co-sleep!! We did with our son who is almost nine, he still wants to sleep with us and when he does sleep in his own bed he stacks pillows up on each side and sleeps in the hole between them. Also he must have a wave sound machine playing and the closet door open. Our oldest didn’t sleep with us so he’s not afraid to sleep alone. We can see no advantage to co-sleeping.

        Mark wrote on July 15th, 2010
        • Kids vary so much, but in general, from all I’ve read and experienced, co-sleeping is by far the best choice for most. I slept alone from birth, and was terrified of going to sleep as a child — my parents eventually let me listen to music, and of course I had to have a light and check the closets and all. When sleeping alone now I also make a nest for myself out of pillows…. For my child, I had definitely decided on co-sleeping! But she was so tiny, our small dog was twice her size, I got afraid (for no reason but early mom worries). So she slept in a baby carriage rolled right next to the bed for a few months, then slept with us until she was ready for her own room. She sleeps fine now — I think it was really essential for her security as another only child, to have slept with Mom as long as she did. Check out the great book, “The Continuum Concept” by a scientist who lived with so-called primitive people in the rainforest, and observed how well they raised their kids, and how the kids never cried. I loved that book when I was pregnant!

          Darshana wrote on July 15th, 2010
        • Sleeping alone is not natural for children, and night terrors are not uncommon. I don’t think letting kids sleep in the parents’ bed is a good habit to cultivate, but if the child does not share a bedroom, then why not leave the door open, put in a small nightlight and perhaps put on some music or other sounds to lull the child to sleep?

          Sonagi wrote on July 15th, 2010
        • Co-sleeping is a dangerous idea. There are other options to night time routines that lull a child to sleep that are safer than
          co-sleeping..ie..reading, rocking, snuggling. My husband is a physician and he never allowed any of our 3 children to sleep with us. It was the concern of rolling over and smothering the baby. He is a retired ER doc, so when it comes to safety issues …he wins hands down!

          Linda wrote on June 9th, 2013
  12. It’s interesting how much my allergies have gone down ever since I moved out (broke up with fianceé) and started using an air mattress. Not as comfortable, but it’ll do for now.

    beachbound wrote on July 13th, 2010
  13. Thanks for answering my questions Mark.

    I am guessing my mattress needs to be replaced as it is a 2004 edition full of polyurethane and PBDE flame retardant.

    As for Tempurpedic, I wondered about them too. The nasty smell they give off suggests some sort of toxic offgassing to me. To Jesse above, since the Tempurpedic can be compressed to a small volume I would think there are air spaces that harbor mites, closed cells or not. Mites are pretty small and the mattress certainly isn’t completely non-porous.

    I suspect there are few perfect solutions, but I will try to be reasonable in my search. After all, we spend more time in bed than anywhere else, with our faces right up against the mattresses. That’s my reality point of view!

    Rodney wrote on July 13th, 2010
  14. With you all the way Naomi! Co-sleeping is THE best thing we ever did with our children: it regulates baby’s temperature, paces their breathing and can prevent cot death / SIDS, develops the most wonderful communication between parent and baby, gives both better quality sleep,teaches baby that their needs are being recognised…and my eldest is now 13 and is a confident, well thought of, self-aware child. Husband always tells new Dads it’s the best thing he ever did.
    In some cultures not sleeping with baby is considered child abuse…and I always think it’s a rare bird that builds two nests: one for the eggs and one for the parents.
    The only caveat is: if you are on drugs or alcohol or obese or ill, don’t. Otherwise you’re as likely to roll over the baby as you are to fall out of bed. Nature has it all sorted: we don’t go into such deep levels of sleep with a newborn.I think Mothering magazine has around 200 articles about the benefits of co-sleeping….but of course if people co-sleep then you don’t make profits by selling cots and cribs or new mattresses!

    Christine wrote on July 13th, 2010
  15. This study, although very limited, may be of interest to those who are already thinking of replacing their mattresses for reasons detailed in Mark’s series on sleeping:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=left-sided-cancer-blame-your-bed-an-2010-07-02

    Basically, your metal-spring containing mattress is a giant antenna that amplifies FM/TV waves. The (tentative) conclusion to this study was that this may be the cause of higher rates of cancer on the left side of the body seen in people in the US vs. people in Japan.

    Pretty strange, and all together makes me think about ditching the traditional mattress!

    Angela N wrote on July 13th, 2010
  16. @ unamused mouse:

    There are MANY other ways/times to share a love life/have private time/space to stretch out other than when baby is sleeping at night:) As a mother who co-sleeps I can tell you that I have ALL of those needs met and my baby gets the closeness and nursing time she needs by sleeping snuggled next to me. It is absolutely wonderful pure bliss having a warm baby to sleep next to, not to mention my wonderful DH too!

    BeeHollee wrote on July 13th, 2010
  17. Not making your bed can decrease dust mites. Pulling the sheets and blankets back up in the morning traps all that moist warm air created by your body.

    LX wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • I never make my bed anyway, so I was thrilled to read about that recently.

      Sonagi wrote on July 15th, 2010
  18. Yay for co-sleeping..As a new nursing mother I would nurse my first baby to sleep and then put her in her bassinet next to my bed. Mind you, her crib was ready and waiting a room away. She din’t like the bassinet or the crib (come to think of it, they, as new mattresses, must have been at the height of “off-gassing”!) She slept soundly from 11pm to 5:30 am at three weeks…in our bed. Very convenient for new nursing mothers…or anyone in general who believes (as I do) that a new baby is generally an attachment…they were IN you for 40 wks…now put them in another room so far away? Babies need to smell and touch their parents and get used to new surroundings..but the sound of your and Daddy’s heartbeat is very comforting to them. Think about it…she slept between mommy and daddy while in the womb for 9 months….
    She slept with us for only a few months. It sure dind’t stop us from producing baby #2 17 months later. Lol We did the same with baby sister. Happy, healthy kids. Cant ask for more!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on July 13th, 2010
  19. I had a big problem with an off-gassing mattress. Even leaving it uncovered in a well ventilated room for three weeks did nothing to dissipate the chemical odour. So I got rid of it and bought a mattress made entirely from organic wool (and some cotton). Wool is naturally flame retardant, so no need for pesky chemicals and most important of all, it’s very comfortable. Problem solved!

    Kalle Anka wrote on July 13th, 2010
    • Could you please let me know what mattress you bought. The one that is made entirely of wool and cotton. Where did you get it? I would greatly appreciate it!
      Thank you!

      anthony wrote on May 2nd, 2011
  20. Mark;

    Man do I need a raise. $30 per pound for meat, and now buy a new mattress, carpet, and goodness knows what else. Just joking but only slightly. I have been reading about this and knowing about carbohydrates for along time but now that the rest of the world knows it things just seem to be getting more expensive. I currently sleep on a Tempurpedic and I wouldn’t trade that for anything even if it was infested with hedgehogs. Good to know there are other ways of killing the critters thou.

    MARK RIFFEE wrote on July 14th, 2010
  21. Grok didn’t have to worry so much about dust mites because of temp. flucuations.

    On my site I wrote about the ideal dust mite habitat… http://www.dustmites.org/dust-mites/dust-mite-habitat

    “The North American house dust mite, Dermatophagoides farinae, enjoys life most at 19-30 C (65-76 F), and 70-80 % humidity. It’s European cousin, Dermatophagoides pteronissinus, likes things a little warmer, between 22 and 33 C (66-79 F). Those are not only optimal conditions for the mites, but also for xerophyllic fungi.”

    There is a site that is the store for the manufacturer of allergy bedding. They have good prices: http://www.allergyguarddirect.com/

    tim wrote on July 14th, 2010
    • I guess it’s helpful we don’t have central air in our place. Maybe the heat during the day helps keep away some of the unwanted critters. (Tho I’m guessing a cooler temperature keeps them away more than a warmer one?)

      Jon wrote on July 14th, 2010
      • It’s really more about humidity levels.

        In fact, a funny tip is to not make your bed. British researchers found an unmade bed is drier and hostile to dust mites

        http://www.dustmites.org/dont-make-your-bed

        tim wrote on July 14th, 2010
      • Another example of man not udntrseanding nature. They all call the dust mite the enemy but if there weren’t any mites then we would be drowning in dead human skin. It’s only when WE screw up their habitat and make it a super incubator for these mites that they become a problem. Control them and learn about them take your mattress out into the sun once a month. Be proactive.

        Sintepp wrote on December 19th, 2012
    • Reducing dust mites is another advantage of keeping my thermostat set at 61 F in the winter.

      Sonagi wrote on July 15th, 2010
  22. My Memere used to say that people were always sick these days in the wintertime because it never gets cold enough to kill all the germs(or parasites)! Everyone has the thermostat set to 72 degrees! Coming from a New England/Canada raised gandmother, I suppose it DOESN’T get as cold as those days of 5 ft blizzards too often…

    Julie Aguiar wrote on July 14th, 2010
  23. I recently came a cross a great tip on how to reduce the number of dust mites, and bed bugs, in your bed – do NOT make up your bed first thing in the morning; leave it open to AIR and DRY out. Leave the pillows out to dry and air out, too.

    Dust mites thrive in warm, wet environments – like a bed that was sleep in for several hours and made up, while warm and damp.

    You won’t be lazy ans slovenly; you will be looking after your health.

    Terrence wrote on July 14th, 2010
  24. What about organic mattresses?

    Lindsay wrote on July 14th, 2010
    • What about an organic mattress — its a great choice! The mattress we feature is ORGANIC latex rubber encased in organic wool and cotton (NO latex allergy problems at all)

      PLUS independent third party sources rate them better than memory foam and score 100% in comfort satisfaction

      Additionally sleepers with heath issues find them to be SUPERIOR to memory foam or springs

      BEWARE … buy only when the law label roves what the store is saying MANY national name brand sell blended/synthetic latex claiming it’s natural/organic

      Remember — to be organic something MUST be made from all-natural materials — there is no such thing as organic vinyl …

      gary robertson wrote on July 15th, 2010
  25. many years ago when I was diagnosed with mold allergies, eucalyptus oil was recommended to reduce the dust mites in my bedding and mattresses – use it in laundry and spray it on the bare mattress regularly. anyone know more about it? I’d kind of forgotten about it over the years and wondering if I should hunt some down again…

    Mikki wrote on July 15th, 2010
    • I use Young living essential oil products and they are great. Really high quality.

      Lindsay wrote on July 15th, 2010
  26. Use mattress and pillowcase covers that are dustmite proof. Look on the internet and compare prices.

    Avoid wall-to-wall carpet. Stick to throw rugs and area rugs that can be easily cleaned/laundered.

    When you do laundry ALWAYS include 20 Muleteam Borax, or some other Borax soap.

    Borax does not kill dustmites. But it does prevent their eggs from hatching, as well as the eggs of ticks and fleas.

    Sprinkle 20 Mule Team Borax under your throw rugs, under your sofa cusions, under your sofas, under your mattresses, etc. and leave it there. Vacuum it up and replace it once or twice a year.

    Also, if you do have wall-to-wall carpet sprinkle 20 Mule Team Borax on the carpet before you vacuum it, then vacuum as usual. Do this twice a year. Some of the Borax settles into the carpet.

    This really does work. And Borax is NOT poisonous to people like so many othe other “remedies” are.

    A relative of mine had three exterminators come in to rid the house of fleas over a three year period. They all failed. Seeing a small article in a free advertising newspaper about 20 Mule Team Borax she tried it and it worked like a charm.

    Remember: give it two weeks to work, which is the lifespan of a flea. It does not kill the insects. It just prevents their eggs from hatching.

    Caretaker wrote on July 15th, 2010
  27. Food grade diatomaceous earth (see freshwaterorganics dot com) is a great treatment for bedbugs. I wonder if it would work, right on the mattress, for mites? It’s also a drying agent, which would help, even if it doesn’t kill mites directly. Pretty safe too, you can eat the stuff (I have done so, checking for any parasites I might have picked up over the years). You’d use the stuff without the pyrethrins, of course.

    Paul wrote on July 15th, 2010
  28. Great article! We had some readers on our site from here yesterday. A couple thoughts: There is research that shows that dust mite covers do not prevent the accumulation of allergen. Also, even “vapor permeable” covers make the sleeping environment more humid which increases heart rate during sleep (not good). They also tend to inhibit the contour in the surface of a better mattress. The only non-chemical factor in dust mite population is humidity. The critters need mold and bacteria present to be able to digest your skin (skin flakes are also scaly and hard unless damp…). A dry bedroom and mattress is the real answer. There was a comment above regarding not making your bed right away, so as to let the surface dry out–this is good advice as we sweat anywhere from an oz/hour to as much as a liter/night. Also, bedding gets cleaned in the dryer not the washer. Basically dust mites are much more susceptible to arid conditions that hot, wet ones (even super heated detergents). Even throwing a fiber pillow of comforter in the dryer or the sun will do the trick. Don’t go to bed with wet hair, don’t sit on your bed with a wet towel and I am seriously suspicious about the health of bedrooms with master bathrooms, relative to bedroom mold, mildew and allergens (think about the steam from a shower).

    As far a chemicals in mattresses, the brominates (pbde’s) are no good, but are only the “chemical du-jour”. Most mattresses contain large amounts of polyurethane foam (toluene diisocyanate), adhesives, dyes, poly-vinyl chloride, etc… The list goes on. PBDE’s are bio-accumulators, meaning, like ddt, they double in concentrations as they move up the food chain but they are far from the only concern. Check out this company http://www.oeko-tex.com. They inspect and certify clothing and upholstery materials for harmful chemicals–the list, even for the “light green” reader is overwhelming.
    That was more than a couple thoughts… Anyway, thanks for the referrals and keep up the good work. (you look so damn healthy-I am going to have to do some ab work after spin class tonight :).

    Cheers,
    Steven
    European Sleep Works

    Steven wrote on July 15th, 2010
  29. sorry for the typos above! I was typing faster than am allowed…

    Steven wrote on July 15th, 2010
  30. One more thing (I promise). Latex allergy comes in different types and is an antigen-response to a protein found in natural, liquid rubber. A good quality foam latex (as opposed to a glove rubber) is washed extensively and does not contain any protein or method for it to become airborne. This is not always the case in a lower quality latex. Skin response latex allergy is contracted through repeated and extended contact with the latex protein (gloves) or by inhaling an airborne protein affixed to a lightweight particle (clay, talcum, etc…).

    Steven wrote on July 15th, 2010
  31. What about using a waterbed? As long as you wash the sheets regularly and vacuum along the edges, I would think this would be the way to go. In fact I did just that almost twenty years ago. And crawling into it on a cold winter night is damn near orgasmic. I have a firm 90% waveless mattress.

    Pete wrote on July 16th, 2010
  32. Waveless waterbeds usually have a cover as well as a surface cushioning. This is where they would be living their lives out. I don’t think it’s any different from any other surface. The general concern with any vinyl or plastic structure is actually moisture transport. All this being said, mattresses need to feel good to you, support your body, keep your temperature even, not poison you, not wear out in 6 months, not make noise, not glow brightly or any other “bad” thing. If you have a mattress you like and you don’t have problems, that’s as good as gold. I see quite a few freaked out shoppers trying to satisfy a dozen different criteria while mattress shopping and I wonder what’s worse, the stress or the chemicals. As far as dust mites are concerned, remember, it’s over a billion $ industry and everyone wants a piece. Question the solutions and make sure you actually have a problem to solve. People ask me about dust mites all the time when they don’t have any allergy problems. I think the concerns surrounding neurotoxins and carcinogens in your mattress and bedding should actually be a bigger impetus to buy. Happily, its not that hard to address both issues.

    Steven
    European Sleep Works

    Steven wrote on July 16th, 2010
  33. If you start with EVERYTHING new, mattress, bedding, carpet, curtains, etc., and shower daily, where do the mites themselves, come from?

    Katie Sears wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  34. Encasing your mattress with mattress covers is another way to have a healthy sleep.

    Chase wrote on January 26th, 2011
  35. We have a wonderful Select Comfort 5000 mattress but found mold within the components. Select Comfort graciously replaced all the affected areas for free, for which we are grateful. The most recent replacement however, the black foam egg crate, seems to be off-gassing and causing us problems. My wife wakes each morning with a swollen face and botox-like lips. Her lips are so dry, chapped and peeling, always trying to recover from the damage done overnight. We have both had sore throats lately with some sneezing and coughing that never develop into a cold or flu. My wife now has burning in her throat and sinuses, and minor headaches. My question is this: once a person finds that a mattress component is off-gassing, what can be done? How can we clean it? How can we rid it of the damaging chemicals? Thank you.

    Bruce wrote on April 29th, 2013
  36. I bought a Tempurpedic because the saleswoman told me they do not get dust mites. HOWEVER, when I went to the allergist, my reaction to dust mites was off the charts. So then I find out that dust mites LOVE Tempurpedics. My bazillion dollar Tempurpedic is now in the guest room. What a rip off….

    Nancy S. wrote on July 4th, 2013
    • A Tempurpedic mattress does harbor dust mites, but it’s not a food source for them. But neither is any other foam mattress either.

      So the dust mites will remain on the sheets or use your dead skin as food.

      So technically Tempurpedic is correct in that it’s dust mite “resistant.” But it can still harbor them.

      Jim wrote on October 9th, 2013
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