(iVillage Total Health) - If you have been diligently vacuuming your carpeting to rid your home or office of allergy-causing dust mites, a new study suggests all that effort may be for naught.
Researchers in Australia have found that vacuuming carpet—especially old, worn carpets—may simply redistribute dust mite allergens rather than remove them. And people who hope to reduce their risk of asthma or allergic reactions through avoidance of allergens may not be accomplishing their goals.
"Allergen avoidance measures that rely solely on vacuum cleaning are likely to be of limited success unless more rigorous cleaning than standard home vacuuming is performed," lead researcher Jason Sercombe said in a press release.
Sercombe and his colleagues at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in New South Wales, Australia, measured the amounts of Der p 1 (the allergy-causing protein produced by dust mites) contained in samples of several used carpets. Protein levels were measured before and after they vacuum cleaned the carpets with two different kinds of dry vacuum cleaners. The researchers logged the vertical distribution of the proteins on the carpets.
They found that using vacuum cleaners with rotating brushes in the head helped to remove more dirt and dust mite allergens than cleaners without this type of equipment. Researchers noted that those brushes may also allow dust to be blown into the air if the suction component of the vacuum is not working properly. The carpets had been used for several years in homes that contained large amounts of the dust mite proteins throughout the depth of the carpet.
Several factors may contribute to the effectiveness of the vacuum cleaner, researchers said.
"Overseas studies have found that vacuum cleaners with two or three layer bags performed better than those with a single layer bag, and the maintenance of the cleaner and integrity of seals and gaskets were important factors in effective cleaning," Sercombe said. "There are many vacuum cleaners on the market that claim to be suited to allergy sufferers. The most important aspect to look for is HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter filtration, which is finding its way into some very affordable models."
Dust mite allergens can be reduced in the home by:
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