1. Your Guide to Cleaning Special Fabrics and Controlling Dust Mites
  • Your Guide to Cleaning Special Fabrics and Controlling Dust Mites

    March 31, 2017

    The method you use matters.

    The right way to wash fabrics

    Oh the places dust mites will go! In addition to hiding out in carpet and forgotten corners, those pesky allergens can catch rides on fur, feathers and fabric—including your family’s clothing. Think for a second about dust mites accumulating on fabric such as your pajamas and seasonal clothing in storage—ewww.

    So how do you stop taking mites to bed and letting them roam free after being cooped up all winter? Better fabric cleaning habits can help.

    A general rule of thumb is that hot water—130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher—kills dust mites*. But it’s not that simple if you’re washing something delicate. The best way to clean that fabric, apparel or upholstery item depends on a variety of factors: type of fibers, source of stain, impact on health and environment, and so on.

    Here are some pros and cons to consider when choosing a washing method.

    • Hand washing and spot cleaning

      Pros:
       

      • While lightweight materials such as lingerie and hosiery don’t hold as many mites as heavier fabrics, they can still benefit from a spot cleaning or hand washing as often or seldom as you choose.
      • Hand washing and spot cleaning let you control the amount of water and gentle soap to which you expose fabrics such as silk, cashmere and wool.
      • Some washing machines have handy hand-wash settings. Always test how your machine treats fabrics and colors before cleaning something truly delicate, and always use mesh laundry bags to protect garments from tears or twists.

      Cons:
       

      • Without a more thorough washing using hot water, apparel—and furnishings such as curtains and upholstery—can continue to harbor dust mites, pollen and other airborne irritants. If you have allergies, special detergents and laundry additives can get rid of allergens in warm or cold water.
    • Dry cleaning

      Pros:
       

      • Dry cleaning protects delicate fabrics and items with beading or other embellishments.
      • It can also offer better stain removal than hand washing—they’ve got all the fancy tools at their disposal.
      • Plus, dry-clean facilities can accommodate large items such as rugs, decorative pillows and curtains that would never fit in a home unit.

      Cons:
       

      • According to the Science Advisory Board of the Environmental Protection Agency, the active ingredient in dry cleaning known as perchloroethylene (PCE or “perc”) is “a possible to probable human carcinogen**.”
      • Even short-term exposure to perc can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness.
      • It’s no better for the environment.
      • Dry cleaning can also be harsh on the items themselves.
    • Wet cleaning

      Pros:
       

      • Wet cleaning uses zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That means it’s better for the your health and safety and the environment.
      • It’s also more energy efficient than dry cleaning.
      • Professional wet cleaning gets whites whiter than its chemical-heavy counterpart and costs about the same.
      • Wet cleaning is safe for silk, suede and leather.

      Cons:
       

      • Since wet cleaning uses some water, there’s a small risk of shrinkage or color change.
      • Wet cleaning might not be as effective at removing grease-based stains.