Background: House-dust mites in clothing and bedding are the source of major allergens. Based on studies of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus only, weekly washing in hot water is recommended to kill dust mites and remove allergens from clothing and bedding. However, in the United States, washing is most often done in warm or cold water, and other mite species are involved.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the lethal effects of various temperatures of hot water alone and hot, warm, and cold water containing detergents and chlorine bleach on Dermatophagoidesfarinae, D. pteronyssinus, and Euroglyphus maynei.
Methods: Mites were soaked in test solutions at various temperatures and for various lengths of time, allowed time to recover, and then analyzed for survival.
Results: D. farinae was the most temperature-sensitive and chlorine bleach-sensitive of the three species. In 50 degrees C water alone, 100% mortality for D. farinae was obtained in 10 minutes, whereas most D. pteronyssinus and E. maynei survived. However, 53 degrees C-soaks for 12 and 5 minutes were needed to kill all D. pteronyssinus and E. maynei, respectively. Laundry detergents at their recommended and doubled concentrations and chlorine bleach generally increased mite mortalities over water alone for the three species. Soaking for 4 hours in warm water containing various detergents alone induced mortalities of 19 to 50%, 2 to 35%, and 14 to 46% for D. farinae, D. pteronyssinus, and E. maynei, respectively.
Conclusions: Washing bed linens weekly in warm water with a 4-hour presoak containing most detergents and bleach will kill most D. farinae and, depending on the detergent brand, moderate numbers of D. pteronyssinus. Four-hour soaks in warm water containing the recommended concentrations of various detergents alone also kills moderate numbers of D. farinae, D. pteronyssinus, and E. maynei. Therefore, the cumulative effect of weekly washing with long presoaks should significantly reduce mite levels over time in bed linens, particularly when mattresses and pillows are encased to prevent reinfestation.