Evaluation of HEPA vacuum cleaning and dry steam cleaning in reducing levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and house dust mite allergens in carpets

J Environ Monit. 2009 Jan;11(1):205-11. doi: 10.1039/b807821a. Epub 2008 Nov 6.


Dry steam cleaning, which has gained recent attention as an effective method to reduce house dust mite (HDM) allergen concentration and loading in carpets, was evaluated in this study for its efficacy in lowering levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as well as HDM allergens. Fifty urban homes with wall-to-wall carpets, mostly low-income and with known lead contamination, were studied in 2003 and 2004. Two carpet-cleaning interventions were compared: Repeated HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air filtered) vacuuming alone and repeated HEPA vacuuming supplemented with dry steam cleaning. Vacuum samples were collected to measure carpet loading of dust and contaminants immediately before and after cleaning. Paired comparisons were conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the cleaning protocols in reducing the levels of PAHs and HDM allergens in carpets. The results indicated that both cleaning methods substantially reduced the loading of PAHs and HDM allergens as well as dust in carpets (p < 0.0001). The reductions in loading of dust (64.4%), PAHs (69.1%), and HDM allergens (85.5%), by dry steam cleaning plus repetitive HEPA vacuuming were larger than the reductions by regular HEPA vacuuming alone: dust (55.5%), PAHs (58.6%), and HDM allergens (80.8%), although the difference was statistically significant only for dust and PAHs. We conclude that intensive HEPA vacuum cleaning substantially reduced the loading of PAHs and HDM allergens in carpets in these urban homes and that dry steam cleaning added modestly to cleaning effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control*
  • Allergens / analysis*
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides / analysis*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Floors and Floorcoverings
  • Housekeeping / methods*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Steam


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Steam