Carpet is known to be a reservoir for biological contaminants, such as dust mites, dust mite allergen, and mold, if it is not kept clean. The accumulation of these contaminants in carpet might trigger allergies or asthma symptoms in both children and adults. The purpose of this study is to compare methods for removal of dust mites, dust mite allergens, and mold from carpet. Carpets were artificially worn to simulate 1 to 2 years of wear in a four-person household. The worn carpets were inoculated together with a common indoor mold (Cladosporium species) and house dust mites and incubated for 6 weeks to allow time for dust mite growth on the carpet. The carpets were randomly assigned to one of the four treatment groups. Available treatment regimens for controlling carpet contaminants were evaluated through a literature review and experimentation. Four moderately low-hazard, nondestructive methods were selected as treatments: vacuuming, steam-vapor, Neem oil (a natural tree extract), and benzalkonium chloride (a quaternary ammonium compound). Steam vapor treatment demonstrated the greatest dust mite population reduction (p < 0.05) when compared to other methods. The two physical methods, steam vapor and vacuuming, have no statistically significant efficacy in inactivating dust mite allergens (p = 0.084), but have higher efficacy when compared to the chemical method on dust mite allergens (p = 0.002). There is no statistically significant difference in the efficacy for reducing mold in carpet (p > 0.05) for both physical and chemical methods. The steam-vapor treatment effectively killed dust mites and denatured dust mite allergen in the laboratory environment.
Keywords: Neem oil; allergen; carpet; dust mite; mold/fungi; steam cleaning; vacuuming.