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Ask the Expert - Wash temperature and dust mite allergens
 
Q. Printed sources state that bedding must be washed in 130° F water in order to kill dust mites. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises that to prevent scald burns in children, the water temperature be no more than 120° F in the home. How can I reconcile these conflicting recommendations?
 
A. The often reprinted recommendation to wash sheets and blankets at 130° F is based on studies of the thermal death point of dust mites, i.e. the temperature at which mites immersed into water will be scalded to death. However, when working to eliminate mites and their allergen from bedding, it is immaterial whether the mites are killed by scalding, killed by drowning, or are simply washed down the drain still alive—as long as they are removed from the fabric. Other studies have shown that washing blankets in warm (100° F) water removes the great majority of the mites, and essentially all of the allergen. The addition of bleach, when appropriate, will also kill mites. Finally, mites can be killed by 10 minutes in the dry heat of a clothes dryer, so another trick is to first place the items in the dryer for 10 minutes, killing the mites, and then wash them in cold or warm water, which will remove the dead mites.

 
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