You've been waking up in the morning with itchy, watery eyes and a stuffy nose and have been sneezing more than normal.
You know you're not allergic to the down or feathers in your pillows and comforters, so what gives?
It may be the dust mites lurking in your bedding.
It's estimated 20 million Americans suffer from dust mite allergies. Dust mites feed off of dead skin cells, and your comfy bedding is a perfect home for these microscopic organisms. Mites are also known to flourish in warm weather, so the months of July and August are perfect times to clean your down and feather bedding.
The good news is that there's an easy and cost-effective way to reduce dust mites. You can actually clean down and feather bedding at home! I recently laundered a set of pillows and a comforter using a front-loader washer with great success.
Here's how I did it and what I learned during the process:
Step 1. Inspect bedding
Remove pillowcases and duvet covering. Take a moment to inspect bedding to make sure seams and stitching are tight and that there no down or feathers are leaking out.
Step 2. Load and balance the washer
Balance your wash load with two pillows. If washing a comforter, make sure it is set in the washer in a balanced fashion. I washed the two pillows first, followed by another washing cycle with just the comforter.
Step 3. Use a minimal amount of detergent
Use a small amount of laundry detergent to prevent over-foaming in the washer.
Step 4. Select the gentle cycle and high heat (for dust mites)
Set your washer to the gentle cycle to prevent ripping of fabric or stitching and to avoid an unbalanced load during the spin cycle. If you have allergies and want to kill dust mites, wash using water hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not want to set your water heater that high or you are concerned about colored linens fading, you may instead dry your bedding at the hottest dryer setting.
Step 5. Give bedding adequate drying time
Keep in mind that the drying process for bedding (whether air-drying or using a dryer) can take some time. I made use of several very hot summer days and set pillows on a drying rack outside in the sun and hung out the comforter on a clothesline. If you are using a dryer to dry bedding, throw in a couple of clean tennis balls and set the dryer to a low setting for as many drying cycles as you need. (If you did not wash the bedding in hot water and are concerned about dust mites, set the dryer at high heat, but pay attention to any washing instructions on the bedding.)
As bedding dries, you'll want to regularly break up clumps of feathers and down and fluff bedding to make sure it is properly aerated and can dry properly.
I did notice a musty odor coming from the pillows and comforter directly after washing. Setting the items outside in the sun and letting them dry over a couple of days eliminated the smell. (I suppose the odor is just from wet down and feathers.)
Click here to read more about allergies.
Rashelle Isip is an organizing, time management and productivity consultant and blogger. She is founder of The Order Expert, a site featuring practical and creative organizing, time management, productivity tips, inspiration and much more. For more information on Rashelle, visit: www.theorderexpert.com and www.rashelleisip.com.