In conjunction with a good vacuuming program, custodial departments have had success controlling pest populations through hot water extraction. While there are many types of carpet extractors available, from portable units to truck-mounted systems, Rathey recommends a powerful truck-mounted extractor with “extra oomph.”

“You want to avoid creating that moist environment, so you need extra pressure and suction to thoroughly remove moisture,” he says. “Then make sure the carpet dries quickly. If it’s clean and dry, there’s nothing for dust mites to live on.”

Proper air circulation will speed up the drying process.

“One of the things you don’t want to do is clean the carpet and then shut down the ventilation,” says Rathey. “In school environments, for example, a lot of times they clean the carpets and then close up the building.”

Vacuuming and periodic steam vapor treatments have also proven effective in dust mite control.

“With a steam vapor tank system you’re using low moisture, 6 percent saturated steam,” explains Rathey. “It’s very hot and penetrating, so it’s pretty effective at killing what’s in the carpet. The combination of steam and vacuuming is effective partly because when you use dry steam on the carpet, the fibers tend to spread apart. When you vacuum after that, not only have you applied steam that kills living stuff in the carpet, but you’ve opened the fibers so you get more soil coming back out of the carpet.”

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.

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