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Do washers control allergens?

It's great that your washer cleans your clothes, but could it have allergen-fighting abilities as well?
It's great that your washer cleans your clothes, but could it have allergen-fighting abilities as well?
Andrew Olney/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Runny eyes, itchy noses and stuffy sinuses might sound gross enough to endure on their own, but if you consider what may be causing those symptoms, chances are good you'll delve into whole new depths of disgusting.

That's because one extremely common cause of allergies is the miniscule dust mite, which feasts on dead skin cells. Since people are a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet when it comes to serving up flaked-off skin, the mites love to snuggle up in bed with you, snacking throughout the night. But while diminutive in size, dust mites pack a huge sucker punch in the faces of allergy sufferers everywhere. Luckily, there are some things that can be done to battle these miniature monsters.

The most effective weapon, at least in terms of laundry-concerned crusades, is heat. Dust mites cannot survive temperature extremes, so heating or freezing can eliminate them to varying extents, depending on temperature and time exposed. To kill mites in the wash, the water needs to get up to around 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (55 to 60 degrees Celsius). For anything that can't go in the washer, turn to the kitchen: Letting stuff chill out for a day or two in the freezer is an easy strategy for winning a battle royale against unwelcome bedmates.

That said, some products are better than others at reducing irritating allergens in the home. Groups such as Allergy UK and the Asthma and Allergy Certification Program (administered by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America) rate the allergen-reducing abilities of items like air filters, mattresses, bed linens, household cleaners, vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners and washing machines. Currently, only a few washer models are certified, such as a handful made by LG and Samsung. Certified washers are able to reach high enough temperatures to achieve a satisfactory amount of dead-as-a-doornail dust mites, as well as destroy other allergens in some cases. But with a growing market for allergy sufferers, perhaps we'll begin to see an increased number of washer models with high heat settings hitting the market.

So flip your water temp dial over to hot, and continue on to the next page for more articles about lots of laundry topics.