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Is My Mattress Mold And Dust Mite Resistant?

Oct 18, 2012

The lovely young woman came to our store and, after telling me she was looking for a memory foam mattress on sale, informed me that the place down the street she just left told her their foam was resistant to dust mites.


Another customer, a few years back, came into the discount mattress store where I worked and told the sad tale of losing their brand new latex organic mattress to mold, shocked because they were told latex mattresses are mold resistant.
In the wild and crazy world of mattress sales, mattress store throughout the country are obviously in business to make a sale. You need a new mattress, they have new mattresses; its a match made in heaven. However, some of the salespeople in these mattress stores can get a little overzealous with the facts. None are more maligned than how a memory foam mattress or organic latex mattress performs in the home with regard to mold and dust mites.
Before we begin, let's lay some groundwork so you are completely educated on the subject before this article is over.
From the pages of wikipedia, we read about the dust mite:
The house dust mite (sometimes referred to by allergists as HDM) is a cosmopolitan guest in human habitation. Dust mites feed on organic detritus such as flakes of shed human skin and flourish in the stable environment of dwellings. House dust mites are a common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms worldwide. The mite's gut contains potent digestive enzymes (notably proteases) that persist in their feces and are major inducers of allergic reactions such as wheezing. The mite's exoskeleton can also contribute to allergic reactions. The European house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) and the American house dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) are two different species, but are not necessarily confined to Europe or North America; a third species Euroglyphus maynei also occurs widely

And our other subject, mold:

There are thousands of known species of molds which have diverse life-styles. They all require moisture for growth and there are some aquatic species. Like all fungi, molds derive energy not through photosynthesis but from the organic matter on which they live, utilising heterotrophy. Typically, molds secrete hydrolytic enzymes, from the hyphal tips. These enzymes degrade complex biopolymers such as starchcellulose and lignin into simpler substances which can be absorbed by the hyphae. In this way molds play a major role in causing decomposition of organic material, enabling the recycling of nutrients throughout ecosystems. Many molds also synthesise mycotoxins and siderophores which, together with lytic enzymes, inhibit the growth of competing microorganisms.

What do these two have in common that concerns us and our discussion? Both are opportunistic. In other words, through our actions, we create environments which allow and encourage both of these organisms to grow and proliferate.

Let's look at the claims of mattress stores about dust mites for a moment. Like the customer who told me that she was informed a particular stores' mattress were dust mite resistant, that is partially true. Dust mites do not eat foam. In fact, all mattresses, whether organic natural latex or synthetic made memory foam, or anything you can realistically make a mattress out of, is not fodder for dust mites. However, over time, if you sleep in that mattress, two things occur which create an environment friendly for dust mites: we shed organic matter and we sweat. 

Dust mites are a living organism, and as such, they need, like all living organism, food and water. Dead skin cells, which fall off of our body at a constant rate, provide the food dust mites live on, and we all sweat, even incrementally, and that provides the water they need. So it doesn't require a scientist to figure out that no surface is immune to dust mite if there is a food source. It's silly to claim dust mites won't grow on a certain mattress, as if dust mites will choose where to eat. If there is food and water, you have dust mites.

The same holds true for mold. Mold develops where there is darkness and moisture and some organic material. And it doesn't take much. The couple with the latex mattress put it on the floor, and the floors likely had mold spores already there, since it was an old house. With moisture and darkness, they proliferated. Sure, your latex mattress that you purchased at a mattress sale at your local natural mattress store may be mold resistant, but underneath it isn't and once you have moisture and mold, it spreads and grows. Again, mold could care less what your mattress salesperson told you: if there is food and water, it is going to grow.

Now that we have deduced through common sense that some overzealous and well-intentioned salespeople can do more harm than good, what is the best defense against both of these potentially harmful critters?

Simply, remove their food and water.

A good dust mite-proof mattress protector will prevent dead skin cells from falling through the pores of your sheets and blankets into the fabric and pores of your memory foam or latex foam mattress. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or in the Los Angeles area, you are well aware of how moist the air can be. The best defense in keeping the mattress moisture free is to have your mattress set on a breathable, slatted surface,  with a minimum of stored items under the bed. This allows the mattress to dry out properly during the day.

Regular sheets and mattress pads will not do the trick. The same goes with pillow cases. You need real dust mite proof covers with pores small enough to keep dust mites and dead skin cells out for good. And make sure you wash your protector at least once every few weeks.

We carry these and also breathable natural and organic mattresses in our Albany Berkeley California store, and on our website at

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