roombas for dust mites? ("robots are cool" is the unspoken motivation)
March 25, 2013 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Just diagnosed with a dust mite allergy. Will a regular cheap Roomba help?

I'm planning to get mattress and pillow covers and an air purifier, and to start using hotter water to wash linens. I was also told that I should also vacuum regularly, but I'm TERRIBLE about doing it and I hate hate HATE vacuuming the gross old wall-to-wall carpets in this apartment. If I get a regular cheap Roomba — I can't afford the $500 "Pets and Allergens" one — should I expect it to help at all? Or should I buckle down and buy a slightly better standing vacuum and hope that I can convince myself to use it on the regular? I realize that the roomba is only a maintenance thing and you still have to properly vacuum occasionally.
posted by you're a kitty! to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
you have to have a HEPA filter (I'm with you, I have dust mite allergies as well). I have regular canister vacuum with a HEPA filter and it works well.
posted by sweetkid at 6:53 PM on March 25, 2013

The filters in my plain roomba claim to be HEPA filters.
posted by ansate at 7:00 PM on March 25, 2013

I can't speak to whether or not the regular version will work, but I will say that I'm astounded at how much pet hair and dust our Roomba collects daily. The killer feature for me is that it vacuums under most of our furniture; there is only a single chair it cannot reach under. This is great because guess where most pet hair and dust ends up hanging out?
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:02 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You absolutely need a HEPA filter. A vacuum without a HEPA filter just recirculates everything smaller than 2 microns at best, 5 microns more likely. Dust mite poo ranges from 1 micron to 12 microns, and though the average is 7-8 microns, a HEPA-less Roomba would be churning enough dust mite poo back into the air as to make it not that useful.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:02 PM on March 25, 2013

So neither the OEM filters or the Duogreen replacement filters ansate linked to provide ratings. To really help a dust mite allergy, you want to be sure the filters are rated to 1 micron (which isn't "True HEPA"---that standard is .3 micron).

Maybe call the customer service number at iRobot to see if they have more info than is on the website?
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:09 PM on March 25, 2013

I say the best vacuum for you is the one that you'll use, and the Roomba is definitely more motivating to use than a regular old upright. If HEPA is what you're looking for, it looks like the 700 series has a HEPA filter and the 500 series does have add-on HEPA filters that you can purchase separately.
posted by platinum at 7:54 PM on March 25, 2013

Who is going to empty and clean the Roomba? Quite a bit of dust is released during the cleaning process, which is fiddly, fussy and essential. Until they come up with a robot to clean the robot, I don't think a Roomba is going to be very effective at reducing your total dust mite exposure. The dirt compartments and filters are wee, and they need cleaning often. Unless you're willing to do it outside, and wear a mask, you're just going to be re-exposing yourself to the dust when you empty and clean the vacuum. Sad but true.
posted by Corvid at 8:09 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can easily buy such a mask at a hardware store (... says the person who is constantly vacuuming construction dusk and emptying the vacuum outside while wearing a mask).

Also, could you find ways not to hate vacuuming? Earplugs make all the difference for me.
posted by slidell at 9:13 PM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have wall to wall carpets?

Before you invest in the roomba, for goodness sake, GET YOUR CARPETS PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED.

It's cheap to have a service come in. They always have coupons for first-time customers in those coupon envelopes of junkmail that you get, or in the paper, on the internet.

Seriously. Have the floors professionally cleaned, or rent a steamer from the big box hardware store nearest you:)

After you do that, then you start your regime of vacuuming, however you want to do that.

(And yeah, I ALWAYS empty my vaccum canister outside. Also, make sure your vacuum blows air up and away from the floor.

Often vacuums blow the air downwards (what a silly design flaw I see repeated over and over again!) and this blows away dirt before your vacuum ever has a chance to pick it up.)
posted by jbenben at 11:38 PM on March 25, 2013

You could try running a separate hepa filter in the room that roomba is cleaning, to catch any mites that roomba kicks up. They aren't that cheap, but it would be more versatile to have the separate air filter than one only on your vacuum. I am also allergic to dust, and avoid the chore of emptying roomba, because it does cause dust to float around in a high concentration near your face.
posted by pizzazz at 11:39 PM on March 25, 2013

+1 for getting your carpets steam-cleaned.

Be aware that not all households lend themselves easily to effective roomba-ing. Ours does not do well with area-rugs, or with wires on the ground, and it bounces around endlessly among the legs of the 6 dining room chairs. Larger rooms take foreeeeeever, which is fine if you can run it unattended at night but annoying if you're home at the same time.
posted by mvd at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2013

Can't you get rid of those carpets? Once I had to fix a summerhouse very cheaply, I just put the cheapest thin birchwood veneer flooring on top of the carpet. It wasn't sound, but it got rid of the mites, and was super-easy to lay and afterwards maintain.
THe sound solution is to peal off the carpets, see what's under, and then get a healthy wood, stone or linoleum flooring.
posted by mumimor at 7:48 AM on March 26, 2013

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