Strange Bedfellows Can Irritate Allergies

Black gunk that was vacuumed out of a mattress is topped with a

What’s lurking in your mattress might be stirring up allergy
symptoms, and it’s one local business’ job to oust the culprits
Every night when they go to sleep, allergy sufferers may be making their symptoms worse: Mattresses and bedding are home to millions of microscopic organisms that, at best, share our most personal space. At worst, they cause watery eyes, itching, sneezing and trigger asthma attacks.

It’s Hy-Tech Mattress Cleaning’s business to rid South Valley residents’ beds of these nasty critters, including mold and mildew spores, bacteria, and dust mites and their fecal matter.

“We shed four to five grams of skin flakes every day, which adds up to several pounds of flakes every year,” said Rudy Mendoza, Hy-Tech’s manager in Morgan Hill. “Dust mites in our beds feed on this, then they excrete it. And once the fecal matter gets airborne and inhaled, it’s what causes so many people’s allergies.”

Mattresses can also be breeding grounds for mold and mildew spores because mattresses are dark, warm and moist, he said. The moisture comes from perspiration when people sleep.

Though quite a few things can grow in our beds, most of the time they prove harmless, said Dr. Steven Prager from the Hollister Allergy Clinic. But for people with allergies, asthma and respiratory problems, dust mites can be a major issue.

“There are an estimated 2 million dust mites in a mattress,” Prager said. “Normally, they’re harmless. They’re actually cleaning up after us by eating the skin that flakes off us. But they are definitely a concern if you do have allergies.”

To prevent reactions to dust mites, Prager said to wash bed sheets regularly in hot water and put special allergy covers, available at most stores, around mattresses and pillows. Having the mattress cleaned will also help, he said.

Hy-Tech uses a specialized system called Hygienitech to clean mattresses, sofas and rugs. A special hand-held, high-powered vacuum is slowly moved across the mattress surface followed by a germicidal UVC light that penetrates the mattress.

After cleaning a mattress, Hy-Tech owner Jesse Ybanez opened the vacuum’s filter to reveal a layer of black gunk topped with a wispy white, cotton-like substance. Gunk like this was making Raymond Carreon, a San Jose resident, wake up in the middle of the night.

“I started noticing red marks on my skin, and I just kept waking up and scratching,” he said. “At first I thought it was house spiders, but the marks weren’t like spider bites. It makes me itch just thinking about it.”

Before spending a lot of money to see a doctor, Carreon decided to have his mattress cleaned.

“I swear, ever since I had it cleaned I haven’t woken up scratching once,” he said. “I’ve had my mother’s mattress done now, too, and I make sure I change the bedding at least once a week, sometimes more.”

For a job, staff from Hy-Tech goes to customer’s homes and cleans the stripped mattresses. They recommend washing all bedding and pillows before remaking the bed.

“We’ve had a wide variety of customers – young and old, all economic backgrounds,” Ybanez said. “A mattress is just like anything else; it needs to be cleaned. We say to do it every six months if you don’t have allergies or every three months if you do.”

When a mattress is brand new or newly cleaned, putting an airtight plastic covering around it can also help prevent allergic reactions, he said. The average mattress cleaning job takes about 45 minutes and costs about $60 per bed.