By Amy DeYoung
Updated Oct 28, 2022
Dust mites are arachnids that eat dead human skin cells. While they don’t bite or sting humans, they can cause severe allergies and even trigger asthma attacks in people allergic to dust mite feces, urine, or decaying bodies. They can cause swelling or inflammation in your nasal passages, indicating a dust allergy. Dust mites are commonly found in places with a buildup of dust and human skin cells, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, curtains, and carpets.
Unfortunately, it’s estimated that about four in five houses in the United States currently have dust mite allergens in at least one bed.
Fortunately, you can prevent dust mites with regular cleaning and other preventive measures. To help, we’re sharing how to get rid of dust mites so you can reduce your allergy symptoms.
Dust mites thrive in humid, warm environments. While lowering your home’s temperature won’t completely eliminate dust mites, it will prevent them from breeding and increasing the dust mite infestation in your home.
Keep your home’s temperature lower than 68°F to discourage dust mites from breeding.
Beds are usually moist and warm and provide dust mites with an excellent food source. As a result, regularly changing your bed linens and cleaning your bed is a crucial step in dust mite control.
We recommend changing your washable bedding, such as your sheets and pillowcases, at least once a week. Double-check that you’re washing your bedding in hot water, 130°F or higher, to kill dust mites and completely remove any allergens. Then, place dryer-safe items in your tumble dryer on high heat for a minimum of 15 minutes.
If you have non-washable bedding items, place them in a plastic bag and freeze them for 24 hours. This process will not eliminate allergens, but it will kill dust mites.
Don’t forget to clean any items that are commonly in beds, such as throw pillows and stuffed animals, as these can harbor dust mites.
Many pests, including dust mites, thrive in a humid environment. Areas like your bathroom, where venting fans can quickly clear steam, are usually OK. However, other areas of your home can have high humidity, especially if they suffer from leaks, poor ductwork, or damp crawl space.
Use a hygrometer to assess the humidity level in different areas of your home. Aim to keep your humidity levels below 50% to reduce dust mite risk.
If you’re working against high humidity in your home, despite fixing any leaks or structural issues, consider using a dehumidifier or opening your windows on dry days. You can also hire a professional to have your damp basements and crawl spaces treated, moisture barriers installed, and your dryer’s vents assessed. Continue using available fan or venting systems when you’re taking a shower, bathing, or cooking to reduce humidity.
Wall-to-wall carpeting is a haven for dust mites because of the many carpet fibers which gather dead skin cells. Carpet is more challenging to clean thoroughly than hard surface floors, making it difficult to keep up with dust mite control.
If you or a loved one struggle with severe dust allergies, consider removing your carpeting and replacing it with laminate, wood, tile, or vinyl flooring. These types of flooring can be dry mopped daily. If you like the look of the carpet, consider adding washable area rugs for extra comfort and style.
If you can’t remove your carpet, vacuum the carpet daily with a vacuum cleaner that uses a HEPA filter. HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air, filters remove at least 99.7% of bacteria, pollen, house dust, mold, pet dander, and other airborne particles. These filters are ideal for improving air quality and reducing allergic reactions, such as a runny nose, rashes, watery eyes, eczema, or itchy skin.
One of the best ways to control dust mites is by adding a protective covering to your pillows, box springs, and mattress. Mattress covers are zippered covers that are dust mite proof, preventing dust mites from accessing their food supply, eventually leading to their death. Please note that mattresses should still be steam cleaned at least twice per year, even if they have a protective covering.
Curtains, upholstered fabric furniture, drapes, and window coverings should all be cleaned frequently to prevent dust mites, especially in the bedroom and living room, where there tends to be more dead skin cells.
If possible, swap your curtains or drapes out for machine-washable, lightweight fabrics or wooden blinds that you can quickly dust with a damp cloth.
If you have upholstered fabric furniture, consider using a washable cover or switching these pieces out for hard surface furniture. Otherwise, we recommend vacuuming your upholstery weekly and using a steam cleaner every season to kill dust mites. Before using a steam cleaner on your furniture, check the tag or label to see if your furniture can handle that type of cleaning, or steam an inconspicuous spot as a trial.
Diatomaceous earth is a fine natural powder created from silica rock. Sprinkle it on areas where dust mites live, such as pet beds, beds, fabric, and carpets, to kill them. As soon as a dust mite comes into contact with this powder, it will pierce its exoskeleton, killing it instantaneously. This powder also kills other insects, like fleas and bed bugs.
Leave the powder out as long as possible, ideally for an entire day, then vacuum it up.
Tea tree oil is a natural antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal oil that may kill off dust mites. Add 2 cups of distilled water to 2 tablespoons of eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil inside a dark spray bottle. The dark spray bottle protects the oils from the light, which can cause them to spoil prematurely.
Spray this mixture around your home weekly, focusing on the carpets, furniture, and bedding. Not only will this make your home smell lovely, but you’ll be turning away many pests, including dust mites, who can’t stand the smell.
Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system can significantly affect how much dust is circulating in the air in your home. If you don’t already have a central air handling system, add room air purifiers to capture dust mites.
You can also purchase HEPA air filters for your window air conditioners, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, clothes dryers, vacuums, and range hoods to improve air filtration throughout your home.
Clean or change your air filters regularly to prevent dust buildup and keep the system running optimally.
Cleaning is essential to dust mite prevention, so declutter as much as possible to make cleaning easier. Clutter breeds more areas for collecting dust, making cleaning and keeping your home dust-free more challenging.
If you have collectibles, consider placing them in covered boxes or glass-enclosed storage cabinets to prevent dust accumulation.
Dust mites can cause a variety of unpleasant allergy symptoms. Fortunately, you can reduce the dust mite population in your home through removing dust by using your washing machine more, steam cleaning your fabric sofa, and optimizing the air filters in your air conditioner and heating systems. Create a weekly cleaning schedule and routine so that it’s easy and natural for you to keep up with regular cleaning tasks required to maintain your home and health.
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