Dust mites are microscopic insects, found living in soft furnishings throughout the home, which feed on dead skin cells. In fact, an incredible one million dust mites can happily feed on the amount of skin shed daily by an average adult!
While these tiny home invaders aren’t harmful in small numbers, larger mite populations can cause problems for some people.
A Significant Cause of Allergies and Asthma
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America list dust mites and their droppings as one of the most common causes of year-round allergy and asthma.
Approximately 20 million Americans struggle with dust mite allergies, while research has found that 81% of asthmatics tested are triggered by these insects and their droppings.
Symptoms of dust mite allergy include sneezing; coughing; a runny or stuffy nose; itching of the skin, eyes, nose, mouth or throat; and red or watery eyes.
Dust mites can never be completely eliminated from the home, but you can reduce or cure your allergy symptoms by limiting the number of mites with these natural, chemical-free methods:
1. Lower the Temperature and Humidity
Keeping your home comfortable and dry is key to dust mite control.
When humidity is greater than 50%, dust mites thrive. Below this, their actions are inhibited so measure your home’s humidity levels and switch on a dehumidifier if necessary.
On dry days, be sure to let in the fresh air! The American Lung Association recommends opening your windows for one hour every day to help reduce humidity.
A room temperature of between 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit – particularly in the bedroom where populations are highest – is ideal for both reducing dust mite populations and encouraging a quality sleep!
2. Become a Clean Freak
Thoroughly dusting all the surfaces of the home once or twice weekly will go a long way toward eliminating dust mites.
Always use a damp cloth, which helps avoid distributing mites through the air, and wash the cloth at a high heat or dispose of it after use.
3. Wash Bedding and Soft Furnishings at High Temperatures
As dust mites can’t survive temperatures higher than 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, you should wash bedding weekly at these temperatures. Other soft furnishings such as cushions, throws and rugs should be washed once or twice monthly at this heat.
4. Freeze Them!
Some fabric items – such as silk cushion covers or stuffed toys – simply can’t be washed at such high temperatures.
If these items are small enough to fit into your freezer, place them in a sealed bag or container and freeze them for 24 hours. This will kill the mites, although it won’t get rid of the allergens. It will, however, stop them adding more droppings to your home!
Vacuum or vigorously shake out the items after freezing to remove as many of the dead mites as you can. If possible, run the item through a low-temperature wash instead.
5. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a fine powder made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms known as diatoms.
The skeletons of these creatures are shaped like a cylinder and have razor sharp edges which don’t affect humans but can be deadly to parasites and small insects – including the common dust mite!
To reduce mite populations – and to kill fleas and bed bugs – dust carpets, rugs, mattresses, bedding and pet beds with a light layer of diatomaceous earth and allow to settle.
Leave for a few hours, or overnight if possible, before vacuuming up. This treatment can be repeated as often as you like.
When choosing a brand of DE, make sure to purchase only the food-grade variety, which is safe to use in the home and around animals, such as this brand.
Diatomaceous earth also has several other uses for health, beauty and more.
6. Embrace Minimalism
Clutter collects dust – and therefore dust mites!
Clearing surfaces of unnecessary ornaments, picture frames, stacks of books, piles of papers and more will give a new lease of life to your home, and reduce dust mite populations.
It’s also a good idea to reduce the amount of ornamental cushions and throws on sofas and beds. Swapping padded and fabric headboards for wooden ones will eliminate another hiding place for mites and their droppings; as will choosing blinds instead of curtains.
In addition, homes with bare floors have up to 90% less dust than carpeted homes! Choose tiles or wooden floors over carpets, and decorate them with plush, small rugs which can be easily washed on a monthly basis.
Not sure how to get rid of your clutter? These 31 minimalist hacks should help you out!
7. Reduce the Number of Houseplants
Although houseplants are a wonderful addition to any home, they can quickly build up a layer of dust and provide a haven for mites.
If you can’t live without some greenery around you, remember to regularly wipe the leaves with a damp cloth.
You can also work to reduce other allergens inside your home by choosing certain plants over others! Some fantastic air-purifying plants include Peace Lilies, Golden Pothos, Philodendron, Gerbera Daisies, Areca Palm, Bamboo Palm and Dracaena. As a bonus, many even help you sleep at night!
8. Spray Essential Oils
There are several dust mite sprays on the market but these can be expensive, loaded with chemicals, and sometimes even ineffective.
A better solution is to mix up your own mite spray using tea tree oil. Thanks to its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, it will eliminate dust mites, along with other allergy-inducing bacteria, viruses and fungi. Eucalyptus oil is another fantastic option, with proven mite-killing properties.
Use this blend when wet-dusting, or as a mite-killing spray for fabrics, bedding and carpets. Remember to shake before each use to distribute the oil.
9. Vacuum Smart
While vacuuming may seem like a great way to reduce dust mites and other home allergens, research has found that, although dry vacuuming removes the dust upon which mites feed, it is largely ineffective at removing the mites themselves from carpeting. This is particularly true of worn carpets – another reason to replace that tired flooring with wood or tile!
However, vacuuming is still important for allergy reduction and removing surface dust. Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks that can make this household task even more effective:
- Choose a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to help decrease dust emissions from the cleaner itself.
- Vacuum twice weekly, paying particular attention to areas that accumulate most dust, such as under the bed and near doorways.
- Wear a mask when cleaning to avoid circulating dust that has been stirred-up, or ask someone without allergies to clean for you. Avoid the vacuumed room for two hours after vacuuming.
- Vacuum upholstery, curtains, rugs, sofas and other soft furnishings too.
- Consider wet vacuuming or steam cleaning of rugs and carpets, which is more effective at removing mites and their droppings than dry cleaning.
10. Invest in Special Bedding
Given that an average mattress contains between 100,000 and 10 million bugs (which leave several million droppings), paying special attention to the bedroom is important in the fight against mites!
While many of the methods listed above will reduce dust mites in bedding, those who are particularly sensitive may need extra protection against these insects.
Although they can be costly, a 2004 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that covering children’s mattresses and pillows with special mite-proof casings helped reduce asthma complications. This builds on earlier research, which also recommends their use for asthmatics.
11. Pet Owners Should Take Extra Precautions
Pets with fur or feathers contribute to dander, which increases the food supply for mites. In fact, cat dander residue can still be found in significant levels in carpets for up to 20 weeks and in mattresses for years, even after the animal has gone.
Those with pets should groom the animal only outdoors to avoid extra dander being circulated in the home, and wash animal bedding regularly at high heats. Allergen-proof fabric covers are also available for pet beds.
Keeping the pets off human bedding is also a good idea to reduce dust mite populations in bedrooms. It’s also definitely worth removing curtains, carpets and other unnecessary soft furnishings throughout the home.
(Pet owners should also be aware that their furry friends can suffer with dust mite allergies too – between 30% and 80% of dogs and cats test positive for this condition! Common signs in both animals include itching and recurrent ear inflammation or infections.)
Suffering from allergies other than dust mites? Make sure to check out these 13 easy ways to reduce home allergens.