You know what’s gross? Dust mites. They’re just nasty little jerks. And they’re everywhere. Oh, yeah. You’ve got a ton of ‘em crawling all over your body and your clothes at this very moment. You’re probably sitting on a bunch of ‘em, too. Did you see that picture above? Yup. That’s actually what they look like. Kinda cute in that sinister, “gonna eat your dead flesh” sort of way. Up close, a dust mite looks like a reject from a science fiction/horror flick. Simply too disgusting for film.
Sorry to break it to you, but there’s nothing at all fictional about the house dust mite (HDM). Dust mites are arthropods and members of the class Arachnida. So, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, they’re more closely related to things like spiders and ticks than to insects. House dust mites are microscopic, but when seen under a scope, you will see that they are actually kind of a creamy white to creamy blue color and, as adults, they have the obligatory eight leg thing going on. The male dust mites don’t live very long; two, maybe three weeks if they’re lucky. Females, however, can make it up to about eighty days. In that time, they can lay up to 100 eggs. So you can see the potential for exponential population growth. And I was being serious earlier—dust mites do eat dead flesh. Actually, mostly just dead skin cells and flakes, so it’s not quite as disgusting as I made it sound. Despite what they eat, the main reason people are interested in getting rid of dust mites is that they can trigger allergic reactions. Actually, it’s not the mites themselves; it’s a protein called DER p1 that is found in their remains and, you guessed it, in their poop. So, if you’re sick of inhaling mass quantities of dust mite feces, read on and learn how to get rid of dust mites.
Health Risks From Dust Mites
For most people, dust mites do not pose any threat whatsoever. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Below are a few of the most common maladies caused by dust mites.
- Allergic reactions such as:
- watery eyes
- chest congestion
- skin rash
- Can aggravate eczema symptoms.
- While there is a little controversy on the matter, it is widely accepted that there is a strong link between dust mites and asthma.
Dust Mite Control
Keep bedding clean. People spend a lot of time in their beds and lose a lot of dead skin while they’re there. If there’s lots of dead skin around, you can bet your tuckus there’s gonna be a lot of dust mites around. The best thing you can do is to rotate your bedding frequently. Do it at least once a week and wash the bedding in hot water. Hot water will kill dust mites. Cold will get some of them and wash away most of the dust mite feces, but many dust mites will live through it. It’s also a good idea to get rid of your feather pillows and comforters and wool blankets. Trade them in for things like Vellux that hold up well to frequent hot water washing. Also, get your pet its own bed. A dust mite is just as happy to eat pet dander as human.
Eliminate dust mites from carpet. Your carpet is a veritable dust mite magnet. There’s just too many places to hide in there and too many things to cling to and hold onto when the vacuum goes over. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but one of the very best things you can do for yourself to combat your dust mite allergy is to tear out as much carpeting as you can. Switch to flooring that’s easier to clean the dust mites and their feces off of like wood, linoleum, or laminate. If you’re more in love with your carpet than you are with your health, then do what you can to steam clean it on a regular basis. The super hot steam should kill most of the dust mites.
Clean, clean, clean. Yeah, cleaning sucks, but so does wheezing. Start high and work your way down. Wear a dust mask if you have one. Dust walls, fan blades, tops of shelves, tops of picture frames, and anything else that might collect dust. Just make sure you do it with a damp rag. That way things will stick to the rag instead of just getting swished out into the air. Take down and wash your curtains. Vacuum the hell out of all upholstered furniture. Dust off baseboards. Vacuum the floors like there’s no tomorrow, and if you have hard floors, mop. Don’t sweep. Sweeping sends too much crap adrift. This isn’t a one-time deal either. If you have bad dust mite allergies, this should all be done at least once a week (read: how to get rid of dust).
Control dust mites with temperature and humidity. This is one of the easiest things you can do to help protect yourself from dust mites. Dust mites prefer things to be warm and humid. So start by cooling things down as much as you can stand. Lower the thermostat to below 70 degrees and install some air conditioners. Air conditioners are really good at lowering the humidity levels of a home. So are dehumidifiers. Get a few. You may also want to look into getting a humidity gauge for the house. Ideally, you want a humidity level below 35%.
Evaluate dust collectors. The more things you have in the house for dust to settle on, the more dust is gonna settle. Simple as that. Books are especially bad. So are magazines. If you’re done reading them, consider getting rid of them. You should also consider getting rid of the drapes and replacing them with blinds or shades. Stuffed toys are bad, too. Get rid of as many as you can. Wash the ones you can’t. It’s often recommended that you freeze the stuffies for at least 48 hours to kill the dust mites. And this works. But it does nothing to get rid of the dust mite feces that are already on there. Also, bathe your pets more often and give them treats with omega fatty acids that help to moisturize their skin. I’m not trying to tell you to get rid of everything you own. I’m just saying you should put some serious thought into the things you own and how badly you want to keep them.
How to Kill Dust Mites
The truth is this: it’s impossible to get rid of dust mites completely. It’s important that you know this. You probably already do. You probably just want to know how to kill dust mites even if you can’t get them all. Well, I can help you with that. The best thing you can do is to follow the advice that I went over in the above section. If you want more than that, well, I do have a few thoughts for you.
One thought is to get yourself a good dust mite mattress. Basically that just means a mattress that is made from latex. Simmons makes them. The Sealy TrueForm Reflection is a good option, and Serta puts out at least one. If you don’t feel like getting a new mattress or can’t afford to do so, dust mite covers will help you out tons. Protect-A-Bed makes dust mite covers for mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
Air cleaners are another good idea. Just make sure when you get one that you can use HEPA filters in it. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air. This is really just fancy talk for “traps teeny tiny things like dust mites.” There are many vacuum cleaners that use HEPA filters, too. Get one.
Finally, there are some sprays that you can get to kill dust mites. Look for Steri-Fab or BedLam Insecticide. Both are safe for use indoors and can be sprayed directly on beds and upholstery for killing dust mites.
Natural Dust Mite Control
Kleen Free. This is a natural, all-organic biodegradable cleaner that works to get rid of dust mites while you clean. It’s an enzyme-based cleaner that is safe for use anywhere, indoors or out.
Eucalyptus. This plant can be used in several ways to control dust mites. In addition to your cleaning regimen, scatter eucalyptus branches around your home. You can also add about two dozen drops of eucalyptus oil to your wash to kill dust mites in the laundry.
Tannic acid. There are several products available that contain tannic acid. This weak acid denatures the protein in dust mite remnants that people are allergic to. One such product is Allersearch ADS Anti-Allergen Dust Removal Spray.