But what exactly are house dust mites and why are they in our houses? Dust mites are microscopically small bugs that are invisible to the human eye. They live – as their name suggests – anywhere dust gathers and feed on dead skin cells. Their life span is about 2 to 4 months. During this time, a house dust mite produces 200 times their bodyweight in feces. They thrive the most in warm, humid environments. House dust mites exist in every household, they are not a sign for lack of hygiene.
Allergic reactions (sneezing; itchy red eyes; runny itchy nose; eczema; breathing difficulties; sleeping problems; allergic asthma) to house dust mites are caused by breathing in their waste particles, like skin shells and feces.
Control dust mites in your home
To ensure your home doesn’t provide favorable conditions for house dust mites to breed and prosper, you need to get rid of the dust gathering within your four walls as best as you can. There are several spaces and aspects in and around your home that will need extra attention:
Bedding & bedroom
House dust mites thrive in warm and humid climates, and they feed on the dead skin cells we shed – therefore, beds provide the perfect living conditions for them. To keep house dust mite populations from growing, make sure to wash your bedding in hot water (at least 130 F) weekly to kill dust mites and wash away the allergens they leave behind. Tumble-drying bedding after washing at a high temperature also helps. If your allergies are very bad, invest in mite proof encasings for your mattress, pillows, and duvet. These encasings are made of a very tightly woven fabric that prevents dust mites from breeding. Remove other dust collectors like artificial flowers, wool blankets, stuffed toys, and books from your bedroom.
Carpets, drapes & upholstery
Fabrics collect dust more easily than other surfaces. Carpeted floors might be cozy, but in the case of dust mite allergies, hardwood or tiled floors are the way to go, as they are easier to dust and clean. You can still use rugs, just make sure to choose smaller area models that you can wash regularly. Furniture with surfaces made from wood, leather, vinyl, or plastic are also easier to wipe down compared to upholstered furniture.
Air & humidity
Try to keep the humidity in your home low, ideally below 50 percent. If you are not sure about the humidity in your home right now, you can buy a hygrometer at a hardware store to measure the current humidity level and go from there. Dehumidifiers and air conditioners are a great help to keep the humidity low, especially in rooms that are naturally moister, like bathrooms and basement units.
If you have pets, keep them away from your bedroom. It can be tempting to let your furry friend sleep in your bed, but unfortunately pet dander is one more source of food for them. The average adult spends one third of their life in bed, so keeping it as allergen-free as possible to ensure a restful night’s sleep. Make sure to groom your pet regularly and keep their bed clean as well to keep dust mites at bay. The overall rule of thumb to keep in mind is where there are pets, there is a higher concentration of dust mites.
Cleaning your home
Avoid a buildup of dust and pet allergens in your home by vacuuming floors and dusting surfaces like tables, countertops, and furniture at least once or twice a week. The ideal vacuum cleaner comes with a HEPA filter and a special bag that collects dust mite particles, pollen, and pet allergens and traps them inside. As cleaning stirs up dust particles and irritants, consider wearing a mask to avoid allergy flare-ups while you are cleaning. Consider cleaning carpets and curtains with a steam-cleaner, as the heat of the steam will kill dust mites.
Mix two cups of water, two tablespoons of tea tree oil, and two tablespoons of eucalyptus oil in a dark spray bottle (for storage reasons, the oils will spoil if exposed to sunlight). You can use this mixture to spray on bedding, furniture, drapes, and carpets at least once a week. This will not only make your home smell fresh and clean, but tea tree oil also has natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties that kill house dust mites.