Have allergies? Dust mites may be the culprit. Among animal dander, pollen, and insects, these microscopic creatures are also common causes of allergies1. They can be found everywhere around your house, especially in soft or fabric-lined items or surfaces. So, what can you do about it? Keep reading for tips and advice on how to get rid of dust mites.
How do Dust Mites Cause Allergies?
Dust mites are tiny, eight-legged arthropods that are invisible to the naked eye. They measure about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter.
These creatures prefer environments where humidity is around 70% to 80% and where temperatures are higher than 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit).
Dust mites primarily feed on dead skin cells from humans and pets. They can be found in many soft surfaces around the house such as mattresses, pillows, blankets, and upholstered furniture.
While they physically cannot drink, they do absorb vapor from the surrounding air2. With this in mind, your warm, cozy bed, especially, provides the ideal environment for these tiny creatures to thrive!
Over the course of their lifespan of 2 to 5 months, dust mites eat a tremendous amount. This leads to large volumes of waste that gets mixed in with dust.
As you breathe in airborne dust particles mixed with dead dust mites and their waste, your immune system kicks in. While this is harmless for the most part, your immune system creates antibodies to fight off these foreign objects, triggering allergy symptoms.
Some common symptoms of a dust mite allergy include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy nose, mouth, or throat
- Red, itchy, or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
Dust mites can also affect those with asthma. Keep in mind, however, that not everyone with asthma is allergic to dust mites. If you have asthma and suspect a dust mite-related allergy, keep an eye out for these symptoms as well:
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing when exhaling
- Difficulty breathing
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
Because of their quick reproduction rate, getting rid of dust mites entirely can be tricky. However, by controlling a few factors and taking precautionary steps, there are ways to minimize your exposure. Check out these top tips on how to get rid of dust mites:
In order to limit dust mites in your bed, opt for zippered allergen-proof covers for your mattress, pillows, and duvets. These covers should be tightly woven with a pore size of 6 microns or smaller.
These covers help prevent dust mites from settling into your bed due to the small pores.
Swap out feather-filled pillows or duvets
Getting rid of dust mites is easier when you limit their playing ground. Feathered pillows and duvets are ideal environments for these creatures due to the warmth and humidity.
Instead, opt for hypoallergenic synthetic fiber fill alternatives for pillows and duvets. When looking for a comforter or pillow, ensure they’re machine washable as well.
If you’re concerned about synthetic fibers and chemicals, wool or silk are also great alternatives to feather-filled pillows or comforters. However, they may not be machine washable.
Wash your bedding regularly
Wondering how to get rid of dust mites effectively? Wash your bedding weekly in hot water, ideally over 54 degrees Celsius (130 degrees Fahrenheit). Once done, throw it in the dryer as well and ensure its thoroughly dry.
While dust mites love warmer temperatures, they cannot withstand such high heat. Therefore, washing bedding in hot water regularly effectively kills them.
Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible
Not only do dust mites thrive in bedding, they love carpeting too. If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood flooring.
If not, use a vacuum with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to trap dust particles (along with those pesky dust mites) and clean your carpeting. Regular vacuum filters have larger pores which don’t effectively trap allergens. This is why it’s best to go with filters that have smaller pores.
Invest in a steam cleaner
For unwashable surfaces, a steam cleaner is an effective means for getting rid of dust mites. They can reach temperatures as high as 122 degrees Celsius (251 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher!
One study found that a domestic steam cleaner led to an average reduction of dust mites in carpets by 86.7%.
Reduce indoor humidity
Since these critters flourish in humid environments, reducing the humidity in your home is key to getting rid of dust mites.
Use a dehumidifier in your home and aim to maintain humidity levels to 50% or lower.
Keep your air clean
Dust mites aren’t just in your bed; they’re in the air too. If you’re looking for ways on how to get rid of dust mites, ensure you’re breathing in cleaner air.
The best way to do this is by putting a HEPA filter—just like the one for your vacuum cleaner— in your heating or air-conditioning unit.
As mentioned, these filters have small pores which help to effectively trap dirt and dust from circulating around your home.
Opt for a filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 as they’re more effective. Be sure to change your filter every 3 months for the best results!
If you’d like to learn more about picking the right one, here’s a great article about how HEPA filters work.
Keep Fido out of the bedroom
We get it. This will be very tricky, especially if it’s already a habit for you and your pooch. However, old (and younger) pets will have to learn new tricks if you need to shake those allergies.
Remember, dust mites also live in and feed on animal dander. This is why it’s important to keep pets away from bedding (and the bedroom altogether).
Getting rid of dust mites can be a tricky feat. However, with a few tweaks and diligence, it’s possible to lower your exposure.
Remember, a clean home is key. Avoid clutter where dust and dirt can settle and dust regularly with a damp cloth. Dust mites love snuggling up to stuffed toys, so wash those frequently as well.
Before you undertake these large changes, be sure to rule out whether you have a dust mite allergy by getting tested. There are a few different ways to get tested such as allergy skin tests or blood tests. Speak with your doctor if you suspect a dust mite-related allergy.
Of course, not all allergies are a result of dust mites. If you suffer from some old-fashioned spring and summer allergies, check out these causes and treatments to find relief!