Do I Have Dust Mites? If you’re worried that you might have dust mites in your home, don’t be alarmed, You probably do, and you aren’t alone.
It is estimated that 4 out of 5 American homes have a significant dust mite population. It’s no wonder either- dust mites live off dead skin cells and hair. On average, each person sheds enough skin cells in one day to feed one million mites.
- Do Dust Mites Bite?
- Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms
- How to Kill Dust Mites
- 1. Lower the Temperature and Humidity
- 2. Wash and Seal Your Bedding
- 3. Do Not Make Your Bed
- 4. Steam Carpets and Upholstery
- 5. Dust With a Damp Cloth
- 6. Switch to Synthetic Fabrics
- 7. Use Direct Sunlight
- 8. Freeze Toys and Pillows
- 9. Replace Carpeting with Hard Flooring
- 10. Keep Your Pet Clean
- 11. Replace Your Furnace Filter
- 12. Purchase Chemical Cleaners
- 13. Anti Dust Mite Spray
- 14. Stay Calm. You Can Do This
- Final Words
Do Dust Mites Bite?
Dust mites are not directly harmful. They do not bite, sting, burrow, or interact with our bodies in any way. They are only interested in the cells that we have already shed. These microscopic bugs don’t carry diseases either. However, they can cause allergies in some individuals, particularly children or the elderly.
While roughly only 10% of the American population is born with a dust allergy, high concentration of dust mites can cause symptoms in people who previously showed no signs of sensitivity.
Dust mites are particularly fond of beds, where we tend to leave many of our skin cells while we sleep. Over time, an accumulation of dust mite waste can build up on our pillows and mattresses, leading to breathing difficulties.
Dust Mite Allergy Symptoms
Symptoms of a dust mite allergy can range from minor to severe. It may be difficult to tell if your allergies are being caused by dust mites or not. Common symptoms include watery eyes, sneezing, sinus congestion, itchy nose or throat, and coughing.
To truly diagnose dust mites as the cause of these allergies, your doctor will have to test your skin and blood. A good indication that this might be the case, however, is if your symptoms are most severe in the morning immediately after you wake up. If that is the case, it is likely that you are inhaling dust mite waste overnight due to a high infestation in your bed.
If you want to know for certain one way or another if you have dust mites, there are test kits that can be purchased for home use. You can also hire someone to come examine your carpets with a microscope, as you cannot see mites with the naked eye.
Typically, however, these steps are not needed. Because dust mites are such a common problem, it is probably safe to assume that you have at least a small population in your home. Luckily, getting rid of them is neither difficult nor expensive.
How to Kill Dust Mites
Do not get your hopes up about completely eradicating all dust mites in your home. No matter what you try, you will probably always have at least some living with you. However, a managed population is unlikely to cause any problems in your home. Professional exterminators can be hired, but in most cases that is unnecessary.
Here a some simple ways that you can get rid of dust mites in your home.
1. Lower the Temperature and Humidity
Dust mites love hot, humid environments. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to discourage them is to make your home less habitable for them. Lowering the temperature is one way to do this. Your thermostat should never be set above 70 degrees Fareinheit. While this should be well within the comfort range for a human, dust mites prefer it a little warmer.
Another easy solution is to purchase a dehumidifier. Removing excess moisture from the air will remove dust mites as well. Right around 50% humidity is considered healthy for most homes. Dust mites prefer a humidity range of 70 to 80%. Proper ventilation can help with both of these factors. When weather allows, airing out your home as much as possible will help lower the dust mite population.
2. Wash and Seal Your Bedding
Because our beds are where we come in closest contact with dust mites, removing the population there will go a long way towards solving our dust mite problem. Purchasing a mattress cover that seals out dust mites will prevent them from making a home inside the mattress, which is one of their favorite habitats.
Before sealing up your mattress, you should consider buying a new one. An older mattress is likely full of mites, and it would be best to start with a fresh, clean one before attempting to get rid of pests.
Washing bedding regularly will remove dust mite waste, as well as our own dead skin cells that attract them in the first place. Sheets, blankets, and pillow cases should be washed in hot water weekly, at least until the population is under control. Pillows should also be replaced every 6 months. Studies show that a two year old pillow can accumulate up to 10% of its weight in dust.
3. Do Not Make Your Bed
This might go against the grain for those who like to have everything tidily squared away in the morning, but making your bed might actually be contributing to your dust mite problem.
As we sleep, we leave moisture behind on our bedding. Tucking everything in tight as soon as we wake up creates a welcoming, humid environment for mites. Leaving everything folded out for a while will give it a chance to air out and dry. You can come back later to make the bed if you insist.
4. Steam Carpets and Upholstery
While our beds can be the largest source of the problem, carpets and upholstery are also dust mite havens. Steaming them will kill all dust mites living there, along with any other pests that may have taken up residence. Vaporizers use less water than steamers, making them a good choice for mattresses as they can kill the pests without adding extra moisture to attract new residents. Make sure you vacuum after you are finished, as steaming will kill them but will not remove their bodies.
Replacing fabric upholstery with leather is another way to lower the mite population in your home. Fake leather works just as well as genuine. In both cases, mites will be far less likely to burrow into your sofas and chairs.
5. Dust With a Damp Cloth
Dusting your home often will help remove dust mite waste and improve air quality. But be sure that you are using a damp cloth when dusting, as well as when cleaning tile, linoleum, or wood floors.
Dusting with dry fabric will simply stir up the dust, often dispersing it into the air and making the problem worse. A damp cloth will trap the dust and truly remove it.
6. Switch to Synthetic Fabrics
Dust mites are particularly drawn to natural products like cotton, and down. Switching to synthetic fabrics for your bedding and carpeting will make your home less attractive to them. Check out your children’s soft toys as well. When purchasing stuffed animals, try to avoid natural materials. Also be sure that they are washable for an added measure of protection.
The exception to this rule is wool. Wool fibers produce lanolin, which helps to repel mites. If you are a big proponent of natural fibers but still want to do what you can to remove mites, switching to wool may be your best option.
7. Use Direct Sunlight
Sunlight is another way to kill dust mites. Placing your bedding outside on sunny days is an easy way to reduce the population. This also works well for items like mattresses that are more difficult to wash.
Area rugs should also be aired out frequently. However, if you are sensitive to any outdoor allergens like pollen, this might fix one problem only to introduce another.
8. Freeze Toys and Pillows
If sunlight does cause a problem for you, or if you just live in a climate where it isn’t always available, freezing is another method to kill mites. This does limit you to what you can fit in your freezer (probably not going to shove your mattress in there) but it works particularly well on pillows and stuffed animals.
9. Replace Carpeting with Hard Flooring
If you love your wall to wall carpeting this may be hard to hear, but one of the most sure-fire ways to get rid of dust mites is to get rid of your carpeting. For those of you who simply won’t consider this, vacuuming often is the next best thing you can do. Just be careful of how your vacuum works.
Some machines can end up spewing a lot of the dust they are sucking up into the air. Using a high efficiency filter will help prevent this. If you are particularly sensitive to dust allergies, wearing a mask while you clean may be a safer option than inhaling all those particulates.
10. Keep Your Pet Clean
We haven’t yet discussed the role that faithful Fido plays in your dust mite problem. Pets contribute a tremendous amount of dead skin cells and dander to their environment, boosting the mite population. If you have an animal that lives in your home, keeping them clean is a strong step to solving your problem. Wash their bedding as often, at least, as your own. Groom them often as well, to remove old hair before it becomes a problem.
Regular baths will also help keep dead skin cells from accumulating in the places they like to lay. Limiting a pet to one or two rooms of the house will help contain the problem, as will encouraging them to sleep outside, in a shelter or garage. At the very least, they should spend their nights in a mudroom, or similar area that is easy to clean and removed from your bed. As tempting as it is to snuggle with them, pets should never be allowed to sleep in your bedroom with you.
11. Replace Your Furnace Filter
A great deal of dust circulates through our homes every day through the heating and cooling system. As our homes tend to be more sealed up in the winter when cold weather arrives, this is also the season when dust mites are more likely to be a problem. Keeping your furnace filter clear will help to remove a lot of the dust from your home.
In some cases you may also want to consider having your air ducts cleaned. This is usually not necessary, but if you notice a large build up of debris in your registers, or see little puffs of dust fly out when the system kicks on, it may be time to do some deep cleaning in the less visible areas of your home.
12. Purchase Chemical Cleaners
There are various products available to remove and prevent dust mites. These are often billed specifically for carpets, as they can be one of the most difficult items in the home to keep clean. Double check that the product you are buying will be effective.
Regular carpet cleaning solutions often do not contain anything to eliminate pests. Those that do contain poison will kill dust mites, but as with other solutions discussed above, they will not remove the residue. Be sure to vacuum well after applying these products as the final step in getting rid of dust mite waste.
This should be the last resort to deal with infestations, as many chemicals can be harmful. Be especially careful of such products if you have pets or children in your home.
13. Anti Dust Mite Spray
Acarosan is a popular dust mite spray, followed closely by Fortefog and Agrodust. Fortefog is a wide-range product that can help eliminate many pests, such as bedbugs and fleas, in addition to dust mites.
Agrodust is a powder that is best used with a dusting machine. Ecology Works Dust Mite Powder is a natural product for those leery of using chemicals in the home, but it does take longer than other products to achieve results.
14. Stay Calm. You Can Do This
There is no need to panic if you believe that you have dust mites in your home. They are a common household pest, and with a little persistence and care you should be able to get rid of them yourself. While there is some cost involved, such as the possibility of replacing your mattress or removing your carpeting, many of these solutions will not cost you anything.
Remember that controlling their environment is crucial to removing dust mites. Keeping your home cool and dry may be enough on its own to solve your problem. Just be sure that you continue to maintain a low temperature and humidity, or else the population is likely to reappear.
Regularly washing bedding, upholstery, and carpeting is another important part of population management. For those with pets inside the home, maintaining their hygiene is just as important as your own.
If you are persistent in removing temptations for dust mites, there should be no need of professional assistance in the matter.