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Wondering if you might have a dust mite infestation, or just looking for a way to prevent them? In this post, we cover 14 easy tips on how to reduce and prevent dust mites within your home, along with a little information about them.
We also cover a few of the top-leading questions regarding the subject, such as how do you get dust mites, how do you know if you have them, and even why they might be in your home to begin with.
What are dust mites and how do you get them?
Dust mites are tiny, blind, microscopic mites that dwell pretty much anywhere that’s warm and humid. This can include areas such as couches, carpeting, mattresses, curtains, as well as amongst regular old dust bunnies. They can also be found throughout nature, such as in bird’s nests, dens, etc.
Dust mites produce some of the most common types of allergens within the home, typically through their feces, and often wreak havoc on those prone to allergies—especially those who have asthma.
Watch a Quick Video About Dust Mites
In a rush or wanting to know more? Check out this quick video by PBS via Deep Look on Youtube.
WARNING: some may find it graphic or…well, just a bit gross. But, hey, #CleaningMotivation
How do you know if you have dust mites in your home?
Dust mites infestations cause a vast majority of dust-related allergy symptoms due to their feces (poop), which may be a good indicator of their presence. However, many of the symptoms can also be the result of other underlying causes.
Dust mite allergy symptoms can include sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy throat or nose, post-nasal drip, itchy skin, runny nose, and itchy, watery, or red eyes. Severe symptoms may include asthma and chest pain or tightness, trouble sleeping, and wheezing.
If you wish to find out if you have a dust mite problem in your home, or if you want to learn if you’re allergic to their waste or need to rule out other causes, you should consider speaking with your doctor. In most cases, they’ll perform a series of tests to potentially form a diagnosis, such as a skin prick test or blood test.
While certain steps can be used at home to help reduce dust mites over time, medical treatments might be necessary. These treatments may range from prescribing antihistamines and decongestants to allergy shots or whatever types of prescriptions are determined by a medical professional.
For more information on treatments and getting a diagnosis, please speak with a medical professional.
Dust Mites vs. Bed Bugs
While many people tend to believe otherwise, dust mites and bed bugs are two completely different critters. However, some at-home methods for preventing, reducing, or getting rid of them can be similar.
Dust mites are not parasites nor insects and do not bite or burrow into a person or animal’s skin, unlike bed bugs. They are microscopic arachnids. They live in soft, warm, and humid environments and eat our fallen dead skin cells. Yum. Oh, and they can trigger typical allergy-type symptoms.
Bed bugs are brown, flat insects, and much larger, often easily seen with the naked eye. Bed bugs typically hideout within soft surfaces, such as mattresses, pillows, blankets, and upholstered furniture. Unlike dust mites, they bite to drink blood and cause the skin to itch and form large welts. They do not cause common allergy symptoms.
14 Tips for Getting Rid of Dust Mites
While you may not be able to eradicate dust mites in your home completely, you can at least work towards reducing them or preventing them from thriving with these 14 easy steps, tips, and considerations.
1. Don’t neglect the surrounding environment.
Because dust mites can lurk anywhere, it’s good to make sure that you regularly dust and vacuum your home to help prevent or reduce them—especially if you have carpeting, pets, and soft fabrics around your home.
This is because dust mites not only live in areas with soft fabric or materials, such as carpeting and couches, but you can do more damage to them by eliminating the one thing they’re after as much as possible: food.
What’s at the top of their favorite menu? Skin. Yup. Your skin. The dog’s skin as well as the cat’s and even birds. And, like it or not, you shed a lot of it every day.
It’s typically recommended to vacuum at least once a week and dust a minimum of once a month. However, I tend to find it a lot more beneficial to dust once a week and vacuum several times a week, if not daily, in the main areas since we have several people and pets are around. However, if you happen to be living it up solo—congrats! You may be able to get away with fewer cleaning sessions.
Also, keep in mind that it’s not so much the mite that can cause us humans so much trouble, but their feces and dead carcasses, which there tends to be a lot of as well. By vacuuming them up and dusting them away, you can potentially reduce dust mites as well as what they might leave behind.
2. Air things out a bit.
Even though there are numerous things you can do to reduce or prevent dust mites in your bed, which we mention throughout this post, it can still be good practice to air your bed out each morning before making it.
This is more so if you live in a humid area, sweat a lot while you sleep or sleep hot, or have deep concerns about dust mites in general.
However, you don’t necessarily need to avoid making your bed as long as you keep up maintaining it and work towards prevention—not just with your bed but throughout the home.
Besides, if you seriously feel they might be in your bed, then it’s likely they’re elsewhere, too, from your carpet or fabric headboard, pillows, down to your favorite spot on the couch.
Try airing the bed out in the morning if you live in a high humidity area, even if it’s just as you go about your morning routine. It may also be beneficial to consider a dehumidifier if your location gets overly humid.
3. Dust and vacuum more thoroughly and consistently.
Dust mites like warmth, humidity, and—as you might have guessed—they really like dust, too. And they make up for a lot of dust matter as well. When present, they also tend to dwell in more than just bedding and mattresses.
Dust mites love soft fabrics on upholstered furniture, throws, curtains, rugs, and carpeting. Because of this, it’s good not only to ensure that you dust and clean these areas.
Washing these items often can be ideal for getting rid of dust mites—especially if you can get away with using a higher temperature. For instance, it can help to dry clean, vacuum, wash, or dry clean your curtains a few times a year to keep mites at bay.
When dealing with allergies and dust mites, it’s essential to make sure that whatever you decide to use to dust, vacuum, or clean with works to trap dust and dust particles efficiently, rather than merely scattering it around. If possible, look for vacuums with adequate filtration, such as a HEPA filter, and dusters that work well at trapping dust.
Carpet cleaning a few times a year is another way to combat dust mites and eliminate their feces and whatever else they leave behind. Fortunately, most carpet cleaners are pretty affordable these days or can be rented, and many are equipped to handle couches and other soft furniture as well.
It’s also an option to hire a service if doing it yourself isn’t your kind of thing.
4. Reduce mite-friendly habitats.
If you’re prone to severe allergic reactions because of mites and want to take extra measures to prevent dust mites in general, you may want to consider work towards reducing mite-friendly environments.
That means reducing fabric-type materials in your home as much as possible, such as switching from carpet to hard floors or curtains to blinds or shutters.
Children’s stuffed toys, as well as plushy pet toys, may also attract dust mites. Because of this, it may be beneficial to wash—or to at least dry—toys ever so often to control dust mites. However, because some materials may vary in the way they can be cleaned, always check with the manufacturer’s care instructions for each toy.
5. Consider getting an air purifier.
Air purifiers specifically work to reduce airborne contaminants from the air within a specific environment. This makes them great for reducing dust as well as dust mites in particular. You may even see a reduction in other allergy problems as well.
These days, there are numerous brands, sizes, filter types, price ranges, and levels of quality to choose from. While we do plan to work on covering air purifiers soon, some of the things you may want to consider when selecting an air purifier would include:
- The size of the space or room you need to cover.
- Making sure the unit meets the square footage needing to be covered.
- What the unit’s filter will help trap (i.e. dust, pet dander, odors, VOCs, mold, etc.)
- What type of modes it may offer.
- How many decibels of sound does it create
- Does it have a Sleep Mode?
- How much do the filters cost and how often do they need to be replaced?
We’ve used units such as the Alen Breathesmart and Levoit air purifiers in our homes and have enjoyed them. Other popular and reliable choices include Rabbit Aire, Blueair, Winix, Molekule for large rooms, and Germ Guardian.
Note: The AAFA also recommends looking for furnace and air conditioning filtration that is certified, since freestanding air purifiers only work in the rooms they’re in and the amount of square footage that they’re rated for. They also recommend avoiding units that emit ozone, electronic ions, and heat.
6. Don’t neglect your household filters.
Certain house filters in your home can help reduce dust and allergens and may even help reduce and prevent dust mites. Even so, they’re commonly neglected or forgotten about by many households.
This is why it’s important to make sure to regularly make sure your vents are clear of dust and debris. It’s also essential to change or clean your air purifying filters and your a/c filter regularly.
While the frequency of when to change out your air purifying filters can vary, a/c filters commonly need to be changed or cleaned every 2 to 3 months at the most when in regular use. If you have a hard time remembering, consider setting a reminder on your phone or home hub devices if you happen to have any.
7. Try high heat when possible to do so.
If you feel that you may have a dust mite infestation or want to be on the safe side, it may help to use heat. Generally, the recommended amount of heat is usually 130F for at least 20 minutes. This might involve running items through the washer on a high enough heat, when possible, or even through the dryer for at least 20 minutes and with a reasonable amount of heat.
It’s good to keep in mind that they also thrive with temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. They also recommend keeping humidity levels below 50 percent when possible.
8. Wash and change your bedding often.
One of the easiest ways to eliminate or prevent dust mites in your home is to change or wash your bedding often. The longest time to go without changing or cleaning your sheets should be no more than two weeks. However, it’s usually recommended to do so weekly—at least where sheets are concerned.
Things such as comforters or duvet inserts, or even runners, can sometimes go a little longer. But it’s still good to try to do so as often as you can. You can also try steaming and/or vacuuming certain bedding types that you may not want to wash as often, like a comforter or duvet.
There are also UV sanitizing devices that are specifically designed for mattresses, some of which may be able to tackle dust mites as well. However, they likely won’t remove the one thing that could be triggering your allergies—their feces.
As mentioned under the high heat section, we occasionally like to “freshen” our larger or more delicate items, such as pillows and duvet inserts or blankets, in our LG dryer with its steam sanitizing cycle to help contaminates, odors, and potentially dust mites as well. Using a slightly damp cloth in the dryer might work, but we can’t guarantee it.
The ideal temperature for killing dust mites is said to be 130 degrees for at least 20 minutes.
9. Avoid excess moisture and humidity.
One of the things that dust mites allegedly enjoy is moisture/humidity. While it’s not always possible to eliminate moisture from our bodies or the occasional bad weather, using a dehumidifier may be one way to at least help make the environment less hospitable for dust mites.
While these aren’t tested or guaranteed to work against dust mites, some other options might include purchasing a mattress or bedding that can help you to stay cooler. You may also benefit from moisture-wicking bed sheets or nightclothes, which is also something to consider.
10. Exfoliate to help prevent dust mites.
Skin is the #1 thing that dust mites feed on, and we just so happen to shed 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells a day.
While you can’t stop yourself or others from shedding, you may be able to reduce how much of it winds up on your bed, furniture, and other parts of the house by making sure to exfoliate at least once a week or as directed by your doctor.
Exfoliating not only can help reduce unintentional skin fall in areas that might feed wee dust mite beasties, but it can be beneficial when it comes to health and your skin’s quality.
Using a washcloth is, of course, one way to go about it. However, if you find that’s not enough, you may have better luck with a body scrub or exfoliating mitt for something gentle. Or if you’re looking for super-soft skin, then you may prefer a Korean Italy towel, hammam (what I love to use), or nylon scrubbing cloth.
Above all, don’t forget to lotion up once you’re done getting all baby smooth, which not only helps moisturize your skin but keeps it from drying out and may help to reduce flakiness as well.
11. Don’t forget about your fur babies and feathered friends.
Yep, humans aren’t the only ones that shed. Dogs, cats, birds, or even snakes shed also. And all of that can get in the air or gather for one of their favorite dust bunny festivals under a couch near you. Pet dander can also contribute to our allergies as well. This is why it may help to address your pet’s dander issues and to ensure that their areas are kept clean.
Some of the ways you can work to combat pet dander can include giving them occasional (but not too frequent) baths; brushing them regularly, generally before vacuuming; and using a pet- and skin-friendly shampoo.
Our ultimate favorite shampoo for dogs and cats is Earthbath Shampoo in Oatmeal and Aloe and Earthbath Conditioner in Oatmeal and Aloe (optional). They smell fantastic and really make our Corgi’s fur crazy-soft and helps relieve any itchiness so that even our vet takes notice and asks what we use.
You can also try spraying little water on your pet and wiping them dry with a microfiber cloth or towel, which is always helpful for in-between baths and to reduce dander. And there are pet sprays and treatments for those who suffer from pet allergies in particular, or even for pets who have excessive dander issues, which you can ask your vet about.
12. Consider a mattress protector.
Mattress protectors can be a great way to help prevent and reduce dust mites. And they’re even great for those who worry that making their bed will cause dust mites might increase.
In fact, it’s even possible to get whole-mattress protectors, which are also designed to work against bed bugs, too, which can be ideal for those who want the maximum mattress protection.
Hypoallergenic bedding and pillows are also something to consider, as well as protective pillow covers that are meant to go on underneath pillowcases.
13. Steam, baby, steam.
As mentioned previously, high amounts of heat (approximately 130F degrees) can kill dust mites, which is where steam cleaning can come in handy. We love to use steam on items or in specific areas that may not always be easy to clean through other methods and as a way to freshen the place up a bit. This might include anything from stuffed animals and furniture to curtains, mattresses, headboards, and so forth.
Nowadays, numerous options are available for steaming, from portable garment steamers to steam-cleaning machines. These days, it’s even possible to use the power of steam as you do laundry, which is one of our favorite ways to freshen and deodorize a variety of things. It’s also a great method for items we may want to prevent dust mites from lurking on but may not be able to wash easily, if at all.
More and more washer and dryer brands are starting to offer steam as one of their main features, whether for freshening up items or sanitizing them. Some people even like to achieve the works with something such as the LG Styler, which can be great at deodorizing, removing wrinkles, and sanitizing.
14. Spot treatments.
Sometimes, reducing and preventing dust mites may come down to the need for spot treatments. Spot treatments for dust mites can range from natural to not-so-natural, depending on your needs, the severity of the infestation (if any), and what might need treatment.
However, before you purchase a ton of product and hope for the best, it’s good to make sure you have a dust mite issue to begin with. That usually means consulting with your doctor, as your symptoms may be the result of another problem, whether that be scabies, bed bugs, dermatitis, or a variety of other potential causes.
It may also be beneficial to try less expensive, home-based, or even more natural options first and then resort to the big guns later if you feel it’s necessary. That might range from carpet cleaning to vacuuming more, trying vinegar or Lysol, dusting more often, etc.
Knowing how to get rid of dust mites or prevent dust mites in the first place basically boils down to making sure you clean your home consistently. Sometimes, it’s by making your environment less hospitable for them and more relaxing for yourself and your household.
That means starving them and eliminating their feces as best as you can. And that can primarily be done by making sure to dust and vacuum regularly, keeping the place decluttered as much as you can, and washing your bedding and other soft textiles throughout your home consistently.
Do you suffer from dust mite allergies, or have you ever had issues with bed bugs or dust mite infestations in the past? If so, what was your method for getting rid of them? Let us know in the comments down below!
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- 17 Clever Ways to Make Cleaning Your Shower Easier (with pictures)
- How to Unclog Hair From A Shower Drain Safely & Easily
- Dust Mite Allergy, AAFA, October 2015.
- Meet the Dust Mites, Tiny Roommates That Feast On Your Skin; Deep Look, Youtube; April 5th, 2016