Dust Mites in your Home – How to Get Rid of Them Naturally

Dust Mites in the Home

Did you know that dust mites are the most common cause of allergies and asthma worldwide?  Dust mites don’t actually bite us, it’s the proteins in their poop and dead pieces of their body parts that cause allergy symptoms. It is thought that 500 million people across the globe are sensitive to this dust mite poop.  Unfortunately,  we can’t get rid of them completely. But we can naturally reduce their numbers, without using harsh chemicals and pesticides helping to reduce those allergy symptoms.

symptoms of dust mite allergy

Symptoms of a Dust Mite Allergy

Dust mites cause allergic reactions. Some symptoms include itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, dry persistent cough, wheezing and dermatitis.  Children who are allergic to dust mites, may sometimes be mistakenly diagnosed with asthma, hay fever, perennial sinusitis and eczema.  Even if you don’t have asthma, allergies or any other known respiratory issues, breathing in those nasties puts your immune system under additional pressure. This ends up diverting your immune system away from doing other important work.

It is impossible to destroy your entire dust mite population. But you can reduce their numbers, and in turn reduce the likelihood of your allergic symptoms.

Common hiding spots for dust mites

Dust mites are tiny, so small that six of them can fit on the end of a pin.  They require three conditions to survive and thrive –  moisture, food and warmth.  As their food is dead skin cells from us and our pets, their food source is always available.  We can create enough moisture for them to survive through sweating in bed at night and provide warmth just with the heat generated by our bodies.

Dust mites are commonly found throughout our homes.  Some of the places you might find dust mites are:

  • your bed,
  • the bed sheets,
  • pillows,
  • blankets,
  • duvets and quilts,
  • mattress and
  • throw rugs and
  • throw cushions
  • Carpets and rugs,
  • fabric & upholstered furniture,
  • curtains,
  • cloth toys (stuffed animals)
  • your clothes
  • & pet bedding.
child on couch dust mite allergy

Natural solutions to get rid of dust mites and get relief from dust mite allergies.

There are two main ways to reduce dust mites in your home –

1. Good housekeeping or

2. Removing the places where dust mites like to live. Places like your bedding, carpets, curtains, fabric furnishings cushions, stuffed toys, and your clothes.

The first option is often much more practical. It is much easier and less expensive to vacuum regularly than replace the flooring and window furnishings in your home. Plus I don’t know too many kids out there who don’t have a favourite soft toy they sleep with every night. But if you suffer tremendously even after implementing good housekeeping, then it might be something to look into.

There are some places in your home where dust mites are more likely to hide out. And you can help to reduce them without the use of nasty, toxic chemicals. Below are 14 tips to help reduce your dust mite allergy and create a healthier home for you and your family.

1. Don’t make your bed. This solution may seem to go completely against good housekeeping ideals. However, researchers in the UK found that an unmade bed actually retained less moisture hence making it less attractive to dust mites.  If you are like me and can’t have an unmade bed, wait as long as possible to let the bed air.

bedding dust mites

2. We spend at least 8 hours a day in bed and our body sheds thousands of dead cells every day. You can get a pretty gory picture of how much food we leave behind for mites to feed on.  Wash your sheets, duvet and pillow covers at least once a week in water hotter than 55°C to kill dust mites and bacteria. Dust mites can also hide in pillow fabric. You can wash your pillows weekly on a hot cycle along with the rest of your bedding.   

3. As long as it is safe, put your pillows and duvet in a hot dryer weekly to reduce dust mites and bacteria. If you don’t have access to a hot dryer, place them out in the direct sun to kill the mites.

4. Try using a dust mite resistant cover on mattresses, pillows and duvets made from 100% natural fibres such as organic cotton, silk or pure eucalyptus fibres with a thread gap size of 6.1 microns or less.

dust mite resistant cover

5. Remove sheepskin or woollen underlays and any other sheepskin products.

6. Get yourself a vacuum with a HEPA filter and use it to vacuum your pillows and mattress weekly.  The HEPA filter will help to trap allergens.  Take your mattress outside once a month to air it out and put it in direct sunlight to help kill the dust mites.

7. Dust mites love dust, so to reduce their numbers keep your home as dust free as possible.  Dust surfaces with a damp micro-fiber cloth rather than a feather duster (which will just move the dust around the room).

8. Dust mites also enjoy your carpets and rugs. Clean weekly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter.  If you are suffering then you might consider looking into removing carpets and rugs from your home and replacing with hard floors such as tiles or timber. Wash rugs and mats regularly and dry them outside in full sunshine (if possible).

vacuum to reduce dust mites

9. Another place where dust mites hide out is in your fabric furniture, such as couches and arm chairs.  Your best bet is to vacuum upholstered furniture weekly using a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap allergens.

10. Curtains get dusty, just as other fabric does in our homes, which means there will be dust mites living there as well.  You can either wash them weekly in hot water if that is an option, or otherwise replace curtains with roller or venetian blinds instead. 

11. My son has bundles of stuffed toys, and has two which he sleeps with religiously.  Unfortunately, these also harbour dust mites and is probably not something we want our children playing or sleeping with. Either wash stuffed toys weekly in hot water or put them in the freezer for 24 hours as the cold temperatures also kill dust mites. Keep in mind that freezing does not remove the allergens so you would need to vacuum the toy afterwards. 

Stuffed toys harbour dust mites and can cause dust mite allergies

12. Don’t forget your pet’s bedding! Wash these once a week in hot water as well. Pet owners must take extra precautions to clean-up and prevent bed mites. Pet hair is one of their favourite zones. Keep your pets in cooler places. Walk them regularly in the sun to help sun-dry their skin and fur from perspiration. Groom them regularly. Wash your pet’s cosy rug regularly.

13. Make sure your home is at the correct humidity.  Dust mites like high humidity, so make sure to keep your humidity levels between 45 and 65%.  This can be achieved by opening the windows and ventilating your home, or you can use mechanical heating and cooling systems to help achieve this, depending on your climate.

14. If you haven’t worn clothing for some time, make sure to wash it before use.  If you can’t wash it in hot water, hang it out to dry in the direct sunlight.

Sunshine is a dust mites enemy

Being a trained in building biology, I understand that not all of these will be practical for everybody.  My suggestion is to start with one thing, and moving up to doing those things that you can achieve, to help reduce your exposure to dust mites and ease those allergy symptoms.

Just being aware of where dust mites live, and how they cause us discomfort is the first step in reducing your exposure and any associated dust mite allergies.

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