The common house dust mite (HDM) feeds on human dead skin, and, after pollen, is the most common cause of asthma and allergic symptoms. Dust mites in the home, especially in your mattress, pillows, carpets, and furniture fabrics, are impossible to see with the naked eye. A flare up of allergic symptoms, including watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and for people with asthma, difficulty breathing, may be a sign that you need to treat your home for dust mites. Prevention is the key to keeping dust mites under control before they start to impact the health of you and your family. So if you’re up for some serious spring cleaning, consider these seven steps to keeping these nasty microscopic buggers out of your home. These steps are also helpful to keeping other pests out of your home as well regardless of where you live – Dallas, San Jose, Seattle, Indianapolis, Columbus!
- Get rid of carpets: Dust mites love carpets, and because of their tiny size, as many as 100,000 can exist on one square yard of carpet. If you are experiencing allergic symptoms, get rid of as much of your carpet as you possibly can. If tearing up and throwing out your carpeting is not possible, consider using an indoor pesticide specifically made to kill dust mites. If you have allergies, check in with your trusted ears, nose, and throat doctor before using a pesticide indoors to be sure it won’t aggravate your symptoms.
- Vacuum, and vacuum often: Vacuuming can’t eradicate dust mites from your home but it will certainly help control the population. Try vacuuming thoroughly once a week or less thoroughly once a day, and then adjust according to any allergic symptoms you experience. Be sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter, which is specially made to trap microscopic particles. Otherwise, you’re just sucking up and spitting the dust mites out back into the air.
- Get a new mattress: If your mattress is 10 or more years old, it’s definitely time to replace it, if only because mattresses over time become a haven for dust mites. In fact, over the course of 10 years, a mattress can double in weight and even increase in size due to dust mite poop and your dead skin cells. Anti-mite mattresses do exist, but a dust mite cover, a specially made fitted sheet designed to act as a barrier between dust mites and the mattress, is a less expensive investment, and just as effective.
- Do your laundry!: Your days of letting your laundry pile up on the floor are over. To control dust mites and other allergens, you’re going to want to wash your bedding once a week, as well as other throws, rugs, and fabrics you have around your home. Pillows should be washed as well. Washing everything in hot water, 140 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, will kill off dust mites. Unfortunately for folks who like to clean green, cold water wash and line dry won’t do much of anything to get rid of these pests.
- Use an air conditioner: Air conditioners will help control the humidity within your home, drying out an otherwise moist environment ripe for dust mites. Dust mites depend on humidity for water and to soften the dead skin you shed so it is more easily digestible! Use air conditioning with HEPA filters to dry out the interior of your house. Be sure the change out any filters air passes through once a month, especially if you suffer from allergies.
- Use plastic instead of fabric blinds: Just like carpets, drapes and fabric curtains are breeding grounds for dust mites. Dust mites even enjoy the mild heat from the sun that hits the curtains throughout the day. Washing your curtains in hot water and drying them in the dryer can help with removing and controlling the tiny critters. But you might want to consider replacing your fabric curtains, especially any in your bedroom, with plastic blinds, which can be cleaned in the bathtub with dish cleaner or bleach.
- Invest in wooden and plastic furniture: Consider replacing that ancient, fabric easy chair — the one with the springs that dig into your back — with a plastic, wooden, or leather alternative. Dust mites can live deep within furniture upholstery, and no amount of vacuuming will get rid of them. A plastic or wooden piece of furniture is much easier to clean, and looks much cooler than a chair Archie Bunker sat on back in the day.