Dust Mites are microscopic creatures related to other mites and ticks in the class of Arachnidan. They live where human beings live, and where the humidity is optimal for their life cycle. Dust mites cause allergies in millions of Americans. Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye. What dust mites lack in size they make up in sheer numbers. Densities of dust mites in the typical used mattress can range from 100,000 to ten million individual mites.
What Dust Mites Eat: Dust mites feed and grow almost exclusively on the dead, shed skin cells that humans shed daily by the hundreds of thousands.
Where Dust Mites Are Found: The majority of dust mites are found in beds and in bedding, but they can also survive in pillows, upholstered furniture, rugs, stuffed toys and carpeting. The place where your pet sleeps is also a hot spot, as our pets shed dander as well.
Dust and Dust Mite Avoidance
- Wash all bed linens in hot water (130 degrees) at least once weekly. Warm and cold water will not kill dust mite allergen. Select bedding that can stand up to the rigors of frequent washings.
- There are allergen-fighting detergents or laundry additives that can be added to your wash that will remove dust mite allergen in warm and cold water.
- Encase pillows and mattresses in zippered allergen-impermeable covers. This decreases the amount of inhaled allergen exposure while sleeping. If unable to purchase covers, you can wash pillows (every 2 weeks) in hot water.
- If a product is labeled “hypoallergenic” or “non-allergic” it means that the materials used to make the products have not been shown to cause allergic symptoms. This does not mean that the products are allergy barriers. These products will still support dust mite growth as with other products made of fabric.
- If possible, you should replace upholstered furniture with leather, vinyl, plastic or wood. Everything in your home made of fabric is a reservoir for dust and dust mite allergens.
- Carpet should be removed from your home when possible, especially in the bedroom. Wood, tile, linoleum and laminates are preferred. This is not always possible because of the expense. In this case, you should vacuum carpet at least twice a week using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Wear a mask when dusting and vacuuming. Leave a room that has been vacuumed or dusted for at least 20 minutes to allow airborne dust to resettle. It is best to dust with a damp mop or cloth or swiffer dusters and mops.
- Products may be purchased that can be sprayed or dusted onto carpet, upholstered furniture, blankets, comforters and draperies that will neutralize allergens rending them non-allergic and harmless. This treatment can last about two to four months.
- Heavy curtains are good source of dust collection and should be avoided. Shades and washable lightweight curtains are recommended.
- The humidity level in your home should be below 50% because dust mites thrive at high humidity levels.
- Furnace filters should be checked and cleaned or replaced as needed. You can purchase special vent filters to clean the air before it enters your room. Free-standing HEPA air cleaners may be used to remove dust allergens from the air.
- Keep rooms as clutter-free as possible, especially the bedroom. No stuffed animals (except those that can be washed) and wall hangings, pennants, and posters that tend to collect dust.
- Stuffed animals or pillows that cannot be machine-washed can be wrapped in plastic and place in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the dust mite allergen.
- Keep clothes and books in drawers or in closet.
Physicians at Allergic Disease and Asthma Center