Their only predators are other mites, silverfish, and pseudoscorpions, a beneficial arachnid, which also eats carpet beetle larvae, ants, and small flies.
While dust mites themselves aren’t a problem, their waste and decaying bodies contain a protein that mixes with household dust and enters the lungs when we breathe, triggering allergic reactions and asthma symptoms for at least 10% of the population. You may have a dust mite allergy and not even know it.
The Perfect Dust Mite Home
The millions of mites living in your home love dark, humid places, which means you may be battling the overall humidity in your home depending on the climate you live in. The ideal temperature for dust mites is between 75°F and 80°F, with a relative humidity around 70% to 80%. To make your home less hospitable, set your thermostat to 70°F or less and monitor the humidity to keep it below 50%. Dehumidifiers, air conditioning and fans can control humidity effectively.
Mites also love pets, so if your allergy to mites is severe, you may need to reconsider owning animals, or at the very least, keeping them out of the bedroom. Mites love bedding, especially fabric full of pet dander.
Start With Your Bed
One of the biggest things you can do to reduce the dust mite population in your home is to stop making your bed. If that’s not realistic, at least let your bed air out after a long night’s sleep before you create the ideal mite sandwich: dead skin inside warm, humid sheets.
Contrary to popular belief, there is little connection to feather bedding and an increase in dust mite problems. Instead, studies have shown that feather pillows have less dust-mite allergen than their synthetic counterpart. Some scientists theorize that the tightly-woven fabric of feather bedding and the feather washing process means that dust mites have less of a chance to take hold. For this reason, consider in investing in tightly woven bedding that mites are unable to travel through. This includes mattress and pillow covers made from fabric rated as dust-mite impermeable. It also includes naturally repellant materials like wool, bamboo and silk.
To be effective at repelling dust mites, fabric must have a pore size of less than 10 microns. This means looking for fabrics that are labeled for air-flow and moisture permeability, rather than thread count.
To be effective at repelling dust mites, fabric must have a pore size of less than 10 microns. This means looking for fabrics that are labeled for air-flow and moisture permeability, rather than thread count. Wool bedding is a good option, since it wicks away moisture keeping your bed dry. This is the real key to keeping populations low, especially in the filling of your bedding. An All-Season Wool Comforter paired with a Woolly Down Pillow, kept properly aired and replaced approximately every five years will have millions fewer dust mites than the standard synthetic kind.
Reduce Fiber and Fluff
Curtains, stuffed animals, rugs, fabric couches, carpet, cloth headboards, and books are dust traps and become another source of problems. Switch to blinds, swap out your carpet for a hard floor, and get rid of unnecessary fabric items. Weed through your book collection in favor of an eReader or store all books outside the bedroom in a bookcase with glass doors. Get rid of your traditional dog bed and swap it with a washable blanket. If you must have carpeting, consider a natural fiber wool carpet, which will keep the environment in the fiber drier than other materials.
Consider investing in a steam cleaner if you can’t get rid of fabric items like curtains and couches. Mites can’t survive extremes of freezing or 130°F temperatures and a steam cleaner will heat high enough to do the trick. Similarly, wash bedding at a high or “sanitize” temperature setting and use dust mite laundry additive to remove bodies and eggs from fabrics.
Your vacuum also makes a huge difference, even if you have hard floors. Only a few vacuums have the right kind of HEPA filtration that can effectively trap dust. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air, and there are two kids: HEPA and True HEPA. True HEPA captures 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns, while HEPA captures 99% of particles 2 microns or larger. True HEPA is what you need to make a real difference in capturing allergens from dust mites, and you should be using a vacuum instead of dusting and sweeping. The vacuum must be “Certified Sealed,” which means air-tight, so no particles escape, and often uses a fabric bag. There are only a few brands that offer this, which are Nilfisk (used by NASA), Sebo, and Miele. It is notable that these are all Danish and German companies, where air filtration is a high priority for customers.
An air purifier can also make a big difference, but it too needs to be True HEPA. Some furnaces can accommodate a HEPA air filter, but most can’t, so make sure to replace your filter regularly. When choosing an air purifier, look for a product rated for the square footages of your home. True HEPA rated air purifiers are often called “medical-grade” or “antibacterial” purifiers. There are quite a few brands offering this level of purification, including IQAir, Austin, Lifesmart, and Alen.
Use Natural Pest Control Methods Like Diatomaceous Earth
Of the many uses for diatomaceous earth, bug control may be its most effective. This non-toxic product works on any type of bug with an exoskeleton, including dust mites. Since studies show that chemical dust mite killers are no more effective than natural methods at reducing dust mite populations, diatomaceous earth is a safe and non-toxic alternative. Make sure that the diatomaceous earth is food grade and in a form rated for insects, like this one, which should be sprinkled on carpet and fabrics. Be sure to leave it in place for two to three days in order to fully dehydrate the insects, and then vacuum thoroughly. For ongoing prevention, set out diatomaceous earth in strategic lines around your house and leave in place. Read more about using diatomaceous earth for insect prevention in Diatomaceous Earth: Non-Toxic Pest Control for Your Home and Garden
Since studies show that chemical dust mite killers are no more effective than natural methods at reducing dust mite populations, diatomaceous earth is a safe and non-toxic alternative.
Tannic acid with a solution of at least 3% is also shown to be an effective dust mite control. Tannic acid powders are available for sprinkling on carpets in the same way as diatomaceous earth. However, you may find that it’s better to use diatomaceous earth, because it may be less irritating to your lungs and skin.
If you want a very alternative solution, consider making your home a haven for pseudoscorpions, also known as book scorpions because of their fondness for living in books. They are only ¼ inch long and completely harmless to humans, so consider allowing them to live when you see these tiny creepy creatures crawling around your home. While silverfish will eat mites as well, they will damage many household items, which makes the book scorpion a much better houseguest.
Although dust mites may be a microscopic problem, their proliferation can have big consequences. Carrying out these simple steps will help you reduce the population of dust mites in your home so you can sleep better and breathe easier.
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