What Are Dust Mites? Are They Dangerous?
Dust is all around us in our homes, workplace and vehicles. And where there are humans and dust, there are dust mites. Dust mites, or bed mites as they are sometimes called, are tiny insects (spiderlike arachnids) that feed off dead skin flakes found on sheets, pillows, fabric and dust around your home. While they don't bite like bed bugs or head lice or spread disease, but they can aggravate allergies and asthma.
It is the excrement waste from the mites that cause allergic responses.
Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments and multiply quickly and easily especially in summer months.
They are too small to be seen with the naked eye and the highest concentrations are found in carpeting, mattresses and bedding, upholstered furniture and stuffed animals. Because they are so small they float into the air when fabric is disturbed, carpet is walked on or when a vacuum is used. It is when they float that the dust mite droppings and pieces of dead dust mites most aggravate allergies and can even cause asthma.
Fortunately, you can decrease the number of dust mite droppings by doing laundry often and handling fabrics correctly.
How to Reduce Dust Mites in Bedding and Bedrooms
We spend a great deal of time in the bedroom where direct skin contact with bed linens makes the perfect spot for dust mites to thrive.
Since one of the keys to controlling the mites is frequent washing of fabrics; for anyone with allergies or asthma it is important to select linens that can withstand frequent washing.
Of course, some fabric covered items like mattresses, box springs and upholstered furniture can not be easily washed.
To remove dust mites, consider a fabric allergen sanitizer vacuum (Raycop is a leading brand name). These vacuums use ultraviolet light to kill dust mites and bacteria and then a dual filtration system to eliminate the 99.9% of the offenders from fabric surfaces.
If you have a dust mite problem in your home, bedding - sheets, blankets and bed covers - should be washed at least weekly in hot water (130-140 degrees F.) to kill the mites. Cold water will not always remove the allergens. However, if you prefer to use cold water, be sure to tumble dry the linens in a hot dryer for at least ten consecutive minutes at 130 degrees F. to kill the mites.
For those with allergies and asthma, consider changing pillow cases more frequently - every other day - since they are in direct contact with eyes, nose and mouth.
Bed pillows should also be washed regularly. Directions for cleaning feather, foam and polyester-filled pillows can be found here. “Mite-proof” cases on should be placed on all mattresses and pillows. Those covers should be washed at least monthly.
How to Reduce Dust Mites in Bathroom Towels and Bathmats
Even though the humidity of the bathroom helps reduce dry skin, dust mites will thrive there.
Towels and bathmats should be hung to dry thoroughly and as quickly as possible after each use. Towels and bath mats should be washed at least after two or three uses and in hot water.
How to Reduce Dust Mites on Stuffed Toys
If you have a child with asthma or allergies, stuffed toys should be washed frequently - especially if the child sleeps with the toy. Most fabric toys can be cleaned following these tips - even those that have music boxes.
How to Reduce Dust Mites on Curtains and Household Fabrics
The key to controlling dust mites is to reduce the number of places they can thrive. Removing wall-to-wall carpeting is one of the best steps. However, it is important to regularly clean area rugs and wash throw rugs. If you do have wall-to-wall carpet, have it steam cleaned regularly because the heat of the steam will kill the dust mites.
Choose leather or vinyl upholstery rather than fabric. Or, make upholstery easier to clean by using washable accessories like sofa covers and removable covers on throw pillows. Use a dust mite sanitizer vacuum on fabrics that can not be washed.
Skip heavy drapes that can not be washed. Opt for washable fabrics, shades, blinds or shutters.
In addition to regular vacuuming and dusting, remove as many dust collectors like artificial flowers, bric-a-brac and fabric wall hangings from the home, especially the bedroom.