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When it’s laundry day and you’re stripping the bed sheets and shaking out the blankets, are you doing enough to clean effectively? The truth is, dust mites hide in the high touch point areas of your home, and it takes some special attention and care to nix them for good. Here, experts explain exactly how to get rid of dust mites and why it’s important to clean your home regularly for your family’s health.
What are dust mites?
These little bugs can hide all over your home, are smaller than the eye can see, and can do some serious damage to your health if left alone.
“Dust mites are microscopic insects or mites that live in areas that are upholstered or humid. They’re usually a very common indoor allergy,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network. “They aren’t harmful to humans unless you are allergic.” She adds they tend to hide in upholstery, carpets, rugs, box springs, mattresses, and pillows.
Dr. Parikh says the major concern with dust mites is when someone has allergies to them. If you have allergies to dust mites, Dr. Parikh warns they may cause allergy symptoms and reactions or even a flare of asthma or breathing issues. Craddock adds that it’s most often the mites’ dead bodies or excretions that trigger symptoms, which tend to present as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, stuffy nose, upper respiratory issues, or eczema.
Dr. Parikh suggests visiting a board-certified allergist or immunologist to determine if you have an allergy to dust mites. Once your allergy is confirmed, you can work with your healthcare provider to determine if immunotherapy treatment is the best option for you.
Though you can find dust mites in commercial buildings, like your office, you’re more likely to find them in your home—especially in your bedroom, says Joel Craddock, International Sanitary Supply Association Cleaning Institute Master Trainer and CEO of Doc’s Facilities Solutions Inc. They prefer dark, soft surfaces with high humidity, which is why your clothing, pillows, toys, and other bedroom items tend to have a high volume.
Additionally, dust mites aren’t found as often in cooler or dry climates, so the Southern United States in the summer tends to have more than say, Arizona in the winter, Craddock adds.
So, you can just keep an eye out for the bugs, right? Well, unfortunately not. These mites are so tiny, you actually can’t see them with the human eye or feel them on your body, Craddocks explains. But they likely aren’t crawling all over you without you knowing (thank goodness!). Craddock says they mostly feed on human skin cells, so they’ll hide in mattresses, blankets, pillows, and sheets where you lose the majority of your skin cells while you sleep or carpets and heavy draperies where the conditions are ideal.
How to get rid of dust mites
Dr. Purvhi says you can buy dust mite covers that zip around the mattress and box spring for an effective way to create a barrier between you and the mites. You can also purchase hypoallergenic covers for pillows and slipcovers for fabric furniture, adds Craddock. He suggests opting for a more expensive cover that will last 10 to 20 years because some of the cheaper options will only last a year or two. Try one of these best hypoallergenic pillows for people with allergies.
Wash your bedding
Dr. Purvhi suggests washing your bedding in hot water at least once per week to remove dust mites. In addition to using detergent to release dirt, Craddock suggests using an additive to the water to release dust mites specifically. Plus, he suggests checking the bottle for instructions. Though dust mites will die in high temperatures, some products are designed to be used in cooler water to help save you money.
Clean your carpets
Remove rugs and carpets to wash in hot water or vacuum carpeted areas you can’t remove, Dr. Purvhi recommends. Craddock says vacuuming once a week with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter should do the trick. He adds that you could also steam the carpets at a high temperature to kill off any remaining dust mites. Try one of these best HEPA vacuum cleaners.
Don’t sleep with stuffed animals
These can harbor dust mites, so keeping them out of your bed is ideal to keep the space clear, especially for young children with allergies, Dr. Purvhi says.
Drop the temperature
Dr. Purvhi says that dust mites love warm, humid spaces. By keeping the temperature in your home low, you eliminate the risk of harboring too many mites. If you’re unable to control the temperature, Craddock says a dehumidifier can help keep your space dry, which isn’t as livable for mites.
Swap out your heavy draperies for blinds instead, Craddock suggests. He says heavy draperies can often hide dust mites and can be difficult to clean.
Savor the sun
Craddock says sunshine can effectively kill off dust mites. When the weather is nice, he suggests hanging comforters, covers, and blankets out on a clothing line to dry in the sun and nix any remaining dust mites.
Clean with a damp cloth
Instead of redistributing dust mites into the air with a feather duster or dry cleaning method, Craddock says a damp microfiber cloth with water or an all-purpose cleaner is great to capture dust and mites from harder surfaces.
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