Microscopic dust mites create HUGE health issues for both humans and pets. While an inevitable part of our ecosystem, it’s important to understand where dust mites thrive in our homes, and the proper strategies to eliminate dust mites from our indoor environments.
In my profession, I help people who suffer from indoor air quality-related illnesses. Dust mites are a significant contributing factor to poor indoor air quality, so I thought it would be good for me to write this article and share some dust mite remedies with you.
Dust mite allergy
Dust mites eat, so dust mites poop. Each dust mite excretes up to 20 times per day and their fecal pellets are equal in toxicity to the most toxic black mold.
Inhalation of dust mite elimination material can directly cause, or at a minimum, contribute to sleep difficulties, snoring, sinus infection, headaches, memory loss, ADD, and ADHD, as well as common allergy symptoms.
Dust mite skeletons
Entire dust mite populations reproduce themselves every 30 days, leaving millions of microscopic skeletons behind with allergenic proteins that can also be easily inhaled.
Dust mite bites
Dust mite bites are more common than most people realize. When you scratch your skin or your scalp, the reason is often dust mite bites. Dust mites only eat dead skin, but they can accidentally bite living skin. You instantly feel it, and then instinctively scratch the area. However, an occasional dust mite bite is not the chief health concern I want to teach you about.
Dust mite rash
When people experience a dust mite rash on the skin, it could be caused by biting, but not likely so. Typically, these rashes are caused by sensitive skin coming into direct contact with mite fecal matter or inhaling mites, and their waste products which then allows toxins to enter the blood and manifest as a skin rash.
A thin dead corpse
Approximately 80% of the dust particles in homes consist of dead skin cells. We shed approximately 35,000 skin cells from our bodies every minute.
The majority of dust particles that settle on surfaces are essentially a thin dead corpse that becomes a nutritionally-rich food source for scavengers such as dust mites. Dust control is an essential part of reducing allergies to dust mites.
Providing water for your mites
We all know how our skin produces liquid water (sweat) to help our bodies cool down through evaporation. Less known, except by dust mites, our bodies continuously emit moisture vapor from the surface of our skin.
When I was doing research on dust mites, I turned on my hygrometer underneath the covers when I went to bed. I was astounded by how rapidly the humidity increased under the covers simply from moisture vapor emitting off of my skin. This is the moisture that allows dust mites to thrive in beds.
All night long, we saturate our pillows and bedding with this moisture, plus we rub billions of dead skin cells into our pillows and sheets, providing all the moisture and food they need to thrive. It’s no wonder an average bed harbors approximately ten million dust mites.
Did your mom teach you to make your bed every day?
When making a bed in the morning, you trap moisture in the bedding, thereby ensuring dust mites have a wonderful day eating food and making baby mites. In some countries, people take bedding outdoors daily to dry it out and to be exposed to the disinfecting rays of the sun. That’s probably not too practical for most of us.
- Leaving your bed unmade for at least one hour
- Drape the covers back toward the foot of the bed
- Prop the pillows up to expose both sides
This allows the moisture that penetrated deep into the pillows and bedding during the night to evaporate. Dust mites then shrivel up like raisins and die.
The photos show an example of the difference between hydrated and dehydrated dust mites.
Wash your bedding
In the time you’ve spent reading this article, your body has shed hundreds of thousands of particles. These are the particles that turn bathwater and washing machine water gray. At the speed we shed these particles it doesn’t take very long to saturate bedding and pillows with plenty of dust mite food. This is especially true for those not using dust mite covers to limit the depth of penetration of skin cells to the upper layer of pillowcases and sheets.
If you wish to control dust mite allergies, I recommend the following:
- Dust mite covers on pillows
- Dust mite mattress cover
- Weekly washing of bedding
- And, if you have pets, wash or vacuum their beds too
Do not use dust mite spray
I would caution against the use of dust mite spray. Dust mite problems do not exist due to a lack of dust mite spray, they exist because of ample supplies of food and moisture. Additionally, many dust mite spray products interfere with indoor air quality, including those products that claim to be all natural.
Dust mite removal from carpets
Carpets and rugs can harbor millions of mites, resulting in an accumulation of skeletal and fecal allergens in the fibers. These contaminants are continually liberated into the air when walking on carpet or recirculated in the air with a poor quality vacuum.
There’s nothing wrong with carpet. I have carpet throughout most of my home and I love it. But carpet must be regularly vacuumed just like hard surface flooring needs to be regularly mopped.
Simply using a dust mite vacuum cleaner bag may not be sufficient. Some bags advertise as being efficient for dust mites. However, this can be somewhat deceiving. A dust mite is huge in comparison to the toxic fecal pellets they produce that could pass right through a low-quality dust mite vacuum bag.
Purchase the best dust mite vacuum you can afford. It should incorporate HEPA filtration and have good rubber gaskets around canisters and bags to prevent recirculating particles into the air.
Dust mites inside air ducts
If you have sufficient humidity inside your home, dust mites can thrive within the dust lying inside air ducts. By controlling indoor humidity, dust mites will shrivel up and air ducts will not become a source of airborne contaminants.
If it is suspected that a home has had high indoor humidity and the ducts are dirty, it’s probably a good idea to clean them.
To learn about the many sources of indoor humidity, including some you haven’t thought of, and also learn the tricks to control residual humidity, I recommend reading DIY Mold Inspection – Part 2: Hidden Moisture Sources. This book covers all the bases for you.
Don’t forget dust mites in your refrigerator
To keep your food cold, the cooling coil, located underneath most refrigerators, must circulate air through it. As it does, the coil collects lots of dust particles.
Most people don’t realize it, but a dirty refrigerator cooling coil can house millions of dust mites. Like spiders, dust mites have eight legs. This means they can hang on when the refrigerator fan circulates air through the coil. However, their fecal pellets can be blown out from the coil and into the air of your home.
This is another area that requires periodic cleaning with a HEPA vacuum. Many of these coils are difficult to clean with traditional vacuum cleaner attachments. There are special brushes and crevice tools designed specifically for cleaning these coils that can be purchased online or in retail stores.
How often you clean the coil depends on the family size and number of house pets. I recommend marking the calendar to inspect the refrigerator coil every month.
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