Cleaning

Got allergies? Here’s the secret to killing dust mites in your home

They're crawling all over your stuff

Girl with surprised face laying on purple carpet Credit: Getty Images / ideabug

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You’ve got textbook allergy symptoms—the sneezing, the itchy nose, the watery eyes. You’ve taken 24-hour allergy relief medicine and vacuumed the house completely, but you. still. suffer. What gives?

While you may be attributing common allergy symptoms to pet dander or seasonal pollen floating through the air, another contributing allergen is probably lurking all over your home—dust mites.

As gross as it sounds, these microscopic creatures exist just about everywhere, and they can lead to allergic reactions that feel similar to those caused by dust and pollen.

Here’s how to go about killing dust mites in your home, from the best cleaning tips to the must-have products.

What exactly are dust mites?

Dust mite
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There's a reason experts say to swap out your mattress every so often—millions of dust mites can accumulate on this surface over the course of just a few years.

Fact check: dust mites aren’t actually insects at all—they are small arthropods with eight little legs. They are invisible to the naked eye due to their extremely small size—one-third of a millimeter, to be exact—but they look like little white bugs under a microscope.

Dust mites feed on the dead skin cells that we shed. On average, the human body can shed up to 1.5 grams of skin in a day, which is just enough to feed a dust mite population of about one million, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). With this in mind, it’s not a stretch to say that these mites can thrive in nearly any home.

What harm do dust mites cause?

Dust mites don’t bite or burrow into our bodies, but they are a common instigator for allergic reactions.

Common symptoms of a dust mite allergy include sneezing, runny nose, itchy skin, along with other common allergy issues. If you believe you may be allergic to dust mites, you can be diagnosed and treated by a specialist. However, the AAFA says the most important step in dealing with a dust mite allergy is to avoid dust mites as much as possible.

Where do dust mites live?

laundry
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You should not only regularly wash your sheets and pillow covers, but any blankets or rugs (if they're washable) around the house, too.

Unfortunately, dust mites lurk just about everywhere. Bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and the laundry room are breeding grounds. Older homes, homes in humid regions, and homes where mildew odor is present are more likely to have more dust mites, says the American Lung Association (ALA).

Dust mite allergens don’t stay in the air for too long—they typically settle into soft fabrics like mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture. Because of this, humans are typically exposed to dust mite allergens whenever these fabrics are picked up and moved around, says the ALA. This could mean fluffing a pillow or making your bed in the morning can instantly project the allergens in the air again.

Here’s how to go about killing dust mites

Wash your linens regularly

When it comes to reducing dust mite allergens—and allergens in general—James Sublett, M.D., co-founder of Family Allergy & Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky, tells USA Today that the bedroom warrants the most attention. You’ll spend at least eight hours just sleeping there, let alone lounging where dust mites may be hiding.

Wash all of your bedding—including sheets, pillows, and comforter—at least once a week in the washing machine. Doing so helps get rid of both dust mites and their eggs before they hatch, says Sublett. To properly kill the dust mites and their eggs, you should wash your bed linens in hot water—at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact, according to the AAFA.

Invest in mattress covers and pillow covers

To prevent dust mites from clinging to your mattress, invest in a dust-proof mattress cover to protect it against dust mite allergens settling in. Make sure to get one that zippers up and keeps the mattress protected.

You also lay your head on your pillows every night, so protecting your pillows is just as important as your mattress. Using a pillow cover ensures that dust mite allergens won’t embed in the pillow itself, making weekly washes of your pillowcases the only dust mite-precaution you’ll need to take on them.

Keep up with vacuuming your home

vacuum
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Vacuuming is not the end all be all for dust mites—but it helps clear up some dust mite allergens and other irritating allergens.

Although vacuuming won’t fix your dust mite problem alone, it will most definitely help to clean up lurking allergens that causes those annoying allergy problems.

If you’re debating what kind of vacuum cleaner or filter you’ll need to properly remove dust mites, Jeffrey May, air quality consultant and author of My House is Killing Me tells Reviewed that any good vacuum cleaner—regardless of filter grade—should get the job done.

Make sure to target areas like carpet, rugs, and other soft fabrics since they can hold on to these mite allergens the most. Additionally, we recommend going for a vacuum that comes with plenty of handy add-on tools. The Dyson v11 Torque Drive vacuum cleaner—one of our favorites—includes a stubborn dirt brush and crevice tool to clean hard-to-reach nooks and soft fabric surfaces where dust mites cling.

For something more autonomous that can clean on its own, we recommend something like the iRobot Roomba i7+.

Use air purifiers in your home

Another smart way to reduce dust mites—along with several other household allergens—is by using an air purifier. While dust mite allergens aren’t airborne for very long, it’s easy to constantly stir them up by folding blankets, lounging on couches and beds, and vacuuming the house.

An air purifier will be game-changing for your allergy symptoms.

We have tested both regular air purifiers and HEPA air purifiers—and while either one will do the job, HEPA filter air purifiers are known to be the most effective in removing even the tiniest allergens. The decision is up to you, but if allergies are the core reason for your investment in an air purifier, we recommend a HEPA purifier. Our favorite one is the Winix 5500-2 that uses a combination of a True HEPA filter, an activated carbon filter, and plasma to properly clean the air.

Use a dehumidifier in humid climates

dehumidifier
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Keeping your home free of high humidity levels is a great way to prevent dust mites from coming back or laying eggs.

Humidity can lead to mold and mildew buildup, which in turn can lead to an even higher concentration dust mites (along with its own set of health risks).

The AAFA recommends ensuring that humidity levels remain under 50% in the house, as that can help keep dust mites at bay. If your home is susceptible to humidity, investing in a dehumidifier can mitigate the attraction of dust mites.

If you’re not sure which dehumidifier is right for your home’s size or circumstances, we’ve covered the best dehumidifier products and what you need to know before choosing one.

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