Dust mites are microscopic creatures that thrive in warm, humid environments, such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, and upholstery. They measure only 0.2-0.3 millimeters in length and cannot be seen with the naked eye. Dust mites feed on dead skin cells shed by humans and pets, which can accumulate in bedding, upholstery, and carpet fibers.
Although dust mites themselves are harmless, their feces and body parts can trigger allergies and asthma in sensitive individuals. So, what can you do to control their population in your home?
Wash your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) once a week to kill dust mites and remove their allergens. If you do not want to wash your bedding in hot water, placing them in the dryer on high will also do the trick. It will also help to encase your mattresses, box springs, and pillows in allergy-proof covers made of tightly woven fabric that can trap dust mites and their feces.
Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to clean your carpets, rugs, upholstery, and drapes weekly. Dust surfaces with a damp cloth or a microfiber cloth that can capture dust and mites instead of spreading them in the air. Avoid using feather dusters or dry cloths, which can disperse dust and mites.
Maintain low humidity in your home by using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. Dust mites thrive in moist environments, so reducing the humidity can discourage their growth. Fix any leaks or water damage promptly to prevent mold growth, which can also trigger allergies.
Minimize clutter in your home, especially in the bedroom, where dust mites can accumulate on piles of clothes, books, and toys. Store items in plastic containers or bins that can be easily cleaned or wiped down.
Although you cannot completely eliminate a dust mite population from your home, the above suggestions will help to drastically reduce their numbers.
Mike McFadden, Certified Master Home Inspector in Orlando, FL