Having been in the air purifier business since 2009, we have talked with a lot of people about dust. And this often leads to a discussion on dust mites.
What we have learned is that dust comes in a variety of forms and sizes. And it varies by geography. For example, someone in Phoenix may be dealing with dust from the desert. A family in Bakersfield, California may be dealing with dust that contains air pollution. Pet owners have their own set of dust challenges.
What are Dust Mites?
So, how is this related to dust mites? A dust mite is a tiny insect that often lives in household dust and contributes to household airborne allergens.
A single dust mite is roughly one third or a millimeter in length. Related to spiders, these tiny insect-like bugs do not bite, sting, burrow, or directly impact our bodies in any way. It’s their leavings, including skin cells and droppings, that create health issues.
Dust mites are too small to see with the naked eye. You need to use a microscope to see them.
Dust mite allergies show up as a runny nose or sneezing. It’s also common to have signs of asthma with difficulty breathing and prolonged wheezing. Some people have symptoms of itchy skin. Dust mites do not bite, but they do feed off things like dead skin, and the problem they cause is exacerbating allergy and asthma symptoms.
Dust Mites: Not to Be Confused with Bed Bugs
Dust mites are commonly found on mattresses, which leads many people to confuse them with bed bugs. Bed bugs, however, are a separate species. Dust mites, while certainly unpleasant, do not bite like bed bugs, which are larger and leave marks on skin.
If you find bite marks after sleeping, you likely have bed bugs or a different biting insect. Bite marks are not an indication of dust mites.
Under What Conditions do Dust Mites Thrive?
Dust mites found in the home have a specific environment that they prefer. These little bugs tend to thrive in warm areas with high humidity, which makes many places in the home ideal.
The best conditions for growth for a dust mite is 75 to 80 degrees, along with 70% to 80% relative humidity. These bugs can absorb moisture through their skin, leaving them vulnerable to dehydration, which means that humidity levels in the home can have a strong impact on the overall growth and survival rates of dust mites.
Therefore, in dry locations, such as the American southwest, dust mites tend to be less frequent, although virtually any home from coast to coast can have these microscopic insects.
Food, as you might have guessed, is rarely an issue for dust mites, especially when they live in an occupied home. Their main food source is actually skin flakes from humans and pets that are shed in the house.
Mammals and other animals shed skin cells on a regular basis as our bodies continually renew, and these skin flakes become the food of microscopic dust mites. For this reason, dust mites tend to be found in areas where the most skin is shed, including beds, couches, and pet pillows.
The Life Cycle of Dust Mites
Like many insects, dust mites go through different life stages. In this case, there are five different life stages for a dust mite: egg, larva, protonymph, tritonymph and adult. Between life stages, the mites will molt, which means they shed their outer skin.
When temperatures, as well as the relative humidity, are ideal, the dust mites will shed their skin and go from one stage to another. This skin-shedding is one of the main contributors to poor air quality caused by dust mites.
Matured adult dust mites only live about two months, but their continual regeneration makes them extremely difficult to remove, and allows them to spread and increase at a rapid pace.
Where are You Likely to Find Dust Mites?
Dust can be found in many different places. Practically any cloth, surface, or corner can harbor this pesky little insects, but you will find that most are located in a few specific areas.
Dust mites are typically found in places where you spend most of your time, as these are the areas that collect the most skin cells, which are the top food source for dust mites. For this reason, the mattress is usually the place where the most dust mites are found.
We tend to shed a lot of our skin cells directly off of our heads. This is especially true for people with dry scalps and dander. This makes pillows one of the most common places for dust mites, so washing and sanitizing your pillows and pillow covers may be a necessary step.
Plush, comfortable, and relaxing, a couch is often the most treasured piece of furniture in a home. Many people will spend hours on a couch, which means the comfy cozy padding could become a home for numerous dust mites. The blankets and pillows frequently used on a couch can also be an issue.
If you have a dog or cat in the home, you likely have a bed just for them. Perhaps you have a simple blanket, or maybe the pet has their own comfy chair.
This relaxing pet bed, just like your own bed, can become a home for dust mites. You want to regularly clean your pet's bedding along with your own to reduce the amount of dust mites.
Rugs and Carpet
Fabrics often hold and trap dust for years, and vacuuming can only remove so much. Rugs that have a lot of dust can easily become a common place for dust mites, especially areas near couches and beds, which may hold more dust than other locations.
Just like couches, padded chairs can absorb a lot of dust, dander, and skin cells. These areas can harbor a surprising amount of dust, and you may discover that your chair is also home to thousands of dust mites.
Car Seats (Including Children’s Seats)
A study conducted by researchers at the National University of Ireland wanted to discover whether dust mites, a common household allergen, is also found in car seats, including both driver’s seats and child seats.
After collecting samples and counting mites, the conclusion was clear: child car seats and driver seats clearly hold a significant amount of dust mites. So much so that the levels are large enough to “aggravate allergen related illnesses in individuals who are genetically predisposed.”
We often think of dust mites as little creatures hiding in cloth and pillows, but sometimes hard surfaces can hold these little vermin as well. If your hardwood floors, tabletops, bookshelves, and other hard surfaces are not dusted, they can inevitably become one of the biggest sources of dust mites in the home.
Anywhere there is dust, there can be dust mites. Hard-to-reach corners of the home, where dust often collects, are also places where you may find mites. Clean for dust near corners, floor trim, cabinets, and behind furniture to reduce the overall levels of dust mites in your home.
Health Risks Associated with Dust Mites
At this point, the big question is: “so what?” It might be unpleasant to think about, but why does it matter if there are dust mites in the home if there are mold spores and viruses outside? There is bacteria in our stomachs; maybe it’s not such a big deal if there are dust mites in our pillows and bedding.
There can be a significant health concern if dust mites are found in large concentrations. While you could have dust mites and never notice, if you have a lot of dust mites, as well as allergies to the airborne pollution that they produce, then you will likely notice a major problem from dust mites.
Typically, dust mite symptoms involve the nasal passages, as lots of dust-mite particles are inhaled through the nose. This means that sneezing is very common if you are in the presence of dust mites, and a runny nose can also occur often. You can experience nasal congestion, itchy nose, and a postnasal drip. If you have a child, these symptoms may lead the child to rub his or her nose, which is an indicator of the problem.
There is also the chance that dust mites could cause a problem with your eyes. Many people who are either allergic to dust mites, or simply sensitive to their airborne particles, may experience itchy or watery eyes. The eyes could become irritated, and you may be tempted to rub them, which could lead to further irritation. There can also be swelling or a blue color under the eyes, or a redness in the eyes themselves.
Someone may also have problems with their face in general. It is not uncommon for someone who is affected by dust mites to have facial pressure and pain. Likewise, someone could have irritation or even itching in the roof of their mouth or in the throat.
Unfortunately, dust mites can also cause problems with asthma. If you have asthma and are exposed to air pollutants from dust mites, you could experience a wide range of issues, including difficulty breathing. This is one of the most common issues with asthma, and it’s not unheard of for dust mites to contribute to this problem.
Chest tightness is also a concern that is associated with asthma, as is wheezing and coughing. Dust mites, while they don’t cause asthma, can trigger an asthma attack, which leads to these symptoms. Asthma can also be triggered by trouble sleeping, which is often caused by a shortness of breath or nighttime coughing and wheezing.
All of these are made worse if the asthma victim is suffering from bouts of respiratory problems caused by a virus, such as a flu or cold.
Where Does Dust Come From?
To understand dust mites, it helps to understand dust. Dust consists of a variety of particles found in your local environment. This may be from soil, pollen, hair, dead skin, paper fibers, and your pets. Surprising, it could also contain “burnt meteorite particles” also known as meteor dust. Who knew?
Anyways, dust is a combination of all of this stuff and dust mites make their home in it. They need proper conditions to thrive and do best in places that are dark, humid, and warm.
They also need a food source. Besides water or a humid environment, they need dust, which exists in every home. It’s impossible to completely rid your home of dust and therefore is not possible to have a home that is completely free of dust mites. The goal is to minimize dust and therefore dust mites and your allergic reactions to them.
Dust mites are most commonly found in or around bedding, carpets, fibers from clothing or in the air especially after vacuuming or dusting.
Dust with dust mites can be suspended in the air for hours and when you inhale their airborne particles, it leads to breathing issues.
The University of Kentucky Entomology Department have shared this: “Microscopic dust mite particles (especially feces) can remain suspended in the air for hours and be inhaled. To help remove these allergens, HEPA air purifiers can be installed in the central air conditioning and heating system of the home. HEPA filters can also be used within portable air cleaners, placed in bedrooms and other critical areas of the house.”
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites in a Room
There are several things you can do to remove dust mites for you to breathe and feel better. Again, you are not going to remove 100% of them but can significantly reduce the numbers to feel better.
- Dust mites need a water source. With the use of a dehumidifier or air conditioner you can keep the relative humidity below 50%. This is relevant to the summer months of if you live in a warmer climate. Learn more at how humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air purifiers compare.
- Dust mites also need a food source so try to get rid of their food sources or places where they can thrive. A good example is to remove carpeting and replace with a hard floor. It’s also important to keep things clean. But, this presents a problem. When you vacuum you tend to kick up the dust mites which then stay suspended in the air. So, in cleaning you expose yourself to the very things are you trying to stay away from. A HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner can help although from our testing we have shown these to be only minimally effective. Wearing a mask or getting someone else that does not suffer from dust allergies to vacuum for you is better. Yes, an excuse to get out of vacuuming. If you have a family member that suffers from dust allergies, it’s best for them to be away from the room being cleaned.
- Use a HEPA air purifier for dust removal. You need a high quality HEPA filter with sufficient air flow to effectively clean your room so you are not breathing in the dust mites and whatnot.
- Cover your pillows and mattress in an allergen cover. Wash all bedding and blankets at least weekly in hot water to kill the dust mites. Yes, these are living organisms and can be better controlled with frequent washing.
- When dusting, use a damp cloth. Dusting with a dry cloth just sends the dreaded dust and dust mite allergens into the air.
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites: More Steps You Can Take
Now comes the big question; the entire purpose of this article: how do we reduce and eliminate dust mites in our homes? There are many techniques that are effective for reducing the amount of dust mites, and it often comes down to killing the mites themselves and reducing their main food source: household dust.
Reduce the Household Temperature
Earlier, we mentioned how dust mites love warm, damp climates, so one of the best steps to reduce the concentration of these bugs is to disrupt their comfortable habitat. This means reducing the temperature in your home so it is not comfortable for dust mites.
Generally, the mites thrive in temperatures about 75 to 80 degrees, and they prefer a relative humidity that is around 70 to 80%. By lowering the temperature in your home, and reducing the humidity through dehumidifiers and other technologies, you can actually have a better chance at lower levels of dust mites.
Set your indoor temperature to 70 degrees, which is a perfectly comfortable level for most people. If you can tolerate a few degrees cooler, you can live with less chances for dust mites.
Clean Dust on a Regular Basis
Dust is the main source of food for dust mites, so if you can take away their food source, you can significantly reduce the pest. Look around your house and find places where dust tends to accumulate, then wipe these areas with a damp cloth or a microfiber duster.
Whatever you do, be sure that you are picking up dust and not just moving it around. (Feather dusters simply scatter dust about the home, so they don’t really solve any problems.) Dusty cabinets and countertops can also harbor dust mites, so you will want to thoroughly wash these areas as well.
Vacuuming is an essential part of dust cleaning, as it’s one of the best ways to actually capture dust, dander, and many other airborne pollutants and allergens. If possible, use a vacuum that comes equipped with a sealed HEPA filter, which will provide better removal or microscopic particles. (Regular vacuums are great for cleaning large dust particles, but they can often scatter smaller particles into the air.)
Wash Fabrics in Hot Water
Dust mites are not particularly fond of hot water. When you wash pillow cases, sheets, and blankets, make sure the temperature setting on your laundry machine is set to high, as this will give you the best chance at killing and removing a large amount of dust mites.
Washing your bedding at temperatures around 135 degrees will eliminate many of the dust mites while removing dust itself from the cloth. If any mites survive the wash, a hot dryer should take care of the rest. If you are serious about keeping down dust mites, clean your sheets in this manner at least once a week.
Use High-Quality Carpet Cleaners and Steam Cleaners
Many of the dust mites in your home are hiding in the carpet, but you can attack them where they stay by using a steam cleaner in your house. Steam cleaners are a great way to clean things that are not suitable for washing machines, such as carpets and rugs.
Steam cleaners can deliver temperatures as high as 250 degrees, which means they can kill lots of dust mites. Carpets, cushions, bathroom surfaces, and other hard-to-reach areas are perfect for a steam cleaner.
Freeze the Mites
A child’s toy like a stuffed animal is likely to collect a lot of dust mites, and many of them cannot be ran through laundry machines. However, extreme cold is just as likely to kill dust mites as extreme heat.
Take your children’s favorite toys and place them in a sealed bag. Then place them in the freezer overnight (or during the day if it’s your child’s nighttime comfort) and you will have destroyed many, if not all, of the dust mites on that toy. For the best results, try freezing your child’s toy for 24 hours.
Use Hypoallergenic Mattress Covers and Pillow Cases
Hypoallergenic mattresses and pillow covers effectively stop dust mites from infesting your bed. A mattress cannot be completely dust free, but you can reduce the amount of dust mites by using the right products. The right mattresses and pillow covers will significantly reduce the amount of dust mites in your bedding.
Choose Hard Flooring over Carpets
Carpet, as we mentioned above, is a common hiding place for dust and dust mites. For this reason, you may want to consider using hardwood or tile flooring instead of carpeting. With hard flooring, you will have a far easier time cleaning the surface, which means you can remove dust more effectively and, in turn, reduce the chances of dust mites.
Get Rid of Soft Drapes and Curtains
Like all soft fabrics, drapes and curtains can collect dust, which means they can also collect dust mites. Replace any soft drapery with a hard material. Plastic is the obvious choice, but you can also choose something more fashionable, such as wooden shades to give your home a warm, stylish look without creating the perfect domicile for dust mites.
Use an Air Purifier for Dust
Of all the techniques you can use to reduce the amount of dust in your home, having an air purifier is one of the easiest and most convenient. With a top-quality air purifier, you will have a machine that is constantly reducing the overall amount of contaminants in your home, leading to fewer airborne particles, including those created by dust mites.
Improve Your Home’s Air Quality with an Oransi Air Purifier
You deserve the best air quality for your home, so purchase an Oransi air purifier and take advantage of our advanced materials and world-class designs. Whether you want to reduce dust mites in your bedroom or clean the air in a commercial space, we have the right air purifier for your needs!
Have more questions?
Please contact us and our knowledgeable and helpful customer service team would be happy to help.