Dust Mites - Dispelling Common Myths and Steps That You Can Take To Get Rid Of Them

Facts About Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic organisms closely related to spiders and ticks. Dust mites thrive in the warm, humid, dark conditions inside of the fibrous materials that fill our homes: bedding, upholstered furniture, carpet, stuffed toys and old clothing. Dust mites are scavengers that feed primarily on the dead skin that falls off the bodies of humans and animals. So, it's no wonder that they crowd around the places where we spend most of our time. It's not actually the dust mites that cause the sneezing, the coughing, the runny noses, the stuffy noses, and the congestion that plagues 20 million Americans. It's their even smaller waste particles. While the dust mites are feasting on dead skin cells deep inside our pillows, mattresses, and carpet, the things we do everyday like walking across the room, turning over in bed, and vacuuming stir up their tiny waste particles for us to breathe. Throughout our fifteen years in the business, we have frequently heard several myths and misconceptions about dust mites. We'd like to a take a moment to dispel these myths before we take a look at how you can get rid of the dust mites in your home.

  • Air purifiers can trap/kill dust mites ?C A number of air purifier companies have gone on record saying that HEPA room air cleaners are effective at catching and trapping dust mites ?C as if they fly. Mites don't fly and are unlikely to even come into contact with a HEPA air cleaner. Even their allergenic waste particles are largely unaffected by HEPA air cleaners, because they settle back down quickly when stirred up into the air. Although HEPA air cleaners are ineffective against dust mites, they can play a very important role in eliminating other allergens like mold, pollen and animal dander from our homes.
  • Dust mites live in air ducts ?C This myth is sometimes perpetuated by companies that want to sell you their duct cleaning service, but it's not true. A small amount of the dust mite allergen that becomes airborne could settle in your ductwork, but ducts are far from the humid, fibrous environments where the mites live and produce their allergenic waste.
  • Dust mites bite ?C Dust mites are far too small to bite humans, but skin reactions to dust mite allergen may be the result of this myth. Dust mite waste and others allergens can trigger a reaction known as atopic dermatitis, a type of skin rash.
  • Dust mites live in all dust ?C You won't find live dust mites living in the dust on your bookshelf or in that dust "bunny" that skitters across your hard surface floor. Dust mites just can't survive on the surface of things; they need to burrow deep into bedding, upholstery, and carpeting.

Dust Mites' Weaknesses And How To Get Rid Of Them

If you wake up in the morning with a stuffy nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing, you may be reacting to mites in your bedding. Since you can't see them, you may feel somewhat powerless to deal with them. But, there are a number of ways to handle the mite problem that exploit their weaknesses while keeping your home perfectly safe for you, your family and your pets.

Dust Mites Need Friendly HabitatsBeds & Pillows - Dust mites' most troubling habitat is deep inside of our box springs, mattresses, and pillows where they form colonies. Encasings are the best way to fight these bedroom colonies. Encasings close off these environments with a barrier that dust mites and their allergenic waste can't pass through. The dust mites which are already there are trapped inside out of harms way and the dust mites outside can't burrow in and find a protected place to live.

Carpets, Rugs, & Upholstery - Carpets, rugs, and upholstery are another prime habitat for dust mites. Dust mites can't survive on hard surfaces like wooden, tile, and vinyl floors. Dust mites also have a hard time on leather, vinyl, and wooden furniture. When it's an option, hard floors and non-upholstered furniture make it much easier to keep a room free of allergens. When it's not an option, there are a number ways to get rid of dust mites and their allergens in your carpets and upholstery.

Dust Mites Cannot Survive Prolonged Exposure To Relative Humidity Below 45% Dust mites thrive in the homes of most Americans. But, the Americans that effortlessly live in dust mite free homes all have one thing in common - low relative humidity. The arid deserts in the southwestern part of the US and high altitudes have the fewest problems with dust mites. The bodies of dust mites are composed of 80% water and they absorb the water that they need from the air. Prolonged relative humidity below 45% will slow dust mite growth until the population is eventually eradicated. While it doesn't offer immediate relief, a dehumidifier can be an excellent tool in the long-term battle against dust mites, eventually turning your home into an environment where dust mites cannot live.

Dust Mites Cannot Survive Prolonged Exposure To Temperatures Over 140??ahrenheit Washing all of your bedding in hot water kills dust mites and gets rid of their allergens. If your hot water temperature is less than 140??a frequent precaution to prevent children from scalding themselves) or you'd rather not wash your delicate bedding in hot water, there is a laundry additive available which will kill dust mites during cold or warm water washes.

Certain Compounds Have Been Scientifically Proven To Kill Dust Mites and Breakdown Their Allergens Treatments that kill dust mites are known as acaricides. These treatments are used two different ways. Some of the treatments are designed to be applied to carpet and upholstery and others are used to treat bedding in your washing machine.
For carpet and upholstery treatment, we recommend Dustmite and Flea Control. Dustmite and Flea Control is a concentrated boron compound that mixes with water to form a clear, odorless solution that you can then spray on your carpets and upholstery. Borates are natural compounds that have been used for hundreds of years in applications ranging from cosmetics to laundry detergent to fertilizers to insect control. Borates work to kill dust mites by two mechanisms. First, they are known to be intestinal poisons upon ingestion by dust mite larvae. Second, they may act as dessicants, drying up the micoenvironment of the dust mite larvae in the carpet, making it an unfavorable environment for survival.
For treating bedding during cold and warm water washes, we recommend de-mite. de-mite is a laundry additive containing benzyl benzoate, tea tree oil, and oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate). Studies have shown all three ingredients to kill dust mites during the wash cycle. Benzyl Benzoate is commonly used in fragrances and is FDA approved for use in foods, primarily as a component of artificial flavorings.
There are also treatments which denature the dust mites' allergen. These treatments are primarily derived from tannic acid, a natural product found in oak bark, coffee, cocoa, and tea. These treatments breakdown the allergenic proteins in dust mite waste and animal dander so that they no longer cause allergic reactions. The one drawback to these tannic acid products is that they are light brown in color and can stain white and light colored materials. Thankfully, there is now an alternative to tannic acid based products for those of us with light carpets and upholstery. The alternative is Dustroy, a plant-based, non-toxic spray that neutralizes dust mite and animal dander proteins just like tannic acid.

Dust Mites vs. Dust Mite Allergens We've focused primarily on how to deal with the dust mites that are causing so many problems in our homes. It's important to remember that killing the dust mites doesn't necessarily get rid of the allergens they've already left behind. Many of the steps we've gone through on this page serve both ends. Encasings can trap the mother-lode of allergens keeping them out of harm's way and washing can get rid of the allergens in your bedding. Denaturing treatments and vacuuming with a HEPA-filtered vacuum get rid of the allergens in your carpet and upholstery. It's important to use a or because ordinary vacuums and vacuum bags cannot capture particles as small as dust mites and their waste, so they just end up spitting them right back out in the vacuum's exhaust.