At the end of a long day, as you snuggle into your pillows and sheets, you may not realize how happy you’ve just made several million dust mites. More dust mites live in your bed than any other area of your home. During the day, they mull around in your mattress, waiting for you to return-because you are their absolutely favorite environment! Your body supplies them with warmth, food and water which is everything they require to flourish and raise their hordes of offspring.
I’m sure that the thought of your bed being full of dust mites makes your skin crawl-but even worse, these dust mites often make your allergies unbearable. It is impossible to exterminate every mite from your bed (or home for that matter), but if you are sensitive to dust mite allergens, then there are several methods you can use to reduce your exposure.
Because the majority of dust mites live in your bed, your bedroom is the best place to start your mite-proofing.
Hot Water Wash
Washing bedding once a week is recommended for anyone with dust mite allergies. For severe allergies or allergic asthma, you can try washing your sheets and pillow cases at a higher temperature (104-140 degrees F) as there is research that reveals this can kill dust mites and basically renders the allergen harmless. Certain delicate or brightly colored materials may not hold up well if they are constantly washed at high temperatures.
The Freezer Treatment
Putting porous items (like blankets, sheets, pillows, stuffed animals, etc) in plastic bags and putting them in the freezer for 48 hours will kill dust mites. After you remove your bedding from the freezer, make sure that you wash each article. The freezer may kill dust mites, but without rinsing away the dead mites and their fecal matter, you will still be exposed to their allergen.
Several companies sell anti-dust mite laundry additives that eliminate the need for washing in hot water temperatures. Typically they use one of several natural, essential oils to kill the mites, such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil or lavender oil. There also is a chemical called benzyl benozoate that is used in laundry additives and is known for eliminating dust mites.
Allergy Bedding and Encasements
Another valuable tip for keeping mite out of your room would be investing in some anti-dust mite bedding. The fabric used to make this sort of bedding has pores that are woven tight enough so that mites can’t penetrate them. Dust mites will retreat to the insides of your pillow and mattress when you are no longer in bed. Encasements become a barrier between you and dust mites which are naturally attracted by your body heat
HEPA Filter for your Bedroom
It is recommended that you run a HEPA filter to remove airborne dust mite waste and the mite’s food source-dead skin cells-from the air. Make sure that you only use an air purifier with a HEPA filter-ionizers (which are often claimed to be good for allergies) will cause dust mite allergen particles to stick together, but because of their tiny size, they do not become heavy enough to fall out of the air or be attracted to collection grids. HEPA air filters are preferred for relief from allergies asthma and endorsed by most allergists and allergy/asthma associations.
Vacuuming and Steam Cleaning Carpets
It has been found that sweeping with a regular vacuum may not actually remove dust mites, but rather redistribute them and cause more allergens to become airborne. Using a vacuum with rotating brushes does give substantially better results than one relying simply on suction-but now most HEPA filter vacuums are becoming increasingly affordable and are best suited to the job of cleaning up allergens. It is also suggested that steaming carpets every 2 months can greatly reduce dust mite numbers in carpets. It is important to use steam as opposed to hot water vacuums, because hot water vacs allows moisture to seep deep into the carpet and padding beneath. This extra moisture will create a population boom for the mites.
A Couple of Final Tips:
- Vacuuming increases airborne particles for about 20-30 minutes-so if you have allergies, have someone else do the vacuuming and step outside until all of the allergens settle back down.
- Never go to sleep with freshly-showered, damp hair-the ever-thirsty mites will crawl out of your bedding and flock to your head to wet their whistle.
- If you have severe dust mite allergies, your wall-to-wall carpeting may end up being your worst enemy. It may be worth it to invest in hardwood or laminate floors.
- Curtains should be washed as often as you wash your bedding. Long curtains harbor the most mites, but there are ways to give up curtains without throwing away your style: consider hanging some sophisticated bamboo or wooden blinds.