If you’ve recently tuned into any number of television shows that use special cameras to show how dirty “clean” rooms actually can be due to the presence of invisible, microscopic dust mites, you know that dust mites aren’t pretty. These spiderlike arachnids thrive on your dust. Sloughed-off human skin makes up a whopping 70% of dust, with dirt, soil, pet dander, mold, bacteria, toxic chemicals such as pesticides, lead, and insects making up the remaining 30%.
The dust mite allergen, found in mite feces and body parts from dead mites, plays a strong role in the development of asthma, hay fever and other allergic diseases. A large percentage of children and young adults who suffer from asthma are sensitive to dust mites.
Adding to the gross-out factor is the fact that dust mites thrive in what is to most of us a beloved haven – our beds. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has produced studies that suggest that the bedding in more than 45% of American households have a level of dust mite concentration that exceeds the level equated with allergic sensitization.
What is the material of your sheets? Because polyester bedding traps moisture, it is a breeding ground for dust mites, who thrive in moist, warm, dark places. Switch to natural fiber bedding that wicks off moisture, breathes, and works with your body and not against it. Organic bedding is ideal for health because there will be no undesirable chemicals, such as pesticide residue, to further pollute your bedding. Organic wool is the ideal choice as dust mites are repelled by its natural lanolin. In addition to bedding, dust mites can be found anywhere there is dust – floors, curtains, carpeting, etc.
Having an allergy haven as a bedroom is your number one priority. Keeping your bedroom clean will help reduce the mite population there. Here are some simple, effective cleaning tips:
- Wash linens weekly in hot water in order to kill mites.
- Avoid fuzzy bedding – they attract and accumulate dust.
- Buy a new pillow every six months.
- Buy wool bedding. Dust mites are repelled by its natural lanolin.
- Eliminate or store clutter in covered containers so that you will be able to remove dust from desks and furniture.
- Let the sun shine in – direct sunlight kills mites. Hanging bedding outside in the sun will have the same effect. The downside is that outdoor allergens might be captured on bedding.
- Steam-clean carpeting to remove and deter growth of mites.
- Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with washable rugs where possible. Even better, go with hard wood floors.
- Use a dehumidifier when the humidity is above 40%.
- Vapor steam-clean mattresses and any other bedding that isn’t washable to kill mites, fungus and bacteria.
- Vacuum weekly with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum to remove microparticulates regular vacuums don’t catch. Likewise, use a HEPA air filter near the bed when no one is in the room (so as not to have dust moving through the air).
- Wipe down floors, walls, woodwork, and ceiling with this DIY “green” dust mop. The acidity of the vinegar will help neutralize allergens.
Combine one part vinegar with one part vegetable glycerin. Soak a soft, clean, dust-free cloth in the mixture until it has absorbed most of it. Remove cloth, gently squeezing out excess liquid, then cover a mop with the cloth. Dispose of cloth when finished using.