Dust mites are the bane of allergy sufferers. About ten percent of the population is allergic to them, while around eighty percent of those with allergies are allergic to dust mites.
They’re also very difficult to kill. Yet dust mites can be killed by extreme temperatures and humidity levels. Let’s look at what environmental conditions can kill them and how you can use this information to eliminate dust mites in your home.
Dust mites love humidity levels of 75 to 80 percent (relative humidity). They can survive at humidity levels of 55 and 65 percent. Humidity levels below 50 percent kill them. This is because they don’t drink water like most animals we see. Instead, they absorb moisture directly from the air.
However, that is the relative humidity level. If the humidity level in your home is 40 percent, those dust mites living off your sweat and skin flakes may continue to thrive.
Note that the humidity levels need to be kept this low throughout your house for three months straight to kill most of the dust mites.
When humidity spikes in the late summer, lower the humidistat that much lower and make sure you empty the water reservoir that much more often.
How Can I Use Humidity Levels to Control Dust Mites?
Dust mites love temperatures around room temperature and high levels of humidity. Installing a dehumidifier in your room to bring down humidity levels will make it difficult for them.
Get humidity levels to 40 percent or lower, and you’ll not only kill most dust mites but control mold and mildew. A side benefit of running a dehumidifier is that it can help control dust.
Another factor to consider is the humidity in your bedding and upholstery. Dust mites love warm, humid surfaces. They also eat dead skin cells. If you are sweating heavily in bed, you’re providing both.
So is a child who repeatedly wets the bed. Wash all layers of the bedding when this happens, and thoroughly dry it. Never try to save time by spreading damp blankets on the bed to dry.
Yet another issue is eliminating the damp, warm spaces where dust mites might be hiding. Wash your towels and knit bath mats often. Lift your bed up off the ground so that cool dry air can circulate under it.
How Can I Kill Dust Mites?
High temperatures will kill dust mites; 130-degree heat is the necessary threshold. This is why running your rugs and bedsheets through the dryer at high temperatures can kill them. Hot, dry air is even better.
Dust mites can hide in the cracks of your wood floors and the fibers of your carpets. Running a steaming vacuum over the surfaces will kill nearly one hundred percent of the dust mites.
However, it is their bodies and waste that causes allergies, so you’ll need to vacuum the treated area to remove the mass that truly causes your allergies.
This has the side benefit of letting you kill the dust mites without using chemicals. Don’t forget to use a hot steamer to clean your upholstery.
Yet you have to be careful with the steam vacuums and steam cleaners since some of them just jet humid air that doesn’t kill dust mites. And carpet cleaning that leaves the floor damp otherwise is a disaster for you and wonderful for dust mites.
What Else Can I Do to Control Dust Mites?
Cover your bed in a plastic cover so that dust mites can’t hide in the mattress. If you buy a new bed, wrap it in the tight plastic cover before you sleep on it.
Don’t have unnecessary blankets or pillows on the bed. Another option is getting a memory foam mattress. Dust mites can’t burrow into it, though they can live on the surface until you vacuum them up.
Vacuum everything. Vacuum your curtains and pet beds. After all, dust mites will eat your pet’s dead skin, too. Wash the throw pillows on the couch and comforter in the corner. Wash plush toys, too, since dust mites can live in these.
Wash your bedding once a week, ideally in water that is at least 130 degrees F. This will kill dust mites as well as remove them. Then dry it thoroughly before putting on the bed.
This is much simpler than trying to soak your bedding in eucalyptus oil mixtures. Vinegar won’t kill them, though they’ll avoid areas sprayed by vinegar.
In theory, freezing the items you can’t wash will kill dust mites. They’re killed by temperatures below 32 degrees F. Wrapping the items in plastic, sealed from the air and human contact, for at least a month will kill both dust mites and bed bugs. (Dust mites have an 80-day life cycle.)
On the other hand, wrapping the bedding in an airtight bag and leaving it in a literally freezing garage or a freezing deck for at least two days will kill the dust mites.
This is a tactic you can use with decorative pillows and delicate fabrics you are afraid to run through the washing machine. Note that you need to wash the items to remove the dust mites’ bodies and their waste, the things you are actually allergic to.
Shaking items like curtains out while outside is a distant, second-best solution. You can leave dog chew toys and other toys in an open wicker basket to let them freeze, too.
You can get things done faster if you have a drying rack outside. However, the task should only be done when there is no precipitation like fog or snow. The moist air could fuel dust mite growth when you’re trying to kill them.
Bring in an item where you’ve killed the dust mites but meltwater bleeds into the floor, and you’re feeding the few dust mites that remain. And dust mites breed fast.
Know that the temperature needs to be below 32 degrees for at least 24 hours straight and ideally 48 hours. If it warms up to 45 degrees in the afternoon, a fraction of the dust mites will survive. And the moisture from the thawing ice crystals will nourish them.