Dust mites are microscopic creatures that live everywhere people do. The mites feed on dead human skin that falls of the body, so you will find them in your bedclothes, mattress, carpets and upholstered furniture. You're surrounded, and there is no way to rid yourself of dust mites completely. Now that you're grossed out and feeling itchy, it's time for the good news: You can greatly reduce the number of dust mites you live with through frequent house cleaning and the use of proper cleaning techniques. There are also ways to exclude them from certain areas and make life generally unpleasant for them.
Dry Them Out
Remember that mites are living creatures and need certain conditions to survive. One such condition is humidity. For dust mites, hanging out in a home with an 80 percent humidity level is like a day at the beach. Close the beach with a dehumidifier. Lowering the humidity level in your home to 35 percent is ideal, but that is too low for some people and could make you uncomfortable. If so, aim for a humidity level below 50 percent. This will make the dust mites uncomfortable without bothering you.
Dust and Vacuum
No matter how much you may hate housework, dust mites hate it more. When you vacuum and dust, you pluck dust mites out of their happy home and send them to their deaths. To begin your cleaning chores, dust the hard surfaces of your home. Use a damp cloth to actually collect and hold the dust particles. A dry cloth simply moves the dust around, allowing it to resettle elsewhere. Start at the highest surfaces and work your way down. When you're done, throw your dust cloth in the laundry, washing it in hot water.
After you dust, vacuum your upholstered furniture, curtains, carpets and floors. The vacuum will pull out any dust mites that have taken up residence in your fabrics while picking up any that you disturbed or dropped while dusting. For optimal dust mite control, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Opt for an old-fashioned bag vacuum. Those with canisters and washable filters aren't as good at trapping mites.
Banish Mites from Bedding
Dust mites hang out where you do, and they love your bed. To get rid of them, wash your sheets and blankets in hot water once a week. It takes water temperatures of 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to kill dust mites, so warm water probably won't do the trick. If you have a large comforter or duvet that can't be machine-washed. place it in the freezer for 24 hours to kill the mites. Down and feather bedding materials are notorious for holding dust mites and being difficult to clean well. Consider replacing this type of bedding with a synthetic material.
While your sheets are in the wash, thoroughly vacuum your mattress and pillows. If your mattress needs a refresh, sprinkle some baking soda on it and let it sit for 15 minutes before you vacuum. After vacuuming, seal your pillows and mattress in dust-proof covers. Available at most bed and bath stores, dust-proof covers seal your bedding and prevent dust mites from gaining access to your mattress and pillow in the future.
For most people, a bit of basic housekeeping is adequate for controlling dust mites. Some people are allergic to dust mites, however, and may need to go beyond the usual control measures. If you or a family member suffers from dust allergies, you'll need to remove as much dust mite habitat from your home as possible. Get rid of wall-to-wall carpeting in favor of hard flooring surfaces like wood, laminate and tile. If you prefer the cozy feel of carpet, use small area rugs made of easily laundered materials. Replace fabric furniture with wooden rocking chairs, leather couches and other pieces made from materials unattractive to dust mites. Replace window curtains with blinds.
Home is where the heart is, and Michelle frequently pens articles about ways to keep yours looking great and feeling cozy. Whether you want help organizing your closet, picking a paint color or finishing drywall, Michelle has you covered. If she's not puttering in the house, you'll find her in the garden playing in the dirt. Her garden articles provide tips and insight that anyone can use to turn a brown thumb green. You'll find her work on Modern Mom, The Nest and eHow as well as sprinkled throughout your other online home decor and improvement favorites.