House dust mites are extremely small, invisible to the naked eye. They are present in all homes, and feed on human and animal skin scales and mould spores. They are usually harmless, but some people can develop allergies to the proteins contained in dust mites’ droppings. Due to their microscopic size they are weightless, and thus become airborne, making it easy for them to be inhaled when people breathe. Dust mites love warm and damp areas, such as bedding, carpets, curtains, soft furnishing, cuddly toys and clothing.
Dust mites can trigger reactions in people with asthma, eczema, and rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane – itchy, runny, congested nose).
It is impossible to fully rid our homes of dust mites, no matter how clean we are, but we can reduce them via the following cleaning tips and house adaptations.
Dust mites thrive in warm, damp places. Dampness also attracts mould, which is another allergy trigger. Here are some tips to reduce dampness:
- Regularly ventilate your home, open windows in the kitchen during cooking and in the bathroom during washing
- Avoid drying clothes indoors. If you have no other option, try to dry clothes in closed rooms with the windows open until fully dry to avoid dampness circulating throughout the rest of the house
- Air your bedding daily
Remove dust regularly
- Use a damp cloth to dust and clean objects and surfaces
- Vacuum floors regularly as well as all soft furnishings and upholstery
- Consider reducing number of decorations on which dust can build up or keep them in display cabinets
- Regularly wipe down less obvious items like frames, window blinds, woodwork
- Vacuum clean your mattresses at least twice a month
- If you have a bagged vacuum cleaner, ensure you replace the filter and clean the dust bag regularly. If at all possible, use a high efficiency filter vacuum cleaner.
Wash fabrics at a minimum temperature of 60°C – high temperatures kill dust mites
- Use bedding which can be washed at this temperature and wash it regularly (at least every two weeks, preferably more often)
- Use curtains which can be also washed at 60°C
Dust mites love our beds with warm, damp conditions and plenty of skin scales they can feed on.
- Use anti-allergy barrier covers for mattress, pillows, and duvet (they can be wiped down regularly)
- Alternatively, change pillows and duvet at least twice a year
- Wash sheets, blankets, pillow cases, duvet covers regularly
Other useful measures to consider:
- Keep the number of cuddly toys to a minimum, choose those that are machine-washable. Alternatively, they can be put in a freezer for six hours a few times each month.
- replace carpets with wood, cork, laminated or linoleum flooring
- replace upholstered furniture with leather/faux leather alternatives
- use rugs which can be washed at high temperatures
- use air filters or purifiers, together with a dehumidifier if high damp levels are a problem in your home.
BSACI (2012) Dust mite allergy [Online]. Available at http://www.bsaci.org/members/House_dust_mite_avoidance.pdf [Accessed 25/07/2018]