Dust mites can aggravate asthma, eczema, and cause allergic rhinitis. They’re fairly hard to exterminate. Dust mites are tiny, too small to see with the naked eye. Writing those sentences definitely grossed us out a bit. But, we know people want to know more about dust mites like “can you see dust mites” and how to get rid of dust mites. So here we go…
Why are we writing about Dust Mites
First and foremost… they’re gross. And, they cause problems that we’re passionate about solving; like respiratory issues. Plus any word containing “mite” rubs us the wrong way. That includes the popular Australian sandwich spread. But, what ultimately forced us to sit down and write a post about bugs involves a vacation rental and a mattress.
On a recent stay in a vacation rental one of our writers commented to the host about the expense of furnishing a rental house. The host replied with a shrug and the standard “cost of doing business” remark. However, after a few minutes of chit chat the host revealed that he saved a lot by scouring thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist. Can’t fault an entrepreneur for stretching a buck or two. But, when he mentioned that the home’s craigslist-supplied mattresses were “practically free”… the conversation immediately turned from business to bed bugs and dust mites.
So with that experience in mind we decided to take look into dust mites. Learn how to see them. How to fight them, and perhaps find out if there’s a perfect purifier for dust mites floating around on the open market. But, before we get too far let’s set a few things straight and answer a handful of common questions.
Probably not. At least not without the assistance of a strong magnification device. A dust mite measures about .3 millimeters in size. Which means you’ll probably need a microscope to actually see anything. But, to be quite honest… we’re kind of glad we’ve never seen an actual dust mite.
If you’re curious, they look like translucent spiders (sans eyes or antennae). In fact, they’re in the arachnid family. Which also means they have 8 tiny legs.
We’ll the best answer we came across for “how to know if you have dust mites,” was with a test kit. It’s a bit more involved than kits for bedbugs, but it’s not too terrible.
The other, perhaps more fun for some people, option involves the use of a microscope. An expensive or powerful microscope isn’t a must have. In fact, all you’ll need is about 10x magnification. However, this could be the perfect excuse to buy that microscope for your inner biological science nerd. The one below is well under a hundred bucks and it magnifies up to 1000x.
Once you have the microscope all you’ll need is some clear tape and half a dozen dusty spots around the house. Use the tape to collect a sample from each location and take a look under the microscope. You’re looking for the dust mites as well as their excrement. The latter looks like little rectangles. Be sure you use the tape to collect a sample from your bed, pillow, and furniture.
So you’ve progressed from how to know if you have dust mites to oh no I can see dust mites in my new microscope. You’re next question is probably “what kills dust mites?” Dust mites cannot survive freezing temperatures, a 20 minute ride in a hot dryer, or specific poisons. But, to be honest you’re best defense is just to keep them away in the first place.
They’re called dust mites for a reason. They eat dust. Or more specifically dead skin cells shed daily by humans and household pets. A rarely dusted and vacuumed house is basically a dust mite farm. With an endless supply of food dust mites will multiply until you either kill them or eliminate the food source.
You may ask yourself “do i really need a HEPA filter vacuum?” Well, as we learned when we asked “how do you know if you have dust mites” and “can you see dust mites” above; these critters are really really small. In millimeters they measure a scant .3mm, but in microns that number jumps to 300. Their food, i.e. your skin cells are typically 30 microns or smaller. Like we said earlier, we want to remove the bugs and their food. So a vacuum needs to be good at trapping stuff. Otherwise the vac is just redistributing them into the air and to new exotic destinations around your home.
The big problem we have is that many vacuums do not mention how well their filters, bags, etc. trap small particles. And, that’s a problem if you want to target small particles. In non-HEPA vacuums the marketing pitch is more geared toward “look how much stuff this thing sucks up!” Unfortunately those vacuums powerful motors and coarse filters release tiny stuff back into your home on a strong air current.
The good news is that HEPA filters remove 99.7% of particles down to three microns. That’s a government mandate. If the filter doesn’t it can’t be labeled or sold as a true HEPA filter (watch out for HEPA-style claims they’re usually a scam). So what is our favorite HEPA vacuum for dust mites?
We love the Miele line of HEPA packing canister vacuums. Miele is engineered to last beyond 20 years; which is both rare and awesome. However, we think a canister is the way to go if you need to keep cloth furniture and window coverings clean and free of dust mite food. They’re ultra powerful and work great when you’re using accessories for furniture and such. There are others from companies like Dyson and Hoover that work well too. Just make sure your next vacuum has a true HEPA filter before you order.
No… but that’s not a big deal. You just need to get rid of dust (aka their food).
There are plenty of purifiers for dust. But what about finding the best purifier for dust mites? And dead skin cells. We’ll there are quite a few available. And, as you probably guessed you’ll definitely want an air purifier with a true HEPA filter. However, you’ll also want to move a good amount of air and cover large spaces. So for that task we actually looked back at the units we chose in our best purifiers for cigar and cigarette smoke post. Afterall, those two factors (coverage and air changes) also weighed heavy in that decision.
How to Keep Dust Mites Under Control…
- Clean your sheets
Wash your bedding and dry it on high for at least 20 minutes. The heat should kill any dust mites.
- Add a protective barrier
Before you make your bed(s), install dust mite proof mattress protectors and pillow covers to keep the bugs from burrowing into your mattress in search of food.
- Fire up your air purifier
Use your HEPA filter in the room where you’re cleaning to trap any airborne dust or mites.
- Remove visible dust from surfaces
Dust and wipe clean any hard surfaces where dust may have built up (TV’s, tables, shelves, etc.)
- Clean the floors and furniture
Clean hard flooring surfaces with an appropriate cleaner. Then thoroughly clean your carpet, drapes, and any fabric furniture or accessories with a HEPA filter-equipped vacuum.
Be sure to remove chair and couch cushions and clean every nook and cranny.
- Keep dust under control
Manage dust in the future by regularly replacing furnace filters, cleaning regularly, and running an air purifier in rooms where you sleep or spend time on fabric furniture.
Dust mites are pretty common. If you keep a dust mite friendly home expect a large dust mite population. Even if you clean really well after discovering dust mites, you’ll surely bring them into your home from other places. Keep things clean and you’ll be fine. When it comes to dust mites a clean home is a barren wasteland devoid of food and shelter.