Eliminating Dust Mites
Summary: Totally eliminating dust mites is not possible. They thrive in bedrooms and other rooms that get high traffic, being found in carpets, upholstered furniture, drapes, clothing and nearly any place where humans have contact. The dust mite feces causes your allergy problems.
Dust mites are common and can be found in all homes. They are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. You would need a 10x magnifier to see them. To give you another idea of the size of a dust mite, three dust mites can and fit into the dot of this letter œi.
Dust mites do not bite humans, but they do produce allergens that affect millions of people. Totally eliminating dust mites is simply not an option, but you can reduce their numbers. Here are some suggestions that will give you some control over the numbers of dust mites found in your home.
Washing your bedding weekly is essential. Dust mites thrive on the dead skin cells our bodies constantly shed, so finding a food source for a dust mite is no more difficult than locating a resting body. If you don't clean your bedding you could quickly be sharing your bed with up to 10 million dust mites over a six month period. Not a pretty thought and not something most normal people would have to face. But, two weeks without cleaning sheets could get you a dust mite population of 10,000. Still pretty creepy!
Dehumidifiers are great dust mite controllers. Dust mites thrive in high humidity, so simply reducing the humidity to below 50% will greatly reduce their ability to multiply. Now, there are humidifiers and there are humidifiers. You cannot successfully reduce your humidity by hanging those dehumidifying bags that you hang in clothes closets. You need to do your research and buy a unit that will do an effective job.
Consumer Reports rated a bunch of dehumidifiers by testing them in a 13' x 17' room. Their best rating went to the Danby DDR606 for large capacity units at a cost of $250. The LG LHD45EL won their praise for medium capacity units, while the Haier HD306 earned the best marks for the small capacity units, although none of the small capacity units did very well when it came to quiet operation.
With most houses operating with a central air system you definitely want to buy good furnace filters. Selecting the best one is the hardest part. There are electrostatic air filters, media air filters, pleated air filters, HEPA air filters and activated carbon air filters. What's a person to do? It's all a matter of money, my friend. Start low and move up the line. Personally, I avoided buying expensive filters. Then, one day on a whim I decide to upgrade and buy a more expensive disposable filter and was amazed at how much more efficient the filter was at trapping the dirt running through my central air system. So, I'll probably keep buying better and better filters now that I'm hooked. Buy what you can afford. You get what you pay for. For $17 per filter you can get a 3M Filtrete filter which is pretty good at removing pet dander and dust. My system needs two filters and I change them four times a year. That's an investment of $136 per year.
There are dust mite elimination sprays you can buy, many of these being available on line. There is a product appropriately names DustMite that is advertised to kill dust mites in carpets and fabrics for up to six months. There is also something called Allersearch X-Mite that cleans carpets and works on dust mites. I cannot vouch for any of these products because I have not read any lab reports on their effectiveness. Of course, if you don't want to do it yourself the phonebook is filled with companies claiming their can get rid of your dust mites. Better get their guarantee in writing and check out their reputation with the Better Business Bureau.
If the presence of dust mites really has you freaked out you can encase your mattress and box springs in dust mite covers. The whole idea of these covers is that the fabric weave is so tight that it locks the dust mites in so they cannot escape. Of course, it does nothing for the dust mites that have not been trapped inside and those dust mites can multiply, too. Back to square one.
For those of you who are very serious about your dust mite reduction you can always purchase an air purifier. These systems can run from $700 to $150, depending upon your needs. These systems have HEPA filters which, by definition, can trap 99.97% of 0.3-micrometer particles. Dust mites are 420 micrometers in size, so the HEPA filter can easily trap dust mites. A ConsumerSearch report on air purifiers recommends the IQAir HealthPro for people with severe allergies. It is the most expensive unit, but it is top of the line. The same report recommends the Alen A350 for smaller rooms at a cost of $400. Don't forget you will also need to spend about $80 per year for filter replacements with these units.
Of course, once you eliminate the dust mites you are going to need to think about doing a better job of cleaning up all those dead skin cells falling off your aging body. Life just isn't fair, is it?