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Dust Mites: The Definitive Guide to Your Home’s Hidden Residents

Written by James Hall |

Just the thought of millions of dust mites living in your home can be enough to make you feel sick – even if they don’t bite. But for people with dust allergies or asthma, these otherwise harmless bugs can cause serious health issues.

Dust mites are thought to be the leading cause of perennial allergic rhinitis (year-round allergies to you and me). They can cause asthma attacks, coughing, itching, a runny nose, watery eyes and even depression in severe cases. That’s a lot of problems for a creature far smaller than a grain of sand!

If you have a dust mite allergy, it’s vital to know what you’re up against. What exactly are dust mites? Where do they live? And what are their weaknesses?

With that in mind, has created an in-depth infographic to answer some of the most common questions about dust mites. If you enjoy the graphic, please consider sharing it!

We’ve also included some practical tips for getting relief from a dust allergy. These tips are meant to complement – not replace – treatment from a medical professional. If you think you suffer from allergies, make sure you visit your doctor to get a professional opinion.

Dust Mites: The Definitive Guide to Your Home's Hidden Residents

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are unpleasant critters that live in your home (particularly in sofas, carpets, and bedding). They aren’t dangerous and they don’t bite, but they do feed off dead skin – which isn’t a particularly nice thought!

They are also the biggest cause of year-round allergies, as up to 10% of people are estimated to be allergic to the proteins found in their excretions (yuck). Dust mites can produce up to 20 allergenic particles per day, so there are potentially millions of new allergens being created in your home in a single 24-hour period.

A dust mite allergy can cause a variety of frustrating issues. Symptoms of a dust mite allergy include:

  • Itching
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Asthma

As dust mites are a continuous presence in your home, these symptoms can occur year-round. This makes a dust mite allergy noticeably different to a seasonal allergy.

Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of dust mites in the home. A single mattress can contain up to 10 million of them and a female can lay 30 mites each week! There are simply too many dust mites to get rid of them all.

There’s also no cure for a dust mite allergy, although some medications can manage the symptoms.

However, there are plenty of ways you can drastically reduce the number of dust mites in your home. This may reduce allergic reactions. Let’s take a closer look at how to tackle dust mites.

7 Ways to Relieve a Dust Mite Allergy

Getting rid of dust mites is an ongoing battle. There’s not one single thing you can do to get rid of them forever – you’ll need to take regular action.

How can you kill dust mites though? And what can you do about the remaining microscopic body parts that can trigger allergies?

A dust mite’s weakness is that it can’t survive when the humidity falls below 50%. This is because mites only absorb water – they can’t drink it. On the other hand, dust mites thrive when the humidity gets above 70%, which isn’t uncommon in the UK climate.

With that in mind, here are seven ways to relieve a dust allergy.

  1. Reduce the relative humidity in your home. Dust mites can’t survive if the relative humidity is less than 50%, so this is the best way to kill them (although you’ll also need to clean your home regularly to remove remaining body parts and allergens). Improving ventilation and insulation can help, along with adding a dehumidifier to the home. It’s worth getting a humidity meter so that you can monitor the current level in your home.
  2. Wash sheets at high temperatures. You should wash your sheets and pillowcases on a weekly basis at a temperature of at least 55 degrees Celsius. Hot tumble drying can also kill remaining mites.
  3. Buy dust mite-resistant covers Enclosing your mattress, quilt and pillows in a dust mite-proof cover can quickly relieve symptoms. The cheapest are made from plastic or vinyl, but most people prefer fabric covers.
  4. Vacuum at least once each week. Reducing humidity kills mites, but it doesn’t get rid of body parts. That’s why vacuuming all floors and upholstery at least once a week is vital. If you have carpets, you may need to vacuum even more often. Always use a vacuum with an effective filter or you could make allergy symptoms worse. HEPA filters are a great choice.
  5. Run a HEPA air filter. HEPA air filters can remove over 99% of particles with a diameter of 0.3 microns or more. This is much smaller than standard air filters, leaving your home’s air cleaner and containing fewer allergens.
  6. Steam clean surfaces. Any surface that can’t be put through the washing machine should be steam cleaned on a regular basis. Steam is a safe and quick way to kill bacteria and bugs. Make sure you check that a steam cleaner is suitable for a type of fabric before using it though.
  7. Replace carpets and upholstery. One of the fastest ways to get rid of dust mites is to replace carpets with hard floors or vinyl. Upholstered furniture can also be replaced with non-porous alternatives. This tip requires more effort than the others, but the results are often worth it if you suffer from a severe dust allergy.

We hope this article and infographic have helped you reduce the number of dust mites in your home.

Before we finish, it’s important to point out that allergies shouldn’t be taken lightly. While the tips above can help, we always recommend contacting your doctor if you suspect that you’re suffering from a dust allergy, as he or she will be able to provide you with a management plan.

Do you have any questions about dust mites? Or is there anything else you would like to know about home cleaning? Get in touch using the comments section below.

Want to learn more about reducing the amount of dust in your home? Read our guide to whether you should dust or vacuum first

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