Dust mites are teeny tiny little critters, but for a lot of people, they’re the cause of some really huge problems. Conditions like allergies and asthma are on the rise, and in many cases, the house dust mite is the hidden culprit.
While there are a number of approaches you can take to tackle dust mite problems in your home (more on those later), for now, we’re going to focus our attention on essential oils.
Essential oils have a myriad of uses, and unsurprisingly, given their versatility, they can be a very helpful and inexpensive ally in your battle against dust mites.
So let’s delve into the dust mite problem and find out exactly how essential oils can bring some much needed relief to your life.
But first a quick primer on dust mites.
- 1 What Are Dust Mites?
- 2 Why Are Dust Mites Such A Problem?
- 3 Do Dust Mites Bite?
- 4 Where Are Dust Mites Lurking In Your Home?
- 5 Can Vacuuming Get Rid of Dust Mites?
- 6 What Are Essential Oils?
- 7 How Do Essential Oils Help With Dust Mites?
- 8 Geranium Essential Oil (Pelargonium Graveolens)
- 9 Palmarosa Essential Oil (Cymbopogon Martinii Var. Martinii)
- 10 Eucalyptus Essential Oil (Eucalyptus Globulus)
- 11 Clove Essential Oil (Syzygium Aromaticum)
- 12 Tea Tree Essential Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
- 13 Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia)
- 14 Essential Oils For Allergy Symptom Relief
- 15 How To Use Essential Oils In Your Laundry
- 16 How To Make An Essential Oil Spray
- 17 Other Measures You Need To Take Against The Dust Mites In Your Home
- 18 Regularly Deep Clean Your Mattresses, Couches, and Carpets
- 19 Wash Pillows Frequently and Replace Yearly
- 20 Use Anti Dust Mite Mattress and Pillow Protectors
- 21 Wash Bed Linens At Higher Temperatures
- 22 Set Your Home’s Temperature and Humidity To Dust Mite Unfriendly Levels
- 23 Use An Air Purifier (At Least In Your Bedroom)
What Are Dust Mites?
Dust mites are tiny spider like creatures. They’re so small that you can’t see them without the help of a microscope, and you won’t feel them on your body, but unless you are taking particular steps to control dust mites in your home, it’s safe to say that you probably share your living space with hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of these critters.
The species of North American dust mite is Dermatophagoides farinae.
The species of European dust mite is Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus.
Why Are Dust Mites Such A Problem?
Dust mites eat flakes of dead skin, and everything that eats has to poop. Dust mites produce around 20 droppings every day, and it’s a specific protein in those droppings which is responsible for allergies in people sensitive to that protein.
If you take your population of hundreds of thousands (or more) dust mites and multiply that by 20, you can easily see how your home harbors a huge amount of allergy triggering material.
Between 18% and 30% of the population are either allergic or sensitive to dust mites. Some people are genetically predisposed to a dust mite allergy, while others will develop an allergy if they live in a home where they are exposed to high levels of dust mites.
Children and young adults are more likely to develop a dust mite allergy than adults.
It’s thought that dust mites are a factor in up to up to 80% of asthma cases, and given how serious asthma can be, dust mite reduction is critical for anyone with asthma or with an asthmatic family member.
Other conditions associated with dust mites include eczema, hay fever, skin rashes, hives, headaches, depression, post nasal drip, and fatigue.
Do Dust Mites Bite?
Even though dust mites are gross, they don’t bite. They feed off the dead skin flakes that we shed every day.
An average sized person will shed 10 grams of skin each week. That’s enough to provide an all you can eat buffet for millions of dust mites.
If you share your home with pets, your furry friends are providing even more food for this nuisance population.
Where Are Dust Mites Lurking In Your Home?
Dust mites will settle down in any place that collects dead skin cells and therefore provides a food source.
Carpets, rugs, curtains, couches, and armchairs, throw pillows, stuffed toys, dog and cat beds and your laundry pile. However, the highest concentrations of dust mites are found in bedrooms.
A typical mattress can be home to 100,00 mites, and the worst mattresses – ones that are never vacuumed or steam cleaned – can hold millions of dust mites.
Pillows are another hot spot for dust mites and their poop. Up to ten percent of the weight of your pillow could be dust mites and their droppings.
Because you are in close contact with your bed and your bedding for many hours each night, the dust mites in your bedroom will have a greater effect on your health than the dust mites living in your hall carpet runner.
And despite their name, house dust mites don’t confine their activities to your home. The carpeting and upholstery in your car is also prime real estate for these bugs. So don’t forget to debug your car!
Can Vacuuming Get Rid of Dust Mites?
Vacuuming will reduce the number of mites and their droppings, but vacuuming alone will not get rid of your mite problem.
Mites burrow deep into mattresses, carpets, and soft furnishings, far beyond the reach of your vacuum cleaner, where they cling onto fibers with the tiny hooks and suckers on their legs.
You’ve no doubt seen how much dirt comes out of carpets when they’re shampooed. The water in the carpet cleaner’s reservoir is black and nasty and full of dirt. That’s the dirt that your vacuum couldn’t reach, and just like vacuuming couldn’t suck up that deeply embedded dirt, it can’t suck up deeply embedded dust mites either.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are concentrated plant essences. Plants are expert chemical manufacturers and in order to survive and thrive, they have to produce substances that kill bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.
Unlike man made chemicals, which tend to be very simple substances with few active constituents, essential oils contain hundreds of different compounds.
This complexity allows them to act against a wide variety of problems and prevents microbes and parasites from developing resistance to them.
Essential oils are safe to use on your skin and to inhale, which isn’t the case with commercial dust mite products. They smell great too.
How Do Essential Oils Help With Dust Mites?
Essential oils will help you with your dust mite problem in two ways.
First, as acaricides they act on the dust mites and kill them.
Second, they act on you, helping to minimize your allergic response.
The following essential oils are the most effective ones to use against the dust mites lurking in your home.
The high geraniol content of geranium essential oil makes it deadly to dust mites.
A 2008 study investigated the effects of geraniol and beta-citronellol (obtained from geranium essential oil) on dust mites (both Dermatophagoides farinae and Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) and compared it to the commonly used anti dust mite chemicals, benzyl benzoate and DEET.
In the tests, the geranium essential oil derivatives were more effective against dust mites than benzyl benzoate and DEET, with geraniol showing the most toxicity to dust mites followed by beta-citronellol.
Geranium essential oil has a sweet floral aroma and is very pleasant to use.
Palmarosa is a less well known essential oil, however its main active constituent is geraniol. Based on the previous research using geraniol, it would seem that palmarosa would make an excellent anti dust mite essential oil.
Palmarosa has a sweet, rosy scent.
Researchers in Australia tested the dust mite killing effects of eucalyptus essential oil added to the wash cycle.
The eucalyptus oil was first mixed with dish washing liquid to form an emulsion. The ratio used was 4 parts eucalyptus essential oil to one part detergent – 100 ml of essential oil mixed with 25 ml of detergent.
This solution was then added to the 50 liters of water in the prewash soak cycle of the laundry (blankets in this case) and left for 30 minutes before the regular wash cycle at 30 C (86 F) commenced.
This process resulted in a 97% reduction in live mites.
Eucalyptus is also a great choice when it comes to minimizing allergic reactions. The easiest way to obtain relief is to vaporize the oil in an aromatherapy diffuser.
Eucalyptus oil is fairly inexpensive and although it does have a slightly medicinal odor, it isn’t unpleasant, and the odor only lingers for a day or two – a small inconvenience for such great dust mite busting power.
In a 2006 study of 14 essential oils, clove oil turned out to be the most effective at killing dust mites.
The same study also found that eucalyptus, rosemary, and caraway essential oils were effective against dust mites.
Clove oil has a rich, spicy fragrance with a fruity top note
Figures cited by the research team led by E.M. Williamson in their paper An Investigation and Comparison of the Bioactivity of Selected Essential Oils on Human Lice and House Dust Mites reveal that when dust mites were exposed to tea tree essential oil, 100% of the dust mites in the sample were immobilized after 30 minutes, and after 2 hours every single mite was dead.
Tea tree oil has a warm, spicy, slightly medicinal aroma.
Lavender essential oil is another oil that produced good results (although not as good as those for tea tree oil) in the Williamson research.
Under the same test conditions, lavender essential oil resulted in 86% dust mite immobility after 30 minutes, and 87% of the mites were dead after 2 hours.
Lavender wouldn’t be the best essential oil to use if you were only planning on using a single oil, but you could certainly add lavender to one of the other oils mentioned for an extra potency boost. Lavender also has the added benefit of smelling wonderfully fresh and floral, so by using it, you can counteract the harsher fragrances of tea tree, eucalyptus and clove.
Essential Oils For Allergy Symptom Relief
Use essential oils to help reduce your allergy symptoms without any unpleasant side effects.
Add a few drops to an aromatherapy diffuser or oil burner, mix with a carrier oil and rub onto your skin, or simply unscrew the cap and take a few deep breaths straight from the bottle.
Peppermint essential oil (Mentha piperita) has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects, and works to clears sinus and nasal congestion, reduce phlegm production and relieve headaches.
Lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) is a natural antihistamine which helps to calm your immune system’s overreaction to allergens, therefore minimizing symptoms. Lavender will also relax your mind and your body and make sure you get a good night’s sleep.
German Chamomile essential oil (Matricaria recutica) is a superb anti-inflammatory. Inhale the oil to relieve coughing, sneezing, wheezing, watering eyes, congestion, and headaches. You can also apply the oil topically to soothe skin rashes and hives.
Lemon essential oil (Citrus Limon) calms inflammation in the respiratory passages and reduces the production of mucus. It’s also a very effective mood booster, so if your allergies are getting you down, you could benefit from a little lemon in your life!
Bergamot essential oil (Citrus bergamia) is another mood boosting essential oil with anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to be effective for reducing the symptoms associated with asthma.
How To Use Essential Oils In Your Laundry
In the Eucalyptus study mentioned earlier, the researchers added their detergent / essential oil mix to the prewash cycle in a top loading washing machine.
If you have this type of washing machine, you can do the same, but if you have a front loading washing machine, it’s advisable to soak your items in the kitchen sink or in the bathtub, because front loaders don’t fill up and immerse laundry in water in the same way as a top loader.
You can use any of the anti dust mite essential oils mentioned in this article, but you must make sure that you mix your oils with some detergent, or the essential oil will just float on top of the water instead of dispersing through your laundry.
How To Make An Essential Oil Spray
Dust mites live all over your home, and unfortunately, you can’t put your couch, or your carpets, or your mattresses in your washing machine, so you need another solution to tackle the dust mites that have set up home in these areas.
This is where an essential oil anti dust mite spray comes in handy.
Essential oil sprays are really easy to make and you can whip up a dust mite slaying spray in a couple of minutes. All you need is a spray bottle, water, your essential oils, and some vodka.
Why vodka? Essential oils don’t mix with water, so you need to add vodka to the mix which acts as a solvent and allows the essential oils to disperse throughout the water.
Without the vodka, you’ll just have essential oils floating on the surface of your spray. Don’t worry, your home won’t smell of vodka because the vodka aroma dissipates quickly. The only lingering aroma will be the lovely essential oil fragrance.
You can use whichever size spray bottle you like, but since you’ll need to cover large areas, you’ll find it more convenient to use a larger bottle.
Whichever size you use, fill your bottle 3/4 with cold water, then top off with vodka (the cheapest brand you can get hold of). Don’t fill the bottle all the way to the top, leave room for the essential oils and some space to shake the ingredients and mix them together.
Next, add your essential oils. Pop the top on your bottle, shake to mix, and your spray is ready to use.
For a 16 oz (half liter) spray bottle use 60 to 80 drops of essential oil.
Other Measures You Need To Take Against The Dust Mites In Your Home
To keep the dust mite population in your home as low as possible, together with the regular use of essential oils, you need to develop a robust anti dust mite strategy. Yes, there’s some extra work involved, but obtaining relief from dust mite derived allergies is well worth the effort.
Regularly Deep Clean Your Mattresses, Couches, and Carpets
Steam cleaning kills dust mites. After vacuuming, steam cleans any areas that could harbor large populations of dust mites.
It’s up to you how frequently you steam clean, but as a rough guide, clean your carpets, couches. and mattresses every one to two months.
If you use anti dust mite mattress covers, you will only need to steam clean your beds once a year or so.
When you steam clean your mattress, try to do it early in the day, so your mattress has a chance to air out before you need to make the bed. You can always speed up the drying time by using a hair dryer.
Wash Pillows Frequently and Replace Yearly
Pillows get pretty gross if you don’t wash them regularly. In addition to dust mites, pillows harbor an accumulation of your sweat, and they house an ungodly amount of bacteria and fungal spores.
If you have allergies, it’s recommended that you wash your pillows on a high temperature wash (130 F or 54 C) every 2 weeks. If you add essential oils, you can use a lower temperature wash.
Replace your pillows every year. Pillows aren’t expensive and they’re supposed to be renewed regularly. Your pillows are in use for 6 to 8 hours every night of the year. As well as building up populations of bugs, bacteria, and fungus, they lose their loft and become uncomfortable.
A good night’s sleep is invaluable to your health and well being, so don’t make do with old, flat, grungy, lumpy pillows. Make new pillows an annual purchase.
Use Anti Dust Mite Mattress and Pillow Protectors
Mattress and pillow protectors are a must if you want your bed to be an allergy free zone. These zipped covers are made from fabrics with such tight construction that the dust mites allergens can’t escape from your mattress or pillows. Look for products like those from the Evolon brand (available at Amazon) with a pore size of 1 micron.
By using these dust mite barriers, you stop your skin flakes from getting into your mattresses and pillows, so you starve existing dust mites of their food source. And you prevent the allergens from entering your environment while you sleep.
If you use these covers, you won’t need to wash your pillows so frequently either, which saves you some work!
Wash Bed Linens At Higher Temperatures
Low temperature wash cycles are more common today than ever before. The ability to clean laundry at lower temperatures saves you money on your power bill, and it’s good for the planet. But the downside is that low temperature wash cycles, don’t kill dust mites.
When you wash your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets you must use a high temperature setting of 130 F or 54 C. Check the care labels on your linens first, to make sure that they can withstand those temperatures without shrinking. If the labels specify a lower temperature wash, you can pop them in your freezer for 24 hours before you wash them, or you can add essential oils to your wash and rinse cycles.
Set Your Home’s Temperature and Humidity To Dust Mite Unfriendly Levels
Dust mites thrive in warm moist conditions. Keep your thermostat below 70 F (21 C).
As for moisture, aim for lower than 50% humidity in your home. You may need to purchase a dehumidifier to achieve this level.
During the winter your heating system may make your home feel too dry. If this is the case and you ordinarily use a humidifier to counteract this dryness, make sure to set your controls so that you get no more than 35% to 45% humidity.
And don’t forget the moisture level in your bed. After you’ve been snuggled up in bed all night, your bed will have absorbed a fair amount of sweat from your body.
Pull your blankets or duvet down to the foot of your bed, or drape them over a chair or ottoman, so that everything can air out.
A study by Kingston University in London found that dust mite numbers were substantially reduced when beds were left open to air.
Tidily made up beds look nice, but they aren’t at all healthy!
Use An Air Purifier (At Least In Your Bedroom)
Air purifiers contain filters that trap dust. By holding the dust in the filter, you prevent all of those skin cells settling in your carpets and furnishings, and deprive dust mites of their food source.
The best filters are HEPA filters which trap around 99% of dust and other allergens.
You can buy stand-alone HEPA air purifiers, or you can purchase HEPA filters for your central air return and furnace.
Ultimately it’s an impossible task and a futile quest to eradicate every last dust mite from your home, but by following sensible cleaning recommendations combined with the clever use of essential oils, you’ll be able to substantially reduce the dust mite population in your home, which means fewer allergens and the health problems they trigger.
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