Updated: Oct 31, 2019
There are all kinds of mites: itch mites, clover mites, chigger mites, scabies mites, rodent and bird mites, and so on. In fact, there are close to 48,000 known mite species worldwide, and some entomologists estimate that there are many more.
Learn more about the types of mites.
In this article, we are focusing ONLY on dust mites, perhaps the most ubiquitous of all these species, and certainly the one most people have in mind when they talk about these tiny ‘invaders.’
Mites Are Everywhere! (You Just Can’t See Them.)
Actually, calling them ‘invaders’ creates entirely the wrong impression. They’ve always been with us. The main reason being that these microscopic organisms depend on the dead skin of humans, and animals for sustenance. Practically anywhere you find humans and/or animals you’ll find dust mites. Relatives of the spider, mites thrive in warm, humid climates, but they can be found all over the world.
You will usually find them in bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets and rugs, baby cribs, curtains and drapes, but they’re really everywhere! That is, if you can even find them in the first place: they’re minute in size ̶ 0.25 to 0.3 millimeters long ̶ which makes them virtually invisible to the naked eye. Sweep a floor, walk on a rug or carpet, make the beds, dust bookshelves, any of those actions and you’re likely to send your resident dust mites airborne.
Are Dust Mites Dangerous?
When those dust mites soar into the air, so do their feces which, it turns out, are covered in proteins which, if inhaled by humans, can cause develop serious allergic reactions. Add to this the unfortunate fact that mites can produce up to 200 times their own weight in faeces, and it’s easy to see why as many as 20 million Americans develop dust mite-related allergies every year.
And the symptoms are numerous and wide ranging, including:
Itchy, watery or red eyes
Sneezing and general nasal congestion
Runny nose and post-nasal drip
Facial pain and pressure
Itchy nose and throat
Swollen eyes and/or puffy skin under the eyes
Of course, not everyone develops these symptoms. Some of us are lucky enough to be immune to the effects of dust mites. However, that being said, you could well develop a dust mite allergy if you were exposed to dust mites in early in life. You may even suffer if you inherit the proclivity to dust mite allergies. And, as might be expected, young children are more likely to develop dust mite allergies than teenagers or adults.
Can Air Purifiers Actually Get Rid of Dust Mites?
Well, the answer is “it depends.”
Now of course, that may sound like the ultimate cop-out, but dealing with dust mites is not easy.
There are some who claim that the only reliable way to get rid of dust mites is to install air purifiers. Cynics among you may well say “Yes, if you have shares in an air purifier company or your uncle runs an air purifier store”.
However, keep in mind that, before you render judgement, the greatest obstacle to eradicating dust mites is . . . us. Human beings! We shed skin cells all day, every day, so we’re an easy, convenient source of nutrition. Now, if you were a dust mite would you leave the perfect ‘resort’: warmth, comfort, and an endless human smorgasbord? Probably not.
So, do air purifiers get rid of dust mites? Well, yes. A good air purifier will significantly decrease the number of dust mites in your house (or office). It will constantly refresh the air in your house (or office) to trap all of the present dust, skin and bacteria.
Picking the Right Air Purifier
Keep in mind, however, that air purifiers ̶ like all products ̶ vary in quality and effectiveness, which is why you should take the time to research all of your options. Apart from quality and reliability, your first priority should be to find an air purifier that is fitted out with a HEPA filter.
According to one reliable source, a HEPA filter is:
“A high-efficiency particulate air filter. The United States Department of Energy
has certain standards in place that an air filter has to meet in order to be qualified
as a true HEPA filter. According to those government standards, an air purifier
must remove 99.97 percent of particulates at an incredibly small size (0.3 microns)
from the air that passes through it . . . these small particles include pet dander,
mold, dust mites, and pollen. Larger particulates are usually filtered even more
efficiently, being almost completely removed from the air.”
Since regular vacuuming should be part of an ongoing cleaning regimen, it is also a good idea to acquire a vacuum cleaner that is equipped with a HEPA filter:
“For a HEPA filter in a vacuum cleaner to be effective, the vacuum cleaner must
be designed so that all the air drawn into the machine is expelled through the
filter, with none of the air leaking past it. This is often referred to as sealed HEPA.”
Getting Rid of Dust Mites
Truth be told, you will never be entirely free of mites. They’ll always be there, even if we can’t see them, and regardless of what some might say.
So, are there other ways to deal with these pests?
Yes. Here are a few tips to help you in your ongoing anti-dust-mite program:
Lower the humidity in your home (or office) to about 40-50%. Dust mites need
a relatively high level of moisture in the air to flourish, so reducing it will make
for a less-than-suitable environment for them.
Extreme cold kills dust mites ̶ but I’m not suggesting you turn your home into a
meat locker! However, if you place every small object you possess into plastic
bags and store them in the fridge for a while that will kill any mites that are parked
on these objects.
efforts, e.g. vacuuming; decluttering; washing all your sheets, towels and bedding in
extremely hot water. You’ll find that Sterifab kills dust mites, and is also one of the only
non-residual products labeled for use on mattresses and upholstered furniture. Plus,
it dries in 15-20 minutes, is biodegradable, and leaves no residue.
Direct sunlight kills dust mites, believe it or not. So, keep your curtains open and let
as much sunlight as you can into all your rooms.
To find out more about mites and how to get rid of them, I suggest you take a look at some of our other blogs dedicated to these tiny pests: