Updated: Sep 27
When they were very young, my kids were amazed (and I really do mean amazed) that air could get into our house without any help from us. From their point of view, the house was sealed off from the outside without any apparent entry point for the air. And yet we could all breathe. Remarkable!
But, as we all know, air does make its way into a house, and it often brings with it ‘things’ we’d rather not have to deal with, e.g., dust particles, airborne pollutants, and bugs! Especially mites. You could even say that many of the items we normally have in a home can also be a source of pollution. Common sense tells us that by cleaning, or purifying, our incoming air we can improve its overall quality. Oh yes, and get rid of bugs, too!
As the EPA points out:
“The most effective ways to improve your indoor air are to reduce or remove the
sources of pollutants and to ventilate with clean outdoor air . . . [R]esearch shows
that filtration can be an effective supplement to source control and ventilation.
Using [an] . . . air cleaner and/or upgrading the air filter in your furnace or central
heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system can help to improve
indoor air quality.1”
Clearly, air purifiers can be very useful. However, the EPA also cautions us that:
“No air cleaner or filter will eliminate all of the air pollutants in your home. Note
that most filters are designed to filter either particles or gases. So, in order to
filter both particles and gases, many air cleaners contain two filters, one for
particles and another for gases (in some cases including gases that have odors).
Other air cleaners only have one filter, usually for particles.2”
Many experts think that using air purifiers fitted with HEPA filters will keep out bugs and bad air with ease. For the record, 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.3”
How to Keep the Air In Your House Clean
However, air filters are only part of the solution. Here are some additional measures you can take to make sure your indoor air is cleaner:
Using an air purifier- in tandem with source control and ventilation has always proven to be effective. That is, as long as other efforts (such as the cleaning and proper ventilation) are being kept up.
Employ source control by removing pollutants separately, such as asking smokers to ‘indulge’ their habit outside.
Use cross ventilation with outdoor air to dilute already-present residential air pollutants. If the outside air coming in is relatively clean, this can be supplemented with the air purifier. Also, don’t keep your windows open on high pollution days. You can keep track of the air quality in your state at the American Lung Association’s State of The Air report.
Avoid using scents and mothballs made with paraffin wax, as well as air fresheners and scented candles, which release toxic compounds. Note that, according to UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, green air fresheners are not any safer than regular ones.
When using nail polish, acetone, perfumes, and hair spray, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area.
Consider using air purifying paint on your walls. It can improve the air quality in your house, and some people feel it helps reduce allergies as well.
For fabrics, make sure you always wash any new garments, linens, and towels before use. This will remove unwanted chemicals. Dry-cleaned clothes can also raise the air pollution levels in a home, so make sure to air them out outside as soon as you get them home.
Clean often. Wipe down surfaces where dust settles, vacuum the carpets, sweep and mop, keep your air filters up to date, and remember to clean the furnace and, if you have one, the chimney (do it annually.)
Keeping the Bugs Out!
All of which brings us back to the subject of bugs and, in this particular case,mites! There’s no doubt that these tiny invaders are a problem. Fortunately for us, mites generally do not make us sick, unless, of course you are allergic. More than anything else, mites are a nuisance. (Learn all about the types of mites.)
However, that said, some mite species do act as conduits for the transmission of certain diseases, and can give trigger several allergenic diseases, including eczema, asthma and hay fever. Plus, mites have also been connected with rashes such as rodent mite dermatitis, grain itch, gamasoidosis, grocer's itch, and scabies.
It’s worth keeping in mind, however, that how mites get into your house largely depends on the species. Clover mites, for instance, will often make use of whatever cracks or crevices they find to invade a home. Dust mites, on the other hand, are frequently found within homes to start with; chiggers and rodent or bird mites, for their part, fasten themselves to (various) hosts and ‘hitchhike’ their way into homes on people and pets.
Will an Air Filter Get Rid of Mites?
All things being equal, can air purifiers get rid of them? Yes, an air purifier can remove dust and reduce dust mites. But to be effective the air purifier must have a HEPA filter, which removes microscopic particles that form dust before it has time to accumulate. The less dust there is, the fewer dust mites you’ll have to contend with.
What if the mites are already inside…?
Here’s how to get rid of mites from your house.