Did you know that dust mites alone can increase the weight of a mattress by several pounds in just a few years? These microscopic critters can cause serious health problems for people with underlying conditions — unless they’re tackled at source.
Of course, dust mites don’t just live in your bed… they’re everywhere in your home. And although you can’t completely eradicate them, you can reduce their numbers significantly. By doing so, you can minimise various respiratory and allergic conditions suffered by you and your family.
Now, we all know the most problematic places when it comes to dust and dust mites. Carpets, upholstered furniture and mattresses are notorious breeding grounds for mites. But there are a few lesser known problem areas in the average home.
Before you can declare war on dust mites, you need to know where to look. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the most surprising places dust mites thrive in your home.
1. Lamp shades
The thing about lamp shades is that they hide dust very well through the day. It’s not until you turn the light on at night that the amount of dust on it becomes evident.
If you have fabric lamp shades in your home, you’re giving dust — and mites — the perfect place to set up home. And dusting alone is rarely sufficient. To keep dust mites at bay on your lamp shades, make sure you’re cleaning light fixtures and accessories at least once a week.
There are various ways to clean the average lamp shade, including with wet rubber gloves and a lint roller. But the most effective cleaning method involves the use of a powerful, mobile vacuum cleaner. Use the brush attachment, and vacuum all the surfaces of your lamp shades in sections — making sure every square inch is covered.
The more “stuff” you have in your home, the more dust you’re likely to have. While adding a few soft furnishings and accessories breathes new life into a room, it also gives dust mites a place to call home — particularly if that place is made with fabric.
Cushions attract dust readily, and in a way that’s not always obvious. If you have cushions and throw pillows you use behind your back or head, the chances of allergic reactions increase dramatically.
Every few days, take your cushions outside and slap them with your hand to remove excess dust. But be aware that removing dust mites is a tricky business. These little critters are tough. Extremes in temperatures can do the trick, however. Pop your cushions in the tumble dryer every month to kill of particularly durable mites. Alternatively, put them outside during cold winter days.
3. Soft toys
Soft toys are particularly susceptible to significant accumulations of dust. And wherever dust lies, dust mites are never far away. Most soft toys spend their entire life in warm, humid homes — which provide ideal conditions for breeding. And because children sleep with their soft toys and keep them close to their face, the risks of allergic reactions and respiratory problems is high.
If you can machine wash your soft toys, do so as regularly as you can. Alternatively, use extremes of temperature to kill of the vast majority of dust mites present. Again, a tumble dryer or sub-zero temperatures outside both do the trick.
Let’s be honest: curtains are a bit of a pain to clean. That’s why most of us only attempt the task every few years. But dust loves curtains, and so do dust mites. Every time you open or close your curtains, you’re dispersing dust AND mites into the room — where they resettle.
Wash your curtains as regularly as you can, whether it’s in your own washing machine or at a dry cleaners. Hot water kills the vast majority of dust mites, so this is by far the best option.
If you take the smart approach to cleaning your curtains, you may never have to take them down again. Use long attachments on your vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dust mites from the more inaccessible areas of your curtains. And to kill off the remaining mites, use a handheld steam cleaner — which delivers superheated steam exactly where it’s needed.
5. Pet bedding
Pet bedding, just like the bedding on your own bed, is a hive of dust mite activity in the average home. And if you’re not cleaning that bedding regularly, there’s a chance that your pet might suffer from the same allergic and respiratory reactions humans do.
A dog, for instance, can become very attached to a blanket. If the dog is spending a lot of time snuggled up in its bedding, it’s not usually too long before the perfect breeding conditions are created. Heat, sweat and drool combine to create a dust mite’s paradise.
Fortunately, there are some materials used in pet bedding that are resistant to mites, including certain wools and organic latex. If you can’t use one of these materials, make sure you’re washing your pet’s bedding at least once a week. Again, extremes of temperature kill off the vast majority of mites on a dog’s blanket or cushion.
You’re probably reading this now with dust and dust mites on your clothes. And, unfortunately, there’s very little you can do to remove them completely. But you can minimise the problem to a level that doesn’t increase the risk of allergic or respiratory reactions.
For example, when you enter your home from outside, remove the outer layers and hang them up near your front door. Wash your clothes regularly, using the hottest setting your clothes can withstand. The hotter the washing temperature, the more dust mites you’ll kill off.
The way you store your clothes is also important. For a start, you shouldn’t have clothes in your everyday storage areas that you don’t wear regularly. For example, a winter sweater will simply sit in your wardrobe collecting dust during the summer months.
At the beginning of every season, organise your wardrobes, closets and drawers accordingly. Wrap or box up the clothes you don’t need, and put them into long term storage. Just make sure you vacuum and clean these areas every time you swap out your clothing range.
No matter how well and often you clean and vacuum, you’ll never be able to eradicate dust mites in your home. But if you clean regularly and in the right areas, you can reduce mites to levels that won’t pose a serious health risk to you or your family.