What if I told you that this nasty creature was sleeping in your bed, and in your children's beds?
This is a dust mite. And I hate to break it to you, but dust mites live with YOU. They feed on the dead skin cells you constantly shed, and are mostly found in your bedding. (yuck!)
After reading up about dust mites I have to say I was pretty grossed out. They're not visible to the naked eye, but they live on your carpet, plush furniture, curtains, matresses, pillows, and bedding. Statistically, if you suffer from allergies or asthma, there's an OVER 50% chance that you're sensitive to house dust mites. Even if you don't have allergies, do you really want to be living with those creatures?
After finding out that my son is super-allergic to dust mites (he scored the highest possible reaction to them when allergy tested), I had a super-cleaning spree to purge them from our house. If you'd like to rid your house of them too, here's how...
ALLERGY PILLOW COVERS - Dust mites live where you sleep, so that's the first place to tackle. Get allergy covers for pillows and mattresses. It's recommended to place tape over the zippers.
WASH IT HOT - For routinely cleaning bedding, we now wash with hot water. I read that the water temperature required to kill dust mites is 130-140 degrees, but many water heaters are set to only 105-108 degrees for safety reasons. We tested our water with a simple cooking thermometer and found that we had to turn up our heater a smidge to get to 130 degrees.
**Note that if you have a dryer with an allergy setting, washing with hot water isn't necessary... you can just wash things regular then let the dryer zap the heat through them. This dryer setting is specifically for killing dust mites or any other living thing that may be in your bedding.
WASH WITH EUCALYPTUS - When washing delicate bedding I don't want to zap with hot water (like bed spreads), I add 20-30 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil* to the load. This kills the dust mites and I'm still able to wash them on the cold-gentle cycle.
FREEZE IT- Every so often, place stuffed animals in a plastic bag in the freezer for 2 days. After they've thawed, either wash in cool water or vacuum them to remove the dead mites and residue (ew!). You can also freeze sheets, blankets, and curtains, if you have the room in your freezer.
DUST MITE SPRAY - I also made a Dust Mite Spray to use on mattresses and stuffed animals between washings. Besides killing dust mites, this spray is also great to neutralize odors and repel bugs, making it a good choice to use in closets and shoes. I'll also be bringing it along the next time we stay in a hotel to cleanse the room and bedding. I'll share the recipe in Thursday's post!
DIFFUSE PURIFICATION OIL - I also started cleansing our air by diffusing Young Living Purification Oil* regularly around the house. As a bonus, it neutralizes odors and repels bugs.
WEED OUT STUFFED ANIMALS - If you have more stuffed animals than you can keep up with washing monthly, then it's probably time to weed them out. If your kid is sniffly and allergy-prone, then you REALLY need to weed them out. We were able to get ours down to 2-3 favorites (that's as close as we could get to our allergist's insistence on 1-2 favorites), and I'll be freezing and washing them regularly from now on.
MOVE THE BOOKS OUT OF BEDROOMS- As much as it goes against all that I believe in with children's literacy, I moved our boys' book shelf out of their bed room. *Sniff... sniff..* Our allergist insisted on it, and said that books are a big magnet to both dust mites and mold (both of which my son had a 10 out of 10 allergic reaction to). It's hard to explain just how heartbreaking this was to me, but I have to admit that she is right. My other son who doesn't even have allergies, had a runny, sniffy nose by the time he finished helping me haul all the books out of their room. (Maybe this allergist knows what she's talking about. Bah humbug.) She DID say (similar to keeping just a couple stuffed animals) that it was fine to have a book basket in their room with a few favorites... just not the whole shelf-full. So THAT at least settled my poor breaking heart, and we let each boy pick out his favorite story books to keep in his own book basket.
CLEAN FLOORING - The biggest recommendation for ridding a home of dust mites is carpet removal, especially if the carpet is not new. We just so happened to move to a house with hard flooring, so this accidentally worked out for us on its own. If you do have carpet or rugs throughout your house, weekly "rigorous vacuuming" is a must (be sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter), and regular steam cleaning is highly recommended. For hard flooring, damp moping every week is recommended.
OTHER CLEANING - It's important to declutter, starting with the bedroom. Regular dusting is a must, and surfaces should be wiped with a damp cloth at least once a week. (You can also put some Eucalyptus essential oil* on your damp dusting cloth to actually kill the dust mites as you dust.) Also remember to regularly wash curtains.
AVOID EXCESS HUMIDITY - Also remember that dust mites like humidity. Air conditioning is helpful in the summer to reduce the growth of both mold and dust mite population. Also use bathroom fans.
*I only use Young Living essential oils, which are therapeutic-grade. To learn more about essential oils or buy your own click here.*