Thursday, December 01, 2011

How To Kill Dust Mites

While over at a friend's house Jessi and I learned about dust mites. Creepy little things really. From their experience (one of their kids had a terrible allergic reaction), we decided to act upon it, and now want to share what we learned.

What is a dust mite?
According to Wikipedia, it's a microscopic (0.4mm x 0.25mm) 8 legged creature that lives in your mattresses, carpets, furniture and pillows! Basically, anywhere fuzzy and warm. Yikes! They eat small particles of organic matter, like dead skin cells. Apparently having animals makes the issue worse. Then they poop it out, which contains a protein many people are allergic to. Common signs are the regular allergy symptoms: congestion, itching, etc. Shortly before we got Vinnie, Jessi started getting very itchy.

How common are they?
According to, a typical mattress can contain TENS OF THOUSANDS of dust mites. ~100,000 can live in one square yard of carpet! There's some debate on just how much their poop weighs (they poop ~20 times a day), so it could be negligible to 10% of the weight of the mattress/pillow/etc after 2 years. Lucky for us, Oregon is a major hot bed of dust mite activity (see what I did there? :-). Oregon is just the right climate to help them flourish. By the way, we've been living in our duplex for 2 years.

Is it a big problem?
The good news is that most people are like me: They think they're utterly disgusting, but are not actually harmful. Then there are some people like Jessi who has an "unexplained" allergic reaction. Unfortunately, they're so small you actually need a microscope to see them, so your first signs are the allergy symptoms.

What can you do about it?
Thankfully, there are quite a number of things you can do:
  1. Enclose the mattress with a plastic cover. We got ours at Target. It's a vinyl zipper mattress cover. The idea is that they can't borrow into your mattress and thrive.
  2. Clean regularly. Specifically, wash your sheets, pillows and blankets in hot water. We went through and re-washed everything.
  3. Use synthetic fabrics. We probably won't be switching up everything anytime soon, but this helps.
  4. Clean or replace AC and furnace air filters. If we had any, we would do this.

So, for the last few months Jessi has been dealing with itchy-ness. Nothing seemed to be helping. It wasn't bad, but annoying. ONE NIGHT after we bought the cover (and washed everything), the itching was gone. At least for now, the dust mite issue has been solved. Now if we could only solve the issue of my pillow case crunchy/zippy sounds due to the new vinyl cover...

[image from]

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