House dust mite - Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus

Do Air Purifiers Help With Dust Mites? 5 Tips To Kill Dust Mites Fast

House dust mite - Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus

Are you plagued by frequent dust mite allergies or do you feel your home or work space has a dust mite problem? If so, an idea you might have encountered to eliminate dust mites is an air purifier. Dealing with dust mites can be quite frustrating and if you are wondering whether an air purifier will work for dust mites, then keep reading as this post is for you.

Briefly put, can air purifiers help with dust mites? Air purifiers can help with dust mites in two ways. Firstly, they eliminate dust mite feces and body parts  and dust mites as a whole. Secondly, they help to minimize the level of dust in your home which is the main source of food for dust mites that allows them to breed easily. 

Though air purifiers are very helpful with dust mites, they have some limitations. The main limitation is that they can only deal with dust mites if they and their by-products are airborne. So to win with dust mites you will need to take some additional steps on top of using an air purifier.

To give you a full understanding of how air purifiers can best help you eliminate dust mites, allow me to first explain what exactly dust mites are and how they make your indoor air quality poor. Thereafter, so that you are sure you have a dust mite problem before getting an air purifier, I will show you how best to identify dust mites in your home.

Once you can tell you have dust mite, the next step is to decide how to eliminate them. Accordingly, I explain in detail how air purifiers can help and which type of air purifier you should get. Then finally I touch on everything else you need besides getting an air purifier.

What Exactly Are Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic 8 legged insects in the arachnid family and are closely related to spiders. They range from 0.1-0.5 mm in size. They are invisible to the naked eye and have a lifespan of up to 70 days and breed intensely under humid conditions.

There is no clear understanding of where they come from and the best explanation I found is that they are naturally occurring creatures like other insects that thrive under certain conditions. You will mostly find dust mites in homes or spaces, that have temperatures of between 20-25 °C and humidity levels of between 60%-80%.

Dust mites, do well in dark spaces and you will often find them in your bedding's (pillows, blankets, mattresses) curtains, carpets, clothes and other soft and fluffy household things like furniture and teddy bears. If your home has mildew and mold, especially if it's at a stage that is giving off nasty odors, then chances are you also have dust mites.

The main factor that helps dust mites multiply like crazy is dust as it is their main source of food. Part of this dust is made of dead human skin flakes which strongly attracts dust mites to spaces like your bed and couch. For this reason, you have to strongly focus on getting rid of dust to eliminate dust mites.

People often confuse dust mites with bed bugs and other mites and think they sting or bite but they actually don’t and as a creature in themselves, they are actually harmless. However, what’s harmful about dust mites is their by-products. Dust mite poop and their leftover body parts after they die contain enzymes and a certain protein that your immune system sees as a foreign body when inhaled or introduced to your body in whatever way. For most people these by-products from dust mites are what result in allergic reactions.

The elements contained in a dust mite's feces and body are thereby allergens and similar to pollen also trigger a variety of allergic reactions including asthma attacks, eczema, itchy and teary eyes, and sinuses among other allergies. Accordingly, most likely the only reason why anyone would want to get rid of dust mites is to prevent the allergies they trigger.

How To Tell If You Have A Dust Mite Problem

The allergy symptoms of dust mites are similar to many other allergens and it's easy to mistakenly conclude that your allergic reactions are due to dust mites. This makes it very important to be absolutely sure that you are dealing with dust mite before you go out looking for a solution.

There are various steps you can take to determine if you are dealing with dust mites. I am going to discuss three of the best I found starting with the most tedious one. The first and most tedious way to go about detecting dust mites is to get a magnifying glass that can magnify things at least 10 times and then collect dust samples from around your house to examine with the microscope.

Once you put your samples under the microscope you will either see some brownish, translucent 8 legged spider looking creatures or brown squarish feces that look like pellets. I would advise this method to you if you are scientifically inclined.

The next and more convenient test I would do is the Ventia Rapid Allergen Test For Dust Mite. This is less complex but you will need a vacuum cleaner of some sorts. How this works is you get a small container you attach to the suction pipe of your vacuum machine to collect dust around your house.

You then add some chemicals to this container and shake it up for a minute. Finally, you take about 5 drops of this mixture and add it to chromatography test cassette which tells you how bad the level of dust mites is in your home. Check out the video below for a better understanding. This is by far my first choice in detecting dust mite at home.

The final way to detect if you have dust mites is to leave it to the professionals. If you are not so hands-on, you can have a pest company come in and run some tests. What you can also do is to go to a doctor as soon as your allergies flare up and your doctor will be able to tell you if its dust mites.

The 5 Tips To Get Rid Of Dust Mites Fast

After determining that you have a dust mite problem, you can now focus on finding a solution. Here are five tips you can put in action immediately to help you eliminate dust mites starting with the focus of this post, “Air Purifiers”

1. Use Air Purifiers To Kill & Prevent Dust Mites

The main focus of this post is on air purifiers. As I mentioned earlier air purifiers won’t really help you directly with dust mites and their feces that are not airborne.

So to get the most out of air purifiers you have to somehow get  the dust mites airborne. The fastest and easiest way to achieve this is by dusting the rooms where you have an air purifier. That said, just by moving around your home, opening curtains, and making your bed you can get a lot of these little guys in the air and your air purifier will just gobble them up.

Besides directly removing dust mites, your air purifier will also help as a preventive measure. Air purifiers are designed to deal with dust very effectively. A good air purifier will get rid of skin flakes and pet dander and slow down the build-up of dust in your home, minimizing the speed at which dust mites multiply in your home.

Now not every type of air purifier will do this effectively. The air purifiers you want to avoid are ozone and ionic air purifiers. Ozone air purifiers are actually very effective in killing dust mites but ozone is a known human irritant and is dangerous for your respiratory system.

The best way to use ozone air purifiers is for spring cleaning. You have to run this type of air purifier when no one is around at home and finish using it at least an hour before anyone can go back in the house comfortably. I have personally chosen not to mess around with ozone and just live it to professional home cleaners.

As for ionic air purifiers, they also produce some tiny amounts of ozone which can be harmful if you have preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis or if you have a baby or elderly people with weaker immune systems in the home. Beyond this, some ionic air purifiers also leave a thin film of dust behind on walls, drapes, and surfaces after neutralizing them out of the air and thereby create a breeding ground for dust mite.

The only time I would use an ionic air purifier is when it's combined with a HEPA air purifier that sucks neutralized particles out of the air before they settle on surfaces. This brings me to air purifiers that will work best for dust mite. From my observation, the best type of air purifiers to go for when it comes to dust mites are HEPA and Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) air purifiers. I explain about all the different types of air purifiers here if you are interested. If you would like to know exactly which specific brand to go for, have a look at my recommendations on the best room air purifiers here.

HEPA air purifiers are designed to pull out and trap 99% of particulate matter in the air that are as small as 0.1 microns. This is well within the range needed to trap dust mites and their by-products which range from a size of 5 microns upwards. Below are some sizes in microns for you to compare. Things only become visible to the human eye above 30 microns.

  • Human Hair 35 - 200 microns
  • Pollen 10-100 microns
  • Spores 10-35 microns
  • Bacteria 0.3-35 microns
  • Animal dander 0.3-10 microns
  • Dangerous Dust 0.1-5 microns
  • Smoke 0.01-1 microns

HEPA purifiers do not do well with smoke odors and gases as their particulate size are too small and way below 0.1 microns. However, they are quite effective for dust and dust mite. What you need to do though is look for HEPA air purifiers that say true HEPA as opposed to just HEPA or HEPA-Type as these are substandard versions of actual HEPA’ air purifiers (it’s a long story). If you want a HEPA air purifier that deals with additional air contaminants like odors, then go for a combo HEPA purifier that comes with an activated carbon filter.

As for PCO air purifiers, instead of trapping dust mite allergens in a sieve-like filter based purifiers such as HEPA purifiers, it actually incinerates the particles and turns them into harmless carbon dioxide gas and water vapor. I prefer PCO air purifiers because they do very well even in large rooms above 1500 sq ft as compared to HEPA air purifiers and they also have low maintenance costs in comparison to HEPA air purifiers.

However, if you are looking to get rid of dust mites in room areas below 1500 sq ft HEPA air purifiers become worth it and interchangeable with PCO purifiers especially from a price perspective. So either PCO or HEPA will work well  for dust and dust mites for rooms that are smaller than 1500 sq ft.

The only other thing I have to add with regards to air purifiers is some important features and operating procedures. As much as possible, go for smart air purifiers with automated functions. This will save you a lot of time and energy. To avoid wasting time adjusting your device for best performance you can get an air purifier that detects indoor pollution levels and adjusts your fan speed accordingly.

You also want a device that can automatically turn itself on and off based on a schedule you give it. There are so many other cool time-saving features to look out for like remote access and warning lights when it is time to replace your air filter. The final thing I have to say is that you need to get a device that is designed to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year just as your fridge does. By doing this you give the dust mites minimal chances of survival and multiplication in your home.

This is all there is to air purifiers and dust mites. Check out my complete guide on types of air purifiers if you want more detailed information about the different types of air purifiers you can get. Now we can look at all the other measures you can implement in addition to air purifiers for more complete protection against dust mites.

2. Keep Your House As Clean As Possible

There are many things you can do to clean your home in order to eliminate dust mite and I am just going to list all the different approaches for you to explore further.

  • Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner
  • Sprinkle tannic acid dust or diatomaceous earth to dehydrate the dust mites and kill them
  • Use a cleaning chemical that contains benzyl benzoate
  • Use organic cleaning chemicals for surfaces and carpets
  • Wash bedding's and clothes with detergents for allergens and dust mite
  • Use a steam cleaner for mattresses, curtains, and furniture
  • Reduce clutter and dispose of old mattresses, bedding's and soft and fluffy toys older than 3 years old
  • Wear a mask when cleaning to avoid inhaling dust mite allergens
  • Use a damp cloth when cleaning to prevent spreading dust and dust mites through the air

3. Get Bedding Encasing and Hypoallergenic Bedding

In addition to cleaning, you also want to get hypoallergenic encasing for your mattress and pillow and hypoallergenic pillow and bed covers. Hypoallergenic material and bedding's thereof have extremely small pores compared to normal bedding's and as a result, leave no space for dust mite and bed bugs to hide and keep them out of your bed. That said you still need to wash your bedding often to ensure you keep dust mites away optimally.

4. Lower the Humidity In Your Home

To minimize dust mite levels in your home, you need to keep your humidity level below 50%. A good way to track your humidity levels is to invest in a hygrometer to see exactly how humid your air is indoors at any particular time. To keep your humidity low, you can ​ invest in a dehumidifier but running one over a long period can get quite costly over the long term.

Also, with dehumidifiers, it's hard to keep consistently low humidity levels in your home because of ongoing humidity producing activities like cooking, sleeping, and showering. This allows for enough dust mites to survive to regrow their colonies at any point in time.

A better but costlier alternative to a dehumidifier would be a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV). An HRV is a controlled ventilation system that reduces high humidity, pollutants, and odors by replacing stale air with fresh warm air. See the video below for a more detailed explanation of how this works.

The HRV exhaust air flow collects the allergens and exhausts them outside while at the same time replacing the allergen-filled air in your home with fresh, warm, dry air. As a result, your indoor air is continuously diluted with fresh, warm, dry air that contains no dust mite allergens minimizing your chance of getting dust mite allergies dramatically. An HRV installation is quite a process, and its best to have a Heating and Cooling professional to come in and set it up for you.

5. Consider A HEPA Filter On Your HVAC

If you happen to have an HVAC or central air system for your home, to minimize dust mites getting in through your system, invest in a MERV 13 Air Filter. I swear by Nordic Pure’s HVAC filters for allergies. What you can also do for your HVAC air purifier is to get a whole house HEPA air purifier like the Aprilaire Electronic Air Purifier but I highly suggest getting an HVAC Contractor if you decide to implement this. Try HVAC.com’s directory to find a reputable contractor if you are in the US.

6. Let the Sunshine In Your Home

The last tip I have for you is to open your curtains and blinds and let some sunshine into your home. Sun rays do well in killing dust mites, though they do not get rid of the feces and other allergens left behind.

Nonetheless, the more of them the sun kills, the more you slow down the growth of their colonies and how much allergens they leave behind. Add sunshine to your air purifier and cleaning routine and you get that extra edge in slowing their reproduction down. You can also take advantage of sunshine by leaving bedding's and rugs outside in direct sunlight.

Final Thoughts

After implementing all these measures, you need to know that even after all the hard work dust mites cannot be completely eliminated from your home. Regardless, they can be kept at a level that does not flare up your allergies.

So aim to minimize dust and dust mite in your home rather than completely eliminate these. To ensure dust mites are at minimum levels use the Ventia Rapid Allergen Test for dust mite I showed you earlier and you will always be 10 steps ahead of the damned critters in your efforts.

About the Author

Jean-Baptiste

Jean is a research economist by profession and he runs Fresh Air Genie. He is enthusiastic about maintaining good air quality at home and on the go and he shares his knowledge about this here at Fresh Air Genie.

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