Do you find that your eyes start streaming and your nose starts running every time you crawl into bed, sit on the carpet playing with your kids, or wear a certain item of clothing? Then it is possible that dust mites have invaded your home. Don’t worry: the dust mite is very common, found in larger numbers around South Africa’s coastal areas. There are ten different species living in Cape Town, Durban, and Port Elizabeth, although even homes up in Johannesburg and Pretoria aren’t immune to these creepy crawlies.
The house dust mite is so small that we can’t see it or feel it, but if we were to look at one under a microscope we’d see that it isn’t too dissimilar to a spider – it’s an arachnid with eight legs. Unlike spiders, however, dust mites excrete substances that are major allergens, and can have us sniffing and sneezing uncontrollably in no time.
These tiny bugs feed off dead skin, so anything that frequently comes into contact with bare skin – bed sheets, carpets, and clothing, for example – makes a good home for the creatures. These areas are where you should focus your efforts if you’re keen to rid your home of bothersome dust mites.
Easy Ways to Get Rid of Dust Mites
The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to get rid of dust mites from your home for good; as long as you continue to shed skin, the dust mites will be waiting. The good news, however, is that it’s actually very easy to keep their numbers to a minimum. With a bit of care and attention, most homeowners in South Africa, even those living amongst the coastal lowlands, should be able to reduce dust mite numbers to a point where their effects aren’t too problematic. Getting rid of dust mites really can have a positive effect on your health.
Washing your carpets on a regular basis isn’t entirely practical. A better way to manage dust mite numbers on the floor is to vacuum on a daily to twice-weekly basis, sucking up any of the bugs munching on the dead skin cells that have fallen off your feet. Alternatively, you may wish to place washable rugs on top of your carpet that can easily be popped into the washing machine.
The trick with keeping your bed sheets dust-mite free (or as close to dust mite free as possible) is to wash them regularly in hot water – at least 60 degrees Celsius (or the highest temperature indicated on the wash care label). Hot water is vital when it comes to killing dust mites, as they can survive easily in cooler temperatures. Always read the label of your detergent to determine dosage.
Also, you may want to watch out for bed bugs. To determine whether these critters have found their way into your bed and find out how to remove them, read our article on how to get rid of bed bugs.
Wash your clothes using a laundry detergent that’s renowned for its great cleaning properties (we like OMO) and, where possible, wash in hot temperatures. With delicate materials like wool, washing at 60 degrees isn’t possible – but there are other ways you can reduce dust mite numbers on your clothing. One way is to keep your clothes on a hanger, tucked away in a closet, rather than leaving them crumpled up on the floor where the dust mites have easy access.
There is a common belief that dust mites only live in dirty homes, but this isn’t true at all. Any home can harbour dust mites, so it’s important that we all know the best methods for minimising their numbers and protecting our health. As you can see, it’s actually very simple to get rid of the majority of dust mites living in our bed sheets, carpets, and clothing – and you’re sure to notice a difference!