What are the Best Methods of Killing Mites?

Mary Ellen Popolo

Killing mites — or dust mites, as they are more commonly known — is not an easy task. Removing every single mite from your home is virtually impossible. There are, however, several effective ways of killing mites and removing the majority of them from your home. Washing all of your home's bedding in hot water is a good start. Another way to keep mites at bay is to keep the humidity level in your home low, because mites thrive in high humidity.

A mite.
A mite.

Dust mites are so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. Even though you cannot see them, they live in and on just about every fabric surface in your home. Carpets, curtains, clothing, stuffed animals, beds and bedding are the most common places to find them. They also live on people and pets. Dust mites feed on dead skin cells, so any surface with which human skin comes in contact is a potential home for dust mites.

Stuffed animals can be frozen periodically to kill dust mites.
Stuffed animals can be frozen periodically to kill dust mites.

There are several ways to go about killing mites. One of the most effective methods is to wash all of your bedding in hot water. This includes sheets, pillow cases, blankets and comforters. The water must be at least 130°Fahrenheit (54.4° Celsius), or it will not kill the dust mites. Bedding should be washed at least once a week.

Window curtains, stuffed animals, throw rugs and removable furniture covers should also be washed in hot water to kill mites. Mites also feed on pet dander, so it also is important to wash your pet's bedding in hot water. Don't forget to give your pet a bath while you're at it, though you shouldn't get the water so hot that it hurts the animal.

For those things that wouldn't survive a hot water wash, freezing is another method of killing mites. Small items such as throw pillows and stuffed toys can be placed in a bag and put into the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Items will need to be laundered when removed from the freezer to get rid of the dead dust mites and their eggs, though using hot water isn't a necessity at this point.

Chemicals such as benzyl benzoate, a common food additive, can also be used for killing mites. While it is known to kill the mites, however, studies have not shown a definitive link to improved allergy symptoms. This has led some scientists to recommend that the chemical method of treating for dust mites be used only in addition to other methods, not as a standalone option.

Once you have taken measures to remove as many dust mites as possible from your home, the next step is to prevent them from repopulating. Replace your pillows often. Wash your bedding, curtains, stuffed animals, throw rugs and furniture covers weekly. Protect your bed and pillows with covers that are specially designed to block dust mites, dust, and other allergens.

Vacuum your carpets and upholstery frequently — daily if you have pets. A vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is the only way of effectively getting rid of mites by vacuuming. HEPA filters will trap the dust and the mites, while a regular vacuum will release a significant amount of them back into the air.

Mites can feed on dander from pets.
Mites can feed on dander from pets.

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