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Controlling Dust, Dust Mites, and Other Allergens in Your Home

Overview

Dust and dust mites are a common indoor allergen. Allergens are things that can trigger an allergic reaction. Allergens can cause a rash, a stuffy nose, or other symptoms such as wheezing or coughing.

Dust mites are visible only through a microscope. People are allergic to dust mite droppings, not the dust mites themselves. Allergy to dust mites is a year-round problem.

  • Reduce dust and dust mites in the air.
    • Don't use window or attic fans, which bring air containing pollen, mold spores, and other allergens into your home.
    • Use air conditioning so you don't have to open windows. This will help reduce the amount of pollen and mold spores that enter your home.
    • Use an air cleaner with a special high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This can help remove some allergens (such as pollen or pet dander) and tobacco smoke from the air in your home.
  • Reduce dust and dust mites in furniture, carpets, drapes, and bedding.
    • Avoid carpet, upholstered furniture, and heavy drapes that collect dust. Avoid furniture covered with fabrics.
    • Use dust-proof pillow and mattress covers made from a tight-weave fabric that keeps out dust and mites.
    • Use furniture made of wood, plastic, leather, or vinyl (including vinyl mattress covers) that you can wipe clean.
    • Remove rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting. Talk with your family about this and about how this will affect family life. If you can't or don't want to remove carpeting throughout the home, think about removing it only in the bedroom.
    • Use smaller rugs (throw rugs, area rugs) that you can wash.
    • Replace drapes and blinds with roll-down shades or washable curtains.
    • Remove "dust collectors" from bedrooms, such as stuffed toys, wall hangings, books, knickknacks, and artificial flowers.
    • Avoid wool blankets and down quilts.
  • Mop, dust, and vacuum to reduce dust and dust mites.
    • Damp-mop hard floors (tile or hardwood, for example) once a day.
    • Dust and vacuum once or twice a week to remove the buildup of allergens. Use a dry cloth to wipe hard surfaces such as countertops, tables, and other furniture.
    • Vacuum the carpets and cloth-covered furniture to get rid of as much dust as you can.
    • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or a special double-thickness bag, which collects dust-mite particles and pollen. Standard paper bag filters may allow the stirred-up allergens to escape back into the room.
    • Dusting and vacuuming stir up dust, making the air worse until the dust settles. Wear a mask if you do the cleaning yourself. If possible, try to have someone without allergies do the cleaning.
    • Consider wet-vacuum cleaning when possible. This can help remove allergens from carpeting because it actually washes the carpet. Also, consider steam cleaning carpets when possible. In addition to cleaning the carpet, the heat of the steam kills dust mites.
  • Take other steps to reduce dust mites.
    • Keep the house aired out and dry. Dust mites do well where humidity is greater than 50% but don't do well in dry conditions. This may be difficult in some seasons and some climates. Plants and fish tanks add to humidity, so keep these out of the bedroom.
    • Dry vacuuming doesn't pick up dust mites. Consider steam cleaning carpets when possible. In addition to cleaning the carpet, the heat of the steam kills dust mites.
    • You can buy chemicals (ascaricides) that kill dust mites and that you can use on carpeting and furniture. But many experts don't consider them effective enough to be worth the trouble and expense of using them.
    • Wash bedding, including pillowcases and mattress covers, in hot water every week. You can also dry bedding at high temperatures.

Credits

Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rohit K Katial MD - Allergy and Immunology

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