Ways To Kill Dust Mites Inexpensively

by Reader Contributors

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Eliminating allergy causing dust mites from your laundry is challenging and a bit costly, but our frugal readers offer up their most effective ways to kill dust mites on the cheap.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
We have recently discovered that my husband is allergic to dust. His allergist informed him that unless we wash everything in hot water, the dust mites will not be killed.

There are products on the market that will kill the mites when added to the laundry, but they are very expensive. Does anyone have any ideas on how I can kill the dust mites without spending a ton on chemicals? Also, am I wrong in thinking that the hot water could damage some of our clothing/linens?
Claire in Athens, GA

Make Internal and External Changes

Do as your doctor says and start washing your laundry in hot water, especially your outer layers of bedding. It works! Also, you might want to change your HVAC filters to HEPA-type ones (found in your local hardware store, Home Depot, or Lowe’s). The difference is noticeable right away.

If you have pets, you might want to think about purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter on it to help when vacuuming stirs up pet hair. It likes to gather at your baseboard trim, so you’ll need to clean those areas often.

Also, when pets go outside for extended stays, run a damp washcloth over their coats to remove pollen and loose dander when they come back inside. When the coat dries, follow with vigorous brushing (with and against grain) to remove any loose hair that the washcloth may have missed. Animal saliva itself sets off allergies, so frequent wiping and brushing will help prevent Fido and Fluffy from having to groom themselves, replacing pollen and dander with saliva.

When an allergic episode comes on (nasal for me), I take two 1000-mg. fish oil caps and two green tea caps to stop the histamine action and remove any histamines that have escaped into my system (causing sinus pain and swelling). I take one of each daily to help prevent episodes from ever happening, but sometimes my cats over-power my good works.

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Hinder Harboring Dust Mites

I am very allergic to dust mites and mold. Both like moisture. The best way to get rid of dust mites and mold is to eliminate the places that harbor them. Here’s what I suggest to avoid harboring mites.

  1. Run a dehumidifier in the summer to help keep the moisture level down. You can save money on A/C by setting it at a higher level and you can still get rid of mites and prevent mold. (you use a ceiling fan, be sure to dust it often.)
  2. Squeegee and wipe down the bath/shower after use. This eliminates a lot of moisture in the air. In the summer, I dry the old towel I use in the garage, not in the house. Use the bathroom fan when using hot water.
  3. Remove drapes, curtains, carpets and most rugs. Wash throw rugs often. (Use grippers to keep them in place for safety’s sake.)
  4. Dry bedding on the hottest possible dryer setting for the material in order to kill any mites that make it through the wash cycle.
  5. Encase pillows and mattresses in allergen-free covers. Wash the covers as needed. This is much easier than washing pillows weekly and also protects the mattress from spills and stains.
  6. Consider using a Robovac to clean carpeted rooms, so that you can avoid any dust that is stirred up.

Barbara from SC

Freeze Them Out

Our son’s allergist told us that we can put stuffed animals in the freezer overnight (or in the car or unheated garage when the temperature is below freezing). If you have extra sets and enough room in the freezer, I’m sure this would probably work for the bed linens as well.
AJ in Ohio

Remove the Eggs and Droppings

My allergist says that there is really no way to eliminate the mites themselves. He suggested that you could bathe in boiling oil and the dust mites would still be back the next day.

What you want to do, as much as possible, is remove their eggs and their droppings. These are what actually cause the allergic reaction. So wash everything regularly in the hottest water it can tolerate. Most importantly, get rid of things in which dust mites like to lay their eggs. Feather pillows (or anything else containing feathers, such as a down jacket) are the worst. Carpets and rugs can also harbor the mites and their droppings; if you can’t get rid of these, treating them with the expensive stuff is probably a good idea.

Dehumidifying your home may also help, since dust mites like a humid climate. (See Is Too Much Moisture in Your Home Costing You?.)

Finally, most sources agree that it’s wise to cover your mattress with a dust-proof cover. I haven’t tried this myself, though.

Tips from an Allergy Sufferer

I suffer with allergies. Here are my tips for getting rid of dust mites:

  1. Wash linen and drapes in hot water.
  2. Keep humidity in the house under 35%.
  3. Remove carpeting, upholstered furniture, drapes, curtains, stuffed toys, and other fabric-covered furnishings from house and replace with easy-to-clean items.
  4. Cover mattress, box spring and pillows with allergenic covers.
  5. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Never sweep, as it spreads the dust around.
  6. Use a Swiffer Wet Jet to wash floors after vacuuming.
  7. Use an air cleaner with HEPA filter

Christine from Montreal

Try this Three-Step Approach

Some items can be faded or damaged by washing in hot water. However, since the alternative is to not use them, it is probably worth the risk for items that are in the house. I would use a combination of washing, eliminating and enclosing to beat the dust mites.

Wash everything possible. If the item is bedding and needs to be washed every week, then make sure you buy things that can be washed at home. For example, ditch that goose down comforter unless you enclose it in an allergenic cover, which can be bought at a linen store. Then wash the cover every week and replace it or just be simple and get a heavy washable quilt to replace it. I replaced non-washable bedspreads with washable ones (quilts), got rid of carpet in the bedroom, and keep clothes neatly put away in drawers or storage bags with cedar so they are not out to give dust mites a home sweet home.

Eliminate things like carpet on the floor and ornate surfaces in the décor that leave a lot of places for dust to stick and are hard to clean. Your goal should be zero items out on bedside tables other than the phone and alarm clock. Everything else should find a home in the drawer or be moved somewhere else.

Enclose your mattress, pillows, box spring, comforter, etc. in allergenic covers. If you cannot wash decorative pillows, then they need to move out. It cost me about $100 to buy all the necessary covers and a couple of washable rugs for beside the bed. It was money well spent, since I saved on medications that were no longer needed!

Use Vellux Blankets

My daughter was diagnosed with a severe dust mite allergy. We were told to concentrate on reducing the dust mite population in the bedroom as a person spends several hours sleeping in bed each night. We were able to replace the bedroom carpet with linoleum, which was a big help. We purchased special mattress and pillow covers. They were pricey but worth it to reduce the ongoing health problems that occurred as a result of the dust mite allergy. All bedding needed to be washed regularly in hot water.

We replaced comforters and regular blankets with Vellux blankets. I was able to buy some large-sized end pieces of vellux material at a local fabric store, which were used as blankets on our daughter’s bed. Vellux blankets are very comfortable and warm and can stand up to regular hot water washing and drying in the dryer.

Another interesting tip that was given by a public health nurse was to put cushions and very favorite stuffed toys into a large garbage bag every month and put the bag in our freezer for 48 hours. This apparently also kills the dust mites. (We had reduced the stuffed animal population already but were able to keep a few favorites by rotating them for this freezer treatment!).

Incidentally, one can have a course of dust mite allergy shots (administered at doctor’s office) and this was also very effective in reducing the allergic reaction in our daughter.

Wash with Eucalyptus Oil

I found this information in a health newsletter. It stated that dust mites are one of the most common household allergens and a major risk factor for asthma sufferers. The article suggested that washing your bedding with eucalyptus oil virtually eliminated these pesky critters, according to researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The researchers got rid of 99 percent of the mites on wool blankets by soaking the blankets for 60 minutes in a solution of 6 tablespoons eucalyptus oil (0.4 percent concentration), 1 1/4 tablespoons liquid laundry detergent and 13 gallons of water. They then rinsed the blankets in cool water. Without the oil, the laundry detergent alone got rid of only 2.4 percent of the mites. You can purchase eucalyptus oil at most natural food stores or wherever essential oils are sold.

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Consider Air Mattresses

Yes, the products are expensive, but they work. My nine-year-old daughter has a severe allergy to mites. Her doctor said to wash the things her face touches a lot. Therefore, I only have to wash her bedding with the DeMite Laundry Additive. I wash the sheets and blanket weekly and mattress cover and bedspread monthly. One large bottle lasts me a year, and because I do not need to use hot water, my linens will last longer and she can have the colorful ones. Plus, I can wash her favorite stuffed animals with it. Compared to what I paid on prescriptions and doctor visits before discovering this stuff, I am money ahead.

Also, a cheap way to reduce the mites is to switch to an air mattress. These do not have a place for the mites to live. We purchased camping mattresses from Walmart for about $20 each for the whole family. We all sleep better! Febreze dust mite spray seems to work just as well as the more expensive sprays. I just spray the furniture weekly and it really seems to help.

Keep Humidity Level Low

As someone who is highly allergic to dust mites, there are several things you can do. Definitely buy containment bedding to keep the dust mites from penetrating through your mattress and pillows.

Also, put a dehumidifier in your bedroom and get a humidistat that tells you the humidity level. Keep your bedroom’s humidity below 50 percent and dust mites cannot live. Since your husband probably spends the most hours at home in the bedroom, you’ll get the most relief from this. I found a dehumidifier at a garage sale for $30 and a humidistat at Target.

If I am not mistaken, I believe putting things in the dryer on hot and running a few minutes will also kill dust mites. I do this with my children’s stuffed animals.

Kill in Dryer

I also suffer from the dust mite problem. I wash all of my bedding in warm water and then put them in the dryer. I was told that 30 minutes in the dryer kills the dust mites. With that in mind, every time I change the bedding, I put my pillows in the dryer for 30 minutes. This takes care of all those dust mites!

Wash with Pine Sol

My allergist suggested washing in Pine Sol. I add about 1/8 cup to each load. And I use the citrus scent, so I don’t smell like a tree.

Try Wintergreen Essential Oil

One very simple and pleasant solution is to use wintergreen essential oil. Use approximately 1/2 teaspoon in a quart of water and spray linens, and furniture. Also, add to laundry, mop bucket and air diffusers. This works well on bed bugs too.

Reviewed February 2023

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