Dust…it’s a fact of life, just like death and taxes. Unless you have access to some seriously expensive equipment, there is no way that you will get it out of your house entirely. It’s something we all must live with, even though there are certainly ways of keeping the proliferation of dust to a minimum.
But what exactly is this stuff that just keeps appearing in our homes? And why can it cause health problems in some people? We’re not going to lie – some of the facts listed below are, well, disgusting. However, knowing the enemy is the first step to fighting the battle against dust and dust mites.
1. Dust Isn’t Just Dead Skin…But That’s a Big Part of It.
One of the most common bits of information floating around out there is that dust is 80% dead skin cells. In reality, though, the number may not be quite that high but dead skin does make up a part of it. It also contains hair, pollen, dried saliva (thanks, pets), textile fibers, soil, mold spores, and other particulate matter that is floating around in the air in your home.
2. On Average, Most Homes Collect Around 40 lbs. of Dust a Year.
Forty pounds. Every Year. There is some variation from household to household – it depends on how many people live in the home, how many pets there are, and the location of the house. For reference, the average 5-year-old weighs 40 pounds.
3. Dust Can Cause Breathing Problems, But Most Reactions Are Related to Dust Mites.
While most reactions from dust are due to dust mites (and you’ll learn why in just a minute), dust itself can cause breathing problems in some people. Individuals who have allergic reactions to animals can suffer even if the animal isn’t around because their dander (dried skin and saliva cells) are floating around in the air as part of the dust.
Some dust particles are also large enough to create problems in the lungs. When this happens, the usual reaction is coughing.
4. Dust Mites Are Tiny, Tiny Arachnids Crawling Around Your Home.
Ahhh…dust mites. These guys are related to spiders, ticks, crabs, and lobsters, and live anywhere there is an abundance of dust. They are minuscule (less than a millimeter in length) and are usually a transparent white, making them impossible to see with the naked eye. But if you live in a home that is not a sterile environment and has a humidity level over 55%, hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of them are likely living alongside you and your family.
5. Dust Mites Eat Your Dead Skin.
Why do dust mites live in and around dust? Because they love to eat dead skin cells! Those little dust bunnies living behind the couch are like a never-ending buffet for dust mites, and they’re not going to leave if there is plenty of food for them to eat. So they live in your home, eat the dead skin, and have babies. Hundreds of thousands of babies.
6. Dust Mites Won’t Bite You.
The one good thing about dust mites is that they’re not particularly interested in living on people or pets. They would rather spend their time eating the detritus that falls off of us and our pets than hitch a ride on our bodies. They don’t bite – they’re only interested in scavenging the dead cells they find lying around our homes.
If you start to experience a lot of tiny red bites, however, you may want to check for bed bugs. They’re another somewhat common pest that also likes to live around furniture, a favorite home for dust mites as well.
7. Allergic Reactions Aren’t from The Mites Themselves.
All that sneezing and respiratory reactions that happen due to a “dust allergy”? Yeah,great…it’s because of the dust mites. The thing that most of us react to is their feces. A single dust mite produces about 20 droppings a day…and hundreds of thousands of them are likely in your home. Do the math.
8. You’re Not the Only One Creating Dust Mite Meals.
Your pets also create a lot of dead skin cells, which dust mites love to eat. One way to reduce their source of food is to keep your pets clean. Have them groomed on a regular basis and make sure their skin is staying properly hydrated so that they aren’t producing an abundance of dander.
9. You Might Want to Reconsider Carpet.
Carpet is a perfect place for dust to build up unnoticed. Unlike hard surface flooring, carpeting can hide obvious signs of dust and trick you into thinking its clean. With a steady supply of dust, over 100,000 dust mites can live in a single square yard of carpet.
If you do opt to have carpet, make sure you are vacuuming on a regular basis to rid your home of these nasty little invaders.
10. Mites, Just Like Mold and Mildew, Love Humidity.
If you are planning to escape dust mites altogether, you will have to move somewhere like Arizona, where the humidity stays low year-round. Dust mites need humidity to stay hydrated and thrive in environments that are moist.
Knowing this, it’s a good idea to monitor the humidity levels in your home and keep those levels low if possible. A good air conditioner can help with this, or use a dehumidifier in areas such as basements where humidity levels tend to spike.
11. Boiling Hot Water Isn’t Necessary to Kill Dust Mites.
One myth surrounding dust mites is that you need to wash bedding and fabrics in extremely hot water to kill them. Hot water helps, but most mites die from drowning in the washer. Normal heat from your dryer is also enough to kill them, as are the cold temperatures found in your freezer.
12. You Should Get a Mattress Cover.
Even if you aren’t allergic to dust mites, it might be a good idea to get a mattress cover. Dust mites LOVE mattresses and pillows. A mattress can provide a home for somewhere between 1,000,000 and 10,000,000 dust mites, depending on the age of the mattress. Basically, an uncovered mattress is the equivalent of NYC for the mites living in your home.
Consider pillow covers and washable pillows as well. It turns out that up to 10% of a two-year old pillow’s weight can be attributed to dust mites. EW!!!
13. HEPA Filters Can Lower the Dust Mite Populations in Your Home.
We bet you’re seriously thinking about changing the filters in your HVAC system now, aren’t you? If your system can handle it, a HEPA filter can help to cut down on the dust in your home. If your system won’t work with this type of filter, go for one that has a high MERV rating. A high MERV rating is an indication that the filter can capture a higher number of particles, helping to keep your home dust-free.
You can also opt to use a vacuum with a HEPA filtration system, or a HEPA air purifier. Both of these used together will help to lower the buildup of dust in your home, and kick those nasty little mites out of your environment for good!