Dust Mites and Castile Soap

Eeew. To me that’s a pretty icky word in the title there. Dust Mites are something I don’t like to think about, especially not in the context of their residence in my house. However, just slightly below them in my grossness hierarchy is the dust itself. One reason to keep up with regular cleaning is to reduce the presence of dust mites in my house. The idea that dust causes people to sneeze is somewhat valid, but what is of greater concern – and potentially dangerous to asthmatics – are the dust mites which feed on the dust.

Because cute covers can hide creepy crawlies, add castile soap to your laundry regimen.

I always equated dust with dirt – very fine dirt. I figured we have a lot of it because we have five people and two dogs tracking in dirt from the outside. While there certainly is some dirt in my household’s dust, it’s not at the top of the list. A variety of sources agreed on what this article from Time summed up:

  • Nearly everywhere, dust consists of some combination of shed bits of human skin, animal fur, decomposing insects, food debris, lint and organic fibers from clothes, bedding and other fabrics, tracked-in soil, soot, particulate matter from smoking and cooking, and, disturbingly, lead, arsenic and even DDT.(http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1966870,00.html#ixzz1t1Oj1KSs)

So let me say it again: Eeeeewww!
And dust mites find this medley quite tasty. So where there is dust, there are dust mites. Just to lay it all on the table, the exoskeletons and poop from the dust mites cause an immune system response in sensitive individuals. (Although, I would imagine that inhaling any bug – technically an arachnid here – would be problematic.)

The best habitat for dust mites are carpets and bedding. Such places are sheltered and cozy with lots of nooks for dust and lots of opportunities to snag skin particles, animal fur, lint, and the rest of that list above. In regards to human breathing, however, the bedding is the main concern. By in large, unusual circumstances notwithstanding, we spend more time lying in our beds than we do on our carpets. Fortunately for us, it’s easier to wash our bedding than our carpets.

Here’s where the castile soap enters in
As I’ve covered earlier in regards to spraying for ants, castile soap dissolves exoskeletons. So, when it comes to treating for dust mites, this particular attribute of castile soap once again comes in handy. Normally I use Sal Suds for my laundry – it is slightly better at whitening whites and getting rid of stains. However, for my bedding, I reach for Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap – usually the peppermint, but any one of them will be effective.

Heat also kills dust mites, so with the combo of heat and castile, there’s really little chance for survival. Bedding should be washed frequently because new mites take up residence regularly. Also, the combo of high heat and frequent washings can take a toll on fabrics, so opt for 100% cotton fabrics with a moderately high thread count (300+).

The recipe*:

  • 1/3 c. castile soap
  • 1/2 c. vinegar
  • Hot water
  • Hot dryer

Add the castile soap to the bedding in the washer. Set the washer at the hottest setting. Put vinegar in the fabric softener cup, so that it will be added during the rinse cycle. (Castile soap can leave a residue on fabrics washed in hard water. Vinegar eliminates this residue.) Dry the bedding on the hottest setting.

*This is for a regular, top-loading washer. If you have an HE machine, cut each of the measurements by half.

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