You can’t see microscopic dust mites, and the mites don’t typically carry any diseases, but they are far from harmless. The American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology estimates that 10 percent of Americans suffer from dust mite allergies. That means millions of unseen visitors in your basement could be causing your loved ones to have runny noses, watery eyes and other allergic reactions.
Basements, even furnished basements, are the ideal breeding ground for dust mites, which like heat, humidity, darkness and, of course, dirt and dust. However, there are effective ways to keep dust mites out of the basement, and protect your family and friends. These include controlling the climate, changing the flooring and furniture, and cleaning thoroughly and regularly.
Control the Climate
• Keep the basement below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent humidity. Air conditioners and de-humidifiers can help.
• Try to get as much sunshine as possible into the basement. Easier said than done, of course, but remodeling with some basement windows will also make your house safer.
• Use a HEPA air purifier to reduce dust, which in turn reduces mites that feed on dust. Ozone generators are less effective, and may actually harm your family’s health.
• Replace furnace and air conditioner filters every month with high-quality anti-microbial filters that trap allergens. This also will generally keep your air cleaner and help your HVAC system run more efficiently.
Tear Out the Carpet
• Replace carpets with tile or vinyl flooring, which can harbor fewer dust mites. Hardwood and laminate floors also are good for dust mite levels, but are less ideal for basements in general because basements are liable to get wet, and wood flooring should not get wet.
Seal the Bedding
• Use synthetic bedding in the basement in place of wool, down and other natural materials. Down often triggers allergies, either directly or indirectly by harboring dust mites. If you are buying a new mattress, consider artificial memory foam.
• Leave the sheets open during the day. Making the bed can seal dust mites inside a perfect humid, warm breeding ground.
• Seal your mattresses with mite-proof polyurethane or plastic covers. Also consider dust mite-proof sheet, available through allergy product specialists.
• Dust mites allergies are a good excuse for replacing that old overstuffed, upholstered furniture, or at least refinish it with leather or vinyl.
• Wash bedding and other items weekly in water hotter than 130 degrees Fahrenheit. For items that can’t be washed, freezing also kills mites.
• Vacuum thoroughly and regularly around the feet of the bed with a HEPA-filter vacuum, triple-layer bag vacuum or a wet mop. Some vacuums and all dry brooms simply stir up and spread the dust mites.
Keep the basement clean and free of the carpets, mattresses and furniture that dust mites love. Also control the basement climate. If all else fails, consider specially formulated dust mite sprays, or acaracides.