Not to alarm you, but dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in your furniture and bedding. They largely go unnoticed unless you are allergic to them. If you have asthma or allergies, you may be affected by dust mites. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), “common dust mite allergy symptoms include: Sneezing, Runny nose, Itchy, red or watery eyes, Stuffy nose, Itchy nose, mouth or throat, Postnasal drip, and Cough.” Fortunately, essential oils have been proven to eliminate or lessen dust mite invasions.
The AAFA recommends that you wash sheets and blankets weekly in hot water. By adding certain essential oils to the wash you can be even more effective at removing the dust mites. One study proved that “eucalyptus oil … can be formulated with a specific kitchen detergent concentrate to form an inexpensive acaricidal (tick and mite killing) wash.” This work also demonstrated that Eucalyptus oil killed “mites found in blankets by more than 95% during normal machine washing.”
Researchers looked at the essential oils of Citronella, Eucalyptus, Spearmint, Tea Tree and Wintergreen as laundry additives during warm-water laundering. “All of the oils killed more than 80% of mites after 30 minutes, and with the exception of citronella, they killed more than 60% of mites after 10 minutes. The effectiveness of all oils decreased with shorter exposure times. Only citronella oil and tea tree oil (both used for 30 minutes) were as effective as 0.5% benzyl benzoate.”
The caveat for this aromatherapy treatment is that essential oils in the laundry may catch fire under certain conditions. The problem arises when laundry is washed at a cool temperature. The oil is broken down by the washing detergent when washing at 100°F or above, but it is not at lower temperatures. If not broken down, the residue can be combustible when the laundry is heated in the dryer. The solution? Make sure your washing temperature is at least 100°F.
Other studies showed the usefulness of Pennyroyal, Clove, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Caraway, and Laurel essential oils at killing dust mites in laboratory cultures, with Laurel proving as successful as the solvent benzyl benzoate. This suggests the application for these oils could be as cleansers for surfaces where dust mites dwell. So, you can say goodbye to dust mites and make the house smell nice at the same time.