Pillow talk: Does extreme cold kill dust mites?

  • Article by: KATIE HUMPHREY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 6, 2014 - 3:59 PM

There’s an upside to this freezing weather if killing dust mites is your goal.

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A dust mite.

Here’s something to toss out in the cold: dust mites.

The deep freeze kills the microscopic allergens. So bag up the pillows and plush toys, throw the whole lot outside until every teddy bear is frozen through its fuzzy core.

Or don’t. After all, experts say there are better ways to deal with dust mites.

“There’s more to it than simply killing them on a one-time basis,” said Jeff Hahn, entomologist with the University of Minnesota Extension.

Plus, it’s going to warm up, and freezing a pillow of mites to death takes some time.

“The temperatures are not going to stay,” Hahn said, noting that the mercury may climb to the upper 20s later this week. “Can they survive that? I don’t know the answer.”

People who suffer from dust mite allergies have to battle the microscopic invertebrates all year.

The Mayo Clinic website recommends weekly vacuuming and washing bedding in water that’s at least 130 degrees.

Dry air — 50 percent humidity or less — is also helpful in controlling the home dust mite population. Score another point, Minnesota winter.

Still, extreme cold can kill other pests, like bed bugs, over time. But the U of M Extension doesn’t recommend the outdoor method because of variables like sun and fluctuating temps. A freezer with a temperature of 0 or less for at least four days is a better bet if bed bugs are the problem.

Alas, there will likely be little effect on mosquitoes, Hahn said, because they’re native insects.

“They’ve lived here before and know what to do to cope,” he said. “Kind of like Minnesotans.”

Katie Humphrey • 612-673-4758

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