Dust mites (Dermatophagoides) thrive in mattresses, pillows, bed linens, curtains and carpets. They feed on sloughed-off fragments of human skin. If you awake in the morning with a stuffy nose and nasal congestion, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the faeces dust mites leave behind. Completely rid homes of dust mites is virtually impossible; however, the scent of lavender can be used to repel dust mites from beds and linens.
Lavender, also known as garden lavender or English lavender, is a hardy perennial plant that grows from 18 to 24 inches tall. The plant presents silvery-green feathery foliage topped by deep purple flowers. Native to Portugal, Spain and dry mountainous regions of the Mediterranean, lavender is commercially cultivated in Australia, Europe and the U.S. Lavender is one of the most commonly used fragrances in aromatherapy and is an important ingredient in many soaps, lotions, shampoos, candles and bath gels. The scent of lavender, floral and herbaceous is very pleasant to humans and repugnant to insects.
Lavender Essential Oil
Obtained by steam distillation of the lavender flowers, lavender essential oil is effective in repelling dust mites, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, bedbugs and spiders. Lavender does not kill insects. The aromatic scent of lavender is offensive, causing insects to flee the area. Lavender planted around the foundation of homes deters insect infestations.
Wash sheets and bed linens in hot water, and add 20 to 30 drops to the final rinse water. Linens will be fresh, clean-smelling and free of dust mites. Sprinkle 10 to 20 drops of lavender essential oil on a cotton ball, and tuck inside pillows, sleeping bags, suitcases and linen storage closets.
Effectively remove dust mites from carpeting with lavender and baking soda. Mix 6 tsp of dried lavender or 20 to 30 drops of lavender essential oil with a cup of baking soda. Sprinkle soda on the carpet. Allow it to remain for 20 to 30 minutes. Vacuum the carpet to refresh the fabric and remove odours, dirt, debris and dust mites.
Fresh flower buds, dried bouquets and lavender essential oil are available online, from health food stores and farmers' markets. You can also easily grow your own. Lavender will grow well in U.S. hardiness zones 2 through 7 and prefers fertile, well-drained soil and a sunny location. Purchase starter plants from local greenhouses and home and garden centres.
Harvesting, Drying and Storage
Gather fresh lavender just before the flowers open. Cut stems with clean, sharp kitchen scissors or garden shears. Tie in bunches, and hang to dry. Store dried lavender in tightly covered jars or tins. Properly dried and stored, lavender will retain its sweet fragrance and flavour for many years.