Dust mites are some of the most common allergens within a house. These microscopic arachnids can cause respiratory allergies when inhaled.
Once you have dust mites dwelling in your home, it can be challenging to get rid of them. It’s essential to understand what dust mites are and how to properly eliminate them from your house.
Many homeowners believe that dust equals dust mites, but that’s not always the case. There are many other misconceptions about dust mites, so we’re here to set the record straight.
What Are Dust Mites?
Dust mites might look like tiny bed bugs, but they’re actually closer related to spiders.
They’re commonly found in dark areas such as within mattresses, upholstery, carpets, curtains and bedding (1).
Dust mites prefer these areas due to the excellent access they have to their favorite meal: dead skin flakes. Unlike bed bugs who prefer to feed on our blood while we’re sleeping, dust mites prefer what we leave behind.
We shed a significant amount of dead skin as we toss and turn in bed or move around the house. However, it’s not only human skin they enjoy; dust mites also feast on pet skin flakes.
No matter how often you clean your home, dust mites can be tricky to fully eliminate. As long as they have access to nutrients and a warm, humid environment, they’re in your house for the long haul.
Dangers of Dust Mites
Despite the microscopic size of these common household pests, dust mites can pose a high risk to our health.
Dust mite allergy is very common, and it occurs when we’re exposed to dust mites.
Symptoms of Dust Mite Allergy
When you’re allergic to something, your immune system creates antibodies. These identify the foreign object as harmful, even when it isn’t (2)
When exposed, the immune system causes an inflammatory response within your nasal passages or even your lungs. Chronic inflammation occurs during prolonged or regular exposure to an allergen.
If you’re allergic, you could be experiencing the following:
- Runny nose.
- Postnasal drip.
- Stuffy nose.
- Itchy nose, throat or mouth.
- Red, watery or itchy eyes.
- Itchy skin.
If you’re being exposed to dust mites regularly, you could be experiencing asthma symptoms. These include the following:
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Difficulty sleeping due to coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath (3).
It’s important to know that not only live mites cause allergic reactions. After a mite dies, it leaves behind its body and waste. These will continue to trigger allergies when inhaled.
Dust mite waste will continue to linger around within household dust. So whenever you’re exposed to the dust, you’ll be exposed to dust mites.
True, some of the symptoms are manageable or similar to common cold symptoms. Still, it’s important to be checked. Some people are at a higher risk of developing dust mite allergy. These include:
- Young individuals: Children and even young adults are more likely to develop dust mite allergy if exposed.
- Exposed individuals: If you have dust mites at home, you’re at a higher risk of developing an allergy.
- Family history: If dust mite allergy or other forms of allergies run in your family, you’re likely to also develop symptoms (4).
If you’re at a higher risk of developing dust mite allergy, you could also risk complications. These include:
- Asthma: As we mentioned above, regular or prolonged exposure to dust mites can trigger asthma symptoms. However, if you have allergies as well as asthma, the symptoms can be challenging to manage. You could be at a higher risk of asthma attacks that will require immediate treatment or even emergency care. If you have allergies and asthma, talk to your medical advisor to see how to best manage your symptoms (5).
- Sinus infection: Chronic inflammation within the nasal passages can block your sinuses. When these hollow cavities are obstructed, sinus infections (sinusitis) are very likely to occur. Sinusitis can be very painful and will need medical treatment (6).
Identifying Dust Mite Allergy
Merely experiencing a few of the symptoms we mentioned above, doesn’t necessarily mean you have an allergy. However, if you’re continuously experiencing allergic symptoms, you should get it checked by a doctor.
A doctor can identify dust mite allergy using one of two tests:
- Skin prick test (SPT): A small drop of the allergen is placed on your skin, the doctor will then prick or scratch the area with a needle. If allergic, you’ll develop swelling, itchiness and redness in the area within 20 minutes (7). A wheal might also develop — these look similar to hives.
- Specific IgE blood test: Skin testing isn’t always possible due to various reasons such as skin conditions or medication. In this case, the doctor will do a Specific IgE blood test — previously known as RAST or ImmunoCAP. The lab will add the allergen to your sample and will then measure the number of antibodies produced by your blood (8).
Do Dust Mites Bite?
Unlike bed bugs — the other pesky pest that sometimes shares your bed — dust mites don’t actually bite.
However, allergic reactions can trigger skin rashes that are red and itchy (9).
Skin rashes and allergic reactions can be frustrating. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or calm the effects:
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, which is released by your body when exposed to allergens. You can buy antihistamines over the counter, including Zyrtec, Allegra, Benadryl and Claritin.
- Prescribed allergy medications: A doctor might prescribe you nasal corticosteroids and oral leukotriene receptor antagonists.
- Decongestants: A frustrating allergic symptom is a continuously stuffy nose, postnasal drip or headaches caused by the sinus. Using an over-the-counter decongestant can help to soothe the symptoms and remove mucus build-up.
- Allergy shots: When getting an allergy shot, you’re injected with small amounts of an allergen. This isn’t a one-time thing as you’ll get weekly injections over several months or years, depending on your case. In time, your body will begin to form an immunity towards the specific allergen you’re injected with. However, tests must be done before administering allergy shots (10).
Can Dust Mites Live in Your Hair?
Unlike lice, dust mites can’t live in human hair. But, there is a different type of mite that does live in human hair. Follicle mites, also known as Demodex folliculorum, thrive within the follicles found around the face, such as eyelashes and eyebrows. These microscopic mites feed on the oil gland within the follicles (11).
How to Get Rid of Dust and Dust Mites
The best way to prevent allergies is by removing dust and dust mites. However, this might be easier said than done. Dust mites can hide in many areas around your home, so be ready for a deep clean.
We’ll help you by breaking it down into sections and revealing the most effective method or methods for each area of the house.
Lower the Temperature
Dust mites thrive in warm environments, ideally temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. By lowering the indoor temperature, you could drive them away or at least slow their breeding.
You can start by keeping your indoor air temperature lower than normal — around 70 degrees Fahrenheit will be fine. However, you have to consider what will be comfortable for you and your family as well.
Keep in Mind
Reducing Humidity Levels
Dust mites absolutely love a humid environment, ideally between 70 and 80 percent. So by dehumidifying your home environment, you could slow their reproduction to a minimum. High humidity levels in a home aren’t comfortable for us, either. Luckily, there are ways to reduce it quickly.
Investing in a dehumidifier is one of the most effective ways to lower the humidity. There are many sizes available, depending on the size of your home. You can even choose one with a built-in humidistat, so you can monitor the humidity.
Most dehumidifiers will keep the relative humidity below 50 percent. Some will even lower it to 30 percent. Try to keep the humidity below 50 percent to ensure dust mites won’t thrive.
Here are some other ways to lower the humidity:
- Air out as often as you can by opening windows.
- Create better airflow by turning on fans and vents.
- Control humidity with an air conditioning unit.
We highly recommend that you invest in a digital humidity monitor to help keep an eye on the relative humidity. These are generally affordable and are available with a thermometer as well, such as the ThermoPro.
Air purifiers are excellent at cleaning the air from allergens such as pollen, dander, dust and dust mites. They work by drawing air in and pulling it through different filters — commonly a HEPA filter and an activated charcoal filter.
Not only will air purifiers get rid of most airborne pollutants, but they will also remove odors. Additionally, most air purifiers will be able to remove dust and larger particles.
However, because dust mites are microscopic in size, not all units will be able to capture them. We highly recommend that you choose a unit with a true HEPA filter — this will capture particles as small as 0.3 microns.
The Whirlpool Whispure is an excellent example and one of the best air purifiers for dust.
Keep in Mind
When dealing with dust mites, it’s always best to use an appropriate vacuum cleaner for the floor you’re cleaning. Hard floors require soft brushes to prevent damage, while carpets require attachments like beater rolls to get everything out.
A vacuum with a HEPA filter will prevent dust and allergens from spreading while you’re vacuuming.
If possible, move furniture and other obstacles out of the way to get a more thorough clean. Pay close attention to corners, baseboards and underneath furniture.
If you’re vacuuming a rug or small carpet, try to turn it over and vacuum the underside as well. There can be a significant amount of dust hiding under there.
Although regular mopping won’t kill dust mites, it’s an effective way to get rid of them. You can use any type of mop for this, but we prefer to use a microfiber or spin mop as these are excellent for dust.
Fill your bucket with hot water and add a squirt or two of dish soap. You can also use a disinfectant soap if you have it on hand. Mop the entire floor with a damp mop as this will capture more dust compared to a wet mop.
If you have lush carpets in your home, the chances are that dust mites are hiding within the fibers. After vacuuming, you can wash the carpet using a carpet cleaner. These machines can be quite expensive, but luckily, you should be able to rent one from your local hardware store, supply store or home improvement store.
Carpet cleaners are highly effective since they clean deep inside the fibers. Most machines will also extract the water, leaving you with a clean and dry carpet.
If you can’t get your hands on one, you might want to consider getting your carpets cleaned professionally.
Steam cleaning is one of the most effective ways to kill dust mites, due to the scalding temperatures. Most steam cleaners come with a variety of attachments, including a floorhead. These resemble that of a vacuum but will emit steam — it’s an effective way to get rid of dust mites hiding in floor crevices.
You can also use a steam cleaner on a carpet. However, you’ll need a carpet glider to ensure you won’t damage the fibers.
Vacuuming your soft furniture, such as couches, upholstered chairs and mattresses, is the most effective way to remove mites. You can use different attachments with the vacuum, such as the crevice tool, to get further into the couch. We recommend using a HEPA-filtered vacuum since it will capture and trap allergens.
As explained above, steam is one of the most effective ways to kill dust mites. When steam cleaning furniture, use an appropriate attachment, such as the upholstery tool. These will usually have a microfiber cloth to soak up excess moisture.
You can easily use a steam cleaner on soft furniture, such as a couch, upholstery and mattresses. You might even kill possible bed bugs as well when you’re steaming the mattress.
Wooden Furniture and Surfaces
An easy way to get rid of dust on wooden furniture and other surfaces is by using a damp microfiber cloth. Dampen your cloth and fold it into sections — use one section to wipe, then turn it over to use a clean side. This will prevent you from spreading dust and will give you better results.
Trinkets and Other Delicate Items
Dust can easily get trapped in delicate items, but before you take out the feathered duster, try this. For delicate items, we like to use a clean paintbrush — these can easily get in between creases without causing damage.
Bedding and Fabrics
Removable Bedding and Fabrics
Remove all pillow covers and any other fabrics that can be removed. Place everything in the washer and wash on high heat. The high heat (130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) will kill any living dust mites.
Any decorative pillows or other soft items that can’t be washed can be frozen. Clear your freezer and place the items into separate plastic bags. Place them in the freezer and leave them for 24 hours.
Drapes and Blinds
Drapes can be removed and washed in the washer on high heat. This will kill any live mites and remove any feces or waste.
Blinds, on the other hand, can be tricky to dust. Getting in between each slat can be time-consuming and frustrating. However, we do have a hack that you can try. Fit two damp microfiber cloths on a pair of tongs. Grab onto each individual slate and wipe — this way, you’re cleaning both sides in one go.
Some stuffed toys can be washed in the washer, but usually in cold water. This is still an effective way to get rid of dust mite waste. Check the label on the toy before washing to ensure it won’t be damaged.
If you’re concerned about live mites, you could put each toy in individual plastic bags and place them in the freezer. Allow them to sit there for 24 hours and then they’ll be mite-free. If possible, you could give them a wash in the washer to get rid of any remaining feces or dead mites.
If you have a steamer at home, you’re really getting much out of it when fighting dust mites. One of our favorite ways to sanitize toys is by using a steamer — the high temperatures not only kills mites but also bacteria.
Pet bedding will need a thorough clean as well. The best way to start is by vacuuming the entire area where your pet spends the most time.
If the bedding is washable, wash it in the washer on high heat to kill any live mites. This is also a good way to get rid of any potential fleas or other pests.
Steam cleaning your pet’s bedding is an effective way to get rid of dust mites and sanitize the area. Use the upholstery tool as you’re steaming.
What Kills Dust Mites Naturally?
Now that we know how to get rid of dust mites from your home, we’ll share with you a few natural ways to kill them. However, it’s important to note that your allergies won’t be relieved by killing the mites. You’ll have to vacuum and clean the area thoroughly afterward to remove waste and dead mites.
Here are a few natural mite-killers:
- Homemade mite spray: For a quick mite-killing spray, you can mix two tablespoons of eucalyptus oil and two tablespoons of tea tree oil. Combine the oils in a dark spray bottle with two cups of distilled water. Tea tree oil is an antibacterial and anti-fungal oil commonly used to fight pests, mold and mildew (12).
- Diatomaceous earth (DE): DE is a fine silica rock powder that instantly kills dust mites when in contact. You can sprinkle the powder where you suspect dust mites to be hiding. Allow the powder to stay in the area for as long as possible — vacuum to remove dead mites and powder. Make sure you’re using a permitted form of DE; this powder can be toxic if inhaled, so keep the area clear (13).
- Rubbing alcohol: Mix five tablespoons of rubbing alcohol with water in a medium-sized spray bottle. Spray areas where dust mites can be found. Rubbing alcohol is very potent and poisonous to many types of mites. Do a small test before applying to ensure the alcohol won’t damage the surface (14).
Dust Mite Myths
You might be hearing various ways to get rid of or kill dust mites, but what is true?
We’re here to set the record straight and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Does Lysol Kill Dust Mites?
Lysol is a disinfectant that comes in many forms, including cleaners, sprays and wipes. Lysol was designed to kill up to 99 percent of all illness- and allergy-causing germs. It consists of a combination of different alcohols such as ethanol and isopropyl.
Because of the potent ingredients, Lysol is able to kill dust mites (15). However, you must clean up thoroughly afterward to remove dead mites and other waste. If left, these will continue to trigger allergies.
Does Salt Kill Dust Mites?
Yes, salt does kill dust mites. Experts recommend that you distribute a generous amount of fine salt where dust mites are found. The salt will function as an acaricide, which kills the mites.
Does Baking Soda Kill Dust Mites?
Baking soda is highly effective at removing moisture and deodorizing, but it won’t kill dust mites. It can, however, make the area unsuitable for dust mites by soaking up any moisture.
Does Vinegar Kill Dust Mites?
No, vinegar won’t kill dust mites. It will, however, deter them from returning to the area where vinegar has been applied. Try filling a spray bottle with vinegar and spraying different areas where you suspect mites.
Does Ironing Kill Dust Mites?
Due to the high temperatures of an iron, it will kill dust mites. Experts recommend that you iron your bedding after washing it to reduce mites (16).
How to Keep Dust Mites Away
Avoiding a dust mite infestation is important regardless of whether you suffer from allergies or not.
These pests can be frustrating to deal with, so try the following to avoid mites in the future:
- Keep humidity low: Keeping your indoor humidity below 50 percent will make it nearly impossible for dust mites to survive.
- Use pillow and mattress covers: Dust mites like to hide inside pillows and mattresses, so it’s important to protect them. Invest in a few dust-proof or allergen covers that’ll keep unwanted pests far away from you.
- Clean regularly: Keeping your home clean is important. Regularly vacuum upholstery, mattresses and other soft furnishings.
- Wash regularly: Once per week, remove all bedding and blankets and wash in the washer on high heat. This will remove dust mite waste and kill any living mites.
- Use synthetics: Nothing beats warm wool or feather bedding, but unfortunately, dust mites also love these materials. To prevent mites, consider switching to synthetic materials; these are also easier to wash (17).
No to Mites
Dust mites are common household allergens that often wreak havoc inside a house.
These microscopic cousins of the spider aren’t as easy to deal with as other pests. Simply killing the infestation won’t be enough since their skeletons and waste will continue to trigger allergies.
There are many effective ways to get rid of dust mites. We highly recommend steam cleaning since extreme heat will kill them. However, it’s crucial to always finish off with a strong HEPA-filtered vacuum to remove all traces of dust mites.