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How To Get Rid of Dust Mites in Your Home and Keep Allergies at Bay

Woman cleaning dust mites from her coffee table
Hill Street Studios / Getty Images

Dust mites in your home are one of the most common allergy and asthma triggers. Because they’re microscopic, it can be tough to identify and figure out how to get rid of dust mites.

It’s impossible to get rid of dust mites in your home completely, but there are some steps you can take to limit their numbers, which can reduce allergy symptoms and the chance of asthma attacks.

What are dust mites?

Dust mites are microscopic arachnids that live all over your house, including on pillows, toys, furniture, clothes, and more. They are estimated to be only 1/4 to 1/3 millimeters long and are found all over the world, but especially favor countries with hot and humid environments. Despite their small size, they leave lots of droppings around — it’s these droppings that can trigger allergic and asthmatic reactions.

One of the main reasons dust mites are so prevalent in homes is that they feed on dead skin cells. On average, a person can shed up to 1.6 pounds of dead skin a year, attracting many hungry mites. Dust mites are attracted to household items that collect skin cells, such as bedding, carpet, sofas, clothing, etc.

How do you get dust mites?

Most apartments and houses are already infected with dust mites, as they have been living with humans for centuries. In particular, dust mites prefer warm, humid, and dusty places. So keeping your house as dust-free as possible is a great way to prevent them from coming into your home.

Dust mites also like places that are dark, moist, and have plenty of food. Fiber surfaces where skin cells accumulate are their favorite. The bedroom tends to be the most widely infested room in the house because the sleeping environment is full of fibers that trap dead skin cells and attract dust mites.

Though it’s impossible to detect dust mites visually, they can have adverse effects on your health, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy nose, mouth or throat
  • Itchy skin
  • Postnasal drip
  • Cough

And if you have asthma, you may experience the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • A whistling or wheezing sound when breathing out
  • Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing

Six steps to get rid of dust mites

It is not possible to eliminate them from your home completely, but knowing how to kill dust mites is the first step in reducing their numbers, which can reduce allergy symptoms and the chance of asthma attacks.

These six steps outline the best ways to get rid of dust mites in your home:

Step 1: Clean your bedding regularly

One of the best ways to kill dust mites in your home, and especially the bedroom,  is to wash your pillowcases, sheets, blankets, and covers regularly. Wash them in hot water that’s at least 130 degrees F and then dry them on a hot setting for at least 15 minutes at 130 degrees F. For best results, wash with an allergen-reducing laundry detergent that contains ingredients that remove dust mite allergens. Clean your mattress regularly with a steamer —  temperatures above 130 degrees F will kill the majority of dust mites. For non-washable items, freeze them for 24 hours; this can also kill dust mites, but it won’t be as effective at removing the allergens.

Step 2: Use allergen-proof bed covers

Protecting your mattress and bedding with a zippered dust mite-proof cover puts a barrier between you and the mites This limits their food supply, and they will begin to die off. They can still creep in through the zipper, but you’ll have greatly reduced their numbers. You can also put duct tape over the seams for added prevention.

Step 3: Clean your carpets, curtains and soft furnishings

Carpets, curtains, and soft furnishings can hold dead skin, a normal part of household dust, as well as dust mite feces. Cleaning your sofa and carpets is a lot more difficult than cleaning bedding; a simple vacuum or even steam cleaner won’t remove the dust mites completely.

Toss any machine-washable curtains, rugs, sofa cushions, and sofa coverings in the washing machine as often as possible. If you can’t wash them, apply a denaturing agent. Though these agents won’t get rid of mites, they do break down the protein that causes allergic reactions.

Make sure you also wash soft toys and pet bedding regularly in hot water as outlined above.

Step 4: Dust with a damp cloth

Dusting your house regularly with a damp cloth is another way to limit mites’ food source. Rinse the cloth throughout the process to avoid spreading dust. It is important to have a damp cloth as a dry cloth will just stir up the allergens and spread dust around the house. Include all furniture, shelves, books, decorations, trinkets, fixtures, and any other items around your home that collect dust.

Step 5: Reduce the humidity in your home

Mites love high humidity, so one easy way to help get rid of them is with a dehumidifier. They help improve air quality by extracting water in humid environments. You can also do this by opening the windows on dry days, and using fans and vents when cooking, showering, and any other activities that create steam. You can also install a hygrometer to track humidity levels and make sure you keep them below 50%.

Step 6: Install a high-efficiency media filter in your furnace, air conditioning unit and vacuum

Use certified allergen-capturing filters, such as HEPA filters, in all air conditioning units, vacuums, and furnaces to make sure dust mites and their fecal matter are fully captured.

Products and tools you’ll need to get rid of dust mites

  • Allergen laundry detergent: Wash your bedding, soft toys, and anything else that can be laundered. It contains special ingredients that remove dust mite allergens in a hot wash.
  • Mattress covers: Use allergy-friendly mattress covers to create a barrier between you and the dust mites and to limit the number of dead skin cells settling within your mattress.
  • Allergen bedding: Use allergy-friendly bedding to further cut down on dead skin cells settling onto your pillows and duvets.
  • Hygrometer: Measure and limit the humidity levels within your home.
  • Dehumidifier: Extract water daily from humid environments to help improve the air quality and make your home less attractive for dust mites.
  • Allergen spray: Clean carpets, upholstery, curtains, bedding, and more with an allergen spray that uses an oxidizing compound to destroy dust mites.
  • Steamer: A handheld steamer will help eliminate dust mite allergens from your soft furnishings and upholstery.

Don’t want to use chemicals? Here’s how to get rid of dust mites naturally

Certain essential oils, mainly eucalyptus, are effective at killing dust mites. There are a few ways you can use these oils around your home to deter dust mites. Add drops of eucalyptus oil to your washing machine when cleaning your bedding and upholstery, and dilute drops of eucalyptus oil with water and spray it around your house and on your furniture and bedding.

Having plants with large leaves in your home can also help collect dust and fight against microbes and mites. Flowers like Boston ferns, chamaedorea (bamboo palm), spider plant, and peace lily are great to help prevent dust allergies.

The bottom line on getting rid of dust mites

Although dust mites don’t bite humans, their widespread presence can lead to uncomfortable allergy symptoms and asthma attacks. While it’s impossible to eliminate them, regular cleaning and other preventative measures can significantly reduce their numbers in your home.

Frequently asked questions

Are dust mites attracted to specific fabrics or materials?

Dust mites prefer areas where it is dark, moist, and there is plenty to eat. Fiber surfaces are their favorite as this is where dead skin cells accumulate most. The bedroom tends to be the most widely infested room in the house because the sleeping environment is full of fibers that trap dead skin cells and attract dust mites.

Is steaming my mattress a good method for removing dust mites?

Yes. Steaming at temperatures above 130 degrees F will kill the majority of dust mites in your mattress. You can also steam your sofa, carpets, and upholstery. Since steaming alone won’t get rid of them completely, follow up with an allergen spray.

Can I use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of dust mites?

Yes, provided it has a HEPA filter. This will ensure that none of the small particles escape the vacuum’s filtration system and contaminate the rest of the room. Take care when emptying the vacuum as well to minimize any dust being released back into the air.

What is the difference between a dust mite and a bed bug?

Bed bugs are larger than dust mites and can be seen with the naked eye. They are sometimes confused with dust mites because they also live in bedding, carpets, and soft furnishing and can cause allergic reactions. The main difference is that bed bugs bite humans and feed off their blood, whereas dust mites only eat the dead skin cells.


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