It’s virtually impossible to live in a completely dust-free home. Dust is everywhere, and you can’t even see the finest particles with the naked eye. One of the most common problems you might wind up facing is the dust mite when it comes to managing your home.
Dust mites are arachnids and are closely related to the tick. Typically, they can be found in even the cleanest and most secure households.
People tend to suffer from allergies if they do not deal with dust mites. The allergic reaction is caused by the dust mites’ excrement and decay due to their short lifespan.
For this reason, we need to clean our homes often and reduce the number of dust mites by removing as much dust as we can. Luckily, there are many cleaning tools and solutions to help with these sometimes daunting tasks.
In this post we'll cover:
- What are dust mites, and what do they do?
- Dust Mite Allergy & Symptoms
- How to prevent dust mites
- How to Kill Dust Mites
- 10 Tips to Keep Dust Mites Away
- The Bottom Line
What are dust mites, and what do they do?
A dust mite is a tiny creature you can’t see with the naked eye. They are only one-quarter of a millimeter in size; thus, they’re tiny. The bugs have white bodies and 8 legs, so they are officially called arthropods, not insects. They like to live at temperatures between 20-25 degrees Celcius, or 68-77 Fahrenheit. They also love humidity, so they are the perfect intruders in your home.
These horrible critters feed on our dead skin cells and eat the general house dust that we can see floating around the room when the sun shines in.
While they pose no threat to humans in terms of bites, their allergens can cause problems for those suffering from the problem. Thankfully, many ways exist to kill off dust mites.
Dust mite allergens are very irritating and can leave people who suffer from it feeling debilitated constantly. These cause those who have allergies to suffer an overreaction from the problem, causing you to go into an allergic reaction as your body tries to fight back from the problem that is being created. If you have dust mites at home, though, you are not unclean or unkempt; dust mites appear regularly in even the cleanest of homes.
How long do dust mites live?
Since they are such tiny microscopic creatures, dust mites don’t have a long lifespan. The males live about a month, while the females can live up to 90 days.
You won’t be able to see them, their babies, or their feces.
Where do dust mites live?
They’re called dust mites because they live in dust and dusty places. The mites love to hide in dark spots where they can live undisturbed. If there are certain places you don’t clean often, you’ll likely find dust mites there if you take a look under the microscope.
They tend to live on items like furniture, carpets, draperies, mattresses, and bedding. Even more alarmingly, they tend to surface on things like soft plush toys and upholstery. The most common place to find a dust mite, though, is on the mattress.
You usually find dust mites in indoor environments where there are people, animals, warmth, and humidity.
Do dust mites smell?
Dust mites produce enzymes and it’s hard to actually smell them. The only time you can smell them is when they accumulate in your vacuum cleaner bag. The smell is strong and sour and just smells like a large dust accumulation.
The mattress: an ideal habitat
The mattress is the dust mite’s ideal habitat. They multiply very quickly in a mattress so the problem gets out of control rapidly. The mites love mattresses because they are warm and relatively humid, especially during the night when your sweat and body heat creates an ideal environment for them. Dust mites burrow in the fabric of your bedding and mattress and have a nice meal of your dead skin cells. It sounds completely disgusting, and it really is, so you should take precautionary steps to stop them.
To prevent dust mites in your mattress, you can sprinkle some baking soda and vacuum it up to remove the dust mites.
Memory Foam Mattresses
The good news is that dust mites don’t like to live in memory foam mattresses because the fabric is too dense. They can’t make comfortable nests for themselves. They can’t penetrate very dense materials, but they can live right on the surface so you still need to vacuum the memory foam mattress regularly.
What do dust mites eat?
As I mentioned before, dust mites mostly feed on human skin flakes.
But, their diet is not limited to human skin only; they can also feed on animal skin, cotton fibers, wood, mold, fungus spores, feathers, pollen, paper, synthetic materials, and even their own feces or cast-off skin.
Dust Mites Don’t Bite
Although I mentioned that dust mites eat dead human skin, they don’t take a bite out of you like other bugs. They are microscopic so it’s hard to even feel a bite, but they actually don’t bite at all. They might leave a rash on your skin as they crawl all over. This usually happens to people who are allergic to them.
If you want to know if you have dust mites, you need to check for small rashes, but not bites.
Dust Mite Allergy & Symptoms
Dust mite allergy is quite common, but many people may not even know they suffer from it. Since you can’t see the dust mites, you might not know what you’re really allergic to!
Unfortunately, dust mites trigger year-round allergies and even serious conditions like asthma. Although you can’t remove 100% of dust mites, you can at least get rid of most of them to help reduce your allergy symptoms.
What causes allergies is the dust mite’s body and its waste. These are considered allergens, and they irritate your nose. Even when they’re dead, dust mites still cause allergies because they decay slowly and continue to be allergens.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, these are the most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy:
- Runny nose
- Shortness of Breath
- Difficulty sleeping
- Itchy, red, and watery eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy skin
- Chest pain and tightness
Some symptoms may be aggravated by asthma.
Doctors can diagnose dust mite allergy by conduction a Skin Prick Test or a specific IgE blood test. Once you are diagnosed, you need to clean your home to eliminate as many of the allergens as possible. There are also many types of medical treatments and medications. Some people even require allergy shots. But usually, doctors prescribe antihistamines and decongestants.
Can you feel dust mites crawling on your skin?
No, the dust mites are so light, you can’t actually feel them crawling on your skin. If you feel a crawling sensation it might be some type of insect or the result of dry itchy skin as a result of dry air. But don’t worry about dust mites, you never feel them even if they are crawling on you.
Do dust mites affect pets?
Yes, cats and dogs are affected by dust mites. Like humans, many cats and dogs are allergic to dust mites. The mites like to feed on animal dander, so they thrive in households with furry pets.
They can also become a nuisance for your pet when they settle in pet beds. Make sure to clean, vacuum, and wash them often as well to prevent discomfort for your pets.
Animals can also sneeze, cough, and itch as a result of dust mites.
How to prevent dust mites
This is why cleaning and managing our homes matters so much. In a single 24-hour cycle, we likely spend around 8-hours outside working or learning and then 16-hours at home. Within those 16 hours, you’ll likely spend 6-8 hours asleep. So, you could spend, on average, one-third of your time sleeping. How often, though, do you vacuum and clean your bed?
Cleanliness and hygiene play a major role in combatting dust mites. The more you can clean your bed and other soft surfaces, the less likely it is that dust mites will appear in the volume. This is very important for people who suffer from allergic reactions, especially newborn children who have asthma.
We recommend that you give your bed a full vacuum once per month to ensure that it can minimize dust mites’ growth and development. Simultaneously, even the most stringent of care will not get rid of them entirely. Therefore, vigilance matters.
If you suffer from allergens or asthma, don’t let dust mites make your problems worse. Take care of your bedding and other soft surfaces’ hygiene side hygiene sides, and solving the problem will become much easier. Regular vacuuming and cleaning are likely to be your most ideal defense.
As well as this, getting rid of excess clutter, replacing upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl solutions, and/or getting rid of carpets is one of the easiest ways to help make sure you can minimize their spread. Weekly washing of linen, too, will pay dividends alongside regular washing of pillows/curtains/duvets.
For a list of all these steps and more, check out the 10 ways to keep the dust mites at bay!
How to Kill Dust Mites
Killing dust mites is no easy task. While it’s impossible to kill ALL dust mites, you can eliminate a large majority of them using several methods we discuss below.
Hot water is an effective dust mite killer. You need to wash your bedding, which includes bed sheets, pillowcases, and bed covers, in hot water that’s ay at least 130 degrees F. This high temperature kills the mites and gets rid of them.
If you have bedding that’s made out of a sensitive material that doesn’t withstand hot water, place the bedding in the dryer for 15 -30 minutes at 130 degrees F.
Does laundry detergent kill dust mites?
In case you’re wondering, you can rest assured that laundry detergent most likely kills dust mites Water soluble laundry detergent kills up to 97% of ALL allergens, which also includes the dust mites.
But, to be safe, wash on a high-temperature setting to let the hot water and detergent combination take care of the mites once and for all.
Freezing items overnight kills dust mites. If you have infested toys, for example, place them in the freezer for several hours and then wash them to remove all the dust mites for good. Use a sealed bag and place items in that, don’t place the item without a bag into the freezer. It’s important to use hygienic methods.
Luckily, dust mites can’t survive in below-freezing temperatures and they die immediately.
Natural Solutions that Kills Dust Mites:
Have you thought about using chemicals to rid your home of dust mites? Are you unsure about how safe that is?
A natural solution is always the safest option, especially if you are a sensitive person, you have allergies, have kids, or own pets.
But did you know that eucalyptus oil kills 99% of dust mites instantly? In high concentrations, this oil is extremely toxic for the mites. Thus, it’s the most effective natural remedy for dust mite infestations.
The eucalyptus oil kills the dust mites living in your bedding and fabrics. You can purchase eucalyptus oil and spray it onto furniture and upholstery, or use it in the wash when washing your bedding and clothing.
Dust mites hate baking soda, so it’s a great way to eliminate them. To get rid of dust mites and their feces at once, sprinkle your mattress with baking soda. Let it sit for about 15 -20 minutes. The baking soda attracts and picks up the mites and their poop.
Use a vacuum cleaner to suck up everything, and this way you get rid of them easily.
Vinegar is kind of a universal natural cleaning solution. It also works effectively against dust mites. Since vinegar is an acidic substance, it kills the mites.
The best way to use it is to spray it on surfaces with a spray bottle. Or, you can clean the floors and carpets with a vinegar solution and a mop. This is a cheap and effective home remedy against those pesky dust mites. You can also dust furniture with a rag dampened in a vinegar solution to remove all types of dirt, dust particles, and most importantly, the mites.
10 Tips to Keep Dust Mites Away
1. Use Allergen-Proof Bed, Pillow, and Mattress Covers
The best way to get a good night’s rest is to make sure your bedding and mattress are covered in allergen-proof protective covers. This helps keep the dust mites away because they don’t like tightly woven fabric they can’t eat or nest in. If the mattress and bedding are covered tightly, the dust mites can’t escape the mattress and feed. Ensure that your box springs are also encased in a protective covering.
There are many dustproof and allergen-proof protective materials on Amazon.
Check out these protective hypoallergenic pillow covers: Aller-Ease Hot Water Washable Hypoallergenic Zippered Pillow Protectors
The protective covers are hot-water washable. When you wash them in hot water, you kill all the dust mites, germs, and bacteria lurking on the fabric. Therefore, you have extra allergen protection, and you won’t be sneezing when you put your head on the pillow!
You can also buy dust-mite proof mattress protectors: SureGuard Mattress Encasement – 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic
This type of protective mattress cover protects you against dust mites, as well as bed bugs, so you don’t have to suffer from pest infestations. It has hypoallergenic properties, which means it saves you from the dreaded dust mites, bed bugs, mildew, and germs. A hygienic and symptom-free bed is completely possible if you use the best bedding and mattress protectors.
2. Keep Humidity Low
Dust mites absolutely hate dry air, so the best way to keep them away is to use a dehumidifier. Keep low humidity levels, especially in your bedroom. The ideal humidity level is somewhere between 35-50%.
The ideal humidity for dust mites is over 70%, and they thrive in such environments. Dust mites thrive in humid micro-climates and rapidly multiply. This means you can have a massive allergy-triggering infestation in weeks. The moment you begin to feel the symptoms of a dust mite allergy, it’s already too late. But, you can reverse this problem with a dehumidifier.
Check out the Airplus 30 Pints Dehumidifier
With a SLEEPING MODE, this dehumidifier removes the moisture from the room quietly so that you can get a good night’s sleep. It has an option where it runs continuously so you don’t have to keep emptying the water tank. But, you’ll mostly need it at night to ensure the dust mites stay away. After all, quiet moisture removal is the best solution for a bedroom teeming with mites because it gets rid of the problem without disrupting your lifestyle. Luckily, dust mites hate dry air, so all you have to do is constantly keep the moisture level around 40%.
3. Wash Bedding Every Week
This probably doesn’t come as a surprise but washing your bedding with hot water on a weekly basis is an excellent solution for your dust mite problem.
Dust mites don’t like to live in clean spaces, so dirty bedding is their favorite. When you sleep, you shed dead skin cells, which is the dust mites’ favorite food. To stop them from taking over your bed, always keep the bedding and sheets fresh and clean.
The ideal washing and drying temperature is 140 F or 54.4 C. This process kills dust mites and other allergens in your bedding.
4. Wash Toys in Hot Water
Dust mites love to hide in children’s toys, especially plush toys. For that reason, I recommend you keep the toys off the child’s bed. Wash the toys on a regular basis and if possible, wash them in the washing machine.
If you’re nervous about ruining your child’s favorite toy, you can use a natural homemade solution to clean toys. Mix warm water with baking soda and a bit of vinegar and wipe the toys with a microfiber cloth. This kills and removes the dirt, including dust mites and harmful bacteria.
5. Dust Regularly
To keep the dust mites away, make sure you dust your home regularly.
Use a microfiber cloth and a cleaning spray to wipe all the surfaces in your home where dust accumulates. In the bedroom, dust all the furniture at least once a week but if you have the time, do it every couple of days. If you suffer from allergies, this is the best method to reduce your symptoms.
Dust the items high first, then everything down under. You don’t want the dust mites to scatter into other items as you dust.
Never dust with solutions that leave a residue behind, as dust will once again stick to the freshly dusted surface. Also, dust in one direction only, so you don’t end up just spreading the dirt around.
After dusting with a microfiber cloth or a rag, always wash it immediately, and don’t sleep in the room you dusted for at least a couple of hours.
If you use a mop, always use a damp mop head to attract and trap dust. This ensures the dust doesn’t become airborne and prevents it from resettling onto your furniture and floors.
Check out our article about Different Types of Dust and Health Effects
6. Vacuum Regularly
Vacuuming is an excellent method to remove dust mites. A vacuum cleaner with powerful suction picks up all the dust, even if it’s embedded deep in crevices and carpet fibers.
The best option is a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. The HEPA filter traps over 99% of dust, so it’s a highly effective method to get rid of dust mites. The canister model vacuums have better filter seals, so there’s no chance the dust flies out when you empty the bag. The upright models may leak allergens out, which can trigger your symptoms.
As you vacuum, begin with the items and furniture up high first, then move on to the floor level and carpets.
Be careful because when you vacuum you can trigger your allergies. The vacuum cleaner is less effective at removing the dust mite pests, but it removes their dusty environment.
7. Get Rid of Extra Clutter
Clutter gathers dust – that’s a fact. If your home is full of dust mites, you need to eliminate some of the unnecessary clutter to alleviate the problem.
The best way to do this is to consider what you actually need and what you don’t. Start with the bedroom and make sure it only contains the essentials. Store things properly in wardrobes and storage containers. Then clean those surfaces all the time to avoid dust build-up.
Here’s what you should remove from the bedroom:
- extra furniture
8. Install a Filter in the AC Unit or an Air Purifier
A high-efficiency media filter is a great way to keep the air in your home clean and breathable. The filters are installed inside the AC unit.
Make sure you buy a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 11 or 12.
The best way to keep the air fresh is to leave the fan on in the whole house. Then, don’t forget to replace the filter every three months, or else they’re not efficient.
Your other option is an Air Purifier, like the LEVOIT H13 True HEPA Filter Air Purifiers for Allergies.
This type of machine is great for asthma sufferers because it cleans the air and makes it allergen-free. The 3-stage HEPA filtration system removes 99.7% of dust mites, pet dander, allergens, hair, and other airborne contaminants and germs.
This affordable product beats other similar ones because it has a fast air purification time. It recirculates the air 4 times an hour, so you can clean air often. You can prevent illness and allergies by killing the airborne dust mites as they pass through the air purifier.
Contrary to popular myth, dust mites don’t actually drink the water in the air. Instead, they absorb the moisture particles in the air. The dust mites thrive in that humid atmosphere.
I know some of you are worried about Ozone. Most air purifiers produce ozone as they work, but this model does not, therefore it’s completely safe to use.
9. Remove Carpeting
This might not be a do-able option in your home, but if you can, remove carpeting and rugs. Dust mites love to hide in the carpet fibers in all the dust that falls onto the rug or carpet. These carpets are an ideal dust mite habitat, and they can easily turn into the number one source of allergens in your house.
If your carpet is laid on top of concrete, then it’s probably full of moisture which creates an ideal humid environment for the dust mites.
When you can, replace carpets with hardwood floor, tile, or vinyl which is also easier to clean and dust.
If you can’t get rid of the carpet, vacuum it regularly and consider investing in a carpet cleaning machine.
10. Use Anti-Allergen Sprays
Also called denaturing agents, these types of sprays break down the protein that causes allergies and allergic reactions.
Most of the time, the sprays are simply called “anti-allergen fabric spray,” but they are easy to use and highly effective. Simply spray them on all types of surfaces such as furniture, beds, mattresses, fabrics, and even carpets.
The LivePure LP-SPR-32 Anti-Allergen Fabric Spray is great against allergies from Dust Mites and Pet Dander, and can neutralize the allergens lurking in your home.
It’s not a toxic chemical formula, instead, it’s made from minerals and plant-based ingredients so you can use it for a variety of cleaning tasks. Thankfully, it removes 97% of those pesky dust mites, but also eliminates pet dander and other allergens you don’t even see! Therefore, this type of cleaning spray is a fast way to freshen up your home.
So, if you want a solution that doesn’t stain, doesn’t smell like awful chemicals, but effectively kills dust mites, LivePure is an affordable home-cleaning spray.
The Bottom Line
A clean home doesn’t guarantee a dust mite free environment but regular cleaning is the number one method to combat dust mite allergies. These invisible critters go into your home undetected but they can wreak havoc on your health. You could be sneezing and coughing for years before you figure out that dust mites are responsible.
Therefore, we recommend you take precautionary measures such as frequent washing, vacuuming, and dusting to prevent dust mite colonies from thriving. As well, don’t forget about the dehumidifier and keep a low humidity in your rooms. You should feel relief and you’ll be glad once the dust mites are gone for good!
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.