Dust mites are tiny insects that cannot be seen with the naked eye. They have a cream coloured body that is semi-transparent. Their bodies are oval-shaped and with their eight legs and spider-like body structure they belong to the arachnid family. People who have seen photos of them under the microscope may immediately liken them to insects, however, their biology is entirely different from that of insects. Because of this, ordinary spray insecticides are useless in eliminating dust mites. (1) (2)
They are prevalent in almost every household, especially in areas with a warm climate and high humidity, as the dampness that comes along with humid weather provides them with the water that they need to survive. (3)
Houses with pets, particularly cats, also have a higher number of dust mites, as they feed on the dead skin and fur of animals. (4)
Although they do not bite, they live in close proximity with human beings. Living on their bodies, in their mattresses pillows and carpets. Basically, as their name suggests, anywhere that dust exists. However, dust mites do not make their way under your skin, like scabies mites and skin follicle mites. (5)
They are especially found in our beds, as mattresses are a place that provides them with the essentials that they need to thrive. Here they find water from the sweat that gathers on our bodies as we sleep, food from the skin that we shed at night and natural heat from our bodies. (6)
Considering that each human being sheds about 0.5 to 1.0 gram of skin a day, dust mites have plenty to feed on. (7)
Besides human skin, dust mites feed on the dead skin flakes of animals, pollen, and fungi. (8)
Symptoms that occur as a result of some sort of contact with dust mites are constant sneezing, uncomfortable itchy eyes that have a tendency to water, a blocked nose that can sometimes be unnervingly runny despite not having any other signs of flu or a cold, blocked ears that may hinder your hearing, difficulty breathing and eczema, as well as symptoms of asthma. These symptoms particularly happen when the individual is undertaking activities such as fixing a bed or dusting, that cause large amounts of dust to mix into the air. (11)
The precise substance that causes these allergic reactions is the protein (the dust mite’s undigested food) that is present in the faeces of these mites. For instance, the particles of dust that you are able to see in a sun ray may have this allergy-triggering substance. As these protein particles are so tiny they are incredibly easy to breathe in. (12) (13) (14)
Dust mites reproduce hastily, with the fertilized female laying a couple of eggs a day. Subsequently, these eggs hatch, revealing a larva with six legs. While the larva lives in its primal form for some time, it later drops its hard outer layer, producing two more legs to make eight in total. These eight-legged creatures, which are known as tritonymphs, then go on to shed another layer of skin, transforming into the dust mites that we all know. (15)
This whole cycle from egg to dust mite takes at least two weeks, at most six weeks, depending on the situation (i.e., humidity levels and the amount of human skin flakes), they are born into.
A female dust mite is able to lay approximately 100 eggs over six weeks after fertilization. (16)
Dust mites are known to live a maximum of five months, and this may make people feel as if controlling their numbers is an easy process, however, due to their ability to rapidly reproduce controlling their numbers is incredibly difficult. (17)
Although, people are eager to get rid of these minuscule creatures, eliminating them completely may not be entirely possible. However, there are precautions that could be taken to minimize their quantities.
Here are a few evidence-based steps you could take to reduce the number of dust mites within your home:
1. Use anti-dust mite covers to prevent dust mite from reaching you.
Purchase anti-dust mite covers for the entirety of your sleeping areas, such as your bed, divan, pillow, and blanket.
These are zipped fabric covers that are thick and densely woven, to stop the dust mites from seeping through your bedding onto your skin. However, this is where their function stops, as they are not effective in eliminating dust mite, but just prevent them from coming into direct contact with you. (18)
Anti-dust mite covers are available on online distributors, linen stores or high street stores that happen to sell linen. Their prices vary according to the thickness and material of the protector, as well as any extra qualities such as their breathability and waterproofness. (19)
However, the ones that are seemingly the most effectual are the ones that are made of thick woven fabric, since the ones made of thin fabric have shown to provide an ideal habitat for the dust mites, who gradually make their way from the mattress into the cover. (20)
You may feel as if replacing your whole bedding will be the solution for eliminating these dust mites completely, however it is known that in just six weeks after doing this, dust mites will have settled into your new bedding too.
Bottom Line: Anti-dust mite covers do not get rid of the dust mite themselves. They only form a barrier between you and the dust mites. Choose anti-dust mite covers that are made of thick tightly woven fabric, as the thin ones are not very effectual in keeping dust from reaching you.
2. Wash your bedding regularly to eliminate dust mite related substances that cause allergic reactions.
Since we spend about one-third of our day sleeping, large quantities of dust mites are found in bedding. There are approximately between 100,000 to 10 million dust mites inside your bedding. (22)
Dust mite faeces and their dead skin are the substances that cause allergic reactions to dust mites, such as severe asthma attacks. (26)
Washing your bedding at 55 degrees Celsius for 12 minutes or at 60 degrees Celsius for eight minutes will get rid of 80% of dust mites. (27)
Blankets and pillows should be washed every two weeks. Do not wash your bedding together with any other clothes. (28)
When washing bedding ensure that you do not use too much detergent. Place them into the rinse cycle a couple of times before drying them in a tumble dryer to guarantee that there is no dampness left in the bedding. The high heat in the tumble dryer will also aid in eliminating dust mite. (29)
Do not encase your pillows in an anti-dust mite cover or a normal cover after washing without being hundred percent sure that your pillow is entirely dry, as a damp pillow will attract more dust mites. (30)
Repeat this washing process with or without bleach to considerably reduce the number of dust mites in your bedding. (31)
In summer dry your bedding outside, as this will guarantee that it has dried both inside and out. (32)
It is vital to purchase blankets that are made of cotton and polyester, as these are the materials that are the most durable and will be able to sustain extensive washing. (33)
Using normal detergent is enough to considerably reduce the number of dust mite related substances. (34)
Bottom Line: Washing your bedding, including anti-dust mite covers regularly, at very hot temperatures. Before replacing your bedding back into their covers, ensure that they are dry inside and out to prevent the formation of another ideal dust mite habitat.
3. Wash soft toys regularly and/or place them in a freezer every couple of days to kill dust mites.
If you have a child who cannot sleep without his/her favourite stuffed toy, it is vital that this is washed regularly along with the bedding.
Dust mites have the tendency to attack cloth toys, especially ones that are kept on the bed, as similar to bedding it contains large amounts of dead skin, perspiration, and body heat.
If you are willing to take an extra step of precaution you may prefer to place your child’s stuffed toy in a bag before you place it in the freezer for about five hours every couple of days to kill the dust mites. This should be done alongside washing the bedding many times a month. (35)
Bottom Line: Wash soft toys regularly or, alternatively, place them in a freezer for a few hours to kill dust mites.
4. Keep clutter to a minimum to stop the gathering of dust.
Avoid cluttering the surfaces of your book shelves, coffee tables and bedside tables with knick-knacks. These will gather dust that will increase the location that dust mites will infest. So, own a more minimalistic lifestyle within your home. (36)
Cluttering includes fabric wall hangings, as these have a great tendency to gather dust. Instead, hang up frames made of plastic or metal, and wipe regularly. (37)
Bottom Line: Do not pile up unnecessary items on the empty surfaces in your homes, as this means that you are creating areas for dust to collect.
5. Vacuum regularly to eliminate dust, dust mites and dust mite related substances.
Vacuum your carpets, rugs and fabric sofas with a normal vacuum cleaner at least twice a week (although daily is preferable, as you will be able to get rid of dust mites quicker). This will remove dust, dust mites and their faeces and dead skin. (38) (39)
Keep in mind that whilst vacuuming, dust will have the tendency to rise from the vacuumed surfaces, making it easier for you to inhale and triggering your asthma or allergic reaction.
So, if you are living by yourself, ensure that you are wearing a mask whilst hoovering. If you are living with a family member who does not have an allergic reaction to dust, then get them to do the hoovering for you and leave the house for about half an hour, until the dust settles.
One area that we tend to forget to vacuum is the curtains. They are as prone to attract dust as your carpet is. So, ensure that you vacuum it consistently. Choose curtains that are made of much lighter material, as heavier materials, like suede, tends to attract much more dust, becoming an ideal habitat for dust mites. (40)
Use a vacuum cleaner with a high efficiency filter, that has a stronger suction and is, therefore, able to remove a much more higher quantity of dust mites. (41)
The HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor) filtration system that you can find in vacuum cleaner, ensures that the substances sucked from the carpet are kept tightly within the vacuum cleaner’s bag. Hoovers without this system will most definitely release the substances back into the room, which will cause inhalation, affecting dust mite allergic people to suffer. (42)
Your choice of the brush on your vacuum cleaner will differ drastically, depending on whether you have dust mite related allergies or not. For instance, the rotating brush will do a better job at cleaning your carpets, however they have the tendency of lifting the dust from the carpet into the air, making inhalation an issue. If you have dust mite related allergies this is definitely not the brush type to opt for.
Moreover, studies have shown that vacuum cleaners with two/three layered bags aided in cleaning more thoroughly than the single layered bags. (43)
Bottom Line: Vacuum all fabric furniture at least twice a week, including curtains. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filtration system that is highly efficient in trapping the collected dust within the bag, rather than allowing it to mix back into the air.
6. Keep humidity levels low to stop moisture gathering inside your house.
Dust mites thrive in locations with high humidity levels and warmth, particularly in temperatures between 65 to 85 Fahrenheit. (44)
Their thriving-capability in humid environments also justifies why there are a greater number of dust mites in beds than in carpets, as humans have a much more prolonged contact with their beds, during which time they sweat, drop skin flakes and provide body heat. (45)
Try and keep the humidity within your home at under 50%. This is because dust mites multiply and flourish at places with high humidity, as this is their source of water. They die when the humidity within the room drops to 50 percent or lower. (46)
You can measure the humidity levels in your room with a hygrometer, which can be purchased from online distributors and discount stores at an inexpensive price. (47)
The hygrometer with has a dial or a digital screen that will show a number between 0% and 100%. This number is called relative humidity, as it continuously changes as the temperature within the house alters. When the air is warm the relative humidity will go down, however when the temperature within the house goes down, then the relative humidity levels will increase. If the RH reaches 100%, then you may start to see condensation on glasses of water and on the windows. If this is identified, it is probably an indication that there is way too much moisture in the room which has probably also settled into the carpet and sofas, as well as bedding, providing an ideal habitat for dust mites. (48)
Dust, itself, is hygroscopic, as it has the tendency to absorb any humidity in the air. So, extensive vacuuming to reduce the amount of dust within the house is vital in eliminating dust mite. (49)
Humidity can be kept low by installing air conditioners in every room and setting these on a cooler setting to decrease the temperature within the room. (50)
Studies have revealed that houses containing air conditions have ten times fewer dust mites than houses lacking air conditioners. (51)
You can also reduce humidity by applying intense heat to the area that you want to eliminate dust mites. If this area is your bed, by using an electric blanket for the entire eight hours of your sleep, you will be able to decrease the number of dust mites by half in just a single month. (52)
We tend to always think that humidity comes from broken pipes or leaks onto the carpet, as well as rainy weather. However, we forget that we cause humidity every time we cook, wash and hang our clothes up to dry. Humidity is also released from plants within our homes. So, to reduce the amount of humidity within our homes, use an extractor whilst cooking, keep the extractor in the bathroom on for some time even after you have finished showering, tumble dry your clothes rather than waiting for them to dry naturally inside your home and reduce the number of house plants. (53)
Another precaution that can be taken in order to prevent indoor moisture from everyday activities gathering and then seeping into the carpet is to allow the air in your house to circulate freely. This can be done by simply pulling your furniture away from the walls to prevent the air from getting trapped between, for example, the sofa and the wall, which can then turn into moisture. (54)
If you take precautions in lowering the humidity and you are still having dust mite allergen symptoms do not think that your methods are not working. Even if you do manage to decrease the number of dust mites, it actually takes several months for dust mite related substances to be entirely eliminated from your fabric furniture within the house such as sofas, mattresses, and carpets. (55)
Bottom Line: Do not use humidifiers within your home or in any closed location, such as your office. Place air conditioners in your home to reduce humidity levels. Humidity levels can be measured with a hygrometer. The hygrometer must not show a humidity level higher than 50%, as this means that the inside of your house is at the ideal moisture level to allow dust mites to thrive.
7. Remove carpets from your home to remove dust, the main source of life for dust mites.
Minimize carpets and rugs within your home. In fact, if you have the means, remove carpets completely, replacing them with wooden or linoleum floor boards or tiles. These are easier to wipe and do not have the potential to trap dust within them, automatically eliminating dust, the main source of life for dust mites.
The removal of carpets and rugs are essential especially in the bedroom or the sitting room, where we spend most of our time and so have a greater tendency of laying down and discarding dead skin, perspiration, and body heat.
Carpets in rooms with no windows or with a single window are especially prone to becoming infested with dust mites, that can be particularly hard to eliminate. This is because water in the air, (that can even come from the act of breathing) has nowhere to escape. As a result, this water turns into condensation that will fall onto the carpet, causing dampness.
The lack of windows suggests that the dampness will not be able to dry, causing fungi to grow; another food source for dust mites. (56)
Work your dehumidifier at least three times per week, particularly in countries around the world with high humidity levels. (58)
However, if you cannot remove your wall-to-wall carpeting then make sure that you steam clean it every year (preferably more than once a year). Or, you may prefer to use chemicals to clean your carpet thoroughly with benzyl benzoate, which can remove some of the dust mites. (59)
In parts of the world humidity is not prevalent and high all year round, so if you feel that you need to keep your rugs for your comfort, then you may prefer to put out your rugs in the winter months and store them away in the summer. (60)
Bottom Line: Remove all carpeting to eliminate the gathering of dust. If this is not possible, then steam clean your carpets once a year or clean them with benzyl benzoate. Rooms with minimal or no windows need to be fitted with an air conditioner or dehumidifier than can attract the moisture. (61)
8. Use acaricides on your carpet to eliminate dust mites
Use pesticides, such as acaricides that are highly effective in killing dust mites. These are especially useful for carpets. However, the amount of dust already present in the carpet and the amount of dust that your vacuum cleaner is able to remove is essential in determining how long it will take the acaricides to considerably reduce the number of dust mites within your carpet. (62)
This is also the most unsafe way of eliminating dust mites due to the fact that acaricides are entirely made of chemicals.(63)
One acaricide, Benzyl Benzoate, has been proven to be highly effective in killing dust mites in the short term. It can be used as a powder or a foam, and when spread on the carpet, it is able to kill 90% of mites in just 12 hours. With a result of 100% in 24 hours.
However, because dust mites settle in very quickly, these results will not be long lasting.
In order to ensure that your house is almost dust-mite free, apply Benzyl Benzoate onto your carpets every two to three months. (64)
Bottom Line: Acaricides, such as Benzyl Benzoate are very quick and effective in eliminating dust mites. However, the use of acaricides is possibly the most dangerous method of getting rid of dust mite, because of the usage of chemicals within the closed space of your home. Also, despite being highly effective, the rapid increase of dust mite populations suggests that you will have to apply these regularly.
9. Separate your own sleeping area from that of your pets
If you are an avid lover of pets, then the bad news is that dust mites also eat animal dander, which includes their dead fur and skin flakes. So, it is important that you separate your pet’s sleeping area from that of your own, to stop the dust mites from spreading onto your own bed. (65)
Also, to reduce the number of dust mites, avoid purchasing cloth baskets and rugs for your pets to sleep on. Instead, replace these with vinyl or wooden floorboards that can be wiped easily.
If you still want to use a rug then make sure that you wash these every couple of days, as the collecting of animal dander will add to the food of the dust mites, in turn aiding in their thriving. (66)
To reduce the amount of animal dander falling into your home, ensure that you brush your pet’s fur first one way and then another, before using a damp cloth to attract the loose fur.
If you don’t brush your pet every day, you can simply just wipe your pet all over with a damp cloth once a day. (67)
Bottom Line: Separate your own sleeping area from that of your animals, as dust mites feed on animal dander. Replace your pet’s baskets and rugs with vinyl or wooden floor that can be easily cleaned. Also, brush your pet’s fur regularly, gathering the loose fur of your pet with a damp cloth, without allowing it to fall to the floor.
10. Avoid opening your windows on warm days.
Individuals may sometimes think that by airing their homes, they are aiding in lowering humidity levels. However, this is a big mistake, as opening your windows, especially on a warm day, will, in fact, encourage the flow of humid air into your home. And, not only this, but it will also bring pollen into your home; another food source for dust mites. (68)
Only open your windows on dry days. An hour of fresh air is enough to let the humidity drift out of your house. (69)
Bottom line: Do not open your windows on warm or rainy days as this will bring humidity into your homes, providing an ideal environment for the dust mite to thrive.
11. Renew your pillows once a year.
Replace your old pillows with new ones once a year. To ensure that you are able to use your pillows for a whole year, wash them at least once every six months.
Studies have shown that if you continue to use the same pillows for more than two years without washing them, there is a possibility that a third of your pillow’s weight will be dust mite and their faeces. (70)
Bottom Line: Change your pillow once every year to avoid buildup of dust mite and dust mite-related substances. To make sure that your pillows will last a whole year without being infested by dust mites, or minimally being infested by dust mites, wash them at least once every six months.
12. Clean regularly and thoroughly
Make sure that you clean your home regularly, by dusting and vacuuming, especially if your house is an old one.
Older homes tend to have a higher level of dampness and humidity which provide an ideal habitat for dust mites. Also, homes that have not been cleaned thoroughly for a long time will most likely have a musty smell. Such houses will have higher quantities of dust mites. (71)
If you have a dust mite related allergy then do not dust with a dry cloth, instead dampen your dusting cloth to prevent dust from lifting from the surface of the furniture and stirring into the air, as this increases the risk of inhaling dust mite related substances. (72)
Bottom Line: Regularly clean your home to eliminate dust, which dust mites thrive on. Do this, especially if your house is an old one, as these tend to retain more moisture.
13. Shower before you get into bed and dry yourself properly.
Take a shower before you get into bed, in order to eliminate any perspiration that has collected on you throughout the day. However, ensure that you have dried yourself properly so that you do not dampen the bedding. (73)
Bottom Line: Showering will ensure that there is no perspiration left on you, that will seep into the bed and cause dust mites to thrive. However, getting into bed, directly after not drying yourself properly also causes a risk of an increase in the dust mite populations, as you will be adding moisture to the bedding.
14. Buy an electrostatic air purifier or HEPA Filter Air Cleaner.
Use an electrostatic air purifier or a HEPA filter air cleaner, which are mechanical devices that attract particles in the air that can trigger your dust mite related allergy. Although these do not eliminate dust mites, they help by eliminating dust mite related substances. (74)
Bottom Line: You can purchase electrostatic air purifiers and HEPA filter air cleaners from online distributors. They are inexpensive, especially compared to the damage that dust mites cause to human lives in terms of allergies.
15. Clean the filters of your air conditioners, electrostatic air purifiers, and HEPA filter air cleaner.
You may have purchased an air conditioner to reduce humidity in your rooms, or you might have brought an electrostatic air purifier or HEPA filter air cleaner to reduce the risk of dust mite related allergies. However, it does not end there, as the filters of these devices tend to attract lint and dust. This makes them an ideal place for dust mites to live in. So, clean the filters of these devices regularly to prevent dust from building up. (75)
Bottom Line: As electrostatic air purifiers and HEPA filter air cleaners attract the dust in the air, this dust is likely to get caught in these devices’ filters. So, ensure that you clean them regularly.
16. Use anti-dust mite powders for control dust mite growth in carpets
There are anti-dust mite powders that can be found in stores that can help eliminate dust mite, or at the very least control their numbers, in carpets. Two of the most popular are Acarosan and Allersearch. (76)
Bottom Line: To eliminate dust mites in carpets you may need to try a few different methods simultaneously. Using anti-dust mite powders can be one of these methods.
17. (If possible) opt for spring mattresses
Memory foam mattresses are highly popular as they are known to take the shape of your body permanently, providing ultimate comfort, as the mattress is molded into your own shape. However, foam mattresses have been found to contain a higher rate of mite faeces, which suggests a higher quantity of dust mites. Furthermore, foam mattresses without covers have been shown to contain eight times more mite faeces than their spring counterparts. (77)
Bottom Line: Choose normal spring mattresses, rather than memory foam mattresses, as the latter attracts a higher number of dust mites, due to the dense structure of foam.
18. Dry clean your clothes to reduce the number of dust mites
Dry cleaning has a potential to eliminate dust mites in bedding and clothing. However, this method is not as effectual as washing your dust mite infected possessions at high temperatures. (78)
Bottom Line: Dry cleaning kills dust mite due to the high temperatures used during the process. However, washing your clothes at 55 degrees Celsius is much more effective in eliminating dust mites.
19. Burn them with sunlight or freeze them with extreme cold.
Dust mites cannot live in very hot weather. Studies have shown that at 50 degrees Celsius dust mites died after 3 to 5 hours. Dust mite eggs die immediately at 60 degrees Celsius.
Dust mites, also, do not have resistance against intense cold. At -70 degrees Celsius the dust mite eggs were unable to hatch. (79)
Putting your rugs or carpets out into the sun for about three hours will kill the dust mites completely, however, the dust mite related substances will still be prevalent in the rugs and carpets. Doing this once does not mean that the dust mites will not come back, it is just a step to get rid of them for some time.
You can try washing your rugs about twice a year, by just wetting them with a hose, then scrubbing them with some ordinary soap, before hanging them up in the sun to dry. (80)
Bottom Line: Dust mites die in very extreme heat and cold. So, you can place your dust mite infested belongings in the freezer to kill the dust mite or put them out in the sun for approximately three hours.
20. Hang your clothes in a well-ventilated closet
Clothes also attract dust, in turn forming a cosy home for dust mites. So, it is essential that you hang your clothes in a well-ventilated closet or wardrobe. If you do not have enough room to buy a well-ventilated wardrobe then use a moisture remover that does not contain chemicals. (81)
Bottom Line: Ensure that your clothes are in a wardrobe that has good air ventilation, to avoid dust mites swarming in your clothing.
21. Choose your bedding wisely.
When looking to buy bedding, do not purchase duvets that have embossed decorations as these are harder to clean that the plain straight ones. Dust may gather under the embossed decorations, attracting dust mites. (82)
Purchase bedding made of synthetic material rather than wool, as the latter tends to attract a higher number of dust mites and is difficult to wash, due to its fragile structure. (83)
Bottom Line: Choose simple bedding with no embossed decorations to avoid the buildup of dust. Wool bedding should be avoided as it cannot handle extensive washing.
For the most effective ways to get rid of dandruff, try and use a variety of different methods simultaneously, in order to get a quicker and guaranteed result. So, whilst vacuuming your carpet regularly, also use benzyl benzoate or anti-dust mite powders.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.