How to Get Rid of Dust Mites

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: June 28, 2023

Dust mites are invisible to the naked eye but can cause visible distress to those allergic to them. Often thriving in warm, humid environments like your bedding, carpets, or upholstered furniture, these microscopic creatures feed off our dead skin cells and reproduce rapidly. This article delves into understanding dust mites, their biology, and their impact on human health. It also provides effective strategies for treating dust mite allergies and practical ways to control and prevent dust mite infestations in your home. Here's what you need to know about these tiny inhabitants of your home and how to keep them in check.

How To Get Rid Of Dust Mites

Understanding Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic creatures in the Arachnid family, making them relatives of spiders and ticks. They are so tiny that hundreds can inhabit a single speck of dust. Their primary habitats are warm, humid places with an abundance of their primary food source: dead human skin cells, which we continuously shed, especially in areas where we sleep or rest frequently.

Dust mites have eight legs and a body structure similar to a tick. They have powerful digestive enzymes that they use to break down skin cells. These enzymes are also excreted in the mites’ fecal matter and are a primary cause of allergic reactions in humans.

Dust mites reproduce rapidly. A female dust mite can lay up to 100 eggs in her short lifespan of two months. As a result, populations can quickly escalate, especially in optimal conditions of warmth and high humidity.

Dust mites don't directly harm people despite their potentially harmful effects on human health. They aren't parasitic, meaning they don't feed on living tissue, and they don't bite or sting. Instead, the allergens they produce through fecal matter and decaying bodies cause human health issues. These allergens can trigger symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes in individuals who are allergic to them. In more severe cases, exposure to dust mite allergens can exacerbate asthma or cause eczema flare-ups.

Given their preference for warm, humid environments and their diet of dead skin cells, dust mites tend to congregate where humans spend a lot of time, particularly bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpets. Thus, managing dust mites often involves focusing on these areas through regular cleaning or mite-proof covers and cases.

Preventing Dust Mite Infestations

Preventing dust mite infestations can often feel daunting, but it can be achieved through strategic efforts. Maintaining a dry environment within your home is one of the most effective ways to discourage the proliferation of dust mites. These tiny pests thrive in humid conditions, and keeping the humidity level below 50% creates an environment that's less appealing to them. Employing a dehumidifier or air conditioner, particularly in typically damp areas such as bathrooms or basements, can help control humidity.

In addition to managing humidity, regular and thorough cleaning can serve as a significant deterrent to dust mites. Vacuuming at least once a week, especially in areas prone to dust accumulation, like carpets, rugs, and upholstery, can help keep dust mite populations in check. It's advisable to use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter, as this technology is designed to capture dust mites and prevent them from being released back into your home's atmosphere.

Limiting fabric surfaces within your living space can also be a preventative measure. Dust mites favor fabric surfaces, providing ample hiding spots and food sources. Opting for hard floorings, such as wood or tile, over carpeting can reduce these opportunities and create a less hospitable environment for dust mites.

Remedial Measures: Getting Rid of Dust Mites

While medical treatments can help manage the symptoms of dust mite allergies, taking steps to reduce the number of dust mites in your home is a crucial part of managing this condition. Here are some practical measures you can take:

Regular Cleaning: Dust mites thrive in dust, so regular cleaning is essential. Vacuum carpets and rugs at least once a week, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can trap dust mites and prevent them from being released back into the air. Dust furniture regularly using a damp cloth or a microfiber duster that traps dust instead of spreading it around.

Limit Soft Furnishings: Dust mites live in soft furnishings like carpets, curtains, and upholstered furniture. If possible, consider replacing these with hard surfaces – such as hardwood floors and blinds – which are easier to keep from dust mites.

Wash Bedding Regularly: Dust mites live and breed in bedding. Washing your sheets, pillowcases, and blankets in hot water – at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit – at least once a week can kill dust mites. If washing in hot water is impossible, you can put your bedding in the freezer for a few hours to kill the mites.

Use Dust Mite Covers: Special covers for mattresses, duvets, and pillows can keep dust mites out. Look for covers labeled as 'allergen-proof' or 'mite-proof.'

Reduce Humidity: Dust mites thrive in humidity. Using a high-quality dehumidifier to reduce humidity levels in your home can help to control dust mite populations.

Avoid Plush Toys: Plush toys can be a haven for dust mites. If you have children with dust mite allergies, consider replacing plush toys with ones that can be easily washed.

Remember, it's unlikely that you can eliminate dust mites from your home completely. However, by taking these steps, you can significantly reduce their numbers and lessen the impact of dust mite allergies.

Medical Treatment for Dust Mite Allergies

For individuals suffering from dust mite allergies, several medical treatments are available. It's important to note that these treatments primarily manage the symptoms of the allergic reactions and don't eliminate the dust mites themselves.

Over-the-counter Medications: These medications are often the first line of treatment for dust mite allergies. Antihistamines can help by blocking the action of histamine, a compound that the body releases in response to allergens, reducing symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose. Decongestants can relieve congestion in your nose. Corticosteroids, available as nasal sprays, can reduce inflammation and swelling in your nasal passages.

Prescription Medications: If over-the-counter treatments aren't effective, your doctor might prescribe more potent antihistamines or corticosteroids. Eye drops containing antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers can help with eye symptoms.

Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy): Immunotherapy might be recommended for severe or persistent allergies. This treatment involves regular injections of a small amount of the allergens that cause your symptoms. Over time, this can help your immune system become less sensitive to them.

Nasal Irrigation: This treatment involves rinsing your nasal passages with a saline solution. It can help clear your nasal passages of allergens and mucus.

Leukotriene Modifiers: These prescription medications can help control the immune system chemicals released during an allergic reaction.

Please remember it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan for your dust mite allergies. They can consider your specific symptoms, their severity, and any other health conditions you have to recommend the best treatment approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are dust mites? Dust mites are tiny, microscopic creatures in the arachnid family. Invisible to the naked eye, they feed on the dead skin cells that humans and pets shed daily. They are commonly found in household dust, making our homes the perfect environment for them to thrive.

  2. What environments do dust mites thrive in? Dust mites favor warm, humid environments, typically 20-25 degrees Celsius (68-77 degrees Fahrenheit) and 70-80% relative humidity. This makes your bedding, upholstery, and carpets perfect breeding grounds for them.

  3. How do dust mites affect health? Dust mites themselves are not harmful. However, their feces and body fragments can trigger allergic reactions in susceptible people. These reactions can range from mild to severe and include symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, and even asthma in extreme cases.

  4. How can I get rid of dust mites in my home? Controlling dust mites involves regular cleaning and creating an environment where they cannot thrive. This includes reducing humidity, using dust mite-proof covers on your mattresses and pillows, frequently washing bedding in hot water, and removing items that collect dust, such as heavy curtains and plush toys.

  5. Can dust mite allergies be treated? Dust mite allergies can be managed through a variety of methods. These can include over-the-counter or prescription medications, such as antihistamines and nasal steroids, allergy shots (immunotherapy), and, most importantly, reducing exposure to dust mites in your environment.

  6. Do dust mites bite humans? Contrary to some beliefs, dust mites do not bite humans. They are detrivores, which means they feed on dead organic material, primarily the dead skin cells that humans and pets shed.

  7. Can I completely eliminate dust mites from my home? Completely eradicating all dust mites from your home is nearly impossible due to their microscopic size and rapid reproduction. However, you can significantly reduce their population and keep them under control with proper cleaning practices and by maintaining a less hospitable environment.

  8. What are the signs of a dust mite infestation? Because dust mites are microscopic, you can't see an infestation with the naked eye. Signs of a dust mite problem include experiencing persistent allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, or a runny nose, primarily upon waking. You may need to consult a professional allergist or pest control service for the correct information.

  9. What products are effective in killing dust mites? Numerous products, including specific sprays and powders, are designed to kill dust mites. Additionally, washing your bedding in hot water and drying it at a high temperature can effectively kill dust mites in your fabrics.

  10. Do air purifiers help with dust mites? Air purifiers can assist by removing dust mite allergens from the air. However, they cannot eliminate dust mites as these creatures typically reside on surfaces such as bedding and upholstery. A combination of methods, including cleaning, reducing humidity, and using dust-mite-resistant covers, is generally the most effective to control dust mites.


While dust mites are a common household nuisance, understanding their habits and taking proper preventive and remedial measures can keep their populations under control. Regular cleaning, humidity control, and anti-allergen products play a crucial role. For individuals suffering from dust mite allergies, additional medical treatments are available. Keeping our living spaces dust-mite-free is not just a cleanliness standard but a necessary step towards maintaining a healthy home environment.

References and Further Reading

For further information, consider these additional resources:

  1. "Dust Mite Allergy" by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

  2. "Dust Mites" by the American Lung Association.

  3. "Dust mite allergy" by the Mayo Clinic.