What are Dust Mites and How to Get Rid of Them

You may have heard that dust mites cause runny noses, itchy eyes and other allergic reactions, even asthma. But what are these pesky bugs? Where do they live? And, most importantly how do you get rid of them?


Dust mites are microscopic pests that, while invisible to the naked eye, are present in almost every home. The mites feed on dead skin cells, of both humans and their pets. They leave behind feces and casings, these are what accumulate in your home as dust and what cause the allergic reactions. While not everyone is allergic to dust mites, those who are exposed to high levels of the allergens can develop the allergy.

Dust mites are especially active in areas where skin comes in to contact with material frequently, couches, beds, upholstered chairs, pet beds, and carpet all harbor the pesky creatures. According to Environmental, Health and Safety Online,100,000 mites can live on one square yard of carpet.

Your Bed

An especially vulnerable place in your home is your mattress. Because you slough a considerable amount of skin while you sleep, and spend a lot of time with your head in close contact to the pillow and mattress, dust mites can abound in your bed and increase your exposure to their harmful allergens.

Getting Rid of Dust Mites

There are a few ways to combat dust mites. The first is to start using a hypoallergenic mattress cover that encases the entire mattress. Next, wash your sheets and pillowcasess at least once a week in water that is 130 – 150 degrees. Washing your bed sheets in cold water and then placing them in the freezer for a couple of days is also effective. Laundering removes the dust mite allergen, while the freezer temperature kills the dust mite itself. It is also important to periodically wash all bedding including the blankets, comforter, and mattress pad in hot water for a thorough cleaning.

If you can, keep the temperature in your house less than 70 degrees and the humidity less than 50%. Dust mites love warm, humid places. Air purifiers, those with HEPA filters tend to be more effective and safe, while ozone generators may be hazardous. 

If your allergy is severe, you may want to consider removing the carpeting in your house. Replacing cloth drapes with wood or vinyl blinds will also give mites less surface area to live on. Wipe down impervious surfaces at least weekly with a damp cloth, so that you do not stir up the dust in the air.

Because every home has people living in it, every home will have dust mites. Dust mites are unavoidable, but they can be controlled to healthy levels. Start making adjustments where dust mites are likely to be in the largest concentrations, such as your bed and bedroom, and see if it helps you feel healthier.


Photo “Week 12- Dust Bunny Large Enough to Have a Name” courtesy of Kim Carpenter

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