How to Get Rid of Dust Mites in Your Mattress
Everything you need to know about dust mites - myths, facts, prevention, removal, and future proofing.
May 21st, 2021 •
The last thing you want to worry about when you climb into bed at night is wondering what other critters are lurking around under the surface of your mattress.
If you’re like most people, this probably isn’t something you regularly think about when you go to bed. But if you knew the implications dust mites can have on your health, you may start to take their removal and prevention more seriously.
We can clear up everything you need to know, including how to diagnose a dust mite issue, how to get rid of dust mites in your mattress, and how to prevent future issues so you can sleep soundly.
What Are Dust Mites?
Not to be confused with bed bugs, dust mites are their own pest. There are a few fast facts you should know about dust mites to clear up any confusion and myths you may have heard:
- Dust mites are the most common household allergen.
- Dust mites do not bite you.
- You cannot see or feel dust mites.
- Your mattress and bedding are the most desirable locations for dust mites to live because they feed on the human skin cells we shed.
Dust mites are microscopic arthropods of the Arachnida class, meaning they are related to spiders and scorpions. They have a globe-shaped body and eight legs just like their bigger cousins.
However, you won’t be able to see the little pests unless you’re armed with tools that provide 10x magnification and the know-how of what to look for. Their tiny, translucent bodies are only 420 microns in size making these pesky critters virtually impossible to spot with a naked eye.
Hence, that’s why they are notoriously difficult to detect and kill.
Where Do Dust Mites Live?
Dust mites could be anywhere in your home, but they are most likely to collect in your bedroom where it is dark, moist, and inviting to their appetite. Between your mattress, pillow, sheets, and blankets, dust mites are presented with a buffet of dead human cells from our hair and skin.
Humans shed anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5 grams of skin per day. This makes our homes the perfect habitat for dust mite colonies to grow. Humidity from perspiration makes your mattress or couch a particularly hospitable environment for dust mites to infest and grow, which is rather unfortunate if you’re an allergy sufferer. Carpets, drapery, cushions, table covers and other upholstered furniture also offer an excellent environment for mites to develop.
To make matters worse, dust mites are not quick to die.
The most common dust mite species found in an average household are The American dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) and can live north of 60 days, which is particularly impressive considering their size.
They take roughly 20 to 30 days to mature, yet their quick reproduction cycle still poses a threat to your interior (a female can lay anywhere between 30 and 60 eggs during her lifetime). AKA dust mites can become a serious problem very quickly.
Are Dust Mites Dangerous?
Maybe you’re a critter-friendly human who doesn’t mind the occasional ant or spider. Hey, we get it – we’re all just creatures out here trying to survive. But dust mites can be harmful to your health and you should never openly invite them into your home.
Have you ever woken up with a stuffy nose or a dry cough that makes your throat feel itchy? You may just pass this off as “that morning feeling” but it is a sign that your allergies are being aggravated by common allergens, AKA dust mites.
Dust mites do not bite you or carry diseases, but their presence in your home, or even worse the bed where you sleep each night, can cause severe allergy issues including:
- Nasal congestion
- Coughing or itchy throat
- Excessive sneezing
- Eye irritation or redness
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin irritation, potentially leading to eczema
- Asthma aggravation
That being said, if you don’t take action to remove dust mites from your home, you will start to notice the effects they have on your health.
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites in Your Mattress
Getting rid of dust mites is no easy task. Once you notice the symptoms of dust mites lurking, it’s time to take action. You won’t be able to completely get rid of dust mites, but you will be able to decrease their population with these steps.
1. Throw away old bedding and other soft surfaces
As you now know, dust mites lurk in the soft surfaces of our home. The best first step you can take to remove dust mites is to remove their home grounds that you no longer need. Any old pillows, mattresses, fabrics, and even carpets should be replaced.
2. Wash your bedding in extreme temperatures
“One of the most sure fire methods to get rid of these pesky little creatures is to soak your bed linen in high temperature water,” says Alexander Crawley – entomology consultant at Fantastic Pest Control (Australia). Anything over 140 degrees Fahrenheit should be enough to kill off all dust mites according to one study.
“Laundry detergent is also pretty effective, especially when combined with soaking,” he adds. You should perform this operation every week. It’s advisable to purchase bed linen that won’t be easily damaged by frequent washing and high temperatures. Alternatively, you can use steam cleaning to the same effect.
Extreme cold is another weakness of these microscopic invaders. Putting your pillows or toys in the freezer for a few hours will make them mite-free. You can do the same with stuffed animals if you want to kill the mites with cold. However, if you are worried about damaging your nice pillows, you might want to take a more professional approach.
3. Use dust mite sprays
There are also dust mite sprays on the market that may help keep their numbers in check. However, treating them with sprays alone won’t be enough to solve the problem completely.
Additionally, cleaners like Lysol kill dust mites; however, it doesn’t remove their feces nor their remains, so it won’t solve the problem. The only way it can be effective is if it’s used with the other methods we’ve presented. Also, we don’t recommend spraying the place you sleep down with a cleaning solution…yikes.
Although popular, homemade alternatives like vinegar, essential oils, baking soda, and diatomaceous earth typically don’t do much when it comes to cleansing your home of dust mites.
So what do I do?
Dealing with dust mites takes patience. It’s recommended you use a combined approach to preventing and treating a dust mite infestation. Although inconvenient, it’s worth it for the sake of your health and sleep.
Once you take the initial steps to remove the dust mites accumulating in your home, you need to keep it up with preventative methods.
How to Prevent Dust Mites
Although dust mites can be difficult to manage, it’s not impossible. The key is to prevent their presence before they become a problem. Once you have a dust mite problem, it’s much harder to rid your home of them. With that being said, here are five ways to help prevent dust mites:
1. Use dehumidifiers and air purifiers
Mites require a certain temperature and humidity level to live and thrive. If they don’t have that, they just die out. If you’re having trouble with dust mites, purchasing an air purifier or dehumidifier could make a huge difference for severe allergy sufferers.
Even in a seemingly clean home, air can still cary many particulates like mold, pet dander, and, of course, dust mites. Lowering the humidity in your room to less than 40% is an effective way to kill and control dust mite populations and using air purifier will help you reduce the allergens floating around.
However, there are some drawbacks to this method, such as the cost of constantly running a dehumidifier, as well as sensitivity to low humidity levels, especially when asleep. Although this method will not fully cure your mattress of dust mites, it’s still a viable option to finding a sustainable dust mites solution.
2. Limit the use of upholstery
This is a more radical solution, but it will work. Replacing curtains with blinds, trading your upholstered sofa for a leather one, and switching to a latex mattress can have a significant impact on dust mite populations. As mentioned, upholstered areas are popular breeding grounds for this species. If you take that breeding ground away, you make life a little more difficult for them.
3. Keep your room dust-free
You should be dusting regularly anyway, but especially if you have a dust mite problem or you are prone to allergies. Do your best to keep your room as dust-free as possible.
The more regularly you dust and vacuum, the better. You should even vacuum your mattress. If you’re suffering from allergies, use a mask when cleaning your mattress.
4. Protect your mattress with a plastic mattress cover
The effectiveness of hypoallergenic covers and mattresses has been widely debated in recent years. This meta-analysis shows that hypoallergenic covers do not have a considerable effect on the symptoms of allergies. In other words, placing those covers on your mattress won’t make your allergies go away. This is often quoted as the main evidence for the case against these covers and hypoallergenic mattresses.
However, this could be misleading, because the results of the same study show a significant decrease in the number of dust mites in mattresses, meaning these additions actually work. The interpretation of the results should be that hypoallergenic materials cannot be used to solve the mite problem on their own, but in conjunction with some of the other prevention methods, we talked about.
5. Switch to a hypoallergenic mattress
Most latex mattresses are naturally hypoallergenic, meaning they are invulnerable to mold, microbes and, you guessed it, dust mites. Additionally, latex foam is more breathable than traditional memory foam, which is known to trap heat. A mattress that provides greater airflow, helps regulate body temperature and prevents perspiration. The cooler and dryer your sleep surface, the fewer dust mites will want to share a bed with you.
Read More: Best Hypoallergenic Mattresses
Are you stress-cleaning your bedroom now that you know what may be lurking beyond the sight of the naked eye? Don’t panic too much. Everyone has dust mites. As long as you keep up with these preventative measures to keep your sleep environment clean, you shouldn’t experience too many issues.