How to know if you have dust mites is easy: Where there is dust in a home, there are almost always dust mites. Skin flakes in dust attract dust mites as a food source. Invisible to the naked eye, dust mites don't harm you for the most part. They don't bite like head lice or bed bugs do. They also don't spread disease. But they do leave droppings that can aggravate allergies and asthma.
In the home, dust mites are found in the highest concentrations in areas where we spend the most time and on surfaces that tend to trap dust, including mattresses, carpeting, and fabrics that can't be washed regularly. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments and multiply quickly and easily.
Fortunately, there are several methods for how to get rid of dust mites in clothes, carpet, and more. They will kill dust mites naturally and instantly. But it's important to note that getting rid of dust mites is an ongoing process. Regular cleaning to minimize dust in the home is imperative, especially for those with allergies.
1. Clean Bedding Frequently
Our beds are just as warm and cozy for dust mites as they are for us, thanks to all the skin flakes they can feed on. This is why changing bed linens frequently and cleaning the bedding properly is important for dust mite control.
All washable bedding should be changed and cleaned at least weekly in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) to remove allergens and kill dust mites. Items that cannot be washed should be placed in a tumble dryer on high heat for at least 15 minutes weekly. Another method for killing dust mites is to place the non-washable item in a plastic bag and freeze it for 24 hours. This does not remove allergens, but it will kill the mites.
2. Choose Bedding That's Easy to Clean
If you're in the market for new bedding, think proactively about minimizing dust mites. Select items that can go in the washing machine. For instance, opt for a quilt instead of a duvet that's too bulky for your machine to accommodate. Look for pillows that are washable as well.
Moreover, try to avoid bedding that tends to trap dust. For example, a ruffled bedcover will likely trap more dust than one that's smooth fabric. And skip bedding you don't necessarily need, such as extra throw pillows or a bedskirt. This will give the dust mites fewer places where they can take up residence, and it will make cleaning your bedding easier on you.
3. Add Protective Coverings to Mattresses
One of the easiest ways to get rid of dust mites naturally is to add protective coverings to your mattress, box spring, and pillows. Look for the zippered covers that say they're dust mite-proof. They will create a barrier between you and the mattress or pillow, preventing mites from getting in and out. Any existing mites inside will die off, as the barrier will cut off their food supply.
Even with protective coverings, mattresses should be steam cleaned at least twice per year to kill dust mites. Also, be sure to wash the protective coverings regularly with the rest of your bedding.
4. Remove Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting is a playground for dust mites. Carpet fibers attract and hold onto dead skin cells, and carpet is much more difficult to clean thoroughly than hard surface floors are. Thus, it's not easy to get rid of dust mites in carpet.
If you're keen on getting rid of as many dust mites as possible, it's often best to remove wall-to-wall carpeting. Replace the carpet with wood, laminate, tile, or vinyl that can be mopped daily. Washable area rugs can be added for underfoot comfort.
5. Vacuum Frequently
Vacuum as often as you can—ideally daily but at least weekly—to minimize the dust in your home. Carpet especially should be vacuumed often if you're not able to wash it. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or double-layered microfilter bag to contain the dust it picks up.
Steam cleaning carpets also will kill dust mites if the steamer reaches at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit. You can plan to do this seasonally as long as you are vacuuming regularly.
6. Lower Room Temperatures
Keeping a cool temperature in your home won't prevent dust mites, but it will keep them from breeding and multiplying quickly. Dust mites thrive in temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
So to help minimize them, set the temperature in your home no higher than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Closing heat vents to a room you don't necessarily need warm, such as a spare bedroom, also can help to minimize its dust mite population.
7. Reduce Humidity in the Home
Dust mites love humidity. While a steamy bathroom can usually be cleared of moisture quickly with a venting fan, other factors can contribute to the humidity level in a home—including leaky windows, damp crawl spaces, and improper ductwork.
To help control dust mites, use a hygrometer to determine the humidity level, and adjust as needed to keep it below 50 percent. Humidity levels can be reduced by using a dehumidifier; opening windows on dry, breezy days; installing moisture barriers; and making sure vents and fans are working properly.
8. Remove Heavy Window Coverings
If you have heavy drapes or other window coverings that can't be washed frequently, consider removing them. Otherwise, they will likely become dust traps—and consequently dust mite traps.
Instead, opt for curtains that can be machine washed or wooden blinds that can be dusted regularly. Many machine-washable curtains with lining can block light and offer privacy just as well as heavy drapes. So you won't have to sacrifice style and function for dust mite minimization.
9. Reduce Clutter
Clutter has a tendency to get dusty. Whether it's things that are piling up or knickknacks on display, dust will accumulate if you're not moving and cleaning each item often. And consequently, dust mites will move in.
So to avoid attracting dust mites, keep a clutter-free home. Try not to leave too many items on surfaces, so you can regularly dust with ease. If you have a collection you'd like to display, consider a glass-enclosed storage cabinet that will help to keep the dust out. Or rotate only a few items out for display to make dusting easier.
10. Improve HVAC Air Filters
A home's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) has a huge effect on the amount of dust that's circulating through the air and settling on surfaces. The system's filter should capture dust as long as it's working properly, which in turn helps to get rid of dust mites. Look for a high-quality filter that works with your unit.
If you don't have a central HVAC system, you can add room air purifiers like Shark's Anti-Allergen Air Purifier 6 to capture dust and dust mites. Make sure to replace or clean the filters often on your HVAC system or air purifier, per manufacturer instructions. And don't forget about any filters in window air conditioners, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, range hoods, clothes dryers, and vacuums.
11. Use Natural Oils to Kill Dust Mites
A 2014 study found clove oil can help to get rid of dust mites. However, the effectiveness is based on the concentration used and the length of time it is left on the dust mite-infested surface.
The oil can be diffused into the air or combined with water and sprayed on a mattress, carpet, or fabric surface. Always test in a small area to make sure the oil won't leave a stain. Another option is to combine a few drops of oil with baking soda, sprinkle it over a surface, leave it for at least an hour, and then vacuum it away.
Exercise caution when using essential oils, because some essential oils can irritate your skin.
If you have pets, also check with the veterinarian as some oils are toxic to pets.
12. Use a Damp Mop
Rather than dry mopping, it's best to use a damp mop if your goal is to get rid of dust and dust mites. That's because a dry mop can simply stir up dust rather than truly capture it. Likewise, use damp dust cloths for dusting furniture and other surfaces. Just plain water to dampen the mop or cloth is fine for many surfaces, but you also can use a surface-appropriate cleaning spray.
Try not to mop or wipe too aggressively, as that can send the dust airborne. Be methodical, avoiding clean surfaces once your mop or cloth is dirty. Take the mop head or cloth outside to shake out the dust if possible, or add it right to the wash. Do so carefully, so you don't accidentally shake out any dust back into your home.
Dust Mite Allergy. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
A Preliminary Study of the Acaricidal Activity of Clove Oil, Eugenia caryophyllus. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol.
- 11 Essential Oils: Their Benefits and How To Use Them. Cleveland Clinic.
Essential Oil and Liquid Potpourri Poisoning in Dogs. VCA Hospitals.