House & Home

Get Rid of Dust Mites FAQs

Posted April 29, 2015

A-h-h-h-choo! If you start sniffling, wheezing, and explosively sneezing when you find yourself in a dusty room, chances are you've got a dust allergy. And if you have a dust allergy, it's probably caused in large part by tiny bugs called dust mites. The good news is that after you get rid of the mites, you'll experience blessed relief from your allergic symptoms. Here's what you need to know about dust mites and how to clear them out of your house.

Q. What Are Dust Mites?

A. Mites are a type of barely visible insect-like organism (only about 0.3 mm long) with eight legs. They will settle quite happily inside your home if the indoor temperature is above 70 degrees F and the relative humidity is 75-80 percent, thriving when summer is at its peak. Unlike their cousins, the aptly named itch mites, scabies mites, and chiggers, dust mites do not bite or lay eggs on human beings. Basically all they do is eat and excrete. But unfortunately, that's all they have to do to create a major trigger for respiratory problems like allergic rhinitis and asthma.

Q. How do Mites Trigger Breathing Problems?

A. Dust mites' favorite food is easy for them to obtain. They live off dander -- dead skin particles shed by humans and pets -- which is commonly found in house dust. Once they're done with their meal, they say a gracious thank you by producing feces. This waste can contain a grand total of 14 different, extremely powerful allergens. Together with microscopic particles from the exoskeletons of dead mites, the allergens affect sensitive individuals in a number of ways. They can cause a sniffly nose; itchy, watering eyes; non-stop sneezing; and in the worst cases, difficulty breathing. They are also suspected of provoking eczema (an inflammation of the skin) and various digestive disorders.

Q. Is it Possible to Control Dust Mites?

A. Definitely. Dust mites can be controlled in several ways. The most important first step is to reduce their sources of food. If you have a cat or dog, keep it out of the bedroom (and particularly the bed!) of any allergy-prone family member. Try to confine it to non-carpeted areas of the house and do not permit it to climb up on the couch or armchairs. Clean the cages of small animals thoroughly and often.

Declutter your home to cut down on dust-catching surfaces, as well as places for mites to hide. Dust and vacuum frequently (invest in a vacuum cleaner with an HEPA filter), paying special attention to upholstered furniture and mattresses. Preferably, the cleaning should be done by someone who does not suffer from allergies. If this is impossible, at least wear a dust mask.

Q. Should Beds Be Tested?

A. Yes. It is strongly advised to test all the beds in your home if a case of dust mite infestation is suspected. Mite detection kits are available for this purpose.

Q. How Can You Kill Mites?

A. Should you find dust mites in your beds, treat the mattresses with a mite killing spray. Pillows should be laundered in hot water if feasible. Otherwise, they must be dry cleaned or discarded. Wash all the bedding stripped from the mattresses, together with the pajamas you were wearing, at a minimum temperature of 130 degrees F to wipe out any mites hiding there.

Q. How Can You Prevent Mites in Future?

A. Protect the mattress, box spring, duvet, and pillows with mite-resistant micro-porous covers. Wash bedclothes once a week at 130 degrees, followed by tumbling in a dryer set at high heat. When you get up in the morning, allow the moisture in your bedding to evaporate during the day, leaving bed making until the evening.

Laura Firszt writes for

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