Originally published on prevention.com

These little buggers feed on your dead skin cells—here’s how to vanquish them for good.

Albeit warranted, the concern over bed bugs has diverted our focus from another soft surface critter clan that’s thriving right under our noses. Hate to break it to you, but dust mites are most certainly camped out in the places you find comfiest at home—beds, lounge chairs, upholstery, stuffed animals—and although they’re not universally dangerous (see: they don’t bite), they are an allergen for some. And allergy season brings enough debris to get the nose running, so there’s no need to amp up its numbers.

Meet the Experts: Sharlene Llanes, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with AllerVie Health, Loxahatchee, Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network, James Faix, M.D., medical director of immunology at Quest Diagnostics, and Joel Craddock, International Sanitary Supply Association Cleaning Institute Master Trainer and CEO of Doc’s Facilities Solutions Inc.

With that in mind, we asked experts how to get rid of dust mites in the home, plus how to know when you have a dust mite allergy.

What are dust mites?

“Dust mites are microscopic, insect-like creatures that are found in homes and can cause significant allergy and asthma symptoms,” explains Sharlene Llanes, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with AllerVie Health, Loxahatchee. “They don’t bite, but they feed off the dead skin of humans and pets.” Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist with Allergy & Asthma Network adds that they aren’t harmful to humans unless you’re allergic. However, the allergy may be difficult to pinpoint at first considering dust mites are invisible to the naked human eye.

Dust mite sources

Though you can find dust mites in commercial buildings, like your office, Dr. Parikh and Dr. Llanes say they’re more likely to dwell and multiply at home where there are lots of soft surfaces like:

  • Upholstery
  • Clothing
  • Carpets and rugs
  • Box springs
  • Mattresses
  • Pillows
  • Curtains
  • Stuffed animals

They also thrive in warm, humid environments, adds James Faix, M.D., medical director of immunology at Quest Diagnostics, so they may not be super present, if at all, in places that are ultra-cold and dry. “Their presence increases significantly in summer, and wanes in winter,” he adds.

Dust mite allergies

Dr. Parikh says the major concern with dust mites is when someone has allergies to them, which can bring about conventional seasonal allergy symptoms like congestion, sneezing, and itchy throat and ears, or asthma flare-ups and breathing issues. Dr. Faix says some people who are allergic to dust mites may also experience skin welts or rashes. As previously mentioned, the mites don’t bite or burrow—the allergic reaction stems from inhalation of and exposure to their feces, urine, or corpses, per the American Lung Association.

If you suspect you have a dust mite allergy, Dr. Parikh suggests visiting a board-certified allergist or immunologist. They can determine the best course of action for treatment, which will depend on your symptoms. For example, allergy-like symptoms may be treated with antihistamines, whereas breathing symptoms may require an albuterol inhaler, Dr. Faix says. There’s also immunotherapy treatment, which works to lessen the severity of the allergy by gradually exposing you to increasing numbers of dust mites over time, he adds.

How to get rid of dust mites

Before you prepare for battle, know this: There’s no way to wipe them out completely. “They are everywhere,” says Dr. Llanes. “As long as there is a human in a home, dust mites are there to stay.”

However, there are a few things you can do to lighten the load.

Cover up

Dr. Purvhi says you can buy dust mite covers that zip around the mattress and box spring to create a barrier between you and the mites. You can also purchase hypoallergenic covers for pillows and slipcovers for fabric furniture.

Wash your bedding

Dr. Llanes suggests washing your bedding weekly in hot water greater than 120 degrees to keep bed dust mites at bay. There are also additives you can buy to mix into the wash that are specifically made to extinguish dust mites. If you do opt to use one, however, be sure to follow the label instructions.

Clean your carpets (or remove them)

Remove rugs and carpets and wash them in hot water, or vacuum carpeted areas you can’t remove, Dr. Purvhi recommends. Dr. Llanes suggests vacuuming at least weekly with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner. If that sounds like a lot of work, Dr. Faix says you can nix the upholstery altogether and opt for hardwood floors and leather lounge furniture.

Don’t sleep with stuffed animals

These can harbor dust mites, so keeping them out of your bed is ideal to keep the space clear, especially for young children with allergies, Dr. Purvhi says.

Drop the temperature and buy a dehumidifier

Dr. Purvhi says that dust mites love warm, humid spaces. By keeping the temperature in your home low, you keep numbers down. On top of that, Dr. Llanes says it’s ideal to keep your home’s humidity below 50%, which you can do with the help of a good dehumidifier.

Choose blinds over curtains

Swap out your heavy draperies for hard plastic or wooden blinds to give mites one less place to hang out.

Savor the sun

Joel Craddock, International Sanitary Supply Association Cleaning Institute Master Trainer and CEO of Doc’s Facilities Solutions Inc. says sunshine can effectively kill off dust mites. When the weather is nice, he suggests hanging comforters, covers, and blankets out on a clothing line to dry in the sun and nix any remaining dust mites.

Install an air purifier

“Cleanliness is key,” says Dr. Faix. “Installation of HEPA air purifiers can help remove dust mites.”

Clean with a damp cloth

Instead of redistributing dust mites into the air with a feather duster or dry cleaning method, Craddock says a damp microfiber cloth with water or an all-purpose cleaner is great to capture dust and mites from harder surfaces.


In general, having a less cluttered space should equate to less dust mites, because it gives them fewer places to hide, says Dr. Llanes.

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