What are dust mites?

House dust mites are microscopic bugs that primarily live on dead skin cells shed from people and their pets (source: Skin cells, commonly called dander, are often concentrated in mattresses, frequently used furniture and associated carpeted areas. Since mites prefer warm, moist surroundings such as the inside of a mattress when someone is on it, beds are the primary habitat. Also, bedroom carpeting and household upholstery support high mite populations. If you are dealing with dust mites consider getting a new mattress after using the sleepify sleep calculator to find out which mattress would be best for you.

Are Dust Mites Harmful?

Dust mites are harmless to most people. According to the reports on the, they don’t carry diseases but they can cause allergic reactions in asthmatics and others who are allergic to their feces. Their microscopic shed skins and feces are a major constituent of house dust that induces allergic reactions in some individuals. There is a genetic predisposition to dust mite allergies, but like many allergies it can also develop over time.

Depending on the person and exposure, reactions can range from itchy eyes to asthma attacks. Symptoms are usually respiratory in nature–sneezing, itching, watery eyes, wheezing, etc. Other allergic reactions may include headaches, fatigue and depression. People with allergies to house dust usually also have allergic reactions from dust mites. A doctor can use skin tests and blood tests to confirm a suspected dust mite allergy.

It is important to note that if no one in your home has an allergic reaction from dust mites there is nothing to worry about from their presence. They are microscopic and harmless unless allergic.

How do you Detect Them?

In general practice, testing is unnecessary.  Dust mites are extremely common in household environments. They virtually always show up in a test, so testing just adds expense.  A better question than “Are dust mites present?” is “How can I control or remove them?”

What Can You Do?

Dust mites are nearly impossible to get rid of, but reducing allergens will help those suffering from dust-mite allergy and asthma. Recommendations focus on dust control. One must reduce the concentration of dust borne allergens in the living environment by controlling both allergen production and the dust which serves to transport it. Here are some recommendations:

  1. The most effective means is to get dust mite proof bedding covers and pillow cases.
  2. Frequently wash all blankets, mattress pads and comforters in hot water greater than130 degrees F.. Cold and warm water won’t kill mites. Also wash curtains.
  3. Freezing and sunlight kills mites but do not remove their residue.  Additionally, extended exposure to sunlight and lower levels of humidity also destroy mites.
  4. Simply leaving your bed unmade each morning, with the sheets exposed to the air allowing them to dry out, can substantially reduces the numbers of dust mites.
  5. Regularly place soft toys in the freezer for 24 hours before you wash them, or wash them in hot water. Removing them, or at least reducing the number of them on the bed, will also help.
  6. Use synthetic fabrics. Replace feather and down pillows with those having synthetic fillings. Replace woolen blankets with nylon or cotton cellulose ones. Get washable stuffed animals.
  7. Reduce temperature and humidity. Dust mites love warm, humid conditions, above 70 F (21 C) and 50% humidity.
  8. Keep the house clean. Dust mites, pollens, animal dander and the allergy causing agents can be reduced, although not eliminated, through regular cleaning. On floors use a damp mop or rag to remove dust. A dry cloth or broom just stirs up mite allergens.
  9. Vacuum frequently, at least once a week, with a good HEPA vacuum.Though better than a non-HEPA vacuum, a HEPA vacuum can still make the airborne spore content worse. So it’s best to follow vacuuming by opening the windows to air out the house for a few hours. Anyone allergic should either not be present during the vacuuming or wear a particulate mask.
  10. Clean or replace the air filters on your furnace or air conditioner at least once a month. Filters that are rated to trap allergens are obviously more effective than plain spun glass ones. Selecting the right air conditioning system for your home is also very important if you are allergy prone.
  11. While it is better to stop the dust mites at the source, reducing the dust levels in the air with a good air purifier is a good secondary measure.

Multiple Allergies

When a person has an allergy to dust mites, they are usually also allergic to other allergens. So just targeting dust mites may not fully abate symptoms. You may need to address other areas of your lifestyle for additional relief.


Being in the carpet cleaning business I’ve encountered a lot of concern from customers about dust mites. The main reason I assembled this article it to put at ease those who are not allergic. There is nothing to worry about. A lot of the scary data out there about dust mites is put out by companies to sell their products and services.

This is just a brief summary but if you have an allergy there are things you can do. I would recommend you take the time to fully research the subject on the web. You will also find detailed information about things like bedding, vacuum cleaner brands and ratings, pet dander control, and so forth. There are a lot of things that can help.

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