How to Get Rid of Dust Mites in a Mattress

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that feed on dead skin cells shed by humans and animals. They are found in most homes and can be problematic for people who are allergic to them. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments like mattresses, carpeting, stuffed animals, and bedding. Getting rid of dust mites in a mattress can help provide allergy relief and improve sleep quality. Here are some effective methods for removing dust mites from mattresses.

Understanding Dust Mites

To get rid of dust mites, it helps to understand what they are and why they may be problematic:

  • Dust mites are arachnids, relatives of spiders and ticks, usually measuring 0.2-0.3 mm in length. They are too small to see with the naked eye.
  • They feed on dead skin cells (dander) that people and pets shed daily. A single dust mite produces about 20 waste droppings per day.
  • Dust mite allergens are found in their droppings and body fragments. When disturbed, these particles become airborne and can trigger allergic reactions.
  • Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments with temperatures around 68-77°F. They need humidity levels of 70-80% to survive.
  • Mattresses provide an ideal habitat for dust mites because they hold dead skin cells shed by humans while sleeping.
  • Dust mite allergies are common, especially among people with asthma. Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and difficulty breathing.
  • Reducing dust mites in mattresses can provide allergy relief and lessen asthma triggers.

Regular Mattress Cleaning

One of the best ways to control dust mites is to regularly clean the mattress:

Vacuum Weekly

  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and specialized tools to remove dust and allergens from the mattress surface and crevices.
  • Pay close attention to seams, tufts, and edges where dust collects.
  • Vacuum both sides of the mattress, including the underside if possible.
  • Follow up with a damp cloth to wipe away any remaining debris.

Wash Bedding Frequently

  • Wash sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, and blankets at least once a week in hot water (130°F) to kill dust mites. Use a heavy duty detergent.
  • For pillows and comforters, wash or dry-clean every 2-3 months.
  • Consider using zippered, anti-allergen mattress and pillow covers.

Control Humidity Levels

  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to keep bedroom humidity under 50%.
  • Make sure vent fans are used in bathrooms and when cooking to reduce overall household humidity.

Deep Cleaning Methods

In addition to regular vacuuming, several deep cleaning methods can help eliminate dust mites in mattresses:

Steam Clean

A steam cleaner uses very hot, pressurized steam to penetrate deep into mattress fibers, seams, and tufts. The heat kills dust mites on contact.


  • Vacuum mattress first to remove surface debris.
  • Treat entire surface methodically, holding steam cleaner nozzle 2-3 inches away.
  • Concentrate on crevices and seams for 30 seconds before moving to a new area.
  • Allow mattress to fully dry before remaking bed.

UV Light Treatment

Portable UV-C lamps emit ultraviolet light that destroys dust mite DNA, rendering them inactive. Treatment takes a few hours.


  • Vacuum the mattress to pre-clean.
  • Position UV lamp 6 inches above mattress surface.
  • Slowly move lamp over entire surface for 30 minutes to an hour per side.
  • Check manufacturer instructions for recommended treatment times.
  • Repeat weekly for severe infestations.

Wash removable mattress cover

If your mattress has a removable outer cover, periodically wash it according to manufacturer’s directions. Hot water and detergent will kill dust mites. Replace the cover before remaking bed.

Replace mattress

For severe allergic reactions, replacing an old mattress with a new one may be necessary. This eliminates the years of accumulated dust mite debris. Encase new mattress in an allergen-proof cover.

Mattress vacuuming bags

Special mattress bags completely encase a mattress during vacuuming. This channels suction power for a deeper, more thorough clean.

Mattress Encasements

Mattress encasements provide an impermeable barrier to dust mites and allergens. High-quality ones have fine zippers and are made of fabrics like polyurethane or tightly woven cotton:

  • Cover mattress completely, including seams and edges.
  • Zip enclosure keeps mites from getting in or out.
  • Wipe down exterior periodically with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
  • Check for rips or tears and replace encasement if needed.
  • Can be used on mattress alone or with a fitted sheet.

Dust Mite Sprays

Pesticide sprays containing benzyl benzoate or tannic acid can help reduce dust mites. But effectiveness may be limited:

  • Sprays only reach the surface, not deep inside mattress.
  • Chemicals may irritate sensitive individuals. Spot test first.
  • Reapply frequently since sprays don’t provide long-lasting control.

Application Tips

  • Lightly mist over entire mattress surface until damp, not soaked. Avoid inhaling spray.
  • Concentrate on seams, tufts, and edges. Allow to dry completely before remaking bed.
  • Wear gloves, mask, and eye protection. Ventilate room well.
  • Check label for reapplication timeframe, typically every 2-3 months.

Integrated Mattress Cleaning Methods

Using two or more methods can provide the best results in the fight against dust mites. Some combinations to try:

  • Vacuum + Steam clean: Vacuum first to remove surface debris, then steam clean to kill mites and allergens deep in mattress.
  • Vacuum + UV light: Pre-clean with vacuuming then use UV lamps for deep penetration.
  • Steam + Mattress encasement: Steam clean then immediately encase mattress to prevent reinfestation.
  • UV treatment + Spray: Apply spray first then use UV light for longer-lasting effects.

No single technique will completely eliminate dust mites. But integrating vacuuming, washing, steaming, UV light and other methods can go a long way in reducing allergen levels.

Alternative Dust Mite Control Options

For people looking to avoid pesticides or extensive cleaning routines, these options may help reduce dust mites:

Mattress toppers

  • Memory foam, wool, and natural latex toppers create a barrier above the mattress.
  • Use with allergen-proof mattress encasement for added protection.
  • Change and wash toppers regularly.

Allergen-impermeable bedding

  • Pillow and mattress encasements woven with very tight fibers block dust mite access.
  • Cotton with thread counts over 200 or microfiber work best.
  • Can be used alone or with regular sheets.

Natural bedding

  • Materials like wool and eucalyptus are naturally resistant to dust mites.
  • Look for certifications like STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®.
  • Wash regularly in hot water.

Air purification systems

  • HEPA air filters remove dust mite allergens circulating in bedroom air.
  • Portable air purifiers work for single rooms.
  • Consider whole-house systems if entire home is affected.

Preventing Dust Mite Reinfestation

Getting rid of dust mites only provides temporary relief unless preventative steps are taken. Here are tips for keeping mattresses dust-mite free long-term:

  • Continue regular vacuum cleaning, washing bed linens weekly in hot water, and controlling humidity.
  • Seal mattress in a high-quality allergen-proof encasement. Replace encasements every 2-3 years.
  • Choose bedding made with dust mite resistant fabrics like microfiber.
  • Use HEPA air purifiers and dehumidifiers to maintain allergen-free air.
  • Replace old mattresses with new ones free of dust mite debris. Immediately encase.
  • Follow integrated cleaning approaches (vacuum, steam, UV, etc) every few months.
  • Isolate mattresses used infrequently in sealed plastic covers.
  • Limit stuffed animals, rugs, drapes and clutter in bedrooms.

With diligence, integrating various cleaning techniques and preventative steps can help provide lasting relief from dust mites. Speak with an allergist for medical advice if allergy symptoms persist. Be sure to steer clear of unproven “allergy relief” products that lack scientific evidence. With the right comprehensive approach tailored to your specific situation, you can successfully get rid of and prevent dust mites in mattresses.

FAQs About Eliminating Dust Mites in Mattresses

Can you get rid of dust mites completely?

It is extremely difficult to eliminate all dust mites in a mattress permanently. Their microscopic size and ability to burrow deep into fabrics allows them to evade most cleaning methods. The best strategy is to frequently clean and maintain low dust mite levels through integrated methods like vacuuming, steaming, and UV light. Encasements also help block mites. But reinfestation can easily occur. Vigilance is key.

Will dryer heat kill dust mites?

Tumbling bedding in a clothes dryer can help reduce dust mites but may not kill them completely. Dryer heat needs to reach at least 130°F (55°C) for an extended time to be lethal. Run sheets and blankets on the highest heat setting with an added 10-20 minutes to help ensure dust mite death. But mattresses are too large for home dryers, requiring other methods.

Can dust mites live in a mattress without sheets?

Yes, dust mites can survive and thrive in a mattress even if sheets and bedding are not used. Their food source is dead skin cells shed by people resting or sleeping on top of the mattress. Mites feed on accumulated dander deep within mattress fibers and materials. They do not rely on sheets or covers as their primary food source.

Should you flip or rotate mattresses to kill dust mites?

Flipping and rotating mattresses is no longer recommended for getting rid of dust mites. Most modern mattresses have tops and bottoms that are not interchangeable. The best approach is to regularly vacuum both sides and use steam cleaning, UV light or other methods to kill mites throughout the entire mattress. Encasements also help seal in mites.

Can dust mites live in memory foam mattresses?

Memory foam alone does not prevent dust mites since it contains air pockets suitable for harboring them. However, memory foam’s density may make it harder for colonies to thrive compared to inner spring mattresses. Taking protective steps like encasements, washing sheets, and vacuuming regularly keeps dust mite populations low in memory foam and other mattresses.

Will baking soda or borax kill dust mites in mattresses?

Despite online claims, baking soda and borax are not effective methods for killing dust mites or removing them from mattresses. These household products do not penetrate deep inside mattresses to reach mites. Their abrasiveness may even damage fabrics over time. Vacuuming along with steam cleaning, UV irradiation, and professional cleaning solutions work best for controlling mites.


Dust mites trapped deep inside mattresses are a common trigger of indoor allergies. Removing them involves diligent cleaning routines and preventative steps. Integrating methods like vacuuming, washing bedding, steam cleaning, UV light irradiation, sprays, and encasements helps reduce mite populations. Continue cleaning frequently and take steps to block reinfestation. Speak to an allergist if allergy symptoms related to dust mites in your mattress persist. With a comprehensive approach tailored to your specific situation, you can successfully minimize dust mites and enjoy better sleep quality and a healthier indoor environment.