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How to Kill Dust Mites in Pillows

If you find yourself sneezing and wheezing in bed more often than usual, you may have dust mites in your pillows. They are not only unsanitary but may also pose a great risk to your health, resulting in severe skin conditions, allergic reactions and respiratory issues.

Your bedding, carpets, upholstery, sofas, and many other such surfaces can be a hotspot for severe dust mite infestation and without proper precautions, you may risk increasing their population and put your health on the line. Dust mites and their fecal remains are the most common household allergen and require proper disinfection to keep them from growing in numbers.

Can Dust Mites Live in Pillows?

Dust mites can thrive and grow in all kinds of pillows. This includes ordinary cotton, microfiber or polyester pillows, as well as luxury pillows with down or feather filling. No type of bed pillows or other bedding accessories are mite proof.

In fact, your bedding is the primary habitat for dust mite allergens. Pillows and mattresses used daily can harbor anywhere between hundred thousand to ten million dust mites inside, not visible to the naked eye. At this rate, approximately 10% of the added weight of a two-year-old pillow can simply be dead mites and their droppings.

Moist, damp, and warm environment is ideal for dust mites to grow, so it is no surprise that most of the mite infestation is inside your bedding where people spend 1/3rd of their life. They also feed on dander, including human and animal skin shedding and skin flakes. In addition to this, your bedroom carpeting and any upholstery around the house may also provide as a hub for high mite populations.

Unkempt bed pillows that have not seen sunshine in years or have never been rinsed are most likely infested with hundreds, if not thousands, of dust mite allergens and this increases risk of infections and allergies that may persist if you do not take adequate action. Due to the natural skin oils, dead skin cells, dander, saliva, and cosmetic remnants, your pillow is the most affected thing around the house and may be infested with dust mites that continue to grow.

dust mites on a pillow

How to Get Rid of Dust Mites in Pillows

If you wake up with itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, and all the symptoms of asthma, or eczema, you need to check your pillows as they may be ridden with dust mites. The key challenge to banish bed mites is that they are not visible to human eye, so you might not even notice their presence before you develop a dust mite allergy.

Here are a few things you can do to get rid of dust mites nestled inside your pillow:

  1. If your pillows are secured inside a zippered pillow cover, open the zip, slip the pillowcase off first and throw it in the washing machine. Wash your pillowcases and protectors in hot water up to at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill dust mites and get rid of allergens. Be sure to check any labels or tags provided that explain specific washing steps as you may risk ruining the material of the cover if you are not careful.
  2. If your pillows aren’t machine washable, you can sanitize, disinfect and clean them in a dryer too. Simply throw them in the dryer and set the temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat will kill dust mites present inside the pillow.
  3. Read all labels that come with your pillow and clean accordingly. If your pillow is machine washable, you can chuck them in two at a time and remember to keep the setting at a high temperature. The heat will eliminate the layers of grime, bacteria, and dust mites that feed off these impurities. Take a look at our detailed guide to wash your pillows (both by hand and washing machine). Also, note that laundry detergent doesn’t matter as it doesn’t help kill dust mites in your pillows.
  4. Dry your pillows in the tumble dryer, two at a time. Again, be sure to check all labels provided in case your pillows cannot be dried in the hot dryer. If they can’t be, simply air dry them and leave in the sun for a couple hours.
  5. Once your pillows, pillow covers and protectors have been properly washed and dried, put them out in the sun for a few hours. This will help freshen up your pillows and dry out excess moisture which may otherwise cause another mite infestation if not checked through properly. The fresh air and the sunlight also help remove musty odors because of mildew.
  6. Replace existing bed covers with allergen-proof or hypoallergenic options. These are usually made of tightly woven fabric which prevents dust mites from growing on top or escaping from infected pillows and mattresses.
  7. Ensure that you wash your bedding often. This does not include your pillows which should ideally only be washed once or twice a year. You should however thoroughly wash your sheets, pillow covers, bedcovers, blanket, or decorative cushion covers. An important tip to remember is that if your bedding is non-washable, you can even freeze them for 24-hours to kill the mites, but this method will not get rid of the allergens.

Proactive Maintenance Tips to Keep Dust Mites at Bay

Dust mites are not only disgusting, but they are a health hazard especially for people who are allergic to dust mites. Dust mite allergy only gets worse with time. While they don’t bite like bed bugs, they still pose a serious risk to human health.

Minimizing dust mite presence in the bedroom is the first essential step to take in making your personal space safe and healthy again. You can be proactive and keep the dust mite allergens at bay by using some DIY remedies and making some lifestyle changes.

Washing and drying your bedding at-least twice a month on high heat or as instructed by the care labels is important. It kills away any bacteria that creates the perfect atmosphere for dust mite population to sustain. You should invest in special dust mite barrier covers that come equipped with hypoallergenic properties. This keeps the dust mites or mildew from spreading inside your pillows and mattresses.

Avoid mattresses or covers that consist of any plastic components as plastic is not breathable and may lead to sweating in bed. Excess sweat coupled with natural skin oils and cosmetic leftovers can seep inside your bedding, providing moisture and warmth that develops bacteria and house dust mites. Instead, it is better to go with dust mite encasings made of tightly woven fabric.

Non-essential items that simply create room for dust mite infestations should be removed from the bedroom. These items include decorative pillows and stuffed animals that can easily harbor dust mites. You can wash them as frequently as the rest of your bedding but washing fabrics piles up into too much work, so it’s better to simply get rid of as much stuff as you can.

Your carpets and upholstery may also be home to dust mites. Remove carpets if possible and keep a hard surface as your flooring. Carpets collect spills, stains, dust, dander, and all kinds of impurities and allergens that are difficult to remove completely. This makes them an ideal spot for dust mites. On the other hand, hard flooring is much easier to clean and does not gather dust mites.

If you are allergic to dust mites and facing a dust mite infestation, hire a professional service to eliminate dust mites from your bed. Deep cleaning using special vacuum cleaners with a HEPA filter is a great way to keep mites and mite waste from dispersing back into the air and enter your breathing zone. You can clean your carpets by sprinkling disinfecting carpet cleaner and using a vacuum cleaner on top. This will significantly help in killing dust mites that may increase dust mite population otherwise.

Wall-to-wall carpeting should be avoided as much as possible since it only increases chances of a mite infestation. Additionally, wash all rugs around your room and other areas in your house using hot water. It’s also recommended to keep the humidity level in your house less than 50% and this will eliminate moist environments where mites may sustain. Another way to reduce chances of a mite infestation is by using special filters with your central furnace and air conditioners which may also pull in mites when in use.

Everyday items such as vinegar or baking soda can also be lightly sprinkled and sprayed on carpets and upholstered furniture to kill dust mites but this may not remove the allergens completely.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kills dust mites naturally?

There are several ways you can use to eliminate dust mites from your bedroom naturally. Firstly, we recommend keeping humidity levels in your home less than 50%. By lowering the temperature in your house, you can eliminate mite infestation. While this may not kill them immediately, it will keep them from increasing in number.

It is also important to maintain a weekly dusting and cleaning routine. Your bedsheets, mattresses and pillows gather all kinds of impurities from the surroundings, as well as form your body as you sleep. These include dander, dead skin cells, natural oils, makeup remnants, and saliva that pollutes the surface and the inside filling of your bedding. By cleaning often, you keep bacteria and mites from collecting and nesting in your bedding to trigger an allergic reaction.

One person may shed enough dead skin cells to feed one million house dust mites every day. If the correct cleaning and disinfecting methods are not adhered to, this number increases. If you have pets that shed a lot, it becomes worse. By cleaning your house and especially bedding frequently, you naturally reduce the chances of a mite infestation.

Using Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, can dehydrate mites and kill them within a matter of minutes. This is a multipurpose powder extracted from sedimentary rocks which are formed from fossilized algae consisting of compound silica. When sprinkled on carpets, couches, and beds, you can zap away all dust mites and vacuum the powder.

Sprinkling fine salt where there is a dust mite infestation can also help kill them. The salt functions as an acaricide and dehydrates the mites, killing them quickly and efficiently.

Steaming is another creative way to banish dust mites from your bedding. Just use hot steam on all bedding accessories including pillows, blankets and bed sheets. Mites cannot survive high temperatures and this is a totally safe method without any side effects.

Does baking soda kill dust mite?

Baking soda can be used to kill dust mites. Although it may not be as effective in killing them completely, it is highly useful in removing moisture and deodorizing surfaces with musty odors and mite infestation. By soaking up moisture, it dehydrates the mites and makes the environment unsuitable for them to sustain.

You can sprinkle some baking soda on your pillow and leave it for fifteen to twenty minutes. Vacuum it off and this will help in eliminating mites inside your bedding. Baking soda is also a great disinfectant! This method works best for fabric mattresses such as spring coil as the baking soda collects the mites and the hoover will suck them out, including dust mite feces more effectively.

Do not use this method on latex or memory foam pillows and mattresses.

What are the signs of house dust mites?

Signs of a dust mite infestation include inflammation of your nasal passages, which may result in excessive sneezing, runny nose and eyes, itchiness and redness around the eye area, irritation on the roof of the mouth or throat, coughing, and swollen under-eye.

You may also have dust mites around your house if you face difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest region, wheezing and trouble sleeping at night. These may form asthma or eczema and are a clear indication that a thorough clean up and hot water washing is immediately required.

Kristina Vaughn
Kristina is an expert on effective and out-of-the-box cleaning methods that make life easier and less messy. She extensively researches on innovative new cleaning strategies that could save time and energy, especially when you have a tight schedule. Kristina reviews new products in the market and determines whether they are worth the money to make the shopping and cleaning experience completely worth it. Whether it is cleaning non-washable materials, getting rid of bed bugs, and making your bedding insect-proof, Kristina has just the concoction for you.
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