5 Common Places Dust Mites are Lurking

blue fabric couch next to a windoe and white coffee table in living room

By Melissa Tanoko

Published On: Jan 16, 2024

Last Updated On: Apr 4, 2024

Allergies to microscopic creatures living in dust, also known as dust mites, are very common.1 Roughly 20 million people in the U.S. have a dust mite allergy.2

Since allergies often go hand-in-hand with eczema, dust mites can be an issue for many in this community.3

“When dust mite allergens penetrate the skin barrier of patients with eczema, it can lead to allergic and inflammatory responses in the skin that cause further redness, scaling and itching,” said Dr. Ari Zelig, an allergist and immunologist with Charleston ENT and Allergy in Charleston, South Carolina.

According to Dr. Zelig, other symptoms can include itchy eyes, a stuffy nose and sneezing.

Dr. Zelig explained that dust mites can also exacerbate asthma symptoms. “For those with asthma triggered by dust mites, it may lead to cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing,” he said. This is why taking steps to minimize dust mite exposure is often recommended for people with eczema.

Knowing where dust mites live is key to keeping them — and the symptoms they can cause — in check. Below are five common places you might find dust mites.

1. Areas with high humidity

Dust mites require humidity to survive. Dr. Michael Nevid, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado, explained that dust mites “don’t drink water; they actually absorb moisture from ambient air.”

As a result, they can’t live when indoor relative humidity levels are consistently below 50%.4 If you live in a drier climate, dust mites likely won’t be an issue for you.

For people living in more humid climates, dehumidifiers can be an important first intervention. Some research found that even when indoor relative humidity levels rose above 50% for two to eight hours each day, dust mite populations were still controlled, as long as humidity levels stayed below 50% the rest of the time.4

2. Beds

Beds are a favorite dust mite hangout. There is ample soft fabric to hide in and easy access to dust mites’ primary food source — dead skin cells.

Tightly woven dust mite covers that encase pillowcases and mattresses, trapping dust mites inside, are sometimes recommended. However, Dr. Nevid cautioned that dust mite covers are only part of the solution.

“Even though they might decrease the amount of dust mites, or the allergenic material that’s found outside of those coverings, that on its own often may not be enough,” he said.

Dr. Nevid recommends washing bedding such as pillowcases, sheets, blankets and duvet covers in hot water weekly. A temperature of 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.2 Putting the laundry through a hot dryer also kills dust mites.5

If you do invest in dust mite covers, look for products made of breathable fabrics. Plastic materials on mattresses or pillows may cause sweating, which can irritate the skin or cause flares.

Soft, stuffed toys, often an essential fixture on children’s beds, are also known to harbor dust mites.One study found that putting them in the dryer for an hour, freezing them overnight or washing them in water mixed with eucalyptus oil were effective ways to reduce dust mite numbers.6

Purifying the air with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter is another recommended strategy to diminish dust mite allergens in the bedroom.2

3. Carpets

With their many soft fibers and crannies for dust to settle in, carpets are another popular dust mite habitat.

Dr. Nevid recommends removing carpets, if possible, especially in bedrooms. He also advises people with dust mite allergies to clean carpets regularly with a HEPA filter vacuum.

Some research also found that steam cleaning carpets effectively reduced dust mite populations.7

4. Fabric furniture

Dr. Nevid explained that upholstered furniture can be another common dust mite breeding ground. These can be a little trickier to deal with since the cushion covers can’t typically be washed as often using high heat.

Leather or vinyl furniture is considered to be preferable to fabric for dust mite control,8 but these may increase sweating, which is not ideal for people with eczema. Opting for furniture with easily washable covers may be helpful.

Steam cleaning has the potential to reduce dust mites in fabric furniture. However, not all upholstered furniture can withstand steam cleaning. Check the labels on your furniture or the manufacturer’s website before trying it.

5. Basements

According to Dr. Nevid, areas with poor ventilation that tend towards dampness, like basements or the first floor of a building, can also have high dust mite numbers.

Reducing humidity in these areas, either by using a dehumidifier or opening windows periodically, could be helpful. Be sure to follow other recommendations like removing carpeting or minimizing upholstered furniture here.

Also avoid bedrooms in a basement or on the first floor if you have a dust mite allergy. Bedrooms located on the second floor or above are more ideal.5

Seek medical advice

Although doing what you can to minimize dust mites at home can help manage eczema flares or other dust mite allergy symptoms, it’s also important to seek personalized advice from medical professionals.  

Allergists can not only diagnose dust mite allergies but also help treat them. Immunotherapy is often recommended for dust mite allergy.

“Allergen immunotherapy, which most people might know as allergy shots, is typically given as injections, although there are sublingual options for dust mite allergy under the tongue,” said Dr. Nevid.

According to Dr. Nevid, immunotherapy “has been shown to be effective for dust mite allergy and patients who have eczema.” Talking to an allergist is a great way to get personalized advice and treatment for your unique circumstances.


  1. Dust allergies. Acaai.org. Updated February 2, 2018. Accessed January 5, 2024. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/dust-allergies/
  2. Aggarwal P, Senthilkumaran S. Dust mite allergy. StatPearls. 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560718/. Accessed January 5, 2024
  3. Nankervis H, Pynn EV, Boyle RJ, et al. House dust mite reduction and avoidance measures for treating eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;19;1(1):CD008426. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8407038/
  4. Arlian LG, Neal JS, Vyszenski-Moher DL. Reducing relative humidity to control the house dust mite Dermatophagoides farina. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999;104(4):852-856. https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(99)70298-8/fulltext
  5. Wilson JM, Platts-Mills TAE. Home environmental interventions for house dust mite. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2018;6(1):1-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6474366/
  6. Chang C-F, Wu FF-S, Chen C-Y, Crane J, Siebers R. Effect of freezing, hot tumble drying and washing with eucalyptus oil on house dust mites in soft toys. Pediatric Allergy Immunology. 2011; 22: 638–641. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1399-3038.2011.01144.x
  7. Colloff MJ, Taylor C, Merrett TG. The use of domestic steam cleaning for the control of house dust mites. Clin Exp Allergy. 1995;25(11):1061-1066. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8581838/
  8. Cinteza M, Daian C. House dust mite – the paradox. Maedica. 2014;9(4):313-315. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316872/

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