picture of Dermatophagoides farinae - common dust mite

Well, yes, you probably do unless you live in a glass bubble. Dust mites can trigger hay fever and other serious allergic symptoms, as well as atopic dermatitis. But the good news is we think we’ve found some ways to alleviate those nasty little creepies. Read on - but first read the unpleasant stuff you should know so you'll be sufficiently motivated to do something about them.


Apparently, dust mites have been around longer than dinosaurs. Not only that, there are probably up to 100 million different species of mites in existence, from the depths of the ocean to the most remote desert. The common house dust mite, commonly referred to by allergy specialists as HDM (they are so clever don't you think) is also a close relative of scabies living mainly on fungi and rotting skin scales. It is a scavenger and will eat what it can find. For those who care, a common American species is known specifically as Dermatophagoides farinae.


An average mite will deposit up to 20 poo (dung) pellets a day and these “pellets” contain scraps of food, debris and enzymes that are very potentially harmful to humans. In fact, mites can and will eat their own droppings up to three times. These tiny little dung pellets in an unventilated room can remain suspended in still air for 20 minutes. The food of choice for a dust mite is skin scales, but it will also survive on pollen, insect scales, bacteria and plant fibers. It is, after all, a scavenger.


Although microscopic in size, the dust mite is absolutely not small in its potential for harm. The house dust mite has eight legs, each with a sucker and hooks. It can easily exist and travel back and forth on clothing, blankets, dog beds, mattresses, books in bookshelves, stuffed toys and furniture. Popular nesting sites for the mite include carpets, padded sofas and chairs, and especially bedding. Modern homes with high temperature, high humidity and lack of ventilation have been shown to be ideal breeding grounds. Dust mites survive best in temperatures in the range of about 77 degrees Fahrenheit and they like a high humidity around 75%. A dehumidifier that brings the humidity down to 54% consistently can prevent a mite colony from thriving. A female house dust mite can lay up to 1 to 3 eggs daily and the maturity from egg to adult may take up to 30 days.


Identified allergens of the dust mite have been estimated at about 20. The enzymes from the mite are known to cause an allergic-like reaction. The major allergen from the house dust mite is so invasive that it has been found in fetal amniotic fluid at 16 to 17 week gestation and in the cord blood of some babies at birth.

People with a family history of allergies can be especially vulnerable to the mite and its droppings. Allergy specialists consider the common house dust mite (Dermatophagoides spp) to be a high risk determinant for allergic disease such as asthma, eczema, hay fever and atopic dermatitis. According to these experts, excessive exposure to the dust mite in people with these allergy issues is “unacceptable”.


I became particularly concerned and interested in dust mites after some atopic dermatitis issues for my husband and a wheezy-type respiratory problem in me that just wouldn’t go away. I had been literally scratching my head over why our usual course of action wasn’t working. It occurred to me that our symptoms started about the same time the weather turned cool and we closed our usually opened windows. We also have a house full of books on various bookshelves throughout the entire house. And we also have dogs in the house, carpet only in one room (which was where we were sleeping at the time) and I admit it, I’m not the fervent dusting type. And, if I would dust, it was only three days later and sometimes less when it needed dusted again! How frustrating.

Regardless, I realized I had to do something as I began to visualize and obsess about these tiny little monsters everywhere. My research showed that a study, Williamson et all (2007) proved conclusively that some essential oils quite effectively could and would kill dust mite colonies. They found that the most effective essential oil against both lice and mites was tea tree oil. Lavender was the second most effective, and lemon oil the least, but still effective.


Lemon Oil – 61% of the dust mites were immobile after 30 minutes and 80% were dead after 2 hours.

Lavender Oil – 86% were immobilized after 30 minutes and 87% were dead after 2 hours.

Tea Tree Oil – 100% of the dust mites were immobilized after 30 minutes and were dead after 2 hours.

I did further study and came up with a blend that I mixed with our All Purpose Cleaner (totally eco-friendly of course) and sprayed down EVERYTHING. I dusted and sprayed the tops of our books, the floors, every piece of furniture in the house, the blinds, the mattresses (and let them air dry), under the beds, washed windows and mirrors, the dogs beds…you get the picture. I even sprayed our bed spread. I am dedicated to keeping this house dusted and it doesn’t seem like a lesson in futility now that I know I’m actually getting rid of dust mites and not just dust that will return quickly. Of course, one of the beautiful things about using essential oils in cleaning products is that you breathe in these health-giving benefits at the same time you are killing the dust mites.


This blend is now on the website for purchase and you can find it under the category of Essential Oil Blends. If you want to make it yourself you could mix the essential oils with just distilled water, with any unscented cleaner, or a mix 50:50 of denatured alcohol and distilled water. You will need to shake the bottle each time before using. I blended the essential oils of benzoin, palmarosa, geranium, tea tree, lemon and lavender. When I get the blend on the website, I will also give reasons and further studies showing why I decided to use these particular essential oils – other than the obvious lavender, lemon and tea tree.

Thanks for listening!


Ann Wooledge, RN, CCAP, certified clinical aromatherapist and professional herbalist


Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a retired Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 16 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.


Williamson, E. M., Priestley, C. M., & Burgess, I. F. (2007). An investigation and comparison of the bioactivity of selected essential oils on human lice and house dust mites. Fitoterapia, 78(7-8), 521-525.