Your Life is Worse When You Know About Dust Mites

Hi, welcome to the Wait But Why Shed mini-post “Your Life is Worse When You Know About Dust Mites.” After you read this, your life will be a little worse than it is now.

First, let’s discuss dust for a second:

Normally, if you think about dust in a room, you think, “Oh there’s a little dust in the corner over there and maybe some on that shelf up there.” But then once in a while, you see a beam of light at a certain angle and realize that the entire room is filled with dust and you’re living in a swarm of dust at all times. Those moments are a bit alarming, but I usually just kind of shrug and move on with things.

But if you learn more and think about it a bit, it becomes upsetting. There are a couple issues I’m currently having a hard time being fine with:

1) Dust is mostly dead skin flakes. Just kind of an unnecessarily icky thing for dust to be.

2) Dust is crawling with tiny tick-like, eight-legged bugs called dust mites. All it takes is a microscope to understand that a dust mite is an asshole:
Dust Mite Monster
Here are some facts about these monsters:

  • They’re tiny (about a quarter of a millimeter in length) and translucent, so almost impossible to spot with the naked eye.
  • They feed on your dead skin flakes, which are lying all around your bed because you’re a gross person.
  • There are 100-500 mites in a typical gram of dust and up to 100,000 in a square meter of carpet.
  • Their favorite place is your mattress. There are about two million mites crawling around a typical mattress.
  • Their even favoriter place is your pillow. An average pillow is home to about 40,000 mites. According to mite expert John Maunder, if you’re using a six-year-old pillow, about one tenth of its weight will consist of dead human skin, living mites, dead mites, and mite shit.
  • When people are allergic to dust, they’re actually allergic to mite poop, specifically a digestive enzyme found prominently in it. A female mite lives about 10 weeks, and in addition to laying 60-100 eggs in that time, she’ll shit about 2,000 times, and far more than 2,000 dust particles will be covered with her poop by the time she dies—the same particles swarming through that beam of light in your room.

So that’s what you can think about when you get into bed tonight. And when your kid is concerned that there’s a monster under his bed, you can explain that no, there are two million monsters in your bed, and then show him a picture of a mite.

  • Jean

    Bwahahahahahaha you freakin’ crack me up. Every. Time.

  • Sister LinTree


  • wobster109

    Goodness! That is upsetting.

  • d

    omfg. never going to sleep again.

  • Bell

    Laughed reading bit about skin flakes in bed. Then realised I was reading that in bed. It just got worse from there…

    • Sparrow

      Yes! Me too!

  • Gray Panther

    I am delighted that these things are microscopic in size; “out of sight, out of mind” works here. On another positive note, exposure to mites helps to keep your immune system strong.

    • Tacoplex

      In other words:
      Cons: you get exposed to mite shit
      Pros: the more you get exposed to mite shit, the less you are reactive to it…

      A vicious circle I think i could live without.

  • Skeptical

    I call BS. I just spent more time than I should have searching for a dust mite with a 10X magnifier and strong light at various angles. I looked at the dusty surfaces in my bathroom, at my carpet, at my pillow and pillow case, and at my top blanket, which I might wash once per year. I didn’t find a single dust mite, dust mite exoskeleton, or dust mite feces. Yet according to your population figures, there should be “up to” one dust mite every 3 by 3 mm area. I put this one right up there with Santa Claus.

    BTW, most of the dust I saw was composed of paper and cloth fibers, and some very small (< 0.1mm) particulates which might have been skin flakes, but more likely were "dirt" particles by their appearance.

    • James

      someone’s in denial

      • Janice

        someone’s gullible

  • Josh Gould

    You just ruined my life

  • Stef

    Pah I knew this when I was 8 (thanks Horrible Science). Guys stop being wimps and accept reality

    • Gudda

      Horrible Science taught me about half the stuff I know now.

  • Mark Monnin

    This is awesome. It seems obvious that it doesn’t matter at all, unless you’re allergic. So it’s just another way that stuff is living all around us and, despite how gross it is up close, doesn’t really affect our lives at all. 🙂

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