One of the most common myths about mattresses today is that, every decade or so, they double in weight as a result of built-up dust mites and dead skin.
Catchy, creepy and memorable as this idea might be, it’s fortunately not the case.
No, your mattress does not double in weight every ten years.
That said, though, there is quite a bit of truth to this particular myth.
While they may not double your mattress weight, the dust mites this legend mentions are certainly no joke.
Some people can develop serious health issues if their mattress’s dust mite population gets too high, which is why it really pays to know the truth about this unusual myth.
Where Did This Myth Start?
Like a lot of urban legends, it’s hard to say exactly where the idea of your mattress doubling in weight every so many years first appeared.
The average mattress will double its weight in 10 years as a result of being filled with dead dust mites and their detritus.
A few months after this article came out, though, Emmet Glass, the Ohio State researcher the WSJ relied on for their reporting, went on record saying that he’d never said there was any truth to that statistic.
Instead, it was just something a few websites had started reporting and was not backed up by any scientific studies.
The Truth About Dust Mites
What may surprise you, though, is just how many dust mites there likely are inside your mattress.
According to Ohio State University, a typical used mattress can have anywhere from 100,000 to 10 million dust mites living in it.
Not only that, but 10 percent the weight of a two-year-old pillow may be made of dead mites and their feces.
Dust mites make their homes inside of our mattresses, where they spend about one-third of their life cycle.
That’s because they like warm, moist environments—like the space underneath your sleeping body!
They also feed on our dead skin cells, and since the typical person sheds about one-fifth an ounce of these per week, there’s some good eating to be had on the inside of your old mattress.
Besides your mattress, dust mites also make their homes in bedroom carpeting and household upholstery.
What Dust Mites Mean
Thankfully, dust mites don’t actually mean that much for most people unless you have allergies or asthma.
They’re much too small to be seen with the naked eye—in fact, you need an electron microscope just to make them out.
Their bodies are translucent, and they’re just a quarter to a third of a millimeter long.
However, if you do have allergies, you might experience a number of issues if your dust mite populations get too high.
Although you’re probably not allergic to dust mites themselves, their feces and decaying bodies can seriously irritate certain people’s immune systems.
Additionally, Ohio State estimates that dust mites may be a factor in anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of all asthma cases.
According the Mayo Clinic, dust mite allergies may result in the following symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure and pain
- Swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
- In children, frequent rubbing at the nose
These are similar to symptoms of hay fever.
If your dust mite allergy contributes to asthma, the Maya Clinic notes you might also have some of the following issues:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest tightness or pain
- An audible whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Coughing or wheezing that get worse when sick with other illnesses
What to Do If You Have Symptoms of Dust Mites
The problem with these symptoms is that they’re really similar to problems you might experience with a whole lot of other medical issues.
It can sometimes be hard to tell if dust mites are the issue, or something else.
If you’re having some of these symptoms and they’ve lasted longer than a week, though, it’s probably time to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
If symptoms are especially severe, you should call your doctor right away.
And if signs like wheezing or shortness of breath get significantly worse in a short amount of time, seek emergency care.
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
If you’d rather get to the problem at the source, rather than treating the symptoms with a doctor, there are a lot of ways you can go about eliminating dust mites from your home.
Note that, while each of the ideas on this list will help you some in getting rid of your dust mite infestation , you’ll probably want a combination of different strategies if you really want to stop these critters in their tracks.
You should also realize that it’s not realistic to expect to remove all dust mites from your house altogether.
The good news, though, is that you don’t actually need to.
Even the strongest allergies can be brought to heel if you just get your population down to a manageable level.
That said, here are a few helpful tricks:
- Try encasing your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen-impermeable bags. These should be breathable, but completely cover the item
- Clean up as much dust as you can from your room—you can even run your typical vacuum cleaner over your mattress
- Turn down the air conditioning or use a dehumidifier to get your room’s humidity levels below 50%
- Wash bedding and blankets in hot water at least once a week, and freeze non-washable bedding overnight to kill mites
- Washing bedding on cold will dissolve the allergens, but not kill the mites
- If possible, remove all carpeting from the bedroom and vacuum floors
- If possible, remove all carpeting from concrete floors, and replace it with a washable surface
- Vacuum frequently, and use a high-temperature steamer where you can to kill mites
- You can also consider chemical solutions, but note that these can aggravate respiratory issues and should not be used on pillows or anywhere young children might play
Best Mattresses for Keeping Out Dust Mites
OK, so let’s recap what we’ve covered so far.
First of all, your mattress does not double in weight every 10 years (or ever, for that matter).
However, it likely does have tens of thousands to millions of creepy-crawlies living inside of it, harvesting your dead skin.
And if you have asthma or dust mites allergies, you might experience some serious health issues if you hold onto your dust mite’s paradise for too long.
It’s a pretty grim picture, but here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be this way.
If you’re serious about getting dust mites and other allergens out of your room, there are plenty of hypoallergenic mattresses on the market that can help you do just that.
Memory foam and latex mattresses, for instance, are too dense for dust mites to make their homes.
Memory foam pillows can help you out with this, too, as can waterbeds and air mattresses.
Basically, anything other than your traditional innerspring mattress is the way to go.
Dust mites need those empty spaces in your mattress to hide out in, so if there aren’t any spaces left, they have nowhere to go.
Also be sure to keep away from fluffy pillow-tops, since these are perfect dust mite breeding grounds.
Your Mattress Likely Needs Replacing Anyway
Even if you’re not creeped out by the idea of all these bugs living right where you sleep, there’s still actually a really good chance that your mattress is in need of replacement.
While mattresses don’t get that much heavier at the turn of each decade, there’s still a little bit of truth to that idea.
Ten years is actually the tail-end of most high-end mattresses’ life expectancies.
You typically want to replace your mattress at least once every 7 to 10 years, and issues with allergies or asthma are really just the start of that.
There’s no avoiding the fact that mattresses degrade with time.
Aches, pains, and soreness all get substantially worse if you try to keep your mattress past its prime.
Also, even if your mattress hasn’t yet reached a ripe old age, substantial changes in your body shape or health could have you wanting to reach for the mattress guide even earlier than that.
Conclusion About Whether Your Mattress Doubles in Weight Every 10 Years
So, your mattress doesn’t double in weight every 10 years.
But dust mites are a serious issue, and their feces and dead bodies can cause serious problems in the right kind of person.
Additionally, even though your mattress might not be literally bloating up with insects and dead skin, you should still be replacing it more frequently than you might think.
If you’re having trouble with dust mites and are considering a new mattress, hypoallergenic solutions like memory foam or latex might be the way to go.
Above all, take care of yourself and your mattress.
Don’t settle for living with medical symptoms or poor mattress quality.
If you have a problem, take action today.
Founder and Owner
Ted is the founder and owner of Mattress Guides and is an expert in his field. Ted believes that having the right mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested in the morning.
Updated at November 6, 2020
- 1 Where Did This Myth Start?
- 2 The Truth About Dust Mites
- 3 What Dust Mites Mean
- 4 What to Do If You Have Symptoms of Dust Mites
- 5 How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
- 6 Best Mattresses for Keeping Out Dust Mites
- 7 Your Mattress Likely Needs Replacing Anyway
- 8 Conclusion About Whether Your Mattress Doubles in Weight Every 10 Years