Olive oil is a common home remedy used to get rid of mites. Mites are tiny spider-like insects that can infest homes and cause irritation, itchiness, and discomfort. Using natural treatments like olive oil is often preferred over chemical pesticides. But does olive oil actually work to eliminate mites?
What are mites?
Mites are tiny arachnids, related to spiders and ticks. There are many different types of mites including dust mites, bird mites, rodent mites, scabies mites, and more. Mites feed on skin cells, hair, debris, and other organic matter. When mite populations grow, they can cause symptoms like:
- Red bumps on skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Respiratory issues
Mites like to live in warm, humid environments. They can infest mattresses, bedding, carpets, furniture stuffing, and other upholstered items. Getting rid of mites usually requires thorough cleaning and sanitizing of the home.
Does olive oil kill mites?
Olive oil is sometimes recommended as a natural treatment for killing mites. Some key benefits of using olive oil include:
- Suffocates mites – Olive oil is thick and heavy. Applying a layer of olive oil can help smother mites.
- Moisturizes skin – Olive oil has emollient properties that moisturize and soothe itchy skin caused by mites.
- Low toxicity – Olive oil is much less toxic than chemical pesticides and safer to use around pets and children.
However, there is limited scientific evidence that olive oil is an effective mite treatment. Anecdotal reports are mixed. Some people claim olive oil cured their mite infestation. Others say it provided temporary relief but did not eliminate the mites.
Scabies mites burrow into the skin and cause severe itching. Some research indicates olive oil may help:
- One study found that a mixture of olive oil and beeswax cured scabies after 1-2 treatments in 85% of patients.
- Olive oil may help suffocate scabies mites and soothe itching when applied topically.
- Taking olive oil orally may also have benefits, as one study showed feeding mice olive oil helped reduce effects of scabies mites.
However, most doctors recommend prescription medications like permethrin cream, ivermectin, or benzyl benzoate to treat scabies.
For dust mites that infest bedding and carpets, olive oil is less likely to be effective. Dust mites do not burrow into skin, so smothering them with oil is unlikely to work. There are no scientific studies proving olive oil eliminates dust mites throughout a home.
How to use olive oil for mites
To try using olive oil for a mite infestation, follow these steps:
- Purchase extra virgin olive oil – Make sure it’s 100% pure olive oil.
- Apply a thin layer to affected skin – For body mites, lightly coat areas like the trunk, limbs, neck, and face.
- Let soak for 20-30 minutes then rinse – This gives the oil time to suffocate mites.
- Repeat 2-3 times per day for 2 weeks – Consistency is key to fully eliminate mites.
- Remove mite habitat – For dust mites, wash all bedding on hot, dry mattresses and pillows in the sun, vacuum and steam clean carpets.
Other options are adding a few drops of olive oil to bath water to soothe skin or mixing olive oil with an essential oil like tea tree, which has antimicrobial effects.
Risks and precautions
Before using olive oil for mites, consider:
- Allergies – A small percentage of people are allergic to olive oil and it can cause contact dermatitis. Do a patch test first.
- Skin sensitivity – Olive oil may irritate sensitive skin or open wounds. Avoid using on broken skin.
- Eye contact – Take care to avoid getting olive oil in eyes as it can be irritating. Flush eyes with water if this happens.
- Slippery surfaces – Olive oil can make tubs, tile floors, and other surfaces slippery. Use caution.
- Stain risk – Olive oil can potentially stain clothing, furniture, bedding and other household items.
Other natural mite treatments
While olive oil may help soothe itchy skin caused by mites, results are mixed on its ability to fully eradicate mite infestations. Other home remedies to consider include:
|Tea tree oil||Add a few drops to water in a spray bottle. Spray on skin or habitat.|
|Neem oil||Apply like olive oil to coat skin. Can also spray on surfaces.|
|Diatomaceous earth||Sprinkle on carpets, mattresses, and upholstery. Tiny particles dehydrate mites.|
|Benzyl benzoate||Apply lotion then wash off after 24 hours. Prescription product for scabies.|
|Sulfur soap||Lather on skin in shower. Sulfur has antimicrobial effects.|
|Bleach||Add to laundry and use to disinfect surfaces. Kills mites on contact.|
|Vinegar||Spray white vinegar solution to kill mites. Use up to 50% concentration.|
|Essential oils||Clove, eucalyptus, lemongrass also have mite-killing properties.|
For serious infestations, prescription medications or pesticides may also be required.
When to see a doctor
See a dermatologist or doctor if:
- Itching and rashes worsen or spread despite home treatment
- Experiencing fever, swollen lymph nodes, or other signs of infection
- Mite infestation persists longer than 2-4 weeks
- New bites or burrows continue appearing
- Symptoms interfere with sleep or daily life
A doctor can prescribe stronger medications like ivermectin pills, permithrin cream, benzyl benzoate, or oral antibiotics if needed. They may also be able to identify the specific type of mite infestation based on examination or skin samples.
Olive oil may provide some relief for itchy skin caused by mites based on its moisturizing properties. However, there is limited evidence it can fully eliminate mite infestations in the home when used alone. Olive oil is most likely to be beneficial against scabies and other mites that burrow into the skin, rather than dust mites in the environment. While olive oil is a low-risk home treatment, see a doctor if symptoms persist to get access to prescription medications that can eradicate mites.