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How Long Can Scabies Live In A Mattress? [EXPLAINED]

How Long Can Scabies Live In A Mattress? [EXPLAINED]

Do you regularly sanitize and maintain good hygiene practices for your mattress? If not, then your mattress may be a host to several infectious parasites, including scabies mites. Over 200 million people suffer from scabies at a time, and if not checked at the right time, the effect of scabies infestation may be intensely painful.

Scabies is a common dermatological condition caused by Sarcoptes scabiei. These mites usually do not stay away from humans (or the host animal) for more than 2 to 3 days. Scabies can live on the human skin for ~1 to 2 months. Natural allergic reactions to scabies or the development of a rash on the skin usually occur within 4 to 6 weeks of infestation.

Scabies is a parasitic infestation and can happen to anyone. The rashes that develop from scabies are especially very scary if you have infants or children at home. Since scabies can spread from skin to skin contact or through contamination of daily objects, it is important to disinfect regularly and manage reinfestation. Fortunately, there are various tried-and-tested methods to deal with scabies effectively.

bed scabies little baby

What Is Scabies?

Scabies is a skin condition caused by 'human itch mites' or Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis. These microscopic mites live and reproduce on the upper layer of the human skin. Infestations with scabies appear as tiny pimple-like spots, which can often be painful and extremely itchy.

Scabies and other ectoparasites are included in the list of 'Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) by the WHO. Scabies occurs worldwide, especially in hot and tropical countries. The mites can spread via skin-to-skin contact or through items such as clothes, mattresses, or other articles that come in close contact with an infected person's body. Infestation of scabies is more common in urban and crowded areas, especially in public places like hospitals, childcare facilities, hotels, nursing homes, and other facilities.

What Is A Scabies Rash?

Tiny scabies mites burrow in the skin, where it feeds, reproduces, and lays eggs. These eggs hatch within 3 to 4 days and develop into fully grown adult mites in 1 to 2 weeks. As a result of the human body's natural allergic reaction to the scabies infestation, the person can develop a rash within 4 to 6 weeks of the scabies infestation. These rashes are due to the protein and feces released by the mites, which cause intense itching and rashes over the infested area. Most itchy rashes occur around the fingers, wrists, hands, legs, and belt area. It can spread to more delicate areas in children and babies.

The scabies mites may gradually affect the immunity, especially in children. A scabies rash can get complicated with a bacterial infection as it can lead to skin sores and more severe consequences such as septicemia. A more dreaded form of scabies, called the 'crusted scabies' can happen to those with a compromised or weakened immune system.

Scabies Treatment

If you suspect scabies, you are recommended to consult a medical practitioner before you try out any homemade methods. The practitioner will physically examine or take a sample of the infected area to confirm if you are infected with scabies. The practitioner will then set out two targets:

  • clean the infected area/ articles, and
  • ease out the symptoms.


Even the most spotless home can be infected with scabies. On the human body, scabies can feed, live, reproduce, and survive for about two months. When they are not attached to the host, they will typically live for about 48 to 72 hours on almost any non-living object. Since it is not possible to microscopically inspect every corner of your house, it is best to vacuum clean, and disinfect your bedding, floor space, and all other areas every day to reduce the chances of scabies infestation.

Decluttering The Space

Once you suspect scabies, the first step is to declutter your mattress and its entire vicinity. Ensure that you clear out bedding, large piles of paper, dirty laundry, and dusty bedding.

What Can I Spray On My Mattress To Kill Scabies?

Recurrence of a scabies infection is common. Therefore, frequent checks and disinfection using baking soda and vinegar, essential oils, heat treatment, or use of topical treatments like permethrin and sulfur are recommended. When disinfecting your home, make sure to check the door handles, carpets, and furniture which regularly comes in contact with the human body. The following are some of the disinfection methods to kill and check the growth of scabies mites:

Vinegar And Baking Soda

For this method, spread a layer of baking soda to deodorize the mattress and then spray a solution of vinegar + water over the entire area. Wait for a few minutes until bubbles are formed. Spread some damp towels on the mattress and let it sit for about 2 to 4 hours. Being a natural sanitizer, vinegar can effectively kill and check the population of scabies on your mattress. Allow the mattress to air dry or vacuum clean with the upholstery attachment to remove any residue.

Essential Oils

Some of the best essential oils that can effectively kill and check the population of scabies are – Peppermint, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, and Rosemary. The volatile compounds released from these essential oils kill off bacteria and other living organisms and are also effective in removing any foul odor.

To use, mix 15-20 drops of pure essential oil with half a cup of baking soda and water to form a smooth paste. Apply the paste on the mattress evenly, ensuring you do not leave out any area. Let it sit for about 4 to 5 hours. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove any residue and let it air dry, or leave it under the sun for at least 24 hours before use.


Heat treatment of infected articles at a temperature of 50℃ (or 122℉) or above is effective in destroying scabies mites. Collect all removable bedding such as sheets, pillowcases, towels, and clothing and run them in a hot cycle machine wash. Make sure to run the cycle for at least 10 minutes to ensure that the articles are thoroughly sterilized.

For immovable items, you can use a steam cleaner at a high temperature (that is about 60℃) and run it all over the suspected area. Once you are done steam cleaning, allow the object to air dry thoroughly. You may also keep it directly under the sunlight for at least a day. Accumulation of any kind of moisture may increase the chances of recurrence of infestation.

scabies and kids

Topical Chemicals

Permethrin (a class of drugs called pyrethrins) is often used as a professional treatment for killing dense populations of scabies mites. The scabicide works by paralyzing the scabies mites and killing their eggs. Spraying permethrin 2-3 weeks apart will ensure complete elimination of all mites.

Permethrin is also frequently prescribed for topical scabies treatment. However, do note that using permethrin on the skin may also cause certain side effects such as itching, transient burning or stinging, skin rash, skin swelling, or even worsening of symptoms after the treatment. Since it is an insecticide, it is not suitable for those who practice clean, eco-friendly, and sustainable living.

Other scabicides that are approved for topical application are – malathion, benzyl benzoate emulsion, and sulfur.

Easing Out The Symptoms

To ease out the symptoms of scabies on your skin, your medical practitioner may prescribe some antiparasitic pills and topical application of permethrin or sulfur ointments. Topical treatment should be applied to the entire body. No treatment for scabies is available without a prescription.

Because scabies mites are not visible to the naked eye, it can be difficult to detect them on your mattress. Practice daily hygiene and clean your mattress regularly. As far as possible, use natural methods to disinfect and check scabies infestation.