For How Long Can Scabies Live in a Mattress?

Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis). This mite burrows under the skin and lays eggs, causing severe itching and a rash. Infestations are common in cramped or crowded conditions, and an infestation can spread quickly and easily from person to person with prolonged skin-to-skin contact.

If you develop a scabies infestation, symptoms may not appear for up to two months, and you can spread the mite during this time. The scabies mite won't live for long off your body, but it can cling to things like clothes and furniture for at least a few days—just long enough to spread to another person.

This article will review how long the scabies mite can live off a person on things like mattresses and how to get rid of them if this happens.

Slender woman opens the curtains in the bedroom early in the morning. - stock photo

Olga Shumytskaya / Getty Images

Scabies Lifespan in Mattresses and Other Inanimate Objects

On the human body, the scabies mite can survive for a month or two, but without a human host, its lifespan decreases. Though infested furniture, clothing, and other items can spread scabies, these mites can't live long without a host. Scabies can only live for two to three days on nonliving items. This means that if someone in your home has scabies, you could also become infected upon coming into contact with items they used within the past several days.

When a person is successfully treated for scabies, any remaining mites will die off in a few days, but you will need to treat any furniture, clothing, and bedding to avoid reinfection as you try to resolve the infestation.

How to Get Rid of Scabies in a Mattress

You can machine-wash or dry-clean many of the personal items you use during an infestation to remove scabies mites because these mites will die with exposure to 122 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.

Treating household items that you can't machine-wash or dry-clean is a bit more difficult—but not impossible.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming is an effective way to treat larger items you can't wash. The suction of the vacuum will remove mites from your mattress or other larger furniture items. When removed from their human host, mites will die in about three days.

Be sure to dispose of the contents of the vacuum bag or container after use to prevent the spread of mites to other surfaces or people.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning is also useful for larger items that can withstand enough heat to kill scabies mites. You also need to make sure that your steam cleaner is capable of reaching the temperature required to kill the mites (122 degrees Fahrenheit).

Permethrin Spray

Pesticides and insecticides can sometimes get rid of household infestations such as fleas, lice, and bedbugs. However, when it comes to scabies, fumigation with chemicals and insecticides isn't usually necessary, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually discourages it.

Permethrin is an anti-parasite medication that can treat scabies infections in humans (rather than infestations of household items or furniture).

Plastic Covering

Because the scabies mite can't live without a human host for more than a few days, placing infested or contaminated items in a plastic bag or covering them with a plastic covering that can prevent their transfer to other items can also help.

If you are going to use a plastic bag or covering, enclose or cover the infested item for at least three days to make sure any remaining mites are dead before using the item again.

Other Things That May Be Contaminated

Anything that comes into close contact with the skin of an infected person can become contaminated with scabies. However, because scabies can't lay eggs, reproduce, or survive on nonhuman hosts, the mites will usually die in a few days unless they find a new human host to cling to.

Clothing, blankets, towels, furniture, and all kinds of items can spread but not support the life of these mites. Your pets can also carry the mites and spread them from person to person, but human mites can't stay alive or reproduce on an animal for long. Pets like cats and dogs are susceptible to other kinds of mites, but dog mites can't live on a human, and human mites won't live on a dog. Still, if you have an infestation of human mites in your home, be sure to treat your pet to avoid mites hiding on their skin until they can reach another human host.

How Long Does Scabies Last on Skin?

Scabies burrow under the top layer of human skin, where they feed on blood and lay eggs. They can live on a human host indefinitely if an infestation isn't treated. Though scabies mites only have a lifespan of 10–17 days, mites that are reproducing can continue infestation on the human host until the reproductive cycle is stopped.

You might have an infestation for longer than you realize, too. Someone who has never had scabies may not notice symptoms for four to six weeks after an infestation begins, while someone who has already had scabies before might notice symptoms within days.

A scabies infestation is not considered successfully treated until all living mites and their eggs have been destroyed.

When to See a Doctor

A scabies infestation won't go away until it's properly treated. It can be hard to know what is causing your itching.

Scabies symptoms may include:

  • Intense itching, especially at night
  • A rash with red bumps, small blisters that look like pimples, and/or flaking skin
  • Tiny lines on your where mites have burrowed beneath the surface

A scabies infestation can happen anywhere on your body but is most common in areas like the:

  • Fingers and the webbing between them
  • Wrists
  • Armpits
  • Elbows
  • Skin folds
  • Around the nipples on your breasts
  • Penis
  • Waist or belt line
  • Buttocks
  • Area
  • Backs of your knees

If you think you have developed a scabies infestation, make an appointment to see your doctor to determine your diagnosis. There are no over-the-counter treatments that have been tested and approved for scabies, so you will need to see a doctor for a prescription-strength medication that can kill scabies mites and their eggs.


Treatment

Scabies is treated with medications called scabicides that kill the mites and sometimes their eggs, too. There are no over-the-counter treatment options that have been tested and approved, so you will need a prescription from your doctor for these treatments.

Scabicides like permethrin are usually available as creams or lotions. Your doctor or pharmacist will give you directions on where and how often to apply these treatments. Some are only for use on the head and scalp, while others are for the entire body. Certain formulas may need to be left on for a period of time and then washed off.

Medications for treating scabies often include:

  • Permethrin cream 5% 
  • Crotamiton lotion or cream 10%
  • Sulfur (5–10%) ointment
  • Lindane lotion 1%
  • Ivermectin

There are also age limits for some medications, so you will need to see a pediatrician if you need to treat a child for a scabies infestation. Generally, all members of the household should be treated even if one person who lives there becomes infested.

Retreatment may also be necessary if itching or other symptoms of infestation continue for a month or so after treatment. This can happen when mites are reintroduced to a treated host after eradication, which is why it's important to treat all people and items in an infested household.

Summary

Scabies mites are parasites that can burrow under your skin and cause an itchy, red rash. Scabies mites only live on humans, though, and don't live long on pets, clothing, or furniture. If you have an infestation of scabies, you should treat yourself, all members of the household, and all household items to avoid reinfestation after treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Scabies is a tiny mite that can live in the skin of humans and cause an itchy rash, but these parasites can't survive on a nonhuman host. Even though these mites will die in days on things like mattresses, they can reattach to human hosts and cause reinfection if they aren't fully eradicated.

You can treat clothes and smaller items with machine washing or dry cleaning, but larger items like mattresses should be vacuumed, covered for several days, or steam-cleaned to properly remove any mites.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you sleep in your bed if you have scabies?

    If you have a scabies infestation, you should treat all clothing, furniture, and household items you came into contact with over the past few days. Scabies mites can live on your mattress for three days, so sleeping on it before you treat yourself and the mattress could lead to reinfection.

  • Can you see scabies on bedding?

    Scabies is a tiny mite—less than a millimeter in size—so they can be difficult to see with the naked eye. If you are able to see them on bedding, they may appear as tiny black specks.

  • What kills scabies instantly?

    There are medications that can treat your scabies infection quickly, but these all require a prescription. On a nonhuman item, washing in hot water or exposing to steam heat of at least 122 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes will kill the mites.


8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies: Disease.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies frequently asked questions (FAQs).

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies: Prevention and control.

  4. Illinois Department of Public Health. Mites affecting humans.

  5. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Scabies.

  6. MedlinePlus. Permethrin.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies: Medications.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DPDx: Scabies.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
 Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.