The insecticidal potency of some essential oils suggests that they may find an application in the control of house dust mites, but current in vitro assays for mites do not appear to give consistent results. A simple, novel, mite chamber assay was therefore developed to carry out testing. Different species of insects are susceptible to different essential oil components, so we compared the relative acaricidal and pediculicidal activity of three essential oils: tea tree, lavender and lemon, because the activity of their constituents on lice ranges from highly active to virtually inactive. The most effective essential oil against both lice and mites was tea tree oil; lavender was the second most effective, and lemon oil the least, although it did show activity against mites, unlike lice. The assay proved simple and effective and gave reproducible results.