Bed bugs are an unfortunate problem in households across America, with as many as one in five homes suffering from a bed bug infestation during the year. Unfortunately, once you have these pests in your home, they can be challenging to eradicate. While there are some things you can do at home to try and remove these pests, including from your mattress, in most cases, disposal of the mattress and professional bed bug treatment are recommended.
- Learn to identify bed bugs and their hiding places.
- Learn additional signs of a bed bug infestation.
- Explore at-home methods to treat and remove bed bugs from your mattress.
- Understand how to prevent a bed bug infestation.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that measure about 5mm long and 2 to 3mm wide, or about the size of an apple seed. While they are small, they can be seen with the naked eye. They are light brown to reddish brown in color and have an oval shape. Bed bugs typically hide during the day and come out at night to feed on human blood.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Bed bugs can hide just about anywhere and can be found in crevices along baseboards, underneath carpeting, and cracks within the walls. However, they are most commonly found around the mattress seams, within bedding, and in cracks and crevices in your bed frames as this provides them with easy access to you when they become active at night.
Contrary to popular belief, how clean you keep your home does not increase your risk of bed bugs. In fact, most cases of bed bugs occur when a contaminated item, such as second-hand furniture or a suitcase you used for travel, comes into the home from a contaminated source. Bed bugs can be found on many different pieces of furniture that you spend time on, such as couches and upholstered chairs. In addition, bed bugs can travel through a building, so if you live in an apartment and your neighbors brought home an unwanted pest, they can spread quickly into your residence.
How to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress
If you suspect bed bugs in your mattress, the best course of action is often to dispose of the mattress, call in professional bed bug control, and replace it with a new mattress when you have the all-clear. If this is not possible, the following tips can help you address the infestation.
1. Wash the linens
Remove all linens from your bed. This includes pillowcases, sheets, mattress protectors, comforters, and clothing around or on the bed. Immediately place it into the washing machine with hot water. Wash as normal and dry under the hottest setting. For items such as stuffed animals or shoes in the area that cannot be washed, place them in the dryer under the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes to kill any potential bed bugs.
2. Dismantle the bed frame
To thoroughly address a bed bug infestation, you want to take your bed frame and headboard apart if possible. This opens up additional bed bug hiding spaces and allows you to provide thorough treatment.
Once the bedding is removed, you want to vacuum all infested areas, including the mattress, with the hose of your vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment. Please note that you will likely want to treat the brush after use, as bed bugs can hide in the bristles. Vacuum everywhere, paying close attention to the seams of the mattress. Use the brush attachment to scrub the mattress seams to loosen any eggs or bugs hiding in the area. After vacuuming, dump the contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag (or simply remove the vacuum bag) and seal it before taking it out to the outside trash.
If you have a traditional mattress, you can consider steaming the mattress. High heat, or high temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit and above, can kill bed bugs on contact, so this can often be a very effective method. However, if you have a memory foam mattress, this method is not advised as it can cause mattress deterioration.
5. Mattress-safe insecticides or diatomaceous earth
Once you have vacuumed and/or steamed your mattress and it is dry, you can apply a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth on the mattress or spray it with a mattress-safe insecticide or pesticide. A mattress-safe insecticide will be labeled as safe for use on bedding. Diatomaceous earth is a natural product made of tiny, fossilized diatoms which can actually be beneficial for your hair and skin but absorb oils and fats in the skin of bed bugs, essentially drying them out.
6. Encase the mattress and box spring
Once your mattress and box spring are sprayed with insecticide or sprinkled with diatomaceous earth, encase them in a mattress protector that is designed to shield them against bed bugs. These will be labeled specifically for this purpose and are designed to keep bed bugs from getting into, or in this case, out of your mattress. Because bed bugs can survive for up to a year without food, this cover should remain in place for at least a year in order to ensure any bed bugs left behind on the mattress are actually dead.
7. Professional exterminators
After treating the mattress, the most effective way to eliminate bed bugs is to call in a professional pest control company that can ensure the bed bugs are eradicated completely. In severe cases, even the mattress cleaning steps above may not be enough, and professional help, along with mattress replacement will be necessary.
Why are bed bugs a problem?
Bed bugs feed on human blood, biting their victims while they sleep. While these pests do not spread disease through bites, you and your family will likely experience multiple bites throughout the night which can lead to red, itchy, and uncomfortable irritations. Bed bugs also multiply quickly, so ignoring a bed bug infestation will allow for more and more bed bugs and more and more bites. These bites, with regular itching, can, over time, become infected as well.
Signs of bed bugs in the mattress
Aside from the presence of new bed bug bites and red, itchy welts, there are other signs that might give away a bed bug infestation. While bed bug eggs are often not visible to the naked eye, there are other noticeable signs. These can include:
- The presence of dead or live bed bugs
- Small blood stains on your bed sheets or pillowcases
- Small, dark spots on your mattress or sheets can be a sign of bed bug droppings
- Signs of debris (eggshells or bed bug skin shed) in the mattress seams
- An unexplained musty odor in your mattress
How to prevent bed bugs
If the thought of having bed bugs makes your skin crawl or you have had the experience of bed bugs before, the good news is there are some things you can do to help prevent bed bugs from getting into your home and your bed. These can include:
- Avoid bringing in second-hand furniture
- When traveling, do not put clothing or luggage on the beds and use metal luggage racks instead
- Unpack luggage outside and launder clothes immediately
- Steam clean any luggage to kill any potential bed bugs
- Use a bed bug mattress protector to keep bugs from taking up residence
- Monitor your bed on a regular basis
Don’t let the bed bugs bite tonight
A bed bug problem can quickly become a serious issue if it is not addressed at the first sign of their presence. Not only will their routine feeding at night irritate your skin, but these pests multiply quickly and will soon infect other areas of your home, creating a full buffet. While you can attempt to control an infestation on your own, bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate and are best often addressed with professional pest control.
Arrest a Pest can help keep your home bed bug-free
At Arrest a Pest, we understand how much the thought of a bed bug infestation can make your skin crawl. The good news is our experts understand the bed bug, their habitat, and their favorite hiding places. We know where to look and how to send these pests packing once and for all. If bed bugs are keeping you up at night, call us today to schedule an appointment and become bed bug-free once and for all.