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How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress

Bed bugs can be very difficult to eliminate. They can hide in cracks and crevices, and they are great at hiding. Because of their small size, they are able to hide in areas that you would never expect them to be in. This makes it difficult to find them and get rid of them, especially when they’re living on your mattress.

Their natural instincts tell them that they should stay away from people when possible and they tend to only come out to feed at night when we’re asleep in our beds.

In almost all bed bug infestations, the main harborage can be found within 5 feet of your bed, oftentimes on your mattress itself!

If you’ve found some bed bugs then the first thing you probably think is “how can I get rid of bed bugs in my mattress?”

I can answer this question for you and help you sleep in peace once again – just follow this guide and you’ll be set!

Understanding Bed Bugs

Before I tell you how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress, I should first explain a bit about bed bugs so you understand why these steps will work. Understanding the “why” should help you get the best results.

Bed Bugs Can’t Chew Through Fabric

Unlike some insects, bed bugs don’t have the ability to chew through fabric or plastics. This is very important – it means if they’re sealing into a space, they have no way of escaping on their own.

It also means that bed bugs aren’t truly living in your mattress, unless your mattress has a hole letting them inside. Typically they’re just living on the mattress and your bed frame.

Bed Bugs Can Live for Months Without Feeding

While bed bugs do need to feed to produce eggs, they can still live for up to a year without feeding in the right environment!

There’s a Variety of Ways to Kill Bed Bugs

There’s a pretty wide variety of both natural and chemical methods for dealing with bed bugs. Many are effective, some get results faster than others.

Guide to Getting Bed Bugs Off Your Mattress

With all of that stuff being covered, lets talk about how you can get bed bugs off your mattress so you don’t need to throw it out.

I’m going to break things down into 4 steps –

  1. Safely remove your bedding
  2. Treat for bed bugs
  3. Seal the mattress
  4. Trap the bedframe

Safely Remove Your Bedding

Ridding your mattress of bed bugs isn’t useful if they’re still alive on your bedding! You need to wash all fabric comforters and ideally pillows too. Use high heat with both the washer and dryer to help unsure they die.

When transporting your bedding to the washer, be sure to use a secure plastic bag or plastic tote. You don’t want bed bugs to fall out along the way or you risk spreading the infestation to other areas of the house or apartment.

Treating for Bed Bugs

I have a whole guide on how to get rid of bed bugs that will cover treating your entire room, so here’s I’ll just focus on the mattress.

The first thing I would do is get a sufficient bed bug vacuum (ideally something that uses a bag that bed bugs can’t escape from). Remove all bedding and vacuum along every nook and cranny in your mattress and your bed frame. If you can slip a credit card into a crack, then a bed bug can be living in there.

bed bugs on mattress

If you find any live bed bugs or eggs, be sure to suck them up.

Since you’ll be sleeping on your mattress still, I don’t recommend spraying it with pesticides. This could lead to you ingesting pesticides through your skin as you sleep – not good! Instead, we can treat your mattress and bed frame with heat by using a bed bug steamer.

Bed bugs die when exposed to extended periods of heat around 122 degrees, but steam is ~212 degrees so it can kill bed bugs and their eggs pretty instantly. Take your steamer and steam around all of the cracks and flaps of your matress and bed frame.

It would be smart to disassemble your bed frame at least partially so you can make sure to steam every surface and corner.

I suggest getting a more powerful steamer, one made for steam cleaning, not for steaming wrinkles out of clothes. You want to be able to shoot a nice stream of steam into the cracks to make sure the heat fully penetrates and kills the infestation.

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bed bug on bed

Seal the Mattress with an Encasement

Now that you’ve done your best to kill any bed bugs living on your mattress, you need to install a mattress encasement.

An encasement is basically a large bag/cover that you place over your mattress that doesn’t let any bed bugs to pass through. This seals any remaining bed bugs inside, unable to bite you or escape. It also prevents bed bugs from setting up a new harborage on your mattress as there are no flaps or cover for them to hide under.

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This is a very important product that shouldn’t be skipped! It’s the only real way to ensure your mattress is safe to use again and you wont wake up with bed bugs crawling on your skin, giving you new bites.

If you have a mattress box spring, then I would recommend putting an encasement on that as well. If you have any tears in the box spring fabric, bed bugs can infest the inside of it as it’s the perfect dark hiding spot that they love – close to their food source (you)!

If you find that your encasement has a hole or tear in it at any point, seal it with strong tape and consider replacing it.

Trap the Bed Frame

Now that we’ve established that bed bugs can’t live on your mattress any longer, we still need to make sure they can’t climb up your bed frame and get to you. Bed bugs can live in other furniture, in the walls, behind a baseboard, or under carpet, so to keep yourself safe we still need to do more.

Bed bug traps are the perfect way to both protect yourself from more bed bug bites and monitor for an ongoing infestation.

The way they work is you place the cups underneath your bed frame legs. When bed bugs come out from hiding to feed, they crawl across the floor and make an attempt to climb the leg of your bed. With these traps in place, they end up falling into a smooth valley that they can’t climb out of.

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Check the trap each morning to see if you caught any bed bugs which can tell you about if you have an ongoing infestation. The nice thing about these bed bug traps is there is no ongoing maintenance and they don’t breakdown, you can use them forever.

How do I know if my mattress has bed bugs?

Finding a bed bug on the mattress is one way. If you find stains on your mattress that’s another good indicator. These can be black/brown spots that look like coffee grounds (bed bug feces) or red, rust colored stains which is from blood.

Do I need to throw out my mattress if I have bed bugs?

You don’t need to throw out your mattress as long as you effectively treat it, but you may need to leave an encasement on it for at least a year. If you have a really serious infestation, it may be best to get rid of the mattress though.

How do I dispose of a mattress with bed bugs?

You should seal the mattress in a large plastic bag like this one and tape it shut so it’s sealed. Check with your garbage collection company, but most will let you just put it out on the curb for pick up. You should also mark the bag/mattress as “bed bugs” so no one takes the mattress with plans of re-using it.

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Written by Wesley Wheeler

Wesley has over 10 years of residential and commercial pest control experience dealing with every kind of pest. He ran his own pest control company for 6 years and now shares his knowledge online.

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