How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in the Mattress: The Ultimate Guide (2020 Edition)
Bed bugs are creepy little critters who love mattresses and their favorite food – YOU!
With the potential to pick up the stowaways wherever you travel and bring them back to your own home and bed, they can arrive from anywhere. And once they make themselves at home, they are notoriously difficult to get rid of.
“Within this guide, we explore 13 different ways to remove these nasty bugs from your mattress along with the pros and cons of every method.” – MattressInsider.com
You will get a clear picture of what are your options and which will, might or may not work best in your situation.
Additionally, we will also explore common questions such as:
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You Can Freezing the Pesky Critters
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to destroy as they are adept at surviving extreme conditions. Freezing them is frequently suggested as a do-it-yourself bed bug remedy for aggressive decontamination of infested household items. However, to successfully conduct this method you will need to ensure the right conditions for the right amount of time.
So, can you kill bed bugs by freezing them?
The short answer is – yes, you can!
However, bed bugs have a high cold tolerance and can survive exposure to temperatures as low as 46°F. By lowering the freezing point of their bodily fluids, they are able to live for days at a chilly temperature.
The key to removing bed bugs by effectively freezing them is to accurately pinpoint the time and temperatures required to exterminate the pests. The Journal of Economic Entomology has stated that bed bugs will freeze at a temperature of 3.2°F if left for 80 hours. You can greatly reduce the time needed if you lower the temperature even further.
Most home fridge-freezers are quite capable to sustain temperatures lethal for bed bugs, which makes them an accessible tool for DIY pest control. However, if the temperature rises to as much as 10 °F, the method will not work because bed bug eggs can survive it.
The main issue with freezing bed bugs is that it can be incredibly difficult to lower the temperature of a whole room or large objects such as a mattress (and bed frames).
Small items such as bedding or soft furnishings and sometimes even luggage should be bagged and placed in a freezer for a minimum of 4 days to effectively freeze and destroy the colony.
Beds, sofas, chairs or carpets, on the other hand, will require professional exposure to frost in order to solve your problem for good. Professional exterminators use machines that utilize carbon dioxide which is deadly to bed bugs but will not harm any of your belongings. However, professional gear is not available to the wide public and should be operated only by fully-trained experts.
What can you freeze to get rid or prevent bed bug infestations?
Any delicate clothing items that can’t be treated in any other way;
- Electronic devices that don’t have a screen;
- Kids toys;
- Suitcases and other carry-ons;
- Books, pictures and decorative objects.
You should avoid freezing liquids as well as objects that obtain high levels of moisture. You should also look out for electronics with an LCD display, sensitive to freezing artifacts, old books and any other item that may be damaged by low temperatures or condensation.
What are the pros of freezing your mattress to get rid of bed bugs?
- Perfect for travelers as it’s focused on decontaminating small domestic objects;
- Relatively easy, cheap and fast bed bug extermination by freezing;
- Suitable for all households owning a domestic freezer;
- Combines perfectly with other control methods which can’t destroy the bed bugs on some of the infested items.
What are the cons of freezing your mattress to get rid of bed bugs?
- Rooms and furniture can’t be treated;
- Not a solution for already spread infestations.
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs via Heating
Much like extreme cold, heat also destroys bed bugs in all life stages. Another method perfect for bed bug infestations of various severity, there are several ways to use heat to get rid of bed bugs: hot boxes, steam, dryers and professional heaters – we will examine each one in detail.
Bed Bug Heat Boxes
Hot boxes for bed bugs are quite popular – they allow you to use sustained heat to kill the pesky insects. You can fill them with dry cleaning, shoes, clothing, bedding, blankets or luggage that isn’t heat sensitive. The only downside is that boxes can’t help you remove bed bugs from the mattress or other bulky furniture.
When using a hot box, the heat will permeate the entire contents and will penetrate even the smallest of cracks and crevices. Heat between 117-122°F will be effective at killing bed bugs. Such devices are mainly used by professional exterminators and if a frequent traveler – you should totally invest in buying one.
Caution when using the hot box method for eliminating bed bugs as setting an extreme level of heat might cause the item treated to ignite. Also, be aware that you will require proper ventilation before attempting to use a hot box product inside your home.
What are the pros of using heat boxes to get rid of bed bugs?
- Perfect for decontamination of household objects and luggage;
- Good to have around if you’re a frequent traveller;
- The machine is DIY-able.
What are the cons of using heat boxes to get rid of bed bugs?
- A tad bit on the expensive side;
- Should be used with extreme caution;
- Sensitive to heat items can’t be treated;
- Can’t be used for bed bugs on the mattress.
Dryers – What You Should Know?
One of the most common questions people ask about driers and bed bugs:
Can you kill bed bugs in the dryer?
You most certainly can.
Clothes dryers are an excellent way to destroy bed bugs DIY via heat at the comfort of your home. Compared to washing at high degrees, dryers can be work on dry-clean-only for non-washable items.
You won’t be able to remove bed bugs from your bed, but at least you’ll get them off of your favorite bed sheets, clothes, blankets, and towels.
How to Kill Bed Bugs Using a Tumble Dryer?
It is recommended for you to place infested items in your dryer for at least 20 minutes – this will destroy the nasty insects for sure. Keep decontaminated items away from infested areas to avoid re-infesting your property all over again. And definitely, don’t postpone a comprehensive bed bug treatment for your entire home for it is probably infested.
What are the pros of using a tumble drier for getting rid of bed bugs?
- Almost any household has a clothes dryer;
- Cheap and convenient addition to any comprehensive bed bug treatment.
What are the cons of using a tumble drier for getting rid of bed bugs?
- Appropriate for textile items only;
- May not always kill critters up to 100%.
How Well do Professional Bed Bug Steamers Kill Bed Bugs?
Steam kills bed bugs in all stages, especially if they are located near the surface of a treated item – ¾ of an inch into the fabrics surface, to be exact. Steamers are the perfect solution to treat bed bugs nested within your mattress or upholstered furniture.
It is required that the steam reaches 150–170°F for a period of time, which makes the treatment a tad bit laborious.
A proper configuration is also essential – you need to attach a triangle-shaped nozzle to the steamer wand in order to obtain and keep the correct temperatures when treating an area.
Measuring the temperature should happen just after the steamer has been run over the surface. That’s best done by using an infrared thermometer. When using one, you will be able to gauge how fast or slow you should be moving the wand over the fabric to reach the optimal temperature – speed up if it is getting too hot, slow down if it’s too cool.
It’s best to use a commercial grade steamer with at least a 1 gallon of capacity. If the treatment is conducted by a professional, the tradesman will make sure to constantly monitor if the temperature stays in range. Otherwise, it won’t be a successful extermination.
Steam treatments come with a limited reach when it comes to treating the wide range of fabrics used for mattresses.
The fact that it’s a water-based procedure means that not all items will be treatable for some of them might succumb to water damage. It’s best if you rent a professional unit and avoid regular carpet steam cleaners as they aren’t capable of reaching the right temperature to clean up your mattress from bed bugs and sometimes they even leave residual moisture than can cause humans to suffer from symptoms of mold.
What are the pros of using steam cleaners to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress?
- Perfect for mattresses and upholstered furniture;
- Kills bed bugs in all life stages;
- Eco-friendly way of destroying bed bugs.
What are the cons of using steam cleaners to get rid of bedbugs in a mattress?
- Requires a set of commercial grade tools that may be costly to rent;
- A water-based solution which isn’t compatible with every material;
- Takes a lot of time and effort to achieve best results.
How Efficient is a Heat Treatment?
“The heat treatment has been hyped in recent years because of how effective it is. The treatment is usually conducted by professionals with appropriate equipment and skills. It is a costly procedure known to deliver the best possible results as it eradicates the entire bed bug colony within a single visit” – Fantastic Bed Bug Control
The treatment can be carried out for rooms and entire buildings alike. It is usually completed with the help of professional grade heating machines that raise the room temperature up to at least 117°F along with air movers that distribute the hot air around the entire room. Oftentimes, a heat treatment is combined with pesticides to achieve best results and eradicate even the most stubborn bed bug infestation.
What are the pros of getting rid of bed bugs in a mattress via a heat treatment?
- 100% eradication of bed bugs in all their life stages;
- Perfect for severe infestations;
- Single treatment is usually enough to destroy all bed bugs;
- The treatment itself doesn’t include any chemicals (however, your exterminator may decide to use some in order to achieve even more powerful effect).
What are the cons of getting rid of bed bugs in a mattress via a heat treatment?
- Costly solution;
- Should be conducted only by professionals with proper skills and toolset.
Diatomaceous Earth - Desiccants Family (DE)
DE belongs to the family of desiccant substances and is widely praised as the miracle DIY treatment. It is indeed a fantastic method that can greatly aid you in the fight against bed bugs. Zapp Bug has listed the following reasons to use Diatomaceous earth:
- It’s natural because it is derived from fossilized sea creatures, it is non-toxic and safe to handle around children and pets;
- It’s fantastic when paired with heat treatment;
- It kills bed bugs safely because it disrupts the waxy shell of the bugs making them more prone to dehydration, but does not contain any pesticides itself or other dangerous compounds;
- Unlike many pesticides, bed bugs cannot develop a resistance to diatomaceous earth.
However, using Diatomaceous earth as a stand-alone solution has shown poor results in managing already spread bed bug infestations. Some reasons why this happens are:
- It takes a lot of time for DE to work and it will only manage a bed bug population partially;
- DE needs to be used only in completely dry areas and should be reapplied regularly and in generous amounts;
- Bed bugs aren’t prone that much to dehydration as opposed to other insects;
- A bed bug may replenish its water reserves by having a blood meal. This results in molting of the nymph, during the process, a new cuticle is formed and the bug develops a new outer layer to protect it from water loss. All of this may lead to reinfestation of the entire premises.
So in the end, it’s best to pair this non-toxic solution with other techniques against bed bugs, especially if you suffer from a severe infestation.
Whilst the substance is non-toxic, you should still wear a mask while using diatomaceous earth to prevent inhaling the tiny particles. You should also make sure that you use pesticide grade versions rather than pool grade ones and that it doesn’t contain any added chemicals or insecticides. Always make sure you carefully read all safety advice and instruction before using Diatomaceous earth.
What are the pros of using DE to get rid of bedbugs in your mattress?
- A totally safe way to handle bed bugs in any home;
- Works great in conjunction with other treatments;
- Doesn’t require particular tools or skills;
- Cheap aid to any bed bug problem.
What are the cons of using DE to get rid of bedbugs in your mattress?
- Usually, not enough on its own to handle advanced infestations;
- You have to repeat the treatment at least once.
Can Washing & Vacuuming Help You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Simple washing and vacuuming can go a long way to removing bed bugs from your linen but not the mattress itself. A complement to both do-it-yourself methods and professional bed bug removal, washing linens at high temperatures will help to kill the bugs, with high-temperature drying finishing them off completely.
- First, sort your clothes as you would for a normal wash and place them in separate plastic bags. We suggest separating not only by color but by wash temperature as well. Clothes which can’t get wet should go straight in the dryer, so make sure to put these in a separate bag too. Seal all bags to prevent any bugs from escaping before you can get them to the washing machine;
- Carefully transport your bedding to the washing machine and tip each bag’s contents inside, disposing of each emptied bag into a new, clean bag;
- Wash and dry the linen at the highest temperature the material can withstand without being damaged. For dry-clean-only fabrics, put them in the dryer for at least 30 minutes on a medium-high setting;
- Fold your linen as soon as it dries off and place it in fresh plastic bags. Unpack these in your home only once the bed bug problem has been fully eliminated. Otherwise you will give the bed bugs a chance to escape and re-infest again.
Vacuuming, whilst an effective way to capture and remove bed bugs, will not kill them.
Vacuuming should be used as an accompanying method in your bed bug removal quest. It’s especially effective against clusters of the insect and can significantly decrease their overall population.
- Ensure the suction is turned up as high as possible and a precision nozzle is attached before you start;
- When vacuuming, pay extra attention to cracks or holes which bed bugs use to hide during the day and lay their eggs. Eggs and bugs can be flicked off a surface if you push too hard against the fabric. Try to avoid pushing down too hard on the mattresses;
- The bed bugs will still be alive inside the vacuum bag, therefore when you have finished, remove the bag and seal it with tape, then place it in a plastic bag and also seal this with tape before you dispose of it.
- If your vacuum cleaner doesn’t have a bag, carefully remove and discard the contents (again in a tape sealed bag) and wash the removable container with hot soapy water. Don’t forget the filter (if the unit has one). You will have to thoroughly wash it, freeze it or discard before the vacuum is safe for use again.
If you are vacuuming more than one room, make sure to cover the end of the nozzle with tape before you move to the next room.
Until a more permanent way of extermination is carried out, you will need to vacuum the affected areas frequently to prevent the infestation from growing. This is valid for mattresses, carpets and upholstery altogether.
What are the pros of using a vacuum cleaner to get rid of bed bugs?
- Can decrease the bed bug population significantly;
- No insecticides involved in the process;
- Easy to do in every household.
What are the cons of using a vacuum cleaner to get rid of bed bugs?
- Can be used only to support other more effective bed bug control measures;
- Should be done on a regular basis.
How to Discard Infested Objects
Disposing of infested items can be one of the easiest ways to rid yourself of bed bugs. However, it is by no means the cheapest way, as you will have to replace everything. If you can afford to replace beds, carpets, and other furnishings, you will still have to safely and securely dispose of the items in order to prevent the infestation from spreading to other homes.
Local curbside collections, junk removal services or local dumps and transfer stations are all good options to dispose of such items, However, you must ensure that everything you are throwing away is sealed in plastic and warning labels are attached to avoid anyone coming into contact with the infested contents. If you use a car or van to take the items to a local disposal unit, ensure you take it through a thorough car wash on your way home.
Another way to get rid of bed bug infested items is to burn them outdoors. However, depending on your location, you may be prohibited from burning any household items or starting outdoor fires. That’s why in order to do so, you should check with your local authorities before doing this as well as minding all safety precautions before lighting the fire.
All in all, this method can be appropriate if your mattress (or any upholstered furnishing is severely stained by bed bugs and you aren’t able to clear the stains off). In such cases, it’s best to just replace those few items with new ones and to treat your entire home with other available solutions against bed bug infestations.
What are the pros of getting rid of infested items?
- No pesticides usage is required;
- Appropriate for severely stained items.
What are the cons of getting rid of infested items?
- Expensive because you need to replace all discarded objects;
- Poses risk to the environment;
- Poses a risk of spreading the infestation throughout the neighborhood.
Essential Oils - Neem Oil - Biochemicals
Pressed directly from the seeds of the Neem tree (a tropical evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia and Africa), cold-pressed neem oil is a powerful ingredient used in many products for bed bug control.
Neem oil comes with strong repellent qualities which are both good and bad for controlling bed bugs. When in combination with other ingredients, neem oil forms a substance that is lethal and can affect bed bug populations by far. However, if used as a stand-alone compound, it will act solely as a repellent for bed bugs and will not have any extermination qualities whatsoever.
Containing various medicinal and insecticidal properties, it is used in numerous cosmetics and toiletries and in performance trials conducted using the recommended label rates it has shown to be effective at killing eggs, nymphs, and adult bed bugs.
What are the pros?
- Great repellent qualities against many insects including bed bugs
- Natural product which is completely safe to use
- Its antiseptic qualities can aid you for bed bug bites
What are the cons?
- Strong, unpleasant scent
- May damage or stain wood, textile and other materials
- Not very effective as a stand-alone solution against bed bugs
Pyrethrins and Pyrethroids
Pyrethrins and pyrethroids are two of the most common ingredients contained in products against bed bugs available in home stores.
As a result, they’ve been overused for years. Pyrethrins are a botanical insecticide whereas pyrethroids are a synthetic chemical insecticide. They are excellent at flushing bed bugs out of their hiding places. However, bed bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to them so the use of pyrethrins and pyrethroids becomes increasingly ineffective.
If the chemicals come in contact with a particularly resistant population strain, they will just temporarily flush the bed bugs out and force them to relocate. It is therefore recommended to either use a combination of the two chemicals, (or multiple active chemicals at the same time) or avoid this method because of the negative effects associated with it:
- Bed bug populations develop resistance to the chemicals, making it even harder to eradicate an infestation;
- Improper use of pesticides by non-professionals may lead to severe allergic reactions
Because of that, the compounds should be handled by professionals only.
What are the pros of using pyrethrins and pyrethroids to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress?
- They are a well-known and established solution to bed bugs;
- They can and should be used in a combination with other insecticides.
What are the cons of using pyrethrins and pyrethroids to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress?
- They may be ineffective against resistant bed bug populations if used as a stand-alone solution;
- If not used correctly, these chemicals might cause allergic reactions to humans.
The Usage of Neonicotinoids
Also known as neonics, neonicotinoids are a synthetic form of nicotine which acts on the nicotinic receptors of bed bugs’ nervous systems by causing nerves to fire continuously until they fail.
This chemical has also been widely used by professional bed bug exterminators, usually in combination with other chemicals in order to decrease the chance of bugs developing any resistance. However, a new study found that bed bugs have also started to develop immunity to chemicals that contain neonicotinoids and that is indeed disturbing.
What are the pros of using neonicotinoids to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress?
- Widely used to control bed bug populations
- Powerful solution against infestations of any size
- Can be used in combination with other chemicals and techniques
What are the pros of using pyrethrins and pyrethroids to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress?
- Recommended only for professional usage
- Bed bugs will eventually develop resistance to it
How can Pyrroles Help with Getting Rid of Bed Bugs?
The only EPA approved pyrrole which can currently be used against bed bugs is chlorfenapyr.
The biological activity of this compound depends on its activation to form another chemical, which in turn disrupts certain functions in the bed bug’s cells and kills the bug. The chemical is widely used by professional pest controllers but bed bugs have already shown some early signs of resistance to chlorfenapyr.
That’s why it is highly recommended to use chemical solutions as part of an integrated pest management procedure that includes manual measures such as washing and vacuuming, for example.
What are the pros of using pyrrole to clean your mattress from bed bugs?
- Established, professional-grade bed bug control chemical;
- Works great as part of integrated bed bug management programmes.
What are the cons of using pyrethrins and pyrethroids to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress?
- Bed bugs have shown early signs of resistance to it;
- Should be used with other methods of bed bug extermination.
Insect Growth Regulators
Insect growth regulators work by mimicking juvenile growth hormones in insects. This happens to alter the production of chitin – the compound insects use to grow their hard exoskeleton/shell.
The growth regulators alter the bug’s development into adulthood, either making them grow too rapidly or stop altogether.
Silica Gel - Desiccants Family
Desiccants are substances which cause and maintain a state of dehydration in their vicinity.
Such as boric acid, Diatomaceous earth, and silica gel, for example. They work by absorbing the oils from the waxy, protective shell of bed bugs, destroying its protective qualities. Once the shell is damaged, it makes bed bugs dehydrate and die.
As an excellent tool for cleaning your mattress of bed bugs, desiccants work via physical action which means that bugs can’t become resistant as they can adapt to pesticides. However, not all desiccants are as equally effective against bed bug infestations. As already discussed above, DE isn’t that successful, nor is boric acid but silica gel has been reported to work tremendously well.
Here’s how you can use silica gel to treat bed bugs in home conditions:
- It’s best to use it as a powdered solution instead of in a spray form because when mixed with water its effectiveness diminishes greatly;
- Apply silica gel powder with “brushing” motions rather than “puffing” it in – you can use a soft-bristle paintbrush or a make-up brush for the purpose;
- Make sure to apply the powder thoroughly, especially in areas that are bed bug friendly such as along the seams and edges of mattresses, bed frames, upholstery and box springs;
- Depending on the severity of infestation, apply 1-3 ounces of the powder as a one-off treatment and if necessary, spot treat a second time after a week or so.
- Highly-effective solution which significantly decreases bed bug population after a single treatment;
- Low-cost and easily accessible even for non-professionals.
- Effectiveness is highly-decreased if used as a spray solution;
- Applying silica gel with a brush is a laborious work and can be messy;
- Because of its desiccant qualities, it can be drying to the human skin and airborne particles may irritate your eyes and respiratory system.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
It is a common misconception that bed bugs are too small to be seen with the naked eye. In fact, fully grown bed bugs are up to 4-5mm on average. Relatively slow movers, they have flat, oval-shaped bodies and are brown in color, turning to a reddish brown after feeding. Newly hatched bed bugs (nymphs) are more difficult to spot as they are approximately the size of a head of a pin and are white or pale brown in color before their first dish. Whilst bed bugs are visible, finding them can be a nightmare and you need to learn what to look out for before checking for them.
How To Check Your Mattress For Bed Bugs?
If you suspect a bed bug infestation it is best to check your mattress and nearby areas right away before the infestation grows or even worse–they start hitchhiking to other people’s houses. Treating a relatively small infestation is much easier, faster and cost-effective than a large one, however, identifying low-level infestations is no easy task so you need to be knowledgeable about what you are looking for. The physical signs of bed bugs can be hard to spot as buggers only venture outside their hiding places at night. However, you can easily spot the signs of their presence by looking for the any of the following when you change your sheets, when you’re cleaning or staying in a hotel:
- Blood spots – caused by the pests being crushed or when they feed. Blood spots will be rusty, reddish stains. They are clearly visible on bedding especially if the bed has been recently slept in;
- Small brown dark spots – the bed bugs’ excrement can also be spotted on bedding and other fabrics. It often bleeds into the very fibre making it easier to see;
- Abandoned eggs and eggshells – these are left behind as the nymphs hatch and grow. The yellow/off-white shells are just 1mm in size and should be looked out for in conjunction with all other signs if you suspect a bed bug problem;
- Alive bed bugs – bed bugs normally only come out at night to feed but if you look closely in their favourite hiding places you are likely to spot the adult bugs slowly moving around;
- Bed bug bites on you or your family – these are usually small itchy red lumps that trail over the body in lines where the bugs have repeatedly fed. They are normally found on skin that has been exposed during the night.
Where to Look for Bed Bugs
Although their name may suggest otherwise, bed bugs can be found in a variety of hiding places around your home:
- Piping, seams, tags and box springs of mattresses;
- Cracks in the bed frame or headboard;
- Other furnishings such as chairs, sofas and curtains – like with mattresses, check seams and piping, along with in between cushions and any material folds;
- Furniture joints;
- Behind peeling wallpaper or wall hangings;
- In electrical appliances and receptacles;
- Wall and ceiling joints;
- Any crack or space the width of a credit card or wider;
- Textile light fixtures, plush toys and other suitable items may also be infested, so don’t forget to treat them as well.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs from Infesting Your Bed and Mattress?
Ideally, one or more of these solutions has helped you rid your home of a bed bug infestation, but prevention works far better than any other solution. Preventing bed bugs from getting into your home in the first place can be difficult. It’s only because prevention requires constant vigilance in order to be effective. Here are the best tips to ensure your home remains bed bug-free:
- Reduce clutter in the home so there are fewer places for them to hide;
- Use protective, zip-able mattress covers that also cover the box springs on all your beds;
- Check all luggage thoroughly as soon as you come home from a trip and make sure to launder clothes as soon as possible;
- Vacuum frequently to remove any stowaways;
- Wash all bedding regularly at high temperatures;
- Check any second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.