There was a time when bed bugs ruled supreme as one of the biggest public health hazards. While their numbers and incident levels declined towards the mid-20th Century, they have evolved since then and come back with resistance to many common insecticides.
Bed bugs travel easily from one place to the other, especially alongside travellers who jump between hostels and apartments.
It’s a great way for them to spread and eventually nestle into your mattress at home. However, if you do end up finding one there is no need to panic – removing them is a lot easier than you might think.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs from Your Mattress
The steps below can be a little tedious, but they are also essential if you want to get rid of your unwelcome guests. After all, we’re sure that you want to get back to sleeping soundly in a bed that is free from bed bugs.
1 Step One:
Begin by stripping off your bedding from your mattress and placing them in sealed bags to prevent bed bugs from escaping and infesting other parts of your home. Take your pillows and put them directly in your outdoor bin. They cannot be cleaned and will need to be replaced.
2 Step Two:
Take your bags straight to the washing machine and carefully unload your bedding, taking care to reseal the bags afterwards. Wash the beddings using the hot water setting and throw the bags into your outside bin.
3 Step Three:
Dry the bedding under a high heat setting in your dryer if possible. This will kill the bed bugs and eggs hiding in your sheets and covers. If not, make sure you keep them on a radiator or heated clothes rack to dry.
4 Step Four:
While your laundry cycle is running, remove your mattress and box spring from the bed frame. Then, use a vacuum to remove any bed bugs, shells, fecal droppings, or eggs that may be present in the seams and folds of your bed.
5 Step Five:
While you can use a regular vacuum for this step, the preferred model is one that collects bed bugs in a sealed HEPA filter vacuum to make sure that nothing gets out. This ensures that they stay trapped and die. You can learn more about how bed bugs can live inside your vacuum in our detailed article on the topic.
6 Step Six:
Once you have gone over the mattress with a vacuum, you should then do the same with a steam cleaner.
The heat from the steam cleaner is the only effective way to get deep into the mattress, frame, headboard, and even footboard, to kill all of the bugs and eggs that are living inside. Steam the entirety of your bed slowly, paying careful attention to the seams and folds.
7 Step Seven:
Once your bed has been steamed and left to dry, spray the joints of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard with a contact spray. This will kill bed bugs quickly and then evaporate, leaving no residue.
8 Step Eight:
Follow this up with a residual spray. This will settle in the cracks and crevices without you noticing. However, it is important because it will work to kill bugs and their eggs for several weeks.
9 Step Nine:
After your bed has been fully treated and left to dry, use sealed and certified bed-bug-proof mattress encasements and box spring encasements to protect and seal off your bed.
This will prevent bed bugs from entering or escaping your mattress, reducing the potential for hiding places that they can settle and breed in.
10 Step Ten:
Once your encasements have been applied, you can put the mattress and box spring back on your treated bed frame and put your clean and bed-bug-free bedding back on your bed. Now, you get to settle down for a night free from bugs and full of relaxation.
Alternatively, you could just purchase a new mattress. The encasements need to be left on for a good year, whereas a new mattress allows you to have a fresh start. It costs a little more, but you’re also free from bed bugs.
Further Bed Bug Cleaning and Prevention for Mattresses
Treating your bed thoroughly for bed bugs is essential, but it is also recommended that you take things a step further. What you need to do is stop bed bugs from reaching your bed and climbing back up it.
Since your mattress, and the rest of your bed, is the most common hiding place for bed bugs, it makes sense that this would be the place you start your treatment. But this doesn’t mean you can stop here either.
Bed bugs don’t just hide in your bed, they also climb into your furniture, closet, carpets, and even the walls.
If it is a place where they can detect body heat and the carbon dioxide they need, you can bet they will be there. However, bed bugs cannot jump or fly, they can only crawl. This means that they have to crawl up something in order to reach you.
As a result, you can start by ensuring your bed is isolated from other places of contact. Anything that is stored under the bed can be removed.
Unnecessary pillows can be taken out of the room and placed elsewhere until the problem is gone. You should also ensure your bed is as high from the floor as possible.
At this point, the isolation means that the only way bed bugs are able to reach you is by climbing up the legs while you sleep. What you need to do here is place interceptors under each leg.
What this means is that as each bug attempts to reach you, they will climb up the interceptor and fall into a pit they cannot escape from.
It prevents them from getting up the bed and also allows you to monitor their population over time without the risk of being bitten.
As an extra precaution, you can use the steam cleaner to treat the crevices along your skirting boards, windowsills, and furniture to ensure they die as quickly as possible.
The key here is to move the nozzle along the area very slowly to ensure that all the bed bugs are blasted by the heat.
Remember to move the nozzle slowly – no more than an inch per second to make sure that all bed bugs are adequately exposed to the heat. You will also need to set up long-lasting defences so that you can ensure any infestation is prevented or finished off quickly.
This includes using contact spray, residual spray, and residual powder on potential hiding places of bed bugs such as skirting boards, cracks and crevices, behind nightstands, along the edges of any carpet, and even inside electrical plugs.
Is it Hard to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Yes, it can be pretty hard to get rid of bed bugs. They are a stubborn creature and can be quite resilient, especially with their evolved immunity to insecticides. However, the methods above when used with consistency should be able to eradicate the problem for you.
What is the First Sign of Bed Bugs?
The first sign of bed bugs is blood stains that resemble rust spots on your bed. This is when they have started feeding on you, and you may also notice small bite marks all over your body. These will itch and are often painful.
How Fast Do Bed Bugs Spread?
Bed bugs travel at between three and four feet per minute, which means they spread quickly. When you take their size into account it is the equivalent of an adult human sprinting. This is why they can spread between rooms so quickly.
What If You Can’t Get Rid of the Bed Bugs?
Sometimes you can’t get rid of bed bugs yourself, and that’s when it’s time to call the professionals in. They have the tools to remove them quickly and effectively for you using top-grade bed bug killer that isn’t generally available to the public.
What is the Main Cause of Bed Bugs?
Travel is the main cause of bed bugs. It’s easy for them to hitch a ride in clothes or bedding and make their way between homes and countries.
This is why it is always wise to ensure you stay at hotels with high cleanliness ratings and try to avoid sleeping in communal rooms with strangers.
Prevention is the key to success when keeping bed bugs and other nasties away from your mattress. The great news is that there are loads of resources you can use to keep your mattress clean – including this one – but you should equally never be afraid to ask the experts for help.
If you want a more detailed guide to the process of bed bug removal, we have an excellent one that you can read. Otherwise, we would love to hear your stories of bed bug removal and know if our advice helped you. Make sure you leave us a message in the comment section below with your experiences.
Last Updated on April 13, 2021 by Gemma Tyler
Gemma Tyler is a freelance journalist with 15 years of experience writing for consumer publications. She has tested and reviewed a wide range of household items from vacuum cleaners to washing machines and dehumidifiers to steam irons. Her attention to detail and exhaustive testing certainly makes her an expert in her field.