You may have said, “Sleep tight, don’t let bed bugs bite you” at least a few times in your life without giving it much thought, but spoilers: bed bugs are a real thing. According to the CDC, bed bugs are “small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep.”
It’s easy to see why you wouldn’t sleep soundly with these pests around. Bad news first: Bed bugs can be found across the country, sometimes even in fancy hotels, and they can travel with you, hitchhiking in the folds of your clothes or luggage. They are small and tend to remain hidden, so they are not always easy to spot. But there is also good news: Bed bugs are a nuisance, but they are not known to spread disease. And it’s possible to get rid of them, so don’t throw away all your linens just yet.
How to tell if you have bed bugs on your mattress
Bed bugs are very small (1-7 mm), oval, red-brown beetles. They may be more brown or red depending on whether they’ve eaten recently, says Bailey Carson, home care expert at Angi. When not feeding, bed bugs can hide in the smallest places — near the seams of a mattress or in the cracks of a bed frame (but sometimes even as far as 20 feet away).
If you think you have a bed bug problem, Carson says there are a few signs to look out for:
- see her with your eyes: The surest way to know if bed bugs have invited themselves into your bedroom is if you see one crawling across your sheets or mattress. (There are other small insects, however, so make sure you have bed bugs and not another intruder.)
- Waking up with bites: Bed bug bites are red and itchy with a clear center. They can cause a slight burning sensation and are likely to appear on areas of skin exposed during sleep.
- Finding blood on your sheets: After feeding, bed bugs tend to bleed, so finding blood on your sheets can be a second sign you have a problem, says Carson.
- Find exoskeletons on your leaves: Like many other bugs, bed bugs molt and leave behind an exoskeleton. Because they shed this layer five times before reaching adulthood, spotting scattered exoskeletons can be a sign of an infestation.
- Finding bed bug excrement on your sheets: Bed bug feces tend to appear in small clusters and appear as dark or rusty spots on your mattress, bed sheet or pillow and are about the size of a marker spot.
How do you get rid of mattress bed bugs?
Once you realize you have a bed bug problem, target anything that might be a bed bug hideout. Wash and dry all your sheets, pillowcases, curtains, and other linens at the hottest temperature they can handle. Then vacuum and steam clean your mattress and pillows, as well as fabric headboards and footboards or bed frames.
And don’t just stop at your bed. “Steam all other upholstered furniture in the room and throughout the house. While bed bugs can’t fly, they’re very good at finding sneaky ways to get around on walls, floors, ceilings, or even you or your pets,” she says to Karson.
Toss anything that isn’t machine washable either in the dryer for 30 minutes or, if it’s not machine washable, put it in plastic bags and freeze it for at least four days to kill any bugs or eggs.
When in doubt, consult a professional. If your infestation is small and relatively contained, speak to a professional about the best DIY options to try first, such as: B. using an extermination kit or a “fog bomb”, or for non-chemical options, buy or rent a steamer. If your bed bug problem is bigger than you can handle at home, or you want to eradicate the bed bugs completely, you can hire professionals to use heat or heat treatment, fumigation, chemicals and pesticides, steam, or even sniffer dogs.
How to prevent bed bugs in the future?
Whether you’ve had bed bugs before or never plan on getting them again, there are a few preventative steps you can take. First, clean your bedding regularly, vacuum frequently, and use a mattress cover. Carson also recommends covering your outlets with baby-proof covers. “Exits are a secret hiding place for bed bugs that also help them travel through your home, so covering them up is helpful, especially if you’re already dealing with an infestation,” she says. Inspect your furniture regularly to ensure you catch a potential infestation sooner rather than later.
And if you need another excuse to beautify your home, a tidy home can prevent bed bugs and other pests from becoming unwanted, non-rent-paying roommates. Clutter creates potential hiding spots for bugs, Carson says, so go through your belongings and only keep what you use regularly or what brings you joy (bed bugs are definitely not a joy). When storing things, use plastic containers or containers with lids, which can prevent insects from entering.
Finally, when you’re out and about, whether it’s near or far, check the beds and furniture wherever you go. And wash everything you’ve packed as soon as you get home, even if you haven’t worn it on your trip (we’re looking at five backup outfits for a weekend getaway).
Bed Bug Mattress Covers
A zipped cover for your mattress and box springs is a great way to prevent future bed bug infestations. They can also prevent bed bugs from escaping, but note that you’ll have to keep the blankets on for about a year before all of the trapped bugs die, says Carson.
When choosing a mattress cover, make sure it has a secure, sealed zipper so no beds can get in or out, says Carson. And if you have a box spring bed, be sure to get a cover for it in addition to a mattress cover, as bed bugs can invade both.
Utopia Bedding zipped mattress cover
Linenspa mattress protector
SafeRest mattress protector with zipper
PlushDeluxe Premium Bamboo Mattress Protector
Linenspa waterproof box spring wrap