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How to identify bed bugs, and how to get them out of your mattress

How to identify bed bugs, and how to get them out of your mattress
(Image credit: Getty)

If you suspect you have bed bugs, it’s important that you learn how to identify them and how to get them out of your mattress. This isn’t an easy task, we’re afraid. After all, even the very best mattress online isn’t bed bug-proof, regardless of how well it’s made and the top-notch materials inside. That’s partly because bed bugs are typically smaller than a quarter of an inch in size, and their small oval shape makes it easy for them to hide in hard-to-reach places. 

Typically brown, these little critters turn red when they feed. So if you see a red bed bug, we’re sorry to say that it’s likely to be full of blood - yours or someone else’s in your home. Gross, right?

If you’re reading this guide, we’re assuming that you’ve either been bitten by a potential bed bug, or you’ve seen a bug and want to check if it’s a danger to you. The truth is, bed bugs are so small, you’ll only see them if you look very very closely. Their eggs are even smaller, and they lay thousands at a time, so if you suspect you have bed bugs it’s important to make sure you’ve looked in every possible hiding place to eliminate them from your mattress.

After reading this, if you decide that your mattress is too old and in need of replacement anyway, or you just can’t get the bed bugs out, take a look at our guides to the best Purple mattress deals and the best Casper mattress deals to save you money on a new mattress for home delivery. Or, for a luxury mattress that’s hand-delivered to your room of choice, read our round-up of the best Saatva mattress discounts

How to identify bed bugs

How to identify bed bugs, and how to get them out of your mattress

This is what a bed bug looks like, but they're so small you might find them hard to spot! (Image credit: Getty)

One of the best giveaways that you’ve got a bed bug infestation is the traces of fecal matter they leave behind. These small brown spots are a good indication of the presence of bed bugs, and they’re likely to be found on concealed parts of your mattress, such as the underside or in any folds of material.

One way to catch the bed bugs themselves is recommended by the folks at DIY Pest Control. Flushing out bed bugs with an insecticide aerosol will drive them out of hiding. These aerosols will kill any bed bugs they encounter, but they’ll also help you figure out if you need to take further action.

Let’s be clear here: if you do have bed bugs, taking action is not optional. Although their bites are not dangerous, they are painful and itchy, and they will continue to spread the longer you leave the issue.

How to remove bed bugs from your mattress

Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs from your bed platform and mattress for good.

Gloves are a must.  (Image credit: Getty)

Step one:

You should remove your mattress from your bed frame as soon as you begin to suspect you have bed bugs. If you can, take the mattress outside so as not to further contaminate your home. There could be some chemicals involved in the removal process, so make sure your space is well ventilated.

Step two:

You should also strip your bed entirely. That means your bed topper, any linens and your duvet. If these items are washable, put them in your washer on the highest allowed temperature setting for each item. Follow up with your hottest dryer setting. It may be wise to replace bulkier, denser items, especially the one you lay your head upon -  use our guide to the best pillows to find a suitable replacement.

Step three:

Now that your mattress has been taken away, it’s time to tackle your bed platform. Bed bugs like to lay their eggs in hard-to-reach places such as in the joints of bed frames, so using a brush with long bristles can help dislodge any that are hiding out of sight. Next, grab a heavy duty vacuum cleaner or a steam cleaner to remove anything you’ve dislodged. Even if you can’t see eggs or bed bugs on your floor, they could still be there. If appropriate, a carpet cleaner would work well at removing any deep-rooted bed bugs, and a handheld vacuum will get into those hidden nooks.

Step four (optional):

It can be tempting to use chemical pesticides to treat your bed bug issue. If you do this, make absolutely sure that the product you pick is safe for indoor use. You should also be wary of using these treatments on furniture such as mattresses and couches - only do this if you’re using a trusted EPA-approved treatment that explicitly says it’s fine for use on upholstery. 

How long does it take to remove bed bugs from a mattress?

How to identify bed bugs, and how to get them out of your mattress

Unfortunately, it's quite the wait.  (Image credit: Getty)

The unfortunate truth is that it’s really difficult to remove bed bugs from your mattress entirely, and if you miss one, that could be all it takes to allow a second infestation. Although it’s definitely worth considering if it’s old anyway, you don’t need to throw away your mattress to get rid of bed bugs. There are a few things you can do to get rid of the infestation, but it takes a long time. 

Because they can live for a year without feeding, a mattress infested with bed bugs needs to be left in a sealed and airtight plastic bag for a full year, according to the EPA.  

So, what will you sleep on for the year that your main mattress is in quarantine? You can check out our guide to the best mattress online for an affordable mattress to get you through the year, or even a cheap cooling mattress that’s highly breathable if the idea of sleeping on a formerly-infested mattress is making you sweat. 

When it comes to how often you should change your mattress, it all depends on what it’s made from. Latex lasts up to 20 years, for example, while an innerspring bed can last anywhere from five to ten years. Memory foam is a hugely popular choice, as we cover in our guide to how long does a memory foam mattress last.

Fast forward a year though, when your mattress is ready to come out of its airtight bag you should immediately give it a thorough clean. That means our guide on how to clean your mattress will come in handy, and what will come in even handier is a steamer. You can use a steam mop to get deep into the surface of your mattress, and since bed bugs are pretty effectively killed by high temperatures, this is a reliable way of making absolutely sure you’re safe to sleep on your mattress once more.