How Mattresses Get Bed Bugs And What To Do About It

by Véronique Raymond
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Unfortunately, if you own a mattress, there is a potential for bed bugs.

If you’ve got them, you’re probably concerned about how exactly they came to be taking up residence in your bed.

If you haven’t gotten them yet, you should be concerned about how to prevent the invasion. We’ll discuss this and more below.


What Are Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are small creatures, brown in colour, ovalish in shape, and best described as blood-hungry fiends.

They make no distinction between animal or human blood and will feast on you and your pets while you sleep.

They’re about the size of an apple seed at their biggest, so they can be spotted visually, but by the time you can see the adults roaming around, it’s much too late.

One female bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs in its lifetime with multiple generations every year.

The young only take about a month to fully develop when they have a steady blood supply (i.e. you), so infestations can occur quickly and without mercy.

Bed bugs feed in short stints, usually between 3 and 10 minutes.

They have a long beak for a mouth that pierces the skin so they can consume your blood.

They’re mainly active at night, but they can eventually make their way into other rooms of your home or even nearby apartments.


Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?

Luckily, bed bugs are more of a nuisance pest than a dangerous pest.

They are not thought to transmit any diseases.

However, it is possible to have an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, and medical attention may be required if the reaction is severe.

The normal reaction to a bed bug bite is mainly some itching similar to a mosquito bite, which you can tackle with an antihistamine, anti-itch cream, or by gently washing the affected area with mild soap and water.


How Do Mattresses Get Bed Bugs?

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Since bed bugs are quite small creatures and can fit in a very small space, they can easily enter your home through a variety of objects like second-hand mattresses, box springs, couches, luggage, and clothes.

If you bring in a contaminated object, it won’t take long for the little bugs to spread through your home as they find new crevices to hide in while searching for a meal.

They’ll instinctively search out hiding places close to your bed such as your headboard, bed frame, box spring, or your mattress so they can feast on you during the night.

Since bed bugs can make a hiding place out of pretty much any tiny crevice, even a thorough inspection of used goods won’t be enough to detect them.

Once that object enters your home, the bed bugs will vacate their hiding spots to move into your sleep area.


Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation

Your first clue that you may have bed bugs will be noticing their bites on your skin.

But how do you tell them apart from other pests like mosquitos or fleas?

The welts appear as itchy bumps, so it can be tricky to determine precisely which pest you should be on the lookout for.

Thankfully, there are some key differences in how the bites will present:

  • Flea bites are usually only around the ankles, but bed bugs will latch on to any skin exposed when sleeping
  • Flea bites have a red center, but bed bug bites don’t
  • Mosquito bites are usually larger than bed bug bites

If you suspect a bed bug infestation, there are some other signs of bed bugs you can look for as well:

  • Reddish-brown or blood stains on your sheets, pillowcases, or pajamas
  • A distinctive musty odor that the bugs’ scent glands produce
  • Dark spots of bug excrement
  • Bed bug eggs or eggshells
  • Shedded skins of nymphs (young bed bugs)
  • And of course, physically seeing adult bed bugs


How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

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So, you have a bed bug problem. You’re a yummy and reliable food source, so they won’t leave willingly. What can you do?

Physical Control Options


For infested items like bed skirts, comforters, clothes, bed sheets, pillowcases, mattress covers and mattress protectors, and curtains, washing in hot water is the best first step in getting rid of unwanted hitchhikers in your belongings.

These items should be dried on the hottest dryer setting as well for best results.

Steam Cleaning

Mattresses, upholstery, and items that can be machine washed should be thoroughly steam cleaned.

Steam cleaners usually produce heat that is twice as strong as necessary to kill bed bugs, so steam cleaning these items is a sure-fire way to get rid of bed bugs.

Of course, you’ll need to be patient and take your time over thicker items to give the steam time to penetrate all the way through – it can’t kill what it can’t reach.


Vacuuming can be an effective method of removing surface-level bedbugs and their eggs.

To vacuum for bed bugs, you’ll need to use a stiff brush and a back-and-forth motion to suck up the eggs cemented to wood and fabric surfaces.

For crevices like mattress seams, you’ll need to use a crevice tool.

Once you’ve vacuumed all potentially-infested areas like your bed, carpets, and dresser, let the vacuum run for an extra few minutes to be absolutely sure every single bedbug and egg has made it’s way to the canister for disposal.

The canister contents should be thrown away in a sealed plastic bag into a garbage can with a lid.

After vacuuming, you’ll also be required to fully decontaminate the vacuum. Start by sealing the end of the vacuum hose so that bed bugs can’t escape back into your home.

You’ll also have to wash all vacuum attachments used in hot water and a detergent, along with the emptied canister.

The vacuum should also be stored in a sealed plastic bag so that no bedbugs can escape the cleanse.


Heat is a very effective method of killing bedbugs, but some items can’t be steam cleaned.

For small items that can’t come in contact with moisture, you can heat them in the dryer at the highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes to kill off the pests.


Sometimes freezing small items can help get rid of bed bugs.

When using this method, you’ll need to be sure to keep the items in the freezer for at least 4 days at a temperature at or below -19 degrees Celsius.

If you get bed bugs during the winter, you can also leave your items outside to achieve the same effect as your freezer.

Disposal of Items

Unfortunately, some items that cannot be washed, steam cleaned, or heated must be thrown out.

Use a Professional Exterminator from a Pest Control Company

Pest Control Products

Using insecticides to treat a bed bug infestation is a good idea if you don’t trust non-pesticide methods of removal to get the job done fully.

However, you;ll need to use these products carefully, safely, and under the advisement of a professional; this last point is particularly important if you have pets and/or children in the home!

You must read the label fully and may need multiple products to cover all areas of the infected room.

For example, a pesticide deigned for use on your bed frame should never be used on your mattress or clothes.

These products contain strong, harmful chemicals that should never be used on things your pets or children have access to, like toys, playpens, and bedding.

Also, never attempt to make your own pesticides.

You should use products recommended by pest control companies that are registered by Health Canada only.

Pest Management Professional

If your bed bug infestation is severe, it may be best to hire a local bed bug exterminator for the job.

When bed bugs take over multiple rooms in the home, it takes serious work to get rid of them completely.

A trained professional can handle the task using more advanced methods of pest removal to leave your home pest-free without a ton of effort on your part.

Plus, they’ll help ensure the bugs don’t come back.


How to Prevent Bed Bugs

Despite widespread assumptions, bed bugs have absolutely nothing to do with mess or dirt.

An immaculately kept home is just as much at risk as a home that isn’t cared for. So, how do you prevent bed bugs from making your mattress their new home?

There are a few things you can do to prevent bed bugs from partaking in their vampiristic tendencies in your home:

  1. Don’t buy second-hand furniture from untrusted sources
  2. Always inspect any used goods, including books, clothing, and furniture before they enter your vehicle or home
  3. If you purchase used furniture like mattresses or couches, disinfect (vacuum and steam clean) them thoroughly before letting them enter your home
  4. Purchase new mattresses instead of used ones, but make sure the mattress is sealed upon delivery since they often carry both used and new mattresses in the same delivery vehicles
  5. Vacuum regularly, paying close attention to crevices that create hiding spots for the pests
  6. Seal all cracks and crevices in the home, especially if your home is connected to another dwelling
  7. Always check your vehicle and clothes after helping a friend move, or after shopping at an antique or used-goods store


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