If I Have Bed Bugs Do I Have To Throw Away My Mattress?

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Should You Throw Your Mattress Away If You Have Bed Bugs?

When you’ve got bed bugs, you will do anything to get rid of them. No doubt you’ve wondered what would happen if you threw your mattress and furniture away. But it’s actually a bad idea.

There’s no need to get rid of your old mattress. It’s better to have an exterminator treat it with heat or pesticide. Then fit an encasement to stop bed bugs getting in and out. Disposal of infested mattresses without treatment will spread bed bugs around your house.

Even if you discard your bed, your new one will become infested anyway. You should consider using a bed bug treatment for mattresses instead. We’ll explain why throwing your mattress away is a bad idea, and how to kill bed bugs in mattresses.

Do I Have to Throw Away My Mattress Due to Bed Bugs?

Throwing away your mattress may be a bad idea. Here’s why:

  • Mattresses are expensive. Throwing one away and getting a new one isn’t always an option.
  • To throw away the mattress, you would have to pick it up and drag it outside. Doing so could spread bed bugs around your home, or give them to your neighbors.
  • Bed bugs don’t only live in your mattress. They can live in furniture, wall cracks, and floorboard cracks. You would still have bed bugs after you’re done.
  • Because there are still bed bugs in your room, buying a replacement mattress because of bed bugs would be a bad idea. The new mattress would become infested.

It’s understandable if you don’t want to sleep on an infested mattress. Bed bugs cause sleeping problems because they bite you, and because they play on your mind.

Disposal of Bed Bug Infested Mattresses

When you get rid of a mattress with bed bugs in it, you should do so safely and quickly. There is a real risk of spreading the bed bugs either throughout your home or to neighbors. You should take care to ensure the bugs can’t spread.

Don’t Allow Bed Bugs to Spread

When you decide to throw away your mattress, do it quickly. Most people will move it out of the bedroom and store it in the garage until you can throw it away. This is a big job, after all.

However, if you do this, the bed bugs will spread back through the house. They will be attracted to the scent of people and the heat of your home. They will spread from the garage into your downstairs rooms, and eventually get back to your bedroom anyway.

Instead, get it out of the room and take it straight to the dump. Doing so will ensure that the bed bugs don’t have time to infest anything else.

Seal the Mattress Before Disposal

If you drag the mattress through the home, bed bugs will jump off it and infest the rest of the house. You can prevent this to an extent by sealing the mattress in an encasement.

When you get to the dump, you can take the mattress out of the encasement. Seal the encasement in an airtight box or bag before laundering it at home.

This should prevent at least some of the bugs from spreading.

Throw the Mattress Away Before Treating the House

Even your best efforts will result in some bed bugs spreading. Bed bugs run away from sunlight. When you expose them by moving the mattress, they don’t waste any time. They immediately start finding another place to hide.

There’s only so much you can do. Your best option is to throw the mattress away before having the entire house treated. This will ensure that the house is pest-free, and your mattress is entirely new and clean.

Of course, if you want to treat your house, you could treat the mattress too. The treatment would almost certainly work if done correctly. The only reason to bother buying a new mattress is if the idea of sleeping on your previously infested mattress disgusts you.

Don’t Sell a Mattress Infested with Bed Bugs

You could try and sell your mattress. However, it would be misleading to do so without telling people that it’s infested with bed bugs.

If you treat the mattress first, then perhaps you could sell it. However, there’s a big drawback. Pesticides take weeks to get rid of every bed bug. It may still be infested when you sell it. This would put people off buying it, even if it were reasonably priced.

Furthermore, you would have to keep the mattress hanging around, perhaps for weeks. If it has even just a few bed bugs in it, they could infest your garage and the rest of your house. It’s far better to throw the mattress away, if you want to get rid of it.

How to Stop Bed Bugs Infesting a New Mattress

Don’t buy a used mattress. There’s a chance that it could have bed bugs in it. You would be trading your own infested mattress for another that’s probably infested, too.

Stopping bed bugs infesting a mattress is easy. Before you bring the mattress into your home, fit an encasement around it. Encasements don’t let any bed bugs either in or out. They’re also not attractive to bed bugs as they don’t offer many places to hide.

How to Kill Bed Bugs Inside a Mattress

Bed bugs are susceptible to many things (heat, cold, and pesticides.) The issue is that a mattress offers bed bugs lots of places to hide.

This is especially irritating if you try to kill them with pesticides. To work instantly, a pesticide has to be sprayed directly onto a bed bug. It will linger, but that means it may take weeks, even months to kill them all.

To kill bed bugs inside a mattress can be difficult. The first step is to contact a pest controller. Pest controllers use either pesticides or heat treatments to kill bed bugs. These can be effective on mattresses if applied correctly.

Afterward, you should keep them sealed up inside a mattress encasement. This is a zip-up liner that fits around your mattress, completely sealing it. Bed bugs can’t get in or out.

The mattress encasement means that whether you use pesticides or heat treatment, the infestation will eventually die entirely. And even if there are some left, e.g., some unhatched eggs, the infestation won’t be able to feed on you.

You could apply the encasement without prior treatment. It will have the same effect, in that the bed bugs won’t be able to bite you. The only issue is that the bed bugs will scatter and spread when you try to put it on.

What Bed Bugs Look Like On A Mattress?

If you have a bed bug infestation, it is best to find it early, before the infestation becomes established or spreads. Treating a minor infestation, while an inconvenience, is far less costly and easier than treating the same infestation after it becomes more widespread.

However, low-level infestations are also much more challenging to find and correctly identify. Other insects, such as carpet beetles, can be easily mistaken for bed bugs. If you misidentify a bed bug infestation, it gives the bugs more time to spread to other areas of the house or hitchhike a ride to someone else's house to start a new infestation.​

Bites on the skin are a poor indicator of a bed bug infestation. Bed bug bites can look like bites from other insects (such as mosquitoes or chiggers), rashes (such as eczema or fungal infections), or even hives. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Looking for Signs of Bed Bugs

A more accurate way to identify a possible infestation is to look for physical signs of bed bugs. When cleaning, changing bedding, or staying away from home, look for:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed.
  • Dark spots, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric like a marker would.
  • Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger.
  • Live bed bugs.

Closeup of blood on a chair

Where Bed Bugs Hide

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places. Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard.

If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs:

  • In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains.
  • In drawer joints.
  • In electrical receptacles and appliances.
  • Under loose wall paper and wall hangings.
  • At the junction where the wall and the ceiling meet.
  • Even in the head of a screw.

Canvas strap of old box spring covering that is housing adults, skin castings, feces, and eggs.

Since bed bugs are only about the width of a credit card, they can squeeze into really small hiding spots. If a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug.

Bed Bug Behavior and Habit

Understanding the behavior of bed bugs (how they eat, live, and reproduce) will help you to find an infestation before it becomes established and to monitor for the presence of bed bugs after your home has been treated.

Feeding

  • Appear to prefer to feed on humans, but will feed on other mammals and birds as well.
  • Will readily travel 5-20 feet from established hiding places (called harborage) to feed on a host.
  • Even though they are primarily active at night, if hungry they will seek hosts in full daylight.
  • Feeding can take 3-12 minutes.
  • The rusty or tarry spots found on bed sheets or in bug hiding places are because 20% of the time adults and large nymphs will void remains of earlier blood meals while still feeding.

Life stages/mating

  • Bed bugs need at least one blood meal before the individual bug can develop to the next of the six life stages: They can feed more than once and Each stage also requires the molting of skin.
  • To continue to mate and produce eggs, both males and females must feed at least once every 14 days.
  • Each female may lay 1 to 3 eggs per day and 200-500 eggs per her lifetime (6-12 months but could be longer).
  • Egg-to-egg life cycle may take four to five weeks under favorable conditions.

Living conditions

  • Bed bugs can survive and remain active at temperatures as low as 7°C (46°F), but they die when their body temperatures reaches 45°C (113°F). To kill bed bugs with heat, the room must be even hotter to ensure sustained heat reaches the bugs no matter where they are hiding.
  • Common bed bugs are found almost anywhere their host can live.
  • Tropical bed bugs (Cimex hemipterus) require a higher average temperature than the common bed bug and are found in tropical and subtropical areas.

Close up of bed bug eggs on cardboard

Bed bugs along the side of a window frame

Bed bugs along the bottom edge of an electrical outlet

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don't realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

Person's arm with bed bug bites

10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do You Have to Throw Away Mattress Bed Bugs?

If you think you have bedbugs, don't move furniture out of the room, don't throw mattresses and other belongings away (we'll explain why this is almost never necessary), don't rip up carpet, and don't use DIY pesticides on the bugs—all of this can spread the bedbugs further throughout your home.

2. How Do You Get Rid Of Bed Bugs From A Mattress?

Bedbug Treatments

  1. Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. ...
  2. Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  3. Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently.
3. Can Bed Bugs Live Inside Mattress?

Bed Bugs will try to live as close to their food source as possible. They can often be found directly on the mattress in the tufts and folds, along the seam, and even inside the mattress. They can also be found in the box-spring, bed frame, headboard and furniture near the bed.

4. Will Replacing Mattress Get Rid Of Bed Bugs?

You can get rid of bed bugs in the mattress fairly easily so throwing away an expensive mattress is not at all necessary. On the other hand, if the bed is severely infested, old and/or in need of replacement anyway – it makes sense to just get rid of it.

5. Can Bed Bugs Survive In Washing Machine?

Technically, bed bugs can live through a cycle in the washing machine. The truth is that while washing your clothes or linens will kill most of the bed bugs, the heat of drying your items is what will ultimately exterminate any and all remaining bugs.

6. What Is The Lifespan Of A Bed Bug?

Upon reaching maturity, bed bug adults often make weekly feedings. How Long Do They Live? The life span of a bed bug most commonly ranges from four to six months. However, some bed bugs may live up to a year under cool conditions and with no food.

7. Can You Get Sick From Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

8. Why Are Bed Bugs Hard To Get Rid Of?

There are several reasons why eliminating bed bugs is so hard. These tiny bugs multiply quickly and they can go long periods of time without their preferred meal: human blood. To successfully eliminate an infestation, you have to find and kill every viable bed bug, which is not an easy task. Bed bugs multiply quickly.

9. Can I Sleep In My Bed After Bed Bug Treatment?

A conventional chemical treatment program will usually require at least one follow-up treatment two weeks later. You may continue to sleep in your bed after treatment. Any surviving bed bugs in the mattress or box spring will not be able to escape the encasement or bite.

10. Do Bed Bugs Die In The Dryer?

Drying will kill the bugs but not clean the clothes. If you want to only kill bed bugs and do not need to wash your clothes, simply putting infested items in the dryer for 30 minutes on high health will kill all the bed bugs.

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