If you find yourself waking up, feeling itchy and with mysterious red marks on your body, it’s time to get into action. Don’t panic but, there is a good chance your mattress has a bed bug infestation. This doesn’t have to be a scary ordeal if you have caught it in time. The first sign you see of an infestation, find a pair of magnifying glasses and a flashlight to confirm your suspicion. Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of, but, it is something you can do on your own. It may not be easy, but you could save yourself hundreds of dollars that you may have to spend on professional exterminators.
An infestation can spread at an incredible rate. A female bed bug can lay approximately 200 eggs in a span of four or five days. Their reproduction is high and they can also go several months without a meal. So if you think you can starve the bugs, you are wrong. Exterminating bed bugs is a sustained effort that you need to see through until the end, or there’s a good chance they’ll come back. The following is a guide to how you can get rid of bed bugs from your mattress.
Checking for the Degree of Damage
Depending on the degree of damage caused, you may be able to salvage your mattress. If you notice holes in your mattress, there may be bed bugs even inside the mattress. If the infestation is really bad, you may have to throw the mattress out. If it can be contained, the following are some treatments you can use to kill bed bugs, as well as prevent them from coming back.
Mattress Safe Encasements
Mattress safe encasements are a way for you to safely treat your mattress without needing to throw your mattress away. If you are using an insecticide or an aerosol spray, use it generously on your mattress and then cover it safely with the mattress encasement. You can keep the encasement on for up to a year (owing to bed bug life cycles). This ensures the bed bugs cannot escape and the insecticide does its job by treating the mattress while it is sitting safely in the encasement. This is not only a good way to treat bed bugs but also an effective way to prevent bed bugs in the future.
Active Guard Liners
Active guard liners can be placed on your beds and mattresses which are, again, effective ways to treat bed bugs and also prevent them from coming back. It takes about 72-hours to treat and kill bed bugs and mites. It is like a fitted sheet you can put on your mattress and are available in several different sizes — queen, king, single, full, etc.
Treat within Five Feet of Your Mattress
It’s important to keep in mind that once your mattress is infected, there’s a chance that the area within five feet of your bed has also been infested. All the baseboards and furniture near your bed must be treated too.
There are several certified bed bug sprays for mattresses available on the market. The first thing you must do is spray around the mattress, the baseboard, underneath the bed, etc. Quite literally, any potentially porous material could be harboring the bugs and their eggs. Make sure to spray the furniture around the mattress as well. Avoid spraying the insides of the drawers, but if required, take out the clothes or stuffed animals, etc., stored inside the drawers and run them through the dryer at a high temperature.
No place is safe if your room has been infested. Spray the baseboard, loose plaster, behind the frame. If treating the mattress is beyond your expertise level, remove the bed bug infested mattress and place it in a sealed plastic bag. Take the mattress to be laundered and then dried at a high temperature. Spectre 2SC, CrossFire Bed Bug Insecticide, Temprid FX Bed Bug Insecticide are examples of reliable brands you can use.
Insecticide dust tends to last longer than aerosol sprays but may be harder to get into crevices and small cracks. It’s important not to skip these crevices as they are classic breeding grounds for bugs. It is best to use a combination of sprays and dust.
The dust can be used with a small paintbrush or a makeup brush. Most insecticide dust also come with a duster which makes it easy to apply it into power outlets, cracks in the walls and small crevices. Make sure you don’t apply the dust on top of a moist insecticide.
If possible, you can also disassemble the bed frame and treat it with both the dust and the spray. Once you have treated the mattress thoroughly, you can pack it into one of the covers mentioned above and you won’t have to worry about the infestation for a year. CimeXa Dust is a popular and reliable insecticide dust.
Steamers and Heaters
An alternate way of treating bed bugs are heaters and steamers. This is an effective method, frequently used in areas that need to be made sterile using chemicals, like hospitals, clinics, etc. These steamers use chemicals and heat to kill the bed bugs and also have the ability to get rid of allergens, germs and viruses.
Monitoring and Trapping
If the infestation is not as bad, you can opt to monitor and trap the bugs. These monitors come with lures which create conditions that bed bugs find inviting and then trap them. If nobody is using the room you are attempting to disinfect, you can use the lures. Or else, you can simply monitor the activity of the bed bugs and decide the course of further action.
There are traps that can be placed at the foot of your bed which work as adhesives and trap the bugs before they can crawl up to your bed. Bugo Bed Bug Monitors/Traps is a reliable product.
Products like Bed Bug Monitor Trap recreate conditions that bed bugs nest in and then trap them. It’s a durable plastic sheet that can be kept in small grooves and crevices.
Signs of Bed Bugs
There are several signs your mattress may be infested. The sooner you catch the signs, the better. It can prevent further damage to the mattress and can also save you irritating bites. The following are some signs of bed bug infestations:
- If you wake up feeling itchy or have red spots in areas that were fine when you went to sleep, you may have bed bugs.
- If you notice bloodstains on your pillows and bed sheets, that could be a sign of bed bugs.
- Look out for dark and rusty marks on your bed linen. These could be bed bug excrement and can be found not only on your bed linen but also on your clothes, curtains and walls.
- If there is a musty odor emanating from your bedding or from the room in general, check for bed bugs.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs cannot always be seen by the naked eye. You may have to use a magnifying glass to see the bugs. An adult bed bug will typically be red or brown in color. They are flat so they can hide in walls, cracks and crevices quite easily. You should look for these bugs primarily in dark crevices where they may lay eggs. Look even in the adjoining rooms to check if an infestation has occurred.
Often, you may not be able to see the bug itself but can identify an infestation through the traces of fecal matter.
Check the following places for bed bugs:
- Mattress and Box Spring: The mattress and box spring are one of the first things to get infested in your room. Pay close attention to the seams of the mattress, use a magnifying lens to look at the edges and folds of the fabric. You may want to flip the mattress every now and then too and check the bottom carefully. If you notice any tears or holes in the fabric, that’s a red flag. Inspect the cotton of the box spring with a flashlight to see if bed bugs have infested the inside.
- Bed Frame, Head and Footboards: Bed bugs are flat, small and require hardly any space to crawl into. Do a thorough check of the bed frame and the head and footboard too. If necessary, try dismantling the frame and check thoroughly for further infestation. For best results, use a flashlight and a magnifying glass during your inspection. If your headboard is made of cloth, vacuum it regularly.
- Walls and Carpets: Bed bugs can easily crawl into crevices in the walls and live there too. Remember, they don’t need to come out to feed every night and can live up to a year. During this time, they continue nesting and laying eggs. If there is even a single tear in your wallpaper, inspect it. If there are electrical outlets, wall hangings and switch plates, etc., inspect them thoroughly. Carpets and rugs are even easier to get infested. If your carpet is of a lighter color, you might be able to see the bugs if you are lucky. Darker fabric presents a more difficult task so do vacuum often.
- Furniture Surrounding the Bedding: As mentioned above, up to five feet within the infected bedding can get infested. This means all the furniture surrounding your bedding is vulnerable. Take out drawers, check the hinges and insides of closets to be on the safe side.
What Do Bed Bug Bites Look Like?
Bed bugs typically hide during the day and come out at night to feast on the host’s blood. You will not find the eggs on the host, necessarily, but in areas near where the host sleeps. The mere thought of this may make you cringe, but inspecting bed bug bites is a sure shot way of finding out if your bedding is infested.
Bed bugs typically pierce the skin and then draw blood anywhere between 3 to 10 minutes. Once they are engorged, they crawl away. The bite is painless to begin with and then turns into an itchy scar. They don’t have a preferred spot on the body to bite but will dig into any part of your skin that is exposed. People often confuse the bites and itching with mosquito bites. But bed bug bites do not have a red center familiar to mosquito and flea bites.
The only way to confirm a bed bug bite is to actually spot the actual bugs or their feces. Waste no time and carry out an immediate inspection.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs?
If you have had a previous infestation or are concerned about the possibility, there are measure you can take to prevent one. Whether or not your home has previously been infested, it’s always good to take precautionary measures. There are some things you can include in your cleanliness routine to ensure bed bugs do not take over your home. Here are a few simple steps:
Brush Your Mattress
The first step is to use a stiff brush to remove possible bed bug eggs on the mattress. These eggs are usually so small, you cannot see them. So be thorough as possible.
Other than the mattress, give the box spring and the cloth on the headboard a thorough brush over. Any porous material around the bed needs to be brushed thoroughly as well.
Once you are done brushing the area, vacuum thoroughly. Use all the different tools and brushes necessary to get to crevices and underneath the bedding. Do this frequently.
Once you are done vacuuming, place the dust and dirt into a garbage bag and remove from your home immediately. A vacuum cleaner that provides an anti-allergen filtration is best for this purpose.
Repair all the cracks and crevices in the plaster of the walls. Glue down wallpaper and do all you can to fill gaps and crevices. They provide safe haven for bed bugs to hide and lay their eggs. Bed bugs typically like dark, cool crevices. If you remove the areas where they make their home, the chance of infestation is reduced.
If there is anything that does not belong in your room permanently, find a place to store it. The more clutter there is around your bed, the greater the chance the infestation will spread. If there are quilts, sheets, pillows, stuffed toys, etc. that you are not using, remove them from the area.
Wash Laundry Frequently
Do your laundry regularly. If all the elements in your room are clean, your room, on the whole, will be clean too. Wash your clothes with a good detergent and if required, put through the drier at a high temperature or hang it in the sun. If there are stuffed animals, run them through the dryer every few months.
Preserve the Mattress
As mentioned above, you don’t always need to throw your infected mattress away. Use safe encasements and guard liners and prevent any damage to your mattress. With safe encasements, you don’t need to worry about treating your mattress for a year after. If you’re using a second-hand mattress, it is best to treat it outside the house before using it.
Bed bugs get their name because they can easily infest beddings, mattress and box springs. While these are the easiest targets, they are by no means the only place bed bugs may infest. If your mattress is infested, ensure you do a thorough cleansing of your entire room. If the infestation is allowed to fester for long, it can spread to the adjoining rooms or apartments. Bed bugs are surprisingly resilient and hard to get rid of. If you have an infestation, disinfecting the area once may not be enough. You should ideally carry out the disinfecting routine at least 3 times over a 10 day period. This includes spraying the crevices, corners and all furniture near the infected bedding. Vacuum the area and dispose of the dirt immediately. Also, be sure to launder your clothing and stuffed animals regularly.
If you think you are in over your head, it is best to call for professional help. You need to control the infestation before it spreads and becomes unmanageable. While bed bugs do not carry diseases, they do leave nasty, itchy bites and may cause your skin to get inflamed. So do your best to exterminate the bed bugs and don’t shy away from calling for reinforcements if you cannot do it by yourself.