How To Get Bed Bugs Out of a Mattress — And Keep Them Out

April 12, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

One simple Google search on what a bed bug is would have anyone running toward anything but the covers. While we’re fairly certain this is the last thing you care to read about, sometimes learning how to get bed bugs out of a mattress is necessary — especially if you think you have some hanging around. You can keep your room clean and wash your bedding regularly, and yet somehow those little guys still might find their way in. 

We hope this hasn’t happened to you, but if it has, we’re here to help. However, if you suspect this to be a large infestation or you’re not seeing results, we recommend contacting professional exterminators right away.  

What Are Bed Bugs? 

First things first is knowing how to identify bed bugs. Bed bugs are oval-shaped bugs roughly the size of an apple seed with a brownish-red coloring. They don’t fly but can travel quickly and they feed on human blood. Females can lay hundreds of eggs in a lifetime — all the more reason to eliminate them as soon as possible.

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?

where bed bugs hide illustration

Because they tend to only be about the width of a credit card, bed bugs can lodge themselves in the smallest of spaces. You’ll most commonly find them hiding in groups on mattresses, in box springs, and in or around bed frames where they have easy access to humans during the night. 

You may also find them in loose wallpaper, bedside tables, or other creases near where you sleep. 

How Do I know If My Mattress Has Bed Bugs?

Feeling suspicious about having bed bugs? You might be right. Here are a few things to look out for to be sure: 

  • Itchy areas of your body that weren’t there before you went to bed
  • Bloodstains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark spots on your mattress or pillowcases — which may be bed bug excrement
  • Eggshells or shredded skin in areas they may be hiding
  • A musty odor around your bed
  • Living or dead bed bugs

If you’ve had a potential spotting and Googled “what do bed bugs look like on a mattress” but squirmed and closed the browser upon seeing the pictures, you’re not alone. In case you didn’t get a good look, bed bugs are so small they often just look like a dark speck on a mattress. Grab a magnifying device (your phone camera might work) and take a closer look. 

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

You don’t have to throw your mattress away if you have bed bugs. While it may seem like the easiest option, it isn’t always the cheapest  — unless you’ve been planning to get a comfy new mattress anyway. 

Otherwise, there are a few DIY things you can do if you want to know how to get bed bugs out of a mattress yourself, or consider bringing in the bug exterminators for quicker and more thorough results as bed bugs can be especially hard to get rid of on your own.  

6 Steps to Getting Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Mattress

If you’re opting to DIY your bed bug extermination, keep in mind that you may need to go through the process several times. While bed bugs don’t carry any diseases, you’ll want to be thorough as they reproduce quickly. This can be long and tedious, while also lacking effectiveness for large infestations — in which case it would be necessary to call in professional exterminators. 

how to get bed bugs out of a mattress illustration

1: Launder Your Linens

Your first step is to wash everything you possibly can, which includes cleaning your mattress. Wash your pillows, pillowcases, sheets, and anything else you think your little friends may be hiding in. Use rubber gloves to put these items in a trash bag for transporting to your laundry room or the laundromat.

Avoid using your laundry basket to move your bedding from room to room. Using your regular basket gives the bed bugs a chance to make it back to your bedroom, or worse — other places in your house. Instead, use a garbage bag and throw it in an outside trash can when you’re finished.  

Since you shouldn’t use insecticide on your bedding or clothes, using hot water in the wash is the next best thing. While hot water on certain items may not be the best, use it on whatever you can. 

2. Vacuum and Repeat

Once your bedding is in the wash and out of the way, vacuum your bedroom. Avoid using the brush attachment as the bugs can hide away in the bristles. Instead, use the hose. Be sure to vacuum the small crevices in your mattress and other places around the room, particularly by the bed. 

Be thorough and repeat several times. Dump the vacuum’s contents in an outside garbage and clean the container so the bugs within won’t have a free ride back inside. 

3. Take Your Bed Frame Apart 

To dive in deeper, take your bed frame apart, if it can be done, and clean every inch of it. Bed bugs can hide in the smallest of places, so it’s worth the effort to get rid of them. Use a magnifying glass and flashlight to see inside crevices and get a better look. If you have a wood bed frame and find any cracks, consider sealing them to prevent bed bugs from using them as a hiding spot. 

4. Use Insecticides That are Safe for Your Mattress

mattress-safe insecticide with a mattress illustration

Before using an aerosol spray, ensure you have good ventilation in the room and have read and understood the directions on the container. Also, be sure you have insecticide specific for mattresses, rather than a general-purpose aerosol. You can then spray the insecticide on the infestation site and any other furniture around the room. 

The best way to get rid of live bed bugs instantly is to spray them with an insecticide. Most of these sprays kill bed bugs on the spot. However, once the solution has dried, there’s no guarantee it will still kill the remaining bugs that come across it. Likewise, some ingredients in certain insecticides allow bed bug eggs to hatch, but the chemicals kill them shortly after. Other ingredients are almost completely ineffective for preventing the egg from hatching and killing the bug once it has. Do your research beforehand to know what will be most effective for killing both bed bugs and their unhatched eggs. 

You’ll also want to be wary of spraying the insecticide too much around your sleeping area, as it does contain harmful chemicals. Many insecticides will recommend leaving the room and closing the door and windows for about 15 minutes before re-entering and opening the windows for ventilation.

5. Steam Your Mattress

For steaming to effectively get rid of bed bugs, it needs to reach a temperature of 120 degrees or higher. Because most people don’t have steamers at home with this kind of strength, it isn’t the best method for getting bed bugs out of a mattress — but it can work if you happen to have such a steamer.  

6. Encase Your Mattress and Box Spring in a Cover

If you’ve decided that getting a new mattress is too expensive and DIYing your extermination is too dangerous, consider purchasing a special mattress cover and box spring cover. These highly specialized covers make it virtually impossible for bed bugs to escape. For this method to be most effective, leave the cover on for a year to ensure the bed bugs inside are all dead and are no longer reproducing. 

This method is best if the bed bugs are only in your mattress, but it won’t do anything if bed bugs are in your bed frame, nightstand, or anywhere else in the room.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

If you’ve now experienced the trauma of having bed bugs, you probably don’t want them creeping their way back into your home. Knowing how to get bed bugs out of a mattress is hard enough, but being able to keep them from coming back is sometimes a whole new game. To keep them away, there are some preventative things you can do: 

  • Clear out your clutter
  • Regularly dust and scrub possible hiding places
  • Monitor the affected areas closely
  • Use a mattress protector 
  • Avoid bringing home second-hand mattresses and furniture  

Sometimes, despite how clean your home may be, you’ll still get bugs. If you do get them, it doesn’t necessarily mean your home is dirty, and sometimes second-hand furniture is too good to pass up. If you do bring some home, do a thorough inspection first and clean it outside if you can. 

While they aren’t particularly dangerous, bed bugs can be a nuisance and extremely difficult to get rid of if not done right away. While knowing how to get bed bugs out of a mattress the DIY way may help your chances of eliminating them, it’s best to call an exterminator to get professional help. Alternatively, you may also want to consider disposing of your mattress and purchasing a new one. 

Here at Casper, our goal is to help you have the best sleep possible — which includes knowing how to care for your mattress and other sleep products. However, we are not exterminators or bed bug experts. If you believe there are bed bugs in your home, please consult with professionals.