How Bed Bug Covers Work

What Good Is a Bed Bug Mattress Cover?

Eve Mattress/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Bed bugs are a pervasive pest that can find their way into any home by unwitting hosts. They can do this simply by hitching a ride in suitcases if you visit a hotel with an infestation, transferring onto your clothes from a movie theater seat, or traveling on visitors who come into your home. These bugs are erroneously associated with pests that only live in filthy living conditions. In fact, they can live and breed anywhere, including inside clean, uncluttered homes.

To protect your mattress from an infestation or to curb a mattress infestation that may have occurred, you can purchase a bed bug mattress encasement to trap the bugs inside the encasement or discourage bugs from making a permanent home in your bed. While mattress covers can provide some protection, however, you need to do much more to guarantee a bed-bug-free environment.

What Is a Bed Bug?

The common parasitic bed bug, from the cimicid family, feeds on human blood usually during the nighttime hours when humans are sleeping. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye and are roughly the size of a lentil. They have round brown or red bodies and are easy to spot on white surfaces. They prefer to live close to their human food source and make their homes in beds. Between 85 and 90 percent of the bed bugs in an infested home are typically found on or within 15 feet of the bed.

Bed bugs do bite; they actually saw into their host’s body and feed off their blood. While bed bugs don’t carry disease, their bites can cause blisters and itching, particularly for people with allergies. Bed bugs are very hard to control. Once they’ve infested a home, getting rid of them can be a challenge.

The Benefits of Mattress Covers

Most people are familiar with mattress covers. They are usually designed like a bottom sheet and provide protection for the top of a mattress. Ordinary mattress covers do little or nothing to stop bed bugs. Mattress encasements, however, can help minimize an infestation.

A mattress encasement is a tightly-woven fabric case that surrounds your mattress and box spring. Once it is installed, bed bugs already in the mattress cannot escape or breed, and will eventually die inside the encasement. Any bed bugs left outside the encasement will be easy to spot and remove. They will find no creases or hiding places where they can breed.

Mattress encasements not only repel and stifle bed bugs, but they can also provide a variety of other benefits. For example:

  • A good mattress encasement can protect against dust mites and other pests as well as bed bugs.
  • Most mattress encasements are waterproof, meaning that they will protect your mattress and box spring from spills and leaks.
  • Mattress encasements can eliminate the risk of infestation if used with a new mattress and box spring.

Buying Mattress Encasements

Bed bug mattress encasements can be purchased for as little as $20, though you may wish to explore the more expensive options, as they are more likely to be reliable, sturdy, and bug-proof. It’s possible to purchase a pesticide-treated encasement, but the potential health hazards outweigh the slight increase in protection from insects.

Many pest control supply companies sell mattress encasements online. If you plan to purchase a bed bug mattress protector, make sure you choose one that is specifically designed for bed bugs. There are special features, such as bugproof zippers, different materials, and chemically-treated covers, that you can consider at the time of purchase. Do check the reviews to be sure you’re purchasing a product that is reliable and well-made. Another consideration is noise, as some encasements are made of fabric that crinkles as you move in bed. This could interfere with your sleep.

Even after you install your encasement, remember that adult bed bugs can live for well over a year without a blood meal. Leave the encasement on for at least that long or for the life of your mattress to be sure all resident bed bugs are dead and there are no new infestations of your mattress occur. Meanwhile, if your home is infested, you need to hire a pest management company to completely eradicate the bed bugs.

Mattress and Box Spring Encasements

Richard Cooper’s Mattress Encasement Evaluation – In the fall of 2007, Richard Cooper conducted research into the leading bed bug mattress encasements. The research was presented to his fellow entomologists from around the United States at the Entomological Society of America’s annual meeting in December of 2007. Watch Video

The use of encasements is discussed throughout this web page due to the important role that they play in a bed bug management program. BugLock® encasements, manufactured by Protect-A-Bed of Chicago were the first encasements to become commercially available that were specifically designed for bed bugs. The BugLock® encasements were also the first encasement to be backed by scientific data, proving their effectiveness against bed bugs. Scientifically proven encasements can be used as an early detection tool as well as a reactionary measure for trapping bed bugs and preventing the future re-infestation of beds.

Mattress Covers vs Mattress Encasements:

Difference between Mattress Encasements & Chemically Impregnated Covers
Chemically impregnated covers are often confused with mattress encasements. It is important to realize that the chemically impregnated covers are radically different than bed bug encasements both in concept and function. For this reason it is important to understand the differences between encasements and chemically impregnated covers as well as the concerns that we have regarding efficacy claims.

Take Home Points Regarding Impregnated Mattress Covers

  • The covers are not likely to be repellent enough to prevent hungry bed bugs from feeding on the person sleeping in a bed that has one of these covers on it.
  • The covers are not likely to control bed bugs by killing them as they come in contact with the treated fabric. Bed bugs typically require exposure to pesticide residues for many hours or days before morality occurs. Bugs are not likely to spend very much time in contact with the cover.
  • The concepts of repelling bugs and killing bugs are contradictory. The reality is that the covers probably do a little of both, but not a lot of either.
  • The covers don’t prevent bed bugs from infesting and living inside the box spring under the mattress and in the bed frame.
  • It is unnecessary to introduce a chemical into the sleeping environment when non chemical options exist (encasements) that have been proven to be effective and are recommended almost universally by bed bug experts around the world.

There is a significant difference between Mattress Covers and Mattress Encasements. For a detailed explanation, please see our section titled Pesticide Impregnated Mattress Covers

Proactive Use of Encasements:
As discussed in other sections of this web page, encasements can be used in a proactive manner before a bed bug infestation ever begins. Encasement of mattresses and box springs will greatly aid in the early detection of bed bugs and can prevent the infestation of beds in the event that bed bugs are somehow introduced. Once encased, bed bugs are unable to get inside of the encased mattresses and box springs. With their movement restricted to the smooth outer surface of the encasement, they are exposed and can be readily detected during a visual inspection. In addition, while they may be able to rest on the outer surface of the encasement they are unable to infest the interior of the mattress or the box spring.

Reactive Use of Encasements
Encasements also play a very important role in helping to eliminate bed bug infestations. The majority of bed bugs are typically associated with the mattresses and box springs. Eliminating them from these areas is very time consuming as well as challenging not to mention that in most cases the beds simply becomes re-infested as bugs migrate from other parts of the structure to the bed in search of a blood meal. Encasements are a very simple and highly effective method for dealing with the bed bugs that are associated with beds by trapping bugs inside and preventing migrating bugs from re-infesting the mattresses and box springs. The use of encasements also increases the efficiency and effectiveness of the follow up visits by taking the complexity of the bed out of the equation. Follow up visits simply involve inspection of the smooth surface of the encasements rather than having to carefully examine the wooden framework, coils, padding, or piping associated with the mattress and box spring.

It is difficult and time consuming to inspect & deal with bugs and eggs inside of box springs and the edges of mattresses
An effective Encasesment takes the complexity of the mattress and box spring out of play, restricting the movement of bed bugs to the smooth exterior of the encasement where they can be easily detected and dealt with.

Protection of Replacement Beds
Despite the fact that it is not necessary to dispose of infested beds, there are some people that simply cannot deal with the thought of sleeping on an infested bed that has been encased and are intent on disposing of the infested beds and replacing them with new mattresses and box springs. In the event that infested beds are going to be discarded it is critical that steps be taken 1) to avoid spreading bed bugs during the disposal process and 2) to protect the newly purchased mattresses and box springs from becoming infested.

    Proper Disposal of Infested Beds

Infested mattresses and box springs should be completely encased and sealed tightly before discarding them from an infested dwelling. Failure to do this often results in the spread of bed bugs as bugs and eggs fall off during the disposal process. In addition, bed bugs are often dispersed along the travel route, infesting hallways, stairwells and other parts of the building in settings like hotels, apartment buildings, college dormitories. Care should be taken when prepping an infested mattress or box spring for disposal to be sure that they are sealed tightly enough to prevent further spread of the infestation. Heavy polyvinyl sheeting or shrink wrap can be used to seal infested beds. Disposal bags specifically designed for beds can also be purchased for the proper removal and disposal of beds. It is also advisable to label infested items with a prominent message indicating that these are in fact infested items (i.e.“BED BUG INFESTED ITEM – DO NOT TAKE”) so others are alerted that these items are infested.

Improper disposal of bedsDisposal bags for proper disposal

Finding an Effective Encasement:
There are many encasements available in the marketplace, but many are prone to failure and may not work effectively against bed bugs. The first truly effective bed bug encasement on the marketplace is the BugLock® encasement, manufactured by Protect-A-Bed of Chicago which has been shown through rigorous scientific tests to be completely escape proof and bite proof (see executive summary of research). It is strongly suggested that you only use encasements that have strong scientific data backing the claims for use with bed bugs. It is our opinion that using an unproven encasement may be worse than not encasing the bed at all. Unproven encasements may provide a false sense of security and can actually protect or promote the survival of the bed bugs.

In order for an encasement to be effective it must be both bite proof, meaning that the bugs cannot feed through the material, and escape proof, meaning that the bugs cannot get in or out of the encasement after it has been installed. However, unless the encasements have been specifically designed for bed bugs it is very unlikely that they will be both bite proof and escape proof. ( see article: Just Encase)

We have worked very closely with Protect-A-Bed of Chicago setting out to design the first effective encasement for bed bugs. During the development, different types of materials were examined and it was determined that there are some fabrics that bed bugs could actually feed through.

Testing of a fabric that bed bugs can feed through

We also learned that the type of zipper used to manufacture the encasement is critical. In tests, immature bed bugs were able to escape the confines of the encasement by weaving their way through the teeth of a closed zipper (when larger zippers were used).

An effective encasement must have a zipper that bugs cannot escape through.
Some zippers have teeth large enough for bugs to simply weave their way through as
indicated by the first stage nymph coming through the teeth of this zipper.

The area where encasements are most prone to failure is at the zipper end stop (area where the zipper comes to its final resting position when fully closed). Most zipper end stops that were examined left large gaps when the zipper was pulled closed.

An effective encasement should seal completely at the zipper end stop. Not all end stops have a complete seal that is escape proof.Close up shows that there is a gap at the very end of zipper that will enable bed bugs to escape even when the zipper is pulled closed

Some of the zippers examined closed tightly enough to prevent the entry or escape of bed bugs when pulled completely shut, but if the zipper backed off even a tooth or two, an opening large enough for bugs to get in and out of the encasement was created.

This particular encasement is escape proof when the zipper is pulled completely shutIf the zipper pulls back, a large enough gap is created to allow bed bugs to enter and exit the encasement

A secure end stop is the area where the BugLock® encasement is superior to any of the other encasements that we have examined. The Bug Lock® feature secures the zipper end stop, making it impossible for bed bugs to enter or escape. A foam pad beneath the zipper end stop completely secures this area. In fact, the seal is so complete that during the efficacy testing of the encasement the zipper had to be pulled back beyond the end of the BugLock® feature to enable bugs to escape.

Example of BugLock ® Zipper End Stop
Sealed BugLock ® EncasementEven with zipper pulled back an escape proof seal still existsIn order for bugs to escape the zipper has to be pulled all the way back beyond the BugLock ® patch

Secure Seal® is another recent modification to the Bug Lock® encasement that provides an added level of security. This new feature “locks” the encasement in the fully closed position using an electrical zip tie that secures the zipper end stop to a fabric loop that is woven into the encasement material. Not only does the Secure Seal feature prevent the zipper from backing off, but it also provides a “tamper resistant” mechanism by preventing the zipper from being opened without first cutting the electrical tie.

Bedbug Treatments: Facts and Myths

What works and what doesn’t to get rid of a bedbug infestation?

  • B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University

Bedbugs aren’t easy to get rid of, and in desperation, you might be tempted to try the first remedy you read about online. Unfortunately, many of these methods are ineffective—and some can even be dangerous. If you ever find yourself in a battle with these pesky varmints, make sure to separate fact from fiction before you fight back. Knowing what works and what doesn’t will save you time, money, and aggravation.

Fact: You’ll Need to Call Pest Control

The most effective means of getting rid of bedbugs is to call in a trained professional and have them apply a pesticide. Many pros also recommend giving your home a thorough cleaning because bedbugs can hide anywhere and pesticides can’t be applied to everything you own. You’ll need to get rid of clutter and launder anything washable in hot water. You may also need to steam-clean your carpets and furniture.

Fact: Pesticides Don’t Always Work

Bugs can develop resistance to pesticides over time, especially if they’re overapplied. Chemicals, such as deltamethrin, that were once commonly used to combat certain pests are no longer effective. According to research from 2017, bedbugs may be developing resistance to pyrethrums, the most common chemical used to combat them.

Fact: You May Not Have to Toss Your Furniture

If the infestation is caught early, a professional pest control application and diligent cleaning should remove these critters from your furniture. More severe infestations are another matter. If your mattress is torn or separated at the seams, bedbugs have likely moved inside, making treatment near impossible. In such circumstances, replacement may be your only option.

Fact: Mattress Covers Work

A number of companies make bedbug resistant mattress covers that form an impenetrable barrier around the exterior of your mattress. If you’ve had your home treated for a bedbug infestation, using a mattress cover can prevent any remaining bugs in your mattress from getting out and biting you.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs With Bug Bombs

Bug bombs, or total room foggers, release a pesticide into the air in your home. Most bug bombs contain pyrethrin, one of the chemicals used to combat bedbugs, so you might think this product is an effective way to eliminate an infestation. Not so.

First of all, bedbugs (and other crawling insects) typically flee when pesticide is released, heading for cover in the deepest, most inaccessible crevices of your home. Second, effective treatment requires directed applications in all the places where bedbugs hide: behind moldings and casements, inside electrical boxes, or inside mattresses, for example. Chemicals released by a bomb simply can’t reach such places adequately to kill all the bedbugs in your home.

Myth: Bedbug Sniffing Dogs are Highly Effective

While companies that use bug-sniffing dogs may claim a success rate of over 90%, the truth is, there hasn’t been a lot of testing to see if these claims are true. (And at between $500 and $1,000 for their services, that’s an expensive "maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t.") In 2011, two researchers at Rutgers University did put some bedbug-sniffing dogs through their paces in real apartment buildings, and the results were nowhere near as effective as advertised. The accuracy of the dogs’ detecting abilities averaged just 43%.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs by Turning Up The Heat

Heat treatments do kill bed bugs effectively, but simply turning up your thermostat isnota heat treatment. To roast bedbugs in your home, you’d have to heat the entire house evenly to over 120° F for at least an hour (including the voids between interior and exterior walls and the insides of your furniture). No home heating system is designed to do that. Professional heat treatments usually involve sealing your home and using multiple heat sources throughout the house to raise the temperature.

Myth: You Can Kill Bedbugs by Turing Off The Heat

Temperatures below 32° F can and do kill bed bugs outside of the home—if temperatures remain below freezing for a prolonged period of time. but who wants to live in a freezing house? Moving out for the two to three months that it would take to starve bed bugs of their source of food (you) is equally impractical.

Finding the Best Bed Bug Mattress Cover for Your Home

When it comes to defending your home, nothing but the best will do. Take a look at the best mattress covers for bed bugs and keep those pesky pests at bay.

Bed Bug Mattress Covers

Sleeping without a bed bug mattress cover is like leaving your front door wide open. You wouldn’t allow intruders to enter your home at night and harm your family, so why let pests do the same? A bed bug mattress protector prevents bed bugs from using the mattress — one of their favorite places — as a harborage area and locks existing pests inside, causing them to starve and die.

Up to 90 percent of bed bugs in an infested home occur on or near mattresses and box springs. Bed bug covers can prevent the infestation of your mattress and destroy existing bed bugs that may be hiding deep within it. Here’s everything you should know about how to find the best bed bug mattress protectors for your home.

What is a Bed Bug Mattress Protector?

A bed bug mattress protector is a large, removable sheet of fabric that fits tightly around your mattress, fully encasing the mattress. Each protector includes a zipper that locks particles — and pests — inside. Once locked inside, bed bugs have no way of escaping from the encasement to reach their blood supply host. As so, mattress protectors can cause bed bugs to starve and die. According to the University of Minnesota, bed bugs can die within just two weeks when trapped inside. Likewise, bed bug encasements are key in keeping additional bed bugs from infesting the mattress, as new bed bugs have no way of penetrating the mattress protector.

How to Pick Mattress Covers for Bed Bugs

So, what should you look for in a bed bug mattress cover? Consider the questions below:

Is it a Full Encasement?

An effective mattress cover should cover the entire mattress. Some covers market themselves as “bed bug proof” but only target certain areas of a mattress. Look for covers that each fully encase the mattress or box spring.

Is it Properly Sealed?

A mattress cover can kill existing bed bugs by sealing them within and keeping them from feeding on you at night. Bed bugs are very small, though. Their flat shape allows them to sneak through crevices. Be sure to purchase a mattress cover with a zipper and reinforced seams. Many higher-quality covers also contain strip seals that protect the zipper and ensure a tight seal. Be aware of any tears or holes that may appear on bed bug mattress covers over time.

Has it Been Tested?

Bed bug covers sold by trusted pest control experts often undergo additional testing to ensure a quality product. Be sure to check if the mattress cover you are considering has been lab certified or tested by qualified entomologists.

Is it Toxin-Free?

Some covers for bed bugs contain chemical treatments that assist in killing existing bed bugs. Harsh chemicals can be dangerous and unnecessary, though. Therefore, you should take caution when considering these options.

Do Bed Bug Mattress Encasements Work?

While bed bug mattress encasements can be helpful, they can be faulty if improperly placed on the bed. Not to mention, any holes or tears can give trapped bed bugs an easy escape. It’s important to remember that there may be other bed bugs lurking nearby, too. Only trapping those on your mattress may not help to eliminate the entire infestation. With the help of a pest management professional, multiple solutions can be applied to help increase the likelihood of treatment success.

Want to be proactive against these nocturnal attackers? It may be time to invest in a bed bug mattress protector. Purchasing mattress covers for bed bugs can be a safe and effective way to protect your family. While these covers won’t completely eliminate the risk of a bed bug outbreak, using them can prevent major infestations and make identifying bed bugs far simpler. If you’re looking for a whole-home, effective solution, schedule an appointment with Terminix ® . This means less time sleeping with the enemy and more time sleeping soundly.

Cluster Flies In Your Home

If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve dealt with annoying flies ruining your summer barbecues and outdoor dinner parties. You may have even become accustomed to whipping out the flypaper and heavy-duty bug zappers the minute you hear the familiar buzz of a fly. These annoying pests are likely house flies, which can pose significant health risks to you and your family. But have you ever seen large, sluggish flies loitering inside your home in the autumn and winter? They may be cluster flies.

What are Sand Fleas?

Many people love going to the beach to spend time in the sun, sand, and water. But they might not love some of the nuisances that live at the beach or in the ocean, such as gnats or jellyfish. But, what about the sand flea, a small critter that can be found in moist areas such as under rocks or debris. Keep reading to learn exactly what sand fleas are and if you need to worry about them.

Keeping Control in the Fall: How to Help Get Rid of Boxelder Bugs

Just like many fall pests, the transition between summer and fall can bring a large number of boxelder bugs into homes. During the summer, these pests primarily infest maple trees and boxelder trees, hence their name. But once the weather cools down, heated homes and buildings draw these pests indoors.

Stay-at-home bug activities that parents and kids will love

What is a Mosquito Fogger?

A mosquito fogger is a special machine powered by electricity or propane that produces very tiny droplets that hang in the air — which produces a fog. The fog will remain in the air for a period of time before settling on the ground or anything directly below it. Ideally, the fog’s chemical ingredients will cover mosquito resting sites.

Everything to Know About Bed Bug Rashes

Bed bugs hide during the day and feed at night. Their diet? Your blood. Discover the signs of a bed bug rash and what to do if you’ve been bitten.

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If you shudder a little when you think about earwigs, you’re probably not alone. They’ve developed quite a nasty reputation, thanks to urban legends (mostly false) that have been circulating for years. But are they harmful?

Cluster Flies In Your Home

If you’re like many homeowners, you’ve dealt with annoying flies ruining your summer barbecues and outdoor dinner parties. You may have even become accustomed to whipping out the flypaper and heavy-duty bug zappers the minute you hear the familiar buzz of a fly. These annoying pests are likely house flies, which can pose significant health risks to you and your family. But have you ever seen large, sluggish flies loitering inside your home in the autumn and winter? They may be cluster flies.

Tips to Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your House

Now that it’s fall, it’s officially indoor stink bug season. Before it becomes winter, brown marmorated stink bugs are looking for comfortable overwintering sites to spend the cold months—and that can often mean that they may find a way to sneak into your house. While the odor that a stink bug releases is not dangerous, they are definitely a nuisance. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get rid of stink bugs in your house—without having to deal with the unpleasant smell.

What are Sand Fleas?

Many people love going to the beach to spend time in the sun, sand, and water. But they might not love some of the nuisances that live at the beach or in the ocean, such as gnats or jellyfish. But, what about the sand flea, a small critter that can be found in moist areas such as under rocks or debris. Keep reading to learn exactly what sand fleas are and if you need to worry about them.

The Lifespans of Insects With Short Lives

Many insects, such as butterflies, have a lifespan that occurs in four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Other insects, such as grasshoppers, do not have a pupal stage and instead go through three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. The length of each stage can vary based on many things, from the insect species to the temperature outside—but what some insects share in common is a very short adult stage. Keep reading to learn about five insects with some of the shortest adult stages in their lifespan.

The Return of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The change of seasons from summer to fall means many things: leaves changing colors, dropping temperatures, and—depending on where you live—stink bugs sneaking into your home. Stink bugs were named for their distinct ability to emit an unpleasant odor when they are threatened or disturbed by predators like lizards or birds. This also means that if stink bugs enter your home and feel threatened, you’ll be faced with dealing with their strong smell in your house. As we head into fall, you might find yourself with more active stink bugs than usual, so it’s important to know the basics about these smelly insects.

Bed Bug Couch Covers

Finding the right bed bug couch cover – or bed bug sofa encasement if you want to get technical – is crucial. Buy it too big and your couch won’t be comfortable to sit on. If it’s too small, the cover could rip and bed bugs will escape. If the quality isn’t there, then the bed bugs certainly will be. Here’s what to do and look for with bed bug couch covers:

Is the couch treated?

While couch covers are designed to trap bed bugs inside for 12 to 18 months, it’s still a good idea to thoroughly inspect your couch and have it treated for bed bugs beforehand. Couch covers are durable, but they are not foolproof.

Are you getting the best quality bed bug sofa encasement?

There are many options to choose from when it comes to quality. Some of the most helpful features of bed bug couch covers are: waterproofing, breathability, fire retardation and non-allergenic qualities. These features can help prevent dust mites, mold, staining, dander and pollen buildup as well.

Did you get the right size and shape?

Measure your furniture using a tape measure. You will need the full dimensions of your couch (i.e., width, length and height). Match these dimensions as closely as possible to the size range and description given on the outer packaging of the bed bug sofa cover (e.g., small, medium, large, extra-large; sectional, curved, love seat, etc.).

Are you installing like a professional?

There are some simple tricks that will make any bed bug couch covering more effective. These include placing cardboard or padding under the sofa feet to prevent them from ripping through the cover and putting heavy-duty tape over the end of the zipper to create a more complete seal. It’s also advisable to keep sharp objects off of the couch covering, including any clawed, furry family members. If the cover rips, replace it immediately.

Remember, bed bug couch covers and sofa encasements are only one aspect of bed bug control. A complete treatment is needed to effectively tackle your bed bug problem. This all starts with a thorough inspection. To get your free bed bug inspection, call Terminix® today and don’t just cover your bed bugs, kill them.

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