The simple answer to this question would be “get rid of it,” but like many things in life, the problem of bed bugs infesting beds is a complex rather than a simple issue. It is not, in fact, usually necessary to get rid of beds that have become infested with bed bugs. Indeed, throwing your mattress and box spring out is rarely an adequate response to an infestation.
What’s Wrong with Throwing Away My Bed?
The main thing wrong with this solution is the fact that a bed bug infestation is typically not limited to the bed alone. Instead, bed bugs may infest a variety of areas including the headboard and other attached furniture such as “bedroom walls.” Neither is that the end. Bed bugs can make their homes in any drawer in your home and even behind picture frames in addition to places like couches and easy chairs.
If all you do is throw away your bed and buy a new one, you are quite likely to merely end up with your new furniture being infested without delay IF the bed bugs have had enough time to reproduce. Remember, adult bed bugs can lay up to 20 eggs per day, and if bed bugs have had enough time to mature, your infestation may have moved from the bed to other parts of your house.
So, in other words, if you didn’t catch the bed bug infestation early, you will have get nowhere by throwing away the bed.
What using about Pesticides to treat bed bugs in your bed?
This is actually a very bad idea. Many forms of pesticide and insecticide consist of powerful chemicals that are not intended for proximity to humans. Indeed, some of the chemicals used may even be carcinogenic – which means that they cause cancer. With carcinogens, your risk of developing some form of cancer can increase with the amount of time you are exposed. Touching an insecticide and washing your hands directly afterwards is much less dangerous than sleeping near these chemicals for several hours each night – even if you take a shower in the morning.
Using insecticides on a bed will also mean that home owners and tenants will be breathing in the fumes, at least for the first few nights when the odor is still potent. This would be decidedly unpleasant, but that is almost beside the point. The real problem with breathing in such fumes is the health hazard they pose.
Non-chemical solutions for treating a bed
It is actually much better to cleanse a bed using non-chemical methods that will remove the infestation without posing a danger to your health. These methods are often referred to as “destruction” or “mechanical removal.” As you might expect, these techniques often depend on the use of machines.
See our non-chemical treatment guide for more info.
This method involves using the fine attachments of a vacuum cleaner to remove all bugs, eggs, and other traces of infestation on your mattress and box spring. Be sure to thoroughly vacuum all seams and piping as these are locations where bed bugs frequently lurk. It may be necessary to vacuum all surfaces multiple times in order to sweep up all bugs and eggs. Remember, both bugs and eggs are quite small, though visible. It will take an eagle eye to spot them so that you can be sure you have gotten all of them.
Don’t make the beginner’s mistake of simply parking your vacuum cleaner in your hall closet when you have finished. This is a bad idea because if any living bugs have not been killed by the suction, they may crawl out of the bag and begin a re-infestation process at once. The best procedure is to remove the vacuum bag when you are done and seal it inside a plastic bag so that any bugs that crawl out cannot possibly escape this confinement. Then, to be extra sure, do not throw it away inside your home. Place it in a dumpster outside. When you return to your home or apartment, you will probably want to wash your hands.
Another caveat about vacuuming is that it is actually possible for the vacuum cleaner itself to become infested. For this reason, some people recommend that tenants and home owners acquire a second vacuum that can be exclusively used for bed bug removal. As this is an extra expense, it may not be completely feasible in some cases. An infested vacuum could spread the infestation back into the home, of course. To avoid this, your “bed bug vacuum” should be stored in a sealed plastic bag when not in use.
In some ways, this is a superior method for taking care of a bed bug infestation in a bed or box spring. The only difficulty most people have with it is that we don’t tend to have steam cleaners lying about. One must be purchased – they are not prohibitively expensive at big box and warehouse stores – or rented, which can be a bit of hassle.
Many people feel that renting a commercial machine is preferable to purchasing a cheaper retail one, even though it requires extra work on the part of the home owner since a rented machine, of course, must be returned without delay to its place of origin. Commercial machines, however, produce steam at much hotter temperatures, and this means that bugs are more likely to be killed on contact.
Steam cleaners are better than vacuums because they help to kill bugs and eggs during the removal process. Still, some may survive, so steam cleaner debris should be disposed of with caution.
No matter which mechanical removal method is selected, home owners or tenants must be sure to clean their entire dwelling, not just their bed. Otherwise, the infestation may recur and the entire process will have to be repeated.
As bed bug infestations can be difficult to completely eradicate, this may happen in any case, but with diligence the presence of bed bugs will eventually be eliminated completely.
Cold Treatment (aka the freeze method)
Bed Bugs can be killed by cold. How cold seems to be up for debate.
If you live in an area with sub zero temperatures, you may be able to haul your mattress out (wrap it up FIRST so the bed bugs don’t escape in your house while transporting it!) and your bed frame into the cold and leave both sitting outside for a week or so. Keep in mind that your bed will be insulated, so just because it’s 20 degrees F outside, doesn’t mean it will be below zero deep inside your mattress. People do report the leave-outside-in-the-below-freezing method does work, but again, you’ll need some really cold temperatures (below freezing).
Even the most thorough vacuuming or steam cleaning can leave bed bugs behind. As insects can multiply quite quickly, in no time at all the tenant or home owner may be waking up with bites once again. In order to prevent this, the technique of encasement is used.
Encasement involves sealing up the mattress and box spring so that no bugs can enter or exit. There are specialty products such as Protect-A-Bed BugLock® that can assist with this process. The purpose of encasement is to starve and kill any bugs that may remain after your mechanical removal procedure.