How to tell if you have mattress bed bugs

You may have said “sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” at least a few times in your life without thinking much of it, but spoiler: bed bugs are a real thing. According to the CDC, bed bugs are “small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep.”

It’s easy to see why you wouldn’t sleep soundly with these pests around. Bad news first: bed bugs can be found all over the country, even in fancy hotels sometimes, and they can travel with you by hitchhiking in the folds of your clothes or luggage. They’re small and tend to stay hidden so they’re not always easy to spot. But there’s good news, too: bed bugs are annoying but they’re not known to spread disease. And it is possible to get rid of them, so don’t toss out all your bedding just yet.

How to tell if you have mattress bed bugs

Bed bugs are very small (1-7mm), oval, reddish-brown bugs. They may be more brown or more red depending on whether they have recently eaten, says Bailey Carson, a Home Care Expert at Angi. When they’re not feeding, bed bugs can hide in the smallest of places — near the seams of a mattress or in the cracks of a bed frame (but can sometimes even hide up to 20 feet away).

If you think you may have a bed bug problem, Carson says there are a few signs to look out for:

  • Seeing them with your eyes: The surest way to know if bed bugs have invited themselves to your bedroom is if you see one crawling across your sheets or mattress. (There are other small insects though, so make sure you have bed bugs and not some other intruder.)
  • Waking up with bites: Bed bug bites are red and itchy with a clear center. They may result in a mild burning sensation, and they’re likely to appear on areas of your skin that are exposed while you sleep.
  • Finding blood on your sheets: After feeding, bed bugs tend to bleed, so finding blood on your sheets can be a second sign you have a problem, says Carson.
  • Finding exoskeletons on your sheets: Like many other bugs, bed bugs molt and leave behind an exoskeleton. Since they shed this layer five times before reaching adulthood, spotting exoskeletons scattered about may be a sign of infestation.
  • Finding bed bug excrement on your sheets: Bed bug excrement tends to show up in small groupings, and will appear as dark or rusty spots on your mattress, sheets, or pillows, and is about the size of a marker spot.

How do you get rid of mattress bed bugs?

As soon as you realize you have a bed bug problem, target everything that could be a bed bug hiding spot. Wash and dry all your sheets, pillowcases, curtains, and other linens at the hottest temperature they can handle. Then vacuum and steam clean your mattress and pillows, as well as any fabric headboard/footboards or bed frames.

And don’t just stop at your bed. “Get to steaming any other upholstered furniture in the room and throughout your home. While bed bugs can’t fly, they are very good at finding sneaky ways to travel on walls, floors, ceilings, or even you or your pets,” says Carson.

Hilife Steamer for Clothes Steamer

Hilife Steamer for Clothes Steamer


For anything that’s not machine-washable, either throw them in the dryer on hot for 30 minutes, or if they’re not dryer-friendly, put them into plastic bags and freeze them for at least four days to kill off any bugs or eggs .

When in doubt, bring in a pro. If your infestation is small and relatively contained, talk to a pro about the best DIY options to try first, which could be to use an extermination kit or a “fogger bomb,” or for non-chemical options, buy or rent a steamer. If your bed bug problem is larger than you can tackle at home, or you want to fully exterminate the bed bugs, you can hire pros to use heat or thermal treatment, fumigation, chemicals and pesticides, steam, or even sniffing dogs.

McCulloch Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner

McCulloch Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner


How do you prevent bed bugs in the future?

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