Should I Throw a Mattress With Bed Bugs Away?

If your bedroom is infested with bed bugs (Cimex lectularius), your mattress and box spring certainly is harboring these little bloodsucking pests.

Keep or Toss

Most bed bugs are found in bedding or within 15 feet of the bed. These 3/16-inch wingless bugs feed exclusively on animal blood. They prefer to be close to their victims so hiding in bedding is ideal for them. Mattresses and box springs, however, are difficult to treat.

If you have bed bugs, you have to decide whether to throw out the mattress and box spring or attempt to deal with the bed bugs hiding in them. In general, if your mattress and box spring are old and in poor shape, toss them out and buy new. But if the mattress and box spring are in good condition, or if you can't afford to replace them, there are measures you can take.

Examine Bedding

Examine your mattress and box spring for bed bugs. Look along seams and under fabric flaps for the little black spots of bed bug excrement. Also look for adult bugs. They are about 3/16 inch long, flat and reddish-brown in color. You may also see the transparent light brown shells shed by nymphs as they grow into adults. With mattresses, pay particular attention to the welting along mattress edges. With box springs, strip off the dust cover from the bottom of the box spring. Check seams and the wooden frame, paying close attention to the places where frame pieces join. Peel back where fabric is stapled to the frame.

Treatment

The first step in getting bugs out of bedding is to thoroughly vacuum the mattress, box spring, bed frame and the areas around, under and behind the bed. After you are finished, remove the vacuum bag and immediately dispose of it in the outside trash. The most effective way to deal with any bugs that survived vacuuming is to encase the box spring and mattress in fitted plastic covers. Bed bugs can't bite or claw their way out and eventually will starve to death. However, they can live for a year without feeding so you should keep the covers on your bedding for at least that long. You also can use pesticides that are labeled as safe for use on mattresses; follow the manufacturer's directions.

Other Steps

Treating your bedding is only one part of a complete eradication program. All bed bug hiding places in the bedroom must be identified and treated with an appropriate pesticide. Make sure the pesticides you use are safe for use indoors. Bed bugs like to hide in cracks along edges of baseboards, behind headboards, in crevices of bed frames, along the edges of wall-to-wall carpet, and underneath clutter. Eliminating clutter reduces potential hiding places for bed bugs. If you have a major infestation, consult a professional exterminator.

About the Author

Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.