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Do Bed Bug Covers Work?

Do Bed Bug Covers Work

Most people who learn they have bed bugs start by looking for quick fixes.

Bed bug mattress covers are frequently one of the first solutions people try when they want to get rid of a bed bug infestation. The logic is pretty obvious. If bed bugs live in the bed, surely covering up your mattresses in a thick, impermeable layer of sturdy outer fabric ought to do the trick!

But do bed bug mattress encasements work? Well, unfortunately, the answer isn’t neat or clear cut. In this article, we’ll look at bed bug biology, infestations, and why protective covers may be part of an infestation solution, but never a complete one.

Bed Bug Mattress Covers: What They Are, and How They’re Supposed to Work

Insect preventing bed mattress covers operate on a very basic principle. They encase the mattress in an impermeable barrier, preventing existing insects in a bed mattress from escaping while preventing new ones from setting up camp.

These bed mattress encasements are usually made of tough cotton or similar textile, with sturdy sealing mechanisms. Some variants only protect your bed mattress. Other bed mattress encasements encase both the bed mattress and its accompanying box spring.

Do They Actually Work?

Ah, the six million dollar question! To answer this accurately, we’re going to have to take a step back and talk about bed bug biology, and what your typical infestation looks like.

The term “bed bug” is a misnomer.

They don’t just live in beds. Nor do these resilient and resourceful critters confine themselves to your soft and padded furnishings. These diminutive insects are roughly the width of a fingernail, and they’re capable of successfully hiding throughout your home, from carpets to clothing to wooden furniture crevices.

Then there’s the pest’s prolific breeding cycle. An adult female will produce up to a dozen eggs each day. Moreover, a laying insect will instinctively move away from existing infestation sites. Infestations, therefore, spread incredibly quickly.

In almost every infestation we encounter, bed bugs have spread throughout several rooms of a home before homeowners are aware they have a problem. By then, they’re not just living in your bed.

So, back to the question at hand: Do protective bed mattress encasements kill bed bugs? No. At least not in a meaningful way. While a properly installed mattress cover will cause your unwanted visitors in that mattress to slowly starve to death, this does nothing to prevent bed bugs from infesting multiple rooms of your home.

How Long Does It Take to Kill Bed Bugs With a Bed Mattress Encasement?

Unfortunately, the outlook for bed mattress encasements as an infestation solution gets even worse. Entomologists frequently refer to bed bugs as “resilient,” but that word doesn’t quite cut it when we’re talking about the extreme survival smarts of Cimex lectularius.

Even though these insects will try to consume human blood at least once per week, if it loses access to nutrition, a bed bug won’t simply up and die — not by a long shot.

These resourceful pests will power down into a near dormant state; some studies suggest they can stay in stasis in your bed mattress for up to eighteen months. At any time in that year-and-a-half, if the slightest gap or tear presents itself as an opportunity — you guessed it — they will reappear, hungrier than ever.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bed Bug Mattress Protectors

bed bug on cover

So now you have the basic lay of the land with bed mattress encasements. To sum all the above up in a few words: a specialized mattress encasement will separate bed bugs in your mattress from a food source, but there is no proof they’re effective at killing these pests, nor will they resolve an infestation.

Here are a few questions customers frequently ask about bed bug mattress covers:

1. Will Bed Bug Mattress Encasements Stop Bed Bugs From Biting Me?

Bug bites can happen anywhere on the body and are one of the more traumatic aspects of an infestation.

The good news is that an insect prevention mattress encasement will stop bed bugs in your bed mattress from biting you. However, you’ll need to install it properly, ensure the zip is entirely closed, and regularly double-check that no tiny tears or perforations form.

And of course, you may still be bitten by those lurking elsewhere in your home.

2. Do Mattress Encasements Prevent Bed Bugs?

Here, sadly, the answer is a resounding no.

Remember, these prolific little survivors don’t exclusively inhabit beds. The creatures will happily live in your bedding covers, carpet, tiny fissures in your furniture, and any places your pets hang out (to name just a few of their familiar haunts).

3. Do Regular Mattress Protectors Work for Bed Bugs?

A specialized bed mattress encasement costs significantly more than regular household mattress encasements. It isn’t all that surprising then that people wonder if a regular mattress protector might do the trick.

Unfortunately, regular mattress protectors are completely useless against bed bugs. A regular mattress protector is not designed to protect every inch of a mattress, and it provides no protection whatsoever against insects finding and living within your mattress.

4. What About Bug Interceptors? Will They Help?

Good question! Interceptors are small dishes that you can install under conventional furniture legs, including some beds. They’re a low-tech way to prevent crawling insects from infesting furniture.

They definitely help.

Combined with mattress encasements, an interceptor will decrease the likelihood of your bed getting some unwelcome visitors, and they’re a cost-effective part of any solution. However, they only prevent incursion into specific items of furniture. They won’t completely prevent or resolve a house-wide infestation.

Here’s where you can learn more about bed bug treatment for other furniture.

5. What Kind of Bed Bug Mattress Encasement Should I Choose?

The golden rule is, buy quality. Any tear or minute gap in a bed mattress cover will render it useless. Make sure it completely encases your mattress, that it’s certified to be bed bug proof, and that online reviews are generally favorable.

If you can, carefully inspect a cover before purchase, paying particular attention to the stitching around zippers. If any aspect of the bed mattress encasement seems flimsy or unreliable, we suggest you pass. Testing one mattress before buying additional covers is also a sensible idea.

If in doubt, talk to a pest control expert near you. They’ll be able to recommend a quality product that is right for your bed, family, and home.

What’s the Solution?

Mattress encasements won’t protect your home from a typical bed bug infestation. So, what will?

Back to Biology

Let’s get back to biology. Bed bug mattress encasements aren’t particularly useful because they don’t hit a bed bug’s most significant vulnerabilities:

  • Mattress covers work by separating a small portion of the bed bug colony from its food source (namely, and I’m sorry if this grosses you out, you!). We already know bed bugs can live within these covers for over a year without food.
  • Moreover, all it takes for an infestation to rage out of control is one laying female. Remember, just one such critter can potentially produce up to 500 new bed bugs in its lifetime. Isolating bed bugs using mattress encasements does nothing about the bugs elsewhere in your home.

Heat is the Answer

Bed bugs have one fatal weakness. Heat.

If you expose a bed bug to heat higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it’ll go legs-up instantly. It doesn’t matter where in your house the little critter is hiding, including your mattresses. If you can expose it to sufficient heat, it’ll die. It’s as simple as that.

While other solutions, such as mattress encasements, interceptors, and pesticide dust can all help aid with prevention, the proof is clear. The gold standard in completely eradicating these pests from your home is to blast them with sufficient heat to destroy them outright.

A heat treatment is quick, too! We can typically heat treat an entire home within one day.

No interminable waiting. No stress that your bed mattress protector isn’t working correctly. No grueling process of constant maintenance and upkeep of your mattress encasements.

Give us a Call

If you’d like to learn more about how heat treatment can end your bed bug problems, just talk to us. We’re your local Cincinnati bed bug extermination experts. We’ll help you choose the right approach for identifying, managing, and preventing infestations in your home.

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A Furniture Treatment for Bed Bugs Cincinnati Guide

A few decades ago, bed bugs were thought of as a pest problem you didn’t have to worry about in the US. But since the 1980s, these nasty little critters have returned with a vengeance.

And here’s the really bad news if you live in Cincinnati.

According to 2018 data on bed bug outbreaks, Ohio is the worst affected state in the US for bed bugs, and Cincinnati has the fifth highest bed bug prevalence across the whole US. The city is dealing with an epidemic of this blood-sucking parasite.

Which brings us to the big question! If you’re in Cincinnati and you’re worried bed bugs have infested your furniture, what can you do about it?

Self Treatment or Throw Your Furniture Away?

Let’s immediately deal with the first question were usually asked: Should you simply throw your furniture away? 

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t necessary. Bed bugs can be eradicated from furniture with the right kinds of treatment.

However, if you do want to get rid of some of your infested furniture, Cincinnati has a bed bug furniture pick-up hotline that can give you advice on how to dispose of your furniture safely and responsibly.

Another option you can consider is self treatment.

Now, you should be aware that getting rid of bed bugs on your own is not a quick and simple “spray-it-and-forget-it” solution — but it’s effective if performed thoroughly.

First, you’ll need to perform a careful examination of each item of furniture, using a magnifying glass, flashlight and thin card to identify the telltale signs of bed bug infestation (usually black spots, blood smears, rice-grain sized eggs, or discarded skins). After thorough vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum, you’ll need to carefully steam every inch of your infested furniture, following up with chemical treatment and bed bug barriers to prevent further infestation.

The easiest and most cost-effective solution is to have a professional provide a full heat treatment bed bug eradication service. 

Heat treatment is ideal for getting rid of bed bugs, because it hits these resilient creatures where they’re most vulnerable. Bed bugs will die instantly when exposed to temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

A pest control specialist will place specialized heaters throughout your home, using fan convection to push heat into every corner of an affected room. It’s lethally effective because heat treatment doesn’t rely on direct application (which first requires finding every one of these incredibly sneaky critters). Once a treated room is hot enough, the bed bugs simply can’t survive — regardless of where they’re hiding.

Heat treatment still requires careful preparation, but it doesn’t entail the complete disassembly and careful inspection of every piece of furniture. It probably goes without saying that this makes the treatment process substantially easier!

Where There’s Smoke There is Fire

Heat treatment for bed bugs has a lot going for it. We recommend it as the easiest and most cost-effective option for most people who come to us with a bed bug problem.

Unlike eradication with pesticides, heat treatment can be performed in one visit. You also gain the additional benefit of not having residual chemicals in your home, a big plus for home-owners with pets, or family members with chemical sensitivity. For more information on this read our heat treatment vs chemical treatment for bed bugs article.

Heat treatment is also fast and discreet. The whole process can be completed in as little as a few hours, and all that will be visible from your street is an unmarked truck and a generator.

If you’re concerned you may have bed bugs in your home, you needn’t stress about it. We can bring you and your family instant relief. Here’s a full description of our Cincinnati bed bug exterminator services.

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Heat vs Chemical Treatment for Bed Bugs: Which Is Best?

If you’re worried you may have bed bugs in your home, your first question will likely be something along the lines of, “how do I get rid of these things, and fast?” You have two main options when it comes to ridding your home of these troublesome little insects: heat treatment and chemical treatment.

In this guide, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both. You’ll also get all the basic knowledge you need to make sure you can be free of bed bugs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A Few Things You Should Know About Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Life-Cycle

First, to help you put your treatment options in context you should know a little bit about bed bug prevalence, their life-cycle and why infestations are so tricky to deal with.

How Common Are They in the US?

Fifty years ago, bed bugs had been all but wiped out. However, since the 1980s, there’s been a sharp resurgence. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this has happened partly because bed bugs have become resistant to some pesticides, and also because transmission rates have increased as a result of international and domestic travel.

Today, many pest control experts consider bed bugs to be the number one infestation problem in the US. We can attest to this as we serve Ohio which has some of the worst bed bug infested cities like Cincinnati which always makes it on to the top 10 infested bed bug city lists across the nation.

Fact 1: bed bugs are very common.

Why Are They Difficult to Treat?

Bed bugs are extremely stealthy. They’re small, and are guided by a survival instinct of tucking themselves away into tight, difficult-to-reach crevices. They’re capable of lodging themselves in areas little thicker than the width of a fingernail, and can stay there out of sight for months between feeding sessions.

These factors make bed bugs both hard to find, and difficult to eradicate even once you know where they are.

Fact 2: They’re stealthy, sneaky and resilient.

How Quickly Should I Treat an Infestation?

Adult female bed bugs will lay up to anywhere from five to a dozen eggs daily. In its lifetime it will lay up to 500 eggs. A bed bug colony is therefore going to grow very quickly. But that’s only part of the problem. Their movement patterns make it even worse.

A female is hard-wired to retreat from other bed bugs before laying its eggs. This means bed bugs have a tendency to migrate quickly from room to room. A small colony in one bedroom can rapidly become an infestation across your whole house.

Fact 3: Fast action, and quick-acting treatment is important.

Now that you’re up to speed on how bed bugs operate and why they pose such an infestation control challenge, let’s compare your treatment options.

Option 1: Heat Treatment

heat treatment in progress

Bed Bug Heat Treatment in Dayton Ohio

Heat treatment involves raising the temperature in your home to the point it’ll kill bed bugs. A pest control specialist will place specialized heaters throughout your home, gradually raising the temperature to over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Strategically placed fans circulate the hot air, effectively turning your bed bug infested rooms into a convection oven.

A bed bug will die within an hour or two if it’s exposed to temperatures in the 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit range. They’ll die instantly once the heat increases beyond that. That’s the temperature we aim for.

The whole process is discreet, takes less than a day, and is powered off a single generator.

Heat Treatment Pros

  • It’s usually a single treatment: Done right, a heat treatment to exterminate bed bugs will require just one treatment. Chemical treatment usually requires several visits.
  • It attacks bed bugs where they’re most vulnerable: bed bugs are tough insects, and they’re remarkably good at hiding out of reach. Moreover, some strains are resistant to certain pesticides. The beauty of heat is that, unlike chemicals, it gets everywhere. No matter how many layers of bedding or clothing a bed bug is hiding under, the heat can reach and destroy it. Heat is also deadly to bed bugs throughout all stages of its life-cycle. They can run but they can’t hide.
  • There are no residual effects: Once the heat in your house returns to normal, the only lasting change you’re left with is a lot of dead bed bugs. This is an advantage if you’re worried about chemical residues in your home.
  • Heat treatment is discreet: Let’s face it, having your home treated for bed bugs is not exactly something you want to advertise to your neighbors. Heat treatment is discreet. All that’s visible from the street is a generator, which you could easily be using for anything from running fans to dry paint, or steam cleaning your carpet.

Heat Treatment Cons

  • Heat treatment won’t stop bed bugs from returning: Heat leaves no residual effects. Without residual chemicals providing a preventive barrier, they may return. However, keeping your home freed of clutter and thoroughly cleaning your bedding on a regular basis are both effective non-chemical bed bug prevention measures.
  • You’ll need to prepare your home: During treatment, your house will have to be vacated, including your pets. You’ll also probably need to make sure that heat-sensitive items such as wax and crayons from the house. Our pest control experts can offer advice on what’s safe to keep in your home and what should be removed.

Things to Consider When Using Heat

Heat treatment is a great option. It’s fast, discreet and can reach infestation areas that are hard to reach with chemicals. You will need a prevention strategy in place though. One great option to consider is to use heat in conjunction with chemical treatments around the boundaries of your house.

This gives you the benefits of minimizing chemicals in your home while setting up a residual chemical barrier where it’s most useful.

Option 2: Chemical Treatment

Chemical treatment involves the introduction of chemical agents throughout the house. Typically, a pest eradication expert will employ three kinds of chemicals: a contact insecticide to quickly eradicate easy to reach bed bugs, a residual (long-lasting) chemical to kill bed bugs on an ongoing basis, and a dust to provide longer-lasting protection in cracks and crevices in and around infested rooms.

The effectiveness of chemical treatment depends on getting to the bed bugs. Unlike heat, chemical treatment is site-specific. Treatment typically therefore happens over multiple visits, to be sure no bed bugs are missed.

Chemical Treatment Pros

  • Chemical treatment can be highly effective: Especially if you catch the infestation in its early stages, chemicals can eradicate bed bugs quickly and reliably. Moreover, the combination of quick-acting pesticides with dusts and residual chemicals means you can effectively hit bed bugs over time, and throughout every stage of their life-cycle.
  • It can help prevent future infestations: Residual chemicals act as a barrier against future bed bug infestations. While the continued presence of chemicals in the home is not an ideal solution for everyone, it undeniably offers long-term protection.
  • It’s cost effective: Chemical treatment is often slightly less expensive than the bed bug heat treatment option.

Chemical Treatment Cons

  • Chemical treatment requires a lot of preparation: The chemicals have to reach the bed bugs. This means you’ll have to thoroughly prepare infested areas, removing as many barriers as possible to ensure the chemicals reach where the bed bugs are hiding. A chemical treatment requires time, preparation and careful planning.
  • It exposes your home to residual chemicals: While these chemicals are safe for residential use, if you have pets in your home or people with chemical sensitivities, the chemical treatment route may not be for you.
  • Chemicals don’t kill the bed bug egg: Unfortunately, chemical treatments don’t kill the bed bug egg. Remember a female bed bug is laying at least 5 bed bug eggs per day.
  • You’re most likely looking at multiple treatments & it’s not guaranteed to get you bed bug free: Chemical treatments require a pest exterminator to carefully find and target areas where the bed bugs are most concentrated. As you’ve already learned, these critters are sneaky! For this reason, chemical treatments usually work best when applied two or three times over a period of several days or weeks. Therefore, it’s frequently a less convenient and less discreet option.

Things to Consider When Using Chemicals

The big draw of chemical treatment for many customers is that it provides long-lasting protection against bed bug infestation.

The drawback is that it usually requires multiple applications, and some people may not feel comfortable with having chemical residues in their home. It’s also important to remember that, for the treatment to be effective, you’ll need to carefully prepare your home so that the chemicals can reach targeted areas.

The Best Bed Bug Treatment

So, let’s circle back around to the important question: if you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, what’s the best treatment to use?

Clearly, whether you opt for heat or chemical treatment will depend on all the factors we’ve looked at in this guide. Some people are drawn to the single-treatment convenience of heat, while others feel that the long-lasting protection of chemical treatment is worth the potential downsides of having residual chemicals in your home.

On balance, for the vast majority of our customers, we recommend heat treatment (our clients love this option because they don’t have to get rid of furniture because of bed bugs). It’s quick, it’s discreet, and it just seems to be the best way to counteract bed bugs’ natural sneakiness and resilience. From years of experience exterminating bed bugs, heat treatment wins every time. We consistently get calls from people who have had their homes chemically treated only for bed bugs to resurface again a few weeks or months later.

And of course, if you do want a preventive treatment, it’s always possible to use chemicals to provide a barrier around the boundaries of your home while relying on heat to deal with your current infestation. This can offer the best of both worlds.

If you have any more questions, just talk to us! We’re experts in dealing with bed bug infestations, and we can help you choose the right treatment strategy for your unique situation.

Integrity Pest Solutions is the leading pest control company in Columbus, Ohio. Art, the owner of the company, has done over 12,000 heat treatment for bed bugs in one of the top states that bed bugs have overrun.

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