How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress: Spot the Early Signs of Bed Bugs on Mattress

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 5, 2024

Person seeing a bedroom with bugs wonders how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress and if there is a guide to recognizing the early signs of bed bugs in hotels, on mattresses, and how to kill mattress bed bugs.

Need to learn how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress or recognize the signs of bed bugs on mattresses in overnight rentals and motels?

Since bed bugs can transport back to your home pretty easily, it’s a good idea to know what to look for if you’re staying overnight somewhere.

In fact, you can search for early stage bed bug eggs and other signs easily, that way you can prevent bringing them home.

However, if you have accidentally been infested, knowing how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress is usually the first step.

This complete guide explains what to look for and how to remove these bugs from your home.

How To Know if You Have Bed Bugs (Bed Bug Stains): How To Spot the Early Signs of Bed Bugs on Mattress

Bites on the skin are not a reliable sign of a bed bug problem as there are a host of other insects with familiar and not-so-familiar names that like to invade your home.

If you want to be one hundred percent sure that your mattress is entertaining unwanted guests who are waiting to prey on you every night, your best bet is to look for actual visible evidence.

This is the surest approach to confirm an infestation as long as you know what early signs of bed bugs on mattress to be on the lookout for.

Unless you have the eyesight of a hawk, it’s unlikely that you will see any live bugs marching up and down your mattress, as the adult ones aren’t much bigger than 5-7mm long and know how to hide in plain sight.

Graphic that shows the signs of bed bugs on mattress such as bed bug stains.

You may not be able to see them but they can see you, so you need to know how to check mattress for bed bugs. The best time to look for them is as you’re cleaning or changing the sheets.

At those times you may be able to spot any unusual rust-colored stains that are generally signs of crushed bed bugs or their droppings. The red coloring is because bed bugs feed on the blood of both animals and humans as a source of nourishment, and these stains on your blankets are one of the signs that you have an infestation.

Here are a few more signs that shouldn’t be ignored:

  • The linens or mattress have blood stains.
  • Miniature, yellowish eggs or eggshells are hidden in the creases of your bed covers.
  • Black specks that are barely the size of a grain of sand are frequently found on your bed. These are traces of the excrement of bed bugs.2
  • Bed bug exoskeletons that have a resemblance to the actual insects are discovered.
  • The appearance of a pleasant, musty stench in the bedroom.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress By Washing, Vacuuming, and Steaming

Bed bugs are not vectors for spreading diseases or illnesses as some people may think, but they do have the ability to make your life miserable.

If you have spotted all the early signs of bed bugs on mattress and you’ve taken all the precautions to stop any more of them yet they still manage to sneak past all your defenses, then you need to know how to get rid of them.

Graphics that show how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress such as by washing, vacuuming, and steaming.

For particularly severe infestations the help of expert exterminators may be required but there is no reason why you can’t employ a few extermination tactics of your own first. Start with cleaning everything.

Clean the mattress, clean the bed frame all over, clean the bedding, clean any rugs or carpets thoroughly in the room, and clean any and all possible hiding places. Do not, whatever you do, transport your bedding, any linens, or clothing from room to room in the washing basket as you would normally do.

If you use a standard basket they will more than likely saunter their way back into your bedroom, or even worse, into other parts of your home that were previously uninfected as soon as you set it down. Anything that you are taking out of the infected zone should be put in a garbage bag using rubber gloves either directly to the washing machine or disposed of in the outside trash can.

After you’ve washed and put away your bed linens, and wiped down all the surfaces, it’s time to take out the vacuum cleaner. Before you launch yourself all gung ho at your mattress, though, remove the attachment with all the bristles.

Bed bugs have a very strong survival mechanism, as well as powerful legs, and will cling onto and hide in the brush’s bristles until you stop moving and then just keep jumping on and off as you move it over the bed. To increase your chances of getting them all, just use the hose itself so you can get in all the nooks and crannies even if it means spending a little extra time and expending a little effort to ensure a thorough job is done.

The final stage in how to get rid of bed bugs, after you have disposed of the contents of the vacuum bag in an outside trash can, is to use steam on the mattress. Buy or rent a powerful steam cleaner and ensure that the ideal temperature to kill the bed bugs is set at 120° F or above.7

Maintain the pressure for about 15 to 20 minutes and the mature bed bugs, the nymphs, and eggs will die off almost instantly.

Bed Bug Bites: Do You Have a Bed Bug Infestation?

Believe it or not, it can be harder than you can imagine for some people to be sure if they have bed bugs or not. This is because their bites can resemble the same marks left by mosquitos or other types of insects.

What makes the identifying process even harder is that some victims display no signs of bug bites at all. They can be bitten all night long and wake up the following morning with no marks, no itching, and no idea that they’ve been the main attraction at the bed bug buffet for the last few hours.

While their sleeping companion can have the exact opposite experience, just one little nip results in a nasty red welt that they can’t stop scratching throughout the entire day. For you to be able to accurately find and identify low-level infestations is significantly more difficult as well, with carpet beetles and other insects easily being confused with bed bugs.

If bites are misdiagnosed, further problems may arise from the course of medications applied. What treatment works for one type of household pest may not be effective at all on another species, and a misdiagnosis of a bed bug infestation may delay treatment and allow the situation to worsen.1

Any delay can give these pests more time to spread throughout the home or hitch a trip to another part of your property. Once in a new, sterile location, they will waste no time making themselves feel right at home, and waiting for their next victim.

What Are the Early-Stage Mattress Bed Bug Egg Signs? (Bed Bug Eggs on Sheets)

Because they are so small, bed bug eggs on sheets can be mistaken for a speck of dust yet are pearly-white in color and after 5 days develop a red dot in their center.

When in an overnight rental, it’s likely the (hopefully fresh) sheets won’t have these eggs, but you can check the mattress pad underneath.

What Does Bed Bugs Look Like on a Mattress?

Bed bugs have no wings, have flat, oval bodies, and are roughly the size of an apple seed when they reach adulthood. They start as ridiculously tiny 1mm eggs encased in light-yellow eggshells which they shed as they grow.

Almost translucent, the eggs go through several stages as a nymph before maturing as tan-colored adults, and during the process, they are nigh on impossible to see unless they have recently had a feed.

As adults, they have antennae and a segmented beak which they use to pierce the skin and draw blood.

Can you see bed bugs this close using a high technology camera.

(Image: British Pest Control Association11)

Even though they do have wings, they cannot fly, preferring to get around on their very fast legs. That may not sound very efficient, yet it enables them to hide away quickly from prying human eyes and sneakily hitch a ride on clothes, furniture, and bags.

Barely the same thickness as a credit card, they can find their way into your private living space from another location without your knowledge. You would think that as the females have the propensity to lay hundreds of eggs at a time, each roughly the size of a dust particle, together they would be easier to notice.

If only that were the case.

Bites From Infested Mattress Bed Bugs

Bites from infested mattress bed bugs may be quite irritating and frequently appear first on the arms and shoulders when you first wake up. These nocturnal pests are more likely to attack you as you sleep although they are not averse to snacking on you during the day.

Unlike mosquitoes, they seldom bite just once, preferring to have a good go at your skin while you’re stationary, leaving behind clusters of red bite marks that are more aggravating than a single puncture point. Those individuals who are immune to the aftereffects of the bites, and unaware that they have even been bitten, cannot sympathize wholly to the level of discomfort caused by bed bug bites.

But then just the thought of bugs sucking on their blood like vampires instigates an immediate reaction on how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress. There is a third type of bed bug victim who actually won’t even realize that they’ve been bitten multiple times night after night until weeks have gone by and several welts emerge mysteriously on their skin, red and very itchy.

This time delay complicates the process of pinpointing where and when the bites occurred, even if they were the result of bed bugs.3 If you even suspect that you have bed bugs, check the cracks and crevices of your mattress, covers, and the bed frame itself as these are all excellent hiding spots for such a tiny, wafer-thin insect.

Photo of a bed bug bite on a hand.

(Image: hiroo yamagata12)

Those with allergies, and who are very sensitive to just one bite, can experience bouts of sleeplessness, different levels of stress, and skin issues that can leave scarring behind depending on the sensitivity and the severity of the bug colony.

How To Stop Bed Bugs From Climbing Your Bed in the First Place

Opportunists are an accurate description of bed bugs. Unable to fly, they migrate from one bed to another when a handy mode of transportation trundles by on handles, wheels, or legs, and carries them into your bedroom.

So how do they get on board your mattress if it is so far above their little heads? They climb.

If your bed is close to a wall they will simply march up it, let a few other family members know of the new nesting site, and make themselves more comfortable than you will be in your bed from that night on. Let’s see how you can halt them in their tracks.

  • The first step on how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress before they infest it is to move the bed away from walls and disrupt their mode of entry.
  • Sprinkling talcum powder and sticking double-sided tape around the legs is another method that will erect barriers and halt their accent.
  • Washing your bedding at high temperatures or the very least tumble dry it for 30 minutes on medium to high heat will deter any new invaders and eliminate any that have slipped through. But keep the linen off the floor when you re-make your bed to prevent bed bugs from making their way back up to your mattress.
  • One of the most innovative tools for controlling the initial invasion is the bed bug interceptor. Placed underneath the legs of the bed, these plastic cups catch and trap bed bugs as they slide back down the slippery surfaces of your bed posts.4

How To Prepare for Bed Bug Treatment

You can put your mind at ease if you think bed bugs are attracted by dirty houses as the environment isn’t the lure. Their presence is not an indication of a dirty house as they are not attracted by garbage or unkempt locations.

They just want a ready supply of food, which happens to be, unfortunately, your blood, so they are equally at home in tidy or chaotic dwellings. So, with that in mind, the first step in the treatment of these bloodthirsty pests and their removal from your house and your nice comfy mattress is to have everything ready whether you intend to hire a professional company or attempt to be your exterminator.5

If you do these things before you begin, you’ll save time and money, and ensure that all of the little pests will be eliminated. One thing to remember about bed bugs, however, is that they are experts at hide and seek.

Here are 5 steps for how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress so you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.

  1. Be careful not to spread the bed bugs while you declutter your bedroom, and whatever you do don’t try to transport objects from the infected bedroom to another that may be bed bug-free.
  2. Use plastic trash bags to dispose of any garbage and other potentially contaminated items then take the bags to the trash can as soon as they are full immediately without leaving them in the hallway even for a second. If you do that the bugs will simply creep out of the smallest of gaps quicker than your eyes can follow and find somewhere to hide where you can’t get to them.
  3. Cardboard boxes used for storing should all be replaced with plastic bins which will eliminate one of the bed bugs’ easy hiding places, and any periodicals should be thrown out as the folds of the pages are like an invitation to them.
  4. When you’re cleaning out your closet, do not throw them on the bed or the floor or, if they weren’t infected before, they will be now. If you need to transfer your clothes to the washing machine, or from one place to another, use sealed plastic bags, even ziplock ones to be on the extra cautious side.
  5. Take down all of your draperies for cleaning and wipe down all the rods and hardware. After examining the bed frame for bed bugs, eggs, and other signs of pests, strip everything off and place them all in plastic bags for cleaning or disposal.

Always be mindful that you don’t accidentally spread the bed bugs while you declutter your house as the bed bug life-cycle can last up to a year.6

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly? (How To Clean Mattress From Bed Bugs?)

What kills bed bugs instantly? One of the easiest ways to kill bed bugs instantly instead of using any harsh chemical is by the use of steam.

It’s eco-friendly, and won’t harm the furnishings or exacerbate any adverse climate-carbon emissions.

Just make sure the temperature is set at a minimum setting of 120°F up to 212°F and they will be eliminated.

How To Dispose of a Mattress With Bed Bugs

Sometimes, no matter how many home remedies for bed bugs, how hard you’ve tried, and what other methods you may have thrown at your mattress, the bed bugs refuse to relinquish the grip they have on your mattress and just won’t willingly vacate the premises. At this stage, you may have to explore the costs associated with hauling it away and what the exterminator prices may amount to.

They may even offer you an alternative service before the nuclear button is pressed on how to get rid of bed bugs permanently instead of throwing out your mattress. How much does a bed bug exterminator cost to clean a mattress may depend on the type of treatment required based on the level of infestation and the simple question of if one room has bed bugs, do they all?

This is not always the case but if you are going to contract a professional to take away your mattress, you can always ask them to do a bug welfare check in the other bedrooms, the couch, how to check for bed bug signs on clothes, and how to spot signs of bed bugs in carpets. If your mattress is the only point of infestation in your home and removing it from the premises will solve your bad bug problems, then throwing it away may well be your best course of action.

To prepare your mattress for disposal, clean it as much as you can and move it away from all other pieces of furniture to prevent even the smallest risk of the bugs migrating.8 After that, it is recommended to encase it in plastic wrap and make sure it is sealed to lock in any potential escapees.

An extermination company may well take it away for you so it will be disposed of safely, or you can transport it to a recycling center that accepts mattresses that have been exposed to bed bugs. Some centers do not accept them, so check before you go.

How To Find Bed Bugs During the Day

As bed bugs are natural nocturnal feeders, spotting them during the day can be problematic. They will wait in the folds of your couch and between the piles of your carpets and will take a few bites out of your pets as they settle down at your feet.

Your pets may or may not be aware of their presence as there is a marked difference between fleas and bed bugs and their immediate reactions. Fleas will make your pets their permanent habitat, while bed bugs will drink their fill for about 3 to 12 minutes and then hop off to relax and digest their food.

A horse which may also be infested of bed bugs.

(Image: hulleo13)

To spot any signs of them during the day in your living room, you have to look for the same rusty bed bug stains that you may have noticed on your mattress. Also look for broken eggshells, exoskeletons, and even live bugs if you can catch them running around in the open.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress With Diatomaceous Earth

The application of diatomaceous earth for bed bug elimination is effective as it acts as a fast-acting desiccant. Bed bugs have a waxy outer covering that prevents them from losing moisture and nutrition, and keeps them hydrated.

Diatomaceous earth works by penetrating their nearly impervious outer shells and getting under their skin, so to speak, and gets to work fast. As a desiccant, it causes a fatal level of dehydration and quickly kills the bed bugs.

If you’ve spotted the early signs of bed bugs on mattress before a few bed bugs have turned into a horde, then sprinkling diatomaceous earth into all the folds of the bed will prove to be an even more effective method of control.9 It is far from being a miracle bed bug killer, with repeat applications needed periodically.

But when combined with other forms of treatment, including the identification of early signs of bed bugs on mattress, it is an extremely useful tool when you need to know how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress without using harmful chemicals.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress

Can You See Bed Bugs?

At sizes of between 5 to 7 mm, adult bed bugs can be spotted with the naked eye, but immature ones are a lot more difficult.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bug Eggs on Mattresses?

One of the quickest and easiest methods of getting rid of bed bugs on mattresses is by using a powerful vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool that can reach into all those awkward places. You may have to do this several times but it will remove any early signs of bed bug eggs on mattresses immediately if not permanently.

How Much Does Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs Cost?

For just one room the average cost can range from $300 to $500. For the entire house, the costs could set you back anywhere from $2,500 to as much as $5,000 for a complete bed bug treatment.10


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11Bed Bug Photo by British Pest Control Association. CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Resized, Slightly Adjusted Color Balance, and Slightly Adjusted Brightness and Contrast. Flickr. Retrieved January 5, 2024 from <>

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13Bed Bug Itch Photo by hulleo / Leopictures. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 5, 2024 from <>