What Good Is a Bed Bug Mattress Cover?

Mattress encasements can minimize infestations

Head of boxspring to bed infested with bed bugs.
Lauren cuttlefish/ Flickr CC

Bed bugs are a pervasive pest that can find its way into any home by unwitting hosts—simply by hitching a ride in suitcases if you visit a hotel with an infestation, transferring onto your clothes from a movie theater seat, or traveling on visitors who come into your home. These bugs are erroneously associated with pests that only live in filthy living conditions; they can live and breed anywhere, including clean, uncluttered homes.

To protect your mattress from an infestation or to curb a mattress infestation that may have occurred, you can purchase a bed bug mattress encasement to trap the bugs inside the encasement or discourage bugs from making a permanent home in your bed. While mattress covers can provide some protection, however, you need to do much more to guarantee a bed-bug-free environment.

What Is a Bed Bug?

The common, parasitic bed bug, from the cimicid family, feeds on human blood usually during the nighttime hours when humans are sleeping. Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye and are roughly the size of a lentil. They have round brown or red bodies and are easy to spot on white surfaces. They prefer to live close to their human food source and make their homes in beds. Between 85 and 90 percent of the bed bugs in an infested home are typically found on or within 15 feet of the bed.

Bed bugs do bite; they actually saw into their host's body and feed off their blood.

While bed bugs don't carry disease, their bites can cause blisters and itching, particularly for people with allergies. Bed bugs are very hard to control. Once they've infested a home, getting rid of them can be a challenge.

The Benefits of a Mattress Encasement

Most people are familiar with mattress covers; they are usually designed like a bottom sheet and provide protection for the top of a mattress.

Ordinary mattress covers do little or nothing to stop bed bugs. Mattress encasements, however, can help minimize an infestation. 

A mattress encasement is a tightly woven fabric case that surrounds your mattress and box spring. Once it is installed, bed bugs already in the mattress cannot escape or breed, and will eventually die inside the encasement. Any bed bugs left outside the encasement will be easy to spot and remove and will find no creases or hiding places where they can breed.

Mattress encasements not only repel and stifle bed bugs, they can also provide a variety of other benefits. For example:

  • A good mattress encasement can protect against dust mites and other pests as well as bed bugs.
  • Most mattress encasements are waterproof, meaning that they will protect your mattress and box spring from spills and leaks.
  • Mattress encasements can eliminate the risk of infestation if used with a new mattress and box spring.

Buying Mattress Encasements

Bed bug mattress encasements can be purchased for as little as $20, though you may wish to explore the more expensive options as they are more likely to be reliable, sturdy, and bug-proof. It's possible to purchase a pesticide-treated encasement, but the potential health hazards outweigh the slight increase in protection from insects.

Many pest control supply companies sell mattress encasements online. If you plan to purchase a bed bug mattress protector, make sure you choose one that is specifically designed for bed bugs. There are special features, such as bugproof zippers, different materials, and chemically treated covers, that you can consider at the time of purchase. Do check the reviews to be sure you're purchasing a product that is reliable and well-made. Another consideration is noise: some encasements are made of fabric that crinkles as you move in bed—something that could interfere with your sleep.

Even after you install your encasement, remember that adult bed bugs can live for well over a year without a blood meal. Leave the encasement on for at least that long or for the life of your mattress to be sure all resident bed bugs are dead and no new infestations of your mattress occur.

Meanwhile, if your home is infested, you need to hire a pest management company to completely eradicate the bed bugs.

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Hadley, Debbie. "What Good Is a Bed Bug Mattress Cover?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 23, 2018, thoughtco.com/how-to-use-bed-bug-mattress-cover-1968434. Hadley, Debbie. (2018, April 23). What Good Is a Bed Bug Mattress Cover? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-bed-bug-mattress-cover-1968434 Hadley, Debbie. "What Good Is a Bed Bug Mattress Cover?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-use-bed-bug-mattress-cover-1968434 (accessed April 24, 2018).