Bed bugs have become a major pest control problem throughout the country. Once thought close to extinction, these blood-sucking parasites have made a staggering come back and an increasing number of families are finding themselves facing full scale bed bug infestations. Protecting yourself from a bed bug invasion has become something of a cottage industry, and there are plenty of products on the market that promise to prevent (or at least mitigate) a bed bug infestation.

One of the most popular products is the bed bug mattress cover. Also known as mattress encasements these products are designed to cover your mattress, trapping any bed bugs inside the covering so they can’t spread throughout your home. But do mattress covers really work and can they really prevent a bed bug infestation?

What Exactly are Bed Bug Mattress Covers?

Mattress encasements are a cover for your mattress that bed bugs can not get through. They are typically made of tightly-woven cotton with a close-toothed zipper that runs around the full expanse of your bed’s mattress or box spring.

Mattress encasements offer a number of real benefits:

  • Mattress covers trap bed bugs that are already living within your mattress. Bed bugs can not escape the covering to feed and will eventually die from starvation.
  • Mattress encasements help prevent bed bugs from hiding inside the seams and folds of your mattress. This can help to prevent, or at least mitigate, large scale bed bug infestations.
  • Mattress coverings make it easier to spot signs of a bed bug infestation allowing you to take early action to eliminate a bed bug invasion.
  • Bed bug mattress encasements protect the mattress and bed spring from becoming stained with blood or fecal matter from infesting bed bugs.

Do Mattress Encasements Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to kill. Laboratory tests have shown that they can survive up to five days in an airtight container. So even when deprived of food and oxygen they remain resilient pests.

Bed bug mattress covers are usually made of cotton, so naturally they are not airtight. Any bed bugs trapped inside of a mattress encasement won’t suffocate. They will, however, starve. Mattress covers are designed to prevent bed bugs from escaping once trapped inside. There are no gaps small enough for the bed bug to get through.

When trapped inside a mattress encasement bed bugs can’t feed on their hosts. Deprived of a steady supply of blood meals they will eventually die. However, bed bugs can survive for up to 400 days without food so it will take some time any trapped parasites to die off.

Will Bed Bug Encasements Stop Bed Bugs from Biting You?

Bed bug mattress covers are a kind of trap. If your mattress is infested an encasement will prevent any of those bed bugs from escaping, and will prevent them from biting you when you’re asleep. So to some extent a mattress cover will, indeed, prevent you from being bitten.

However, if your mattress is infested with bed bugs there’s a good chance the pests have spread to other parts of your home. Those bed bugs are still free to roam and, more importantly, to feed. Mattress covers won’t prevent those free roaming bed bugs from attacking you and your family.

Can Mattress Covers Prevent Bed Bugs?

Mattress encasements prevent bed bugs from coming into direct contact with your mattress. That much is true. Bed bugs like to hide in the seams and folds of mattresses, coming out to feed when their prey is fast asleep. A mattress cover will stop bed bugs from embedding themselves in your mattress or bed spring.

However, simply stopping bed bugs from infesting your mattress and box spring will not stop a bed bug infestation. These pests can, and will, still invade other parts of your home. Encasements make it easier to spot the signs of a bed bug infestation, and that can be vital when battling bed bugs in the home. But they can’t prevent a bed bug invasion on their own. They are only a small part of your pest control arsenal.

How to Choose an Effective Bed Bug Mattress Encasement

All bed bug mattress encasements are not created equal. Some are better at keeping bed bugs out than others, and it can be confusing trying to find a cover that will really do the job. But there are a few key points to take into consideration when shopping for a bed bug proof mattress cover. If you follow these guidelines you should be able to find a suitably effective encasement.

  • Look for an encasement that fully encloses your mattress or box spring. Some cheaper encasements only cover the top and sides. Remember, there is a difference between a mattress protector and a mattress encasement.
  • Look for the words ‘bed bug proof’ on the packaging. Bed bug mattress encasements are often sold in the same place as mattress covers. It can be confusing separating the ‘waterproof’ mattress covers from the ‘bed bug proof’ encasements. Make sure you’re purchasing the right product.
  • Do your research. Mattress encasements aren’t cheap and you want to spend your money wisely. Research a number of different brands before you buy. Look for brands that have been well tested and have proven their efficacy in laboratory conditions. Pay attention to any online product reviews as well. They can often help you avoid a bad purchase.
  • The old adage applies – “you get what you pay for”. Cheaper mattress encasements may be made with substandard materials. The cotton may not be as tightly woven and the zippers may not be as sturdy as they should be. Shop with care.

Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Bed Bugs

Bed bug mattress encasements are a vital tool in the battle against bed bugs. They can help protect your mattresses and box springs from infestation, and make it easier to spot bed bugs before a full scale infestation can take hold. But they are only part of your tool kit.

If you suspect you have a growing bed bug problem in your home contact a professional bed bug inspection and removal service at the earliest opportunity. Left unchecked a bed bug infestation can be emotionally and financially costly for you and your family. When it comes to protecting yourself and your family from bed bugs the sooner you act the better.