All about mattress bed bug covers

Bed Bug Proof Mattress Covers

Bed bug proof mattress encasements (also called covers or encasings) keep bed bugs from getting in or out of your mattress. There are many different types available, which makes it difficult to know which are best. Are you confused about all the different kinds of bed bug covers out there?  Do you want to know how to fully protect yourself from those pesky bed bugs and their itchy bites?  Here we discuss all about bed bugs and preventing them with a mattress encasement (also for box springs, comforters, and pillows):




What are bed bugs, and how do you get them?

Bed Bug
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture. © CC BY 2.0

The common bed bug is an insect that feeds on human blood (really!). Bed bugs start off translucent and light in color and become brown as they grow. Adult bed bugs are visible to the naked eye, can grow up to 1/4" long, and are flat and oval shaped. It is believed that adult bed bugs may be able to live for up to five months without food. They like to live in warm places, such as in beds or near sleeping areas, and you might even have them without knowing it. The most obvious symptom of a bed bug infestation is itchy red spots on your skin, although some people experience a more severe allergic reaction to the bites than others. You may also notice their molted exoskeletons in the crevices around your mattress, or you could find small blood spots on your sheets. It is easier than you might think to bring bed bugs home. The most likely source is a hotel room that has a bed bug infestation. They can get in or on your luggage or clothes, and you might bring them home with you without even realizing it. Friends or family who come over for a visit might have bed bugs on their clothes or in their luggage. In short, anybody can get bed bugs!




Help! I just found out I have bed bugs. What should I do?

Bed bugs can be very difficult to eradicate once they are in your home. There are different ways to treat a bed bug infestation, but the first thing you should do is contact a local pest control company so they can begin professional treatment immediately. They might have a bed bug treatment package that includes bed bug proof covers for your bedding, so check with them first. If not, the next step would be either replace all your existing beds with new ones (costly) or encase your bedding with bed bug proof covers (fast and inexpensive compared to replacing mattresses).




I don’t have bed bugs. Why should I get a bed bug proof mattress cover?

Mattresses can be expensive. Encasing your new mattress inside a bed bug cover is a great way to protect that investment, ensuring bed bugs can never get inside that mattress.




Bed Bug Mattress Cover Buying Guide:

Which bed bug mattress cover is best?

Bed Bug Proof Mattress EncasingBed bugs need food to live, and their food comes from you (just like mosquitoes, bed bugs are blood-sucking parasites). They like to live in a warm, safe place like your mattress, and every few days they will go out and eat (you), then return to the safety of the mattress (or box spring, comforter, luggage, couches, or other nearby bedroom furniture). By fully encasing your bedding product in a zippered and impenetrable cover, any bed bugs that have taken up shelter inside will lose access to their food supply and will eventually die. After about a year with the cover zipped closed around the mattress, any bed bugs inside the mattress should be dead (they cannot live for more than a few months without food, so trapping them inside will interrupt their life-cycle, prevent them from eating and reproducing, and eventually kill them).

The most effective type of bed bug proof cover is called an encasing or encasement because it fully surrounds your bedding product (mattress, box spring, pillow, or comforter) and is zippered closed to create an impenetrable barrier on all sides. In addition, a urethane membrane lines the inside of the fabric. Bed bugs cannot get through this type of cover and cannot even bite through the material.

When shopping for a bed bug proof cover, these are the two most important features you should be looking for:

  1. A zippered cover that fully encases the mattress (all six sides of the mattress need to be covered, and it should close completely with a zipper). Just stretching a pad over the mattress top and sides without any protective material on the bottom, or without a zipper closure, will not work; the bed bugs will still be able to get in or out.
  2. A urethane membrane lining on the inside of the fabric, which keeps bed bugs (and water droplets) out, but still allows moisture vapor to pass through for breathability and comfort. Be careful here: If you’re looking at a cover that claims to be 100% Cotton AND ALSO bed bug proof, but does not have a urethane membrane lining the inside of the cotton fabric, it will NOT be 100% bed bug proof, despite that manufacturer's claims. This applies to Organic Cotton also. Mattress covers made of 100% cotton (and no other materials) are NOT going to be 100% lab-tested bed bug proof materials.

Without the two critical features above, you are wasting your time and money, and you will continue to suffer from bed bugs. Beyond this, here are some other things to consider when looking for bed bug proof covers:

  • Comfort level:
    • Yes, you need to protect your mattress from bed bugs, but you also need to sleep comfortably! The most comfortable bed bug mattress covers are made from stretch-knit polyester that is soft, smooth, and most importantly, breathable (avoid vinyl for your mattress, as it will be tough, crinkly, and very hot to sleep on). Bed bug proof mattress covers made of stretch-knit polyester with a urethane membrane liner offer the best combination of lab-tested bed bug proof material plus cool sleeping comfort. Once the cover is installed, use your regular cotton fitted sheet (or pillowcase, or duvet cover) over it, and you’ll barely be able to tell that you have a cover installed at all.
  • Lab-tested:
    • You should be able to request a copy of the lab test results to confirm that an independent laboratory has tested the material and deemed it bed-bug proof.
  • Zipper features:
    • Some bed bug encasings add extra features to the zipper closure for additional security and peace of mind. The exact method, which varies among manufacturers, is not so important, as they all achieve the same goal: to add some piece of extra material or tape over the end of the zipper once you’ve closed it. The truth is, you can do this yourself by just putting a small piece of painter’s masking tape over the zipper after you’ve closed it. It does the same thing!
  • Warranty:
    • Some bed bug encasements come with a longer warranty than others. While a longer warranty does not necessarily equal better quality, it does say something about the product if the manufacturer is willing to stand behind it for a long time. Note however that most warranties for this type of product will only apply if there is a defect in the materials or workmanship (meaning, if a seam should come apart). Tearing the cover on a sharp corner of the bed frame while installing or removing it generally would not be covered under a warranty. If you do accidentally tear your mattress or box spring cover, here’s a quick and easy fix you can do yourself: Just cover the hole with a piece of strong tape, such as duct tape. It will be just as effective and will likely never be seen once your regular bed sheets are in place. 




What size cover will fit my mattress?

Mattresses come in a variety of sizes and depths, so when deciding which size cover to get, you need to know both the size of your mattress and the depth (how “thick” or “high” it is). Here are the most common mattress sizes and measurements:

Twin: 39” W x 75” L
Twin XL (Long Twin): 39” W x 80” L
Full: 54” W x 75” L
Queen: 60” W x 80” L
King: 78” W x 80” L
California King: 72” W x 84” L
Crib Mattress: 27” W x 52” L

You can find your mattress depth by measuring the height of the side of the mattress from bottom seam to top seam with a ruler or tape measure. Low profile mattresses can be as low as 4-6” in depth; many mattresses are 8-10” deep; and newer pillowtop mattresses might be 12”, 15”, or even 18” deep. With a zippered mattress cover, the cover is sewn to match as closely as possible all 6 sides of the mattress, so they will often be sold in various depths to best fit your mattress. Be wary of “one size fits all” mattress covers, as they are likely going to be oversized and will end up being very loose and baggy on a lower profile mattress. While still effective against bed bugs, a loose and baggy cover is not a very clean look, and it can make it more difficult to put on a fitted sheet. Our recommendation is to get a cover that is either the exact size of your mattress, or about 1 to 2 inches deeper. Having an extra inch or two helps make the installation process easier. Never get one that is too small, as it may tear when you try to install it.




How do I install a bed bug zippered mattress cover?

How to Install a Bed Bug Mattress Cover

Begin by removing all bedding, including sheets, mattress pad, blankets, pillows, and comforter. Installation is easiest with two people. These general installation instructions apply to most zippered mattress covers:

  1. Stand mattress or box spring up on its short end.
  2. Gently ease the cover over the end of the mattress or box spring. Do not pull the cover from the end, especially not from the zipper.
  3. Once the cover is completely on, gently pull it tight.
  4. Gently close the zipper completely.
  5. Apply  any zipper fabric or tape closure (optional) to end of zipper (or just place a piece of painter’s masking tape over zipper end).




How often and how should I wash my bed bug proof mattress cover?

To make sure all existing bed bugs are dead, we would recommend leaving your bed bug proof cover on the mattress for a minimum of one year for maximum effectiveness. After that initial period, you can launder the cover only occasionally, as needed if it gets soiled.

To remove and launder the cover:

  • Unzip the cover completely.
  • Gently ease the cover off the mattress or box spring.
  • Before washing, carefully zip the cover completely closed.
  • Follow the washing instructions that came with your particular cover. Most will be machine wash warm, tumble dry low. Cover must be completely dry before placing on bed. Never use bleach or an iron on your cover.




Ok, I’ve covered all my bedding with bed bug proof covers. Why do I still see bed bugs?

Once a bed bug infestation has taken place in your home, eliminating all of them can be a very difficult process and can take some time. Getting professional treatment is critical, in addition to installing bed bug proof encasements. While a lab tested bed bug proof cover will keep any existing bed bugs from getting out of your mattress, bed bugs that are living elsewhere in the home can still get on to the mattress from other places. They will not be able to get through to the inside of the mattress if the cover is installed properly and fully zippered closed, but you could still see bed bugs on the outside of the mattress if your home is still infested. Only once the professional treatment has eliminated the bed bug infestation will you no longer see any more bed bugs in your home or on your mattress. You should keep the bed bug proof cover on the mattress and box spring for at least one full year before removing or opening it, to ensure that any bed bugs inside the mattress have died.


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