Just the thought of finding bed bugs in bedding is enough to stop you from sleeping at night. But unless you take active bed bug treatment measures, the problem will only get worse over time.
Bed bugs can live in your blankets, sheets, and comforters. They can also get underneath your blanket in order to feed on you, but they can’t bite through blankets. But bed bugs prefer your sturdy mattress or bed frame because solid structures offer them additional safety.
The signs of a bed bug infestation are easy to spot, so need to take action straight away. You should search for them without delay so that you can begin treatment immediately. Killing bed bugs in blankets can be achieved by laundering it or hiring an exterminator.
Table of Contents:
Can Bed Bugs Get in My Blanket?
Bed bugs frequently and easily get inside blankets. They adapted thousands of years ago to live in people’s bedding. This includes the bed frame, mattress, blankets, and sheets.
This depends on the kind of blanket you have. If you have a comforter with a cover, then they could get inside through the part at the bottom where the buttons are fastened.
However, if you have a basic blanket that’s one layer of fabric, they can’t get ‘inside’ it. They may get underneath it when they’re trying to reach you to feed.
Do Bed Bugs Like Blankets?
Bed bugs are unlike most other kinds of parasite. Other parasites live on the host, like fleas. They are small enough that they can hide from the larger host animal. Bed bugs don’t do this.
Bed bugs also can’t move from host to host like a mosquito can by flying. Instead, bed bugs choose one place to live. This place has to be close to where a person sleeps so that they can feed. A blanket or comforter is as close as they can get.
Also, blankets offer some protection for them. Bed bugs don’t like light, and the underside of a comforter rarely sees bright light. It also has many folds and crevices, e.g. an outer and inner part, which allows them to hide from you easily.
Bed bugs also like things that smell like you. According to Scientific Reports, they’re attracted to dirty laundry. That’s because it smells like your sweat and pheromones. In the same way, they’re attracted to your blanket because it smells like you.
Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Blankets?
While bed bugs can get inside blankets, they don’t bite through them. Bed bugs have a specific mouth setup that prevents this from occurring.
They have a long straw that’s used to suck up blood, like other pests. But as important is another of their mouthparts. They have a shorter, claw-like protrusion above this straw. It scratches through the skin, making a hole for the flimsy straw to get through.
Without this scratcher, they couldn’t feed. This means they can’t poke their feeding straw through the fabric to reach the skin underneath. Even if they did, they couldn’t get through your skin to feed.
Can Bed Bugs Get Under Blankets?
What may be confusing is that bed bugs can’t bite through blankets, but can get under them.
Bed bugs typically live under your mattress, and climb out to reach you. Bed bugs can’t live on you permanently, e.g. in your hair. This is the only way they can feed.
In doing so, they can get under your blanket to feed. They will first climb out from under your mattress. They will then determine which way is the best to reach an open patch of skin.
To do this, they won’t usually go underneath your blanket. Rather, they will bite somewhere like:
- Your shoulders, neck, and face
- Your feet and legs
- Your hands and arms
These areas are usually outside of the blanket, which makes them easier to reach. They will sense a patch of open skin by sniffing the air and detecting your pheromones/sweat.
However, if there are no open patches, they will have no choice but to venture under your blanket. This is easy for them as they’re small enough that they can easily find a gap. Once underneath, they will find a patch of skin.
This is a little more difficult for bed bugs because there’s a chance they could get squashed. But if they’re left with no alternative, then yes, they can get underneath your blanket.
Do Bed Bugs Live in Blankets?
It’s one thing for a bed bug to get underneath a blanket. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they can live there permanently.
Most bed bugs live underneath your mattress or bed frame. This area is secure, dark, and rarely disturbed. And because it’s close to you as well, it’s the perfect living space. Blankets are moved around more so aren’t as safe for them.
It is possible for bed bugs to live in blankets. However, they will only choose to live there if other safe places are taken.
Bed bugs pick their living spaces in a unique way. They will first seek out a secure place close to where you sleep. This means the bed frame, mattress, or failing that the furniture next to your bed.
When a female of this group wants to lay more eggs, she has to find somewhere new. If she didn’t, males would keep mating with her, which could hurt her and stop her laying eggs. She will pick somewhere close by.
This will continue until the mattress/bed frame is ‘full.’ There’s nowhere new the bugs can live. They will then pick other places around the room. This is likely the point that they would choose to live in your bedding.
However, even if they did choose to live there, it wouldn’t be permanent. If you have a full duvet with a duvet cover, then you periodically change it. When you do, you would disturb and perhaps kill some of the bugs there.
Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs in Blankets?
It’s unlikely that bed bugs would lay eggs in a blanket. They prefer to lay their eggs in places that are rarely disturbed. Doing so means that their eggs are safer. Prime spots include:
- The piping at the edge of your mattress
- The bed frame
- The area behind drawers, and underneath furniture near your bed
What makes these places desirable is that they’re safe, and they don’t move. They’re solid and rarely disturbed.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Duvets When They’re Stored?
Another way that bed bugs can infest your bedding is when it’s stored away. If you’re like most people, you have lots of spare bedding. You have spare sheets, of course. You may also have separate winter and summer blankets/duvets.
If that’s the case, then bed bugs can live in your bedding when it’s stored away. When it’s folded up, it offers the ideal hiding place. Something like a winter or summer blanket won’t be moved often.
The blankets or sheets are then taken out of storage and used. At this point, many of the bed bugs may scatter. But many of them may stay inside the sheet or on the blanket. They can then infest, or join an infestation in, your existing bedding.
Do Bed Bugs Live in Sheets?
Bed bugs can live in sheets, but not as a first choice. Sheets aren’t safe enough for them. There’s no solid structure that they can hide underneath. There’s also nowhere sturdy to lay their eggs.
As for bedsheets, they do live underneath them if they want to live under your mattress. If anything, this is an added layer of safety that they can hide under.
The issue with sheets is that you change them regularly. This means they are frequently disturbed and laundered. This means they aren’t an optimal hiding place.
Signs of Bed Bugs in Bedding
If you believe there may be bed bugs in bedding, search for the bugs themselves first. Bed bugs are visible to the naked eye. They’re around the size of an apple seed, and are the same brown color.
If there are going to be any signs of bed bugs in your bedding, the bugs themselves are the likeliest.
But bed bugs are good at hiding. You’ll only rarely see them out in the open. Even so, you can still see the signs of them.
1) Bed Bug Bite Marks
These marks aren’t exclusive to bed bugs that live in bedding. You can get a bite mark from a bed bug that lives anywhere in your room. However, this sign is included because it’s the first that most people notice.
Not all people experience these bite marks. Because of genetic differences between people, some people get a large mark, some people get a small mark, and some people get no mark.
You shouldn’t assume that an absence of bites definitely means an absence of bed bugs. And of course, bites don’t necessarily mean that the bugs are living in your bedding.
2) Blood Stains After Bed Bug Bite
When the bed bug bites, it only creates a tiny hole. However, there is still the possibility of some blood coming through before the bed bug begins to feed.
There may also be a small amount of blood after the bed bug feeds. Again, though, since the wound is so small, it will heal quickly. Even a tiny drop of unexpected blood will be obvious on your blankets if they’re white.
The more likely reason that a bed bug would leave a blood stain is if they’re squashed. When they feed, bed bugs are at their most vulnerable. They can easily be squashed if you move in the night.
If the bed bugs are living in your blanket, it’s easy to imagine how you could squash them by moving around. The next morning there would be a large and obvious stain (as bed bugs drink a lot of blood).
When you notice a stain, check everywhere for the remains of the bed bug. They may have been wiped away. But if the bug was living in your blanket, their remains will still be there.
3) Musty Bed Bug Odor
Many insects give off an odor which is a characteristic sign, like cockroaches. Bed bugs are the same. It’s thought they emit odor from their scent glands, perhaps to attract other bed bugs.
Bed bugs use odor as a means of communication. They give off a unique scent as a marker, so that other bed bugs can find their hiding place, and they can congregate. They also emit a different odor when they’re disturbed. Either way, there are different smells you may notice. Bed bug odors include:
- One that’s similar to cilantro
- One that’s similar to berries, and is quite sweet
- One that’s similar to mold, e.g. moldy clothes or moldy shoes
If you notice these scents without an obvious source, they may be coming from bed bugs. All you have to do is give your blanket a once-over to see if there are any bed bug scents you can recognize.
4) Bed Bug Feces
Bed bugs feed on blood. Like any other animal that feeds, it has to get rid of the waste that it doesn’t want or need. It does so by producing feces.
Because they feed on blood, their feces is dark red/black and sticky. When first produced, it is a liquid droplet. Over time, it dries out and becomes harder and darker. It collects nearby where most of the bed bugs live and digest.
Bed bug feces is a sure sign that the bed bugs in your infestation are feeding.
There won’t be much bed bug feces in or on your blanket. Bed bugs head back to their safe place to digest, because they’re highly vulnerable to being squashed at this time.
5) Bed Bug Eggs
Bed bugs feed for many reasons. They need food to stay alive, of course. But they also need food for the energy required to mate and reproduce. Bed bugs reproduce by laying eggs, which are the size of a pinhead, and white.
They lay these eggs in safe places. They are unlikely to leave any in or on your blanket. However, it’s still worth keeping an eye out for them when you search for other signs.
Once they hatch, the bed bug egg won’t immediately disappear. The empty shell will still be there. It will eventually harden if it isn’t wiped or knocked away beforehand.
6) Bed Bug Nymphs
Nymphs are tiny bed bugs. They aren’t fast, so you may spot them even when the adults have hidden.
When a bed bug hatches, it’s still small. It has to grow bigger by feeding. It will come to feed with the adults at night.
They are lighter in color than adults, similar to bed bug eggs. The more they feed, the darker they become, as a result of the redness of your blood.
7) Old Bed Bug Shells (Bed Bug Casings)
When bed bugs grow up, they have to shed their shells. They don’t rot, so they’re a long-term sign of infestation.
Bed bug shells are rigid and solid. But when they first hatch, bed bugs are much smaller than adults. They need to go through five stages to reach the fully mature adult stage. They have to shed them.
They do this after they feed, which is when they use the nutrients of their meal to grow bigger. They leave their shell where they break out of it, which is near their harborage.
Bed bugs don’t go away on their own. If possible, find and bag one of the bed bugs. You can show it to a pest control expert for a definitive diagnosis.
Can Bed Bugs Transfer from Blankets?
Bed bugs rely on their hosts to move them around, like many other pests. They are small, weak, and vulnerable. They lack any means of escape like wings, and any means of attack, like jaws.
This means they can’t travel far on their own without becoming vulnerable. So, to travel, they hide in a person’s things. This is why bed bugs are found in hotels. People accidentally brought them there from home.
In the same way, you can transfer bed bugs around your home inside blankets. They will hide inside, sitting still, where you can’t see them. If you move the blanket, you’ll move the bed bug too.
This applies to blankets that are stored away as well as those that are in use. Bed bugs frequently hide in stored clothes, towels, and blankets. It’s dark, fabric, and infrequently disturbed. These are all things they like.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Blankets?
You can get bed bugs from other people’s blankets. There are a few ways this can happen:
- If you borrow somebody’s blanket and take it home with you
- If somebody uses your blanket and gives it back to you, infested with bed bugs
- If you put your belongings on somebody else’s blankets
- If you buy a preowned blanket from Goodwill or charity store
However, this doesn’t only apply to blankets. It applies to anything that bed bugs can hide in. Bed bugs will hide in suitcases, clothing, rucksacks, cardboard boxes and more. This isn’t a blanket-specific problem.
Bed Bug Treatment for Blankets
The easiest treatment for bed bugs in blankets is to launder them. There are several conditions that need to be met before you commit to this course of treatment:
- The blanket must fit in the washing machine.
- The blanket must be launderable, and at a temperature and setting your washing machine can operate at.
- You must safely bag the blanket before taking it to be laundered.
The process involves taking the blanket in a secure bag, before laundering it preferably at a high heat and with detergent.
Killing Bed Bugs in Fleece Blanket
Fleece blankets are the easiest to launder. As they’re made of polyester, they can typically be washed at regular temperatures. This is good, because heat is part of the reason why laundering is a good way to kill bed bugs.
To launder a fleece blanket, begin by bagging it or sealing it in a plastic tub. This step is vital. If there are bed bugs in the blanket, by picking it up and carrying it around, you could spread them. So, bag your blanket first.
Then, take the blanket straight to the washing machine. Put it directly inside. Take the bag you used and throw it away in an outside trashcan. This will prevent any bugs inside from re-infesting your home.
Launder the blanket at the same heat, and for the same length of time, as usual. Use detergent, because detergent is toxic to bed bugs.
Once laundering is complete, take the bedding out of the machine. There’s no chance that there are any left inside alive. Inspect your bedding, cleaning it by removing any dead bed bugs as you go.
Afterwards, store your bedding in a sealed box or bag. This will prevent bed bugs from infesting it again. If you have to use it again, do. But be prepared to start the process again.
You can only get rid of bed bugs for good by killing them all. Not only the ones in your bedding.
Killing Bed Bugs in Wool Blankets
Wool is a more sensitive material than fleece. It’s well-known that it can shrink in the wash, especially if washed at high heat. As such, check your blanket for washing instructions. If there aren’t any:
- Wash at a low heat, or even a cold water cycle.
- Use a gentle detergent.
- Wash infrequently compared to other kinds of fabric.
- Soak the blanket in cold water before putting it in the washing machine.
Aside from that, follow the same steps as above for fleece. Ideally, take the blanket straight from your bed and put it into a plastic tub. Fill the tub with cool water to prep the blanket for the laundry. Then, launder as recommended above.
There shouldn’t be a downside to laundering at a cool temperature. That’s because the water is enough to kill bed bugs on its own.
Bed Bugs and Electric Blankets/Heated Blanket
Electric blankets pose a problem. You can’t necessarily launder them like other blankets. Check the instructions that came with yours to see if you can. If you can, you’ll have to disconnect any electrical components first.
If you can’t wash it, then there aren’t many good options. You could try spraying it with bed bug spray, but this can take weeks to work.
If the worst comes to the worst, you may have to throw it away. This is a common experience for people who have regular bed bug infestations. They have to throw away lots of belongings, including big things like electronics and furniture.
Unfortunately, that’s what living with bed bugs is like. It becomes so irritating that you have to throw away all your things, move house, and start again.
Hiring a Professional Bed Bug Exterminator
The best thing you can do is to hire a professional exterminator. People make their living killing pests, and with good reason. Most people think they can take a DIY approach, but it’s much harder than it seems.
The reason why it’s more difficult than you’d expect is that bed bugs have evolved to hide. They can become even flatter and smaller to hide in cracks where you can’t access them.
You can kill them in your bedding by laundering it. But it’s not so easy to kill bed bugs in the wall, or furniture. That’s why you need an exterminator.
The exterminator can take one of two approaches. They may use pesticide. This is what almost all pest controllers have done for decades. It kills the bed bugs, but can take weeks to kill them all.
The other method is to use ‘heat treatment.’ This is where the pest controller heats your room or home to more than 140 degrees. This can kill all bed bugs and eggs instantly.