Bed bugs are experts at hiding, and everybody knows their favorite hiding place is your bed. You can make your mattress less appealing by spraying it with pesticides and powders. Or, you could vacuum clean the bed bugs away. We’re going to look at whether memory foam keeps bed bugs away.
Bed bugs can live on or in any mattress, including memory foam. However, they’re more likely to live on the underside of the mattress rather than inside it. They also can’t burrow, so they can’t get inside a mattress unless there’s already an opening.
The fact that your mattress is memory foam doesn’t make any difference. There’s nothing about this material that bed bugs don’t like. All mattresses are the same as far as bed bugs are concerned.
Table of Contents:
- 1 Can Bed Bugs Infest Memory Foam Mattresses?
- 2 How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Memory Foam
Can Bed Bugs Infest Memory Foam Mattresses?
Bed bugs don’t usually live inside the mattress itself. They prefer to live on the surface of the mattress, in any crack or crevice they can find. So, for example, bed bugs will live:
- Underneath any buttons on the outside of your mattress
- As far under the piping around the edge of your mattress as possible. Alternatively, in any fabric creases in the cover of your mattress
- Almost always on the underside of the mattress, where they’re farthest away from light, and anything that can disturb them
What they’re looking for is somewhere safe that’s also close to you when you’re asleep. The sides and underside of your mattress provide the perfect safe zone for them.
However, if there is an open zip or a tear in the mattress, then they may go inside. Once inside, they’ll likely live near the tear or opening itself rather than colonizing the whole inside of the mattress. By staying near the opening, they’ll find it easier to get out and feed.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Memory Foam Mattresses?
As for the memory foam itself, there’s nothing about it that repels bed bugs. There’s no reason why a bed bug wouldn’t want to live next to or on memory foam, where they’d be happier if you had a standard mattress.
The only problem might be if they found it difficult to walk around on a surface. Because of their shape, bed bugs find it difficult to walk through hair. They’re too wide, and they don’t have claws they can use to grip onto things. So, when they try and walk through hair, they struggle.
But they don’t face any similar problems trying to walk on memory foam. For a bed bug, it’s the same as a regular mattress. The only exception is if the mattress itself has been treated by the manufacturer with a pesticide.
Can Bed Bugs Burrow into Memory Foam?
This is another misconception about bed bugs. They don’t burrow in the same way that other insects do. They live on the surface, in any cracks and seams they can find. If they do get inside your mattress, it’s not because they burrowed inside, it’s because there was an existing way in.
Why don’t bed bugs burrow? Because they lack the claws and fangs to do so. To burrow, an animal usually makes use of its claws to push soil (or whatever they’re burrowing into) out of the way. Depending on what they’re burrowing in, they may also need their teeth to make an opening.
Bed bugs lack the body parts to burrow. They don’t have fangs, because they don’t need them. They do have a small scratcher which they use to make a hole in your skin, to feed, but they only use this through reflex when they’re on the skin.
They also don’t have the legs, feet or claws to burrow. They have short bug legs sticking out from the side of their body. They can’t move them in front of themselves like we can with our arms. Their legs are also thin and weak, so they couldn’t burrow even if they wanted to.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Memory Foam Toppers?
Bed bugs can live in memory foam toppers, but are more likely to prefer living under a memory foam mattress. The reason why is that the topper is on top of the mattress. This makes it more dangerous for them to live there, as opposed to the underside of the mattress.
A bed bug wants to live as close to your host as possible, because that means you’ll be able to feed more easily. However, you also need somewhere that’s comfortable where you’re unlikely to be attacked or squashed. This rules out hiding underneath a memory foam topper.
Even though memory foam is good at holding its shape, you still apply force to it. You could easily crush a bed bug that’s recently fed just by lying on the topper with them underneath.
That’s why the infestation is more likely to live under the mattress than under the topper. Under the mattress, your weight is spread evenly, especially with memory foam.
Bed Bug Detection on Memory Foam Mattresses
Spotting bed bugs on a mattress is easy. It’s bed bugs elsewhere, like in electrical outlets or behind drawers in a cabinet, which are tough to find. If you want to find bed bugs on a memory foam mattress, look for the following signs:
- Bed bugs. They are the size of an apple seed, and are a similar dark brown color. They scuttle around reasonably quickly and live in spread-out clusters called harborages.
- Bed bug feces. This is left behind after the bed bugs digest their blood meals. A bed bugs poop dark brown or black, and soaks into the fabric. As such, it looks like tiny ink stains.
- Old bed bug shells. Bed bugs go through several life stages called instars, and as they progress from one instar to the next, they shed their shell. That’s how they grow bigger and bigger, from a nymph to an adult. These shells are dry, so they don’t rot.
- Small dots of blood. These are left behind as the bed bug travels back to their harborage. They drip from the bed bug’s mouth, or your bite mark before it heals shut.
- Bite marks. Bed bug bites are like mosquito bites. They’re small red lumps, raised from the skin. They itch terribly. They also typically appear in clusters or rows, which is the result of multiple bed bugs feeding on one exposed patch of skin.
If you don’t see these signs, then it’s unlikely that you have bed bugs. Some people don’t have an allergic reaction to bed bugs, meaning that they don’t get bite marks. But if you can’t see any of the other physical signs of bed bugs, like shells and feces, then you probably don’t have them.
You also have to make sure that you’re searching in the right places. Bed bugs prefer living under mattresses, but that’s not the only place you’ll find them.
They also live underneath and inside furniture, in cracks in the wall or floor, and even in outlets. It’s only once you’ve checked each of these places that you can rule them out for sure.
If you can’t be sure, hire a bed bug sniffer dog. According to one paper in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, they were correct in identifying bed bugs 100% of the time. So, they could spot bugs where you can’t.
How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Memory Foam
Treating memory foam for bed bugs is tricky. You can’t spray the inside of the mattress, of course, so if there are any bed bugs inside than they’re going to be difficult to kill.
You could try using a mattress encasement. These are big zip-up bags that fit around the outside of your mattress. They’re made of impermeable plastic or fabric, so that no bed bugs can either get in or get out at any time.
The point of a mattress encasement isn’t to kill the bed bugs straight away. Instead, it stops them from being able to feed.
Aside from providing you with much-needed relief and a better night’s sleep, this means that the bed bugs will eventually starve. At room temperature, that’s likely to take two or three months.
Seal Up Your Mattress
If you can’t quite afford a mattress encasement, there are still steps you can take to prevent the infestation from getting worse. The most obvious is to seal up whatever opening they’re getting in and coming out of.
If you can tell that bed bugs have gotten inside your mattress, then there has to be a way for them to get in somewhere. This could be a zip that’s not done up correctly, for example, or a tear in the fabric of an old mattress.
Whatever the opening is, you should close it. If it’s a zip, zip it up. If it’s a tear, take a few minutes to sew it shut. This shouldn’t take long, and you can do it for free.
You’ll be sealing some of the bed bugs inside, meaning that they can’t bite you. You’ll also be making it so that the infestation has to stay on the outside of the mattress where it’s easier to kill.
Spray Around Your Mattress
While you won’t be able to spray the inside of your mattress, you can use a spray to significant effect. Spray around the edges of your mattress, paying special attention to any harborages you find. Harborages are where bed bugs set up an infestation, a safe place for them to digest and hide.
Of course, this will kill any bed bugs you spray directly. It will also repel surviving bugs, and, if you use a proper pesticidal spray, kill any that walk through that area in the weeks afterward. The more you kill, the fewer bites you’ll get.
While this won’t kill the bed bugs inside your mattress, it will have an important effect. Since these sprays are repellent, they’ll stop any bed bugs inside your mattress from coming out to feed at night. And if any do, they’ll pick up some residual pesticide and will most likely die.
Hire an Exterminator for Heat Treatment
You could also try hiring an exterminator. Bed bug exterminators usually use one of two methods. There’s pesticide, which is usually effective. Then there’s heat treatment, where the temperature of your house/apartment is raised to 140 degrees or higher.
Heat treatment is the best because it penetrates through mattresses, furniture, and anything else in your home that might contain bed bugs.
This means that if there are actually any bed bugs inside your mattress, then the heat will be able to kill them. The same can’t be said for pesticides.
The only problem is that heat treatment requires specialist equipment. It also requires at least four to six hours. While the air temperature rises quickly, the core temperature of mattresses and furniture rises slowly. These two points mean that heat treatment is often more expensive than pesticides.
Don’t Buy a New Mattress
If you found out that your memory mattress is infested with bed bugs, no doubt you’d be tempted to buy a new one. But trying to take a shortcut is one of the worst things you could do. Here’s why:
- If you want a new mattress, you have to get rid of your old one. How are you going to do that? If you leave your mattress in your garage or outside your house for any amount of time, the bed bugs inside will try to get back into your home.
- When getting rid of your mattress, you’ll have to drag it through the house. When you do, the bed bugs inside will scatter and to escape. You’ll spread the infestation through your home.
- Bed bugs don’t just live in mattresses. So, if you get rid of your mattress and replace it with a new one, the new mattress will likely become infested soon after you bring it home.
- Aside from the question of bed bugs, mattresses are expensive. It’s cheaper to try and treat your infestation instead.
If you were to buy a new mattress because of bed bugs, you wouldn’t be the first. You also wouldn’t be the first to learn the hard way that it’s ineffective.
Use a spray or pesticidal powder to kill the bed bugs that are there. Then, use a vacuum cleaner to suck up any dead bugs, and suck up any living ones that you find.