Some companies selling foam mattresses suggest their products protect against bedbug infestation. That's a half-truth at best. The bugs can't hide within the mattress itself if it's solid foam, and an infestation is easier to detect and eliminate. But simply using a foam mattress doesn't mean you'll never have a bedbug problem. Foam mattresses are "bedbug resistant," not "bedbug proof."
Bedbugs are flat, reddish insects about the size of an apple seed when fully grown. They don't jump, fly or carry disease, and they can only feed on human or animal blood. Bedbugs aren't a symptom of poor housekeeping; by hitching rides on clothing or in luggage, bedbugs can infest the cleanest and fanciest of places, and they can survive as long as a year without feeding under the right conditions.
Foam Mattresses Aren't Complete Protection
Bedbugs have no way to live in foam mattresses unless the mattress is damaged, but they can live on them and near them and cause you equal misery, hiding in bedding, box springs, headboards and other handy crevasses. Using a foam mattress in combination with bedbug-proof encasements on both the mattress and box spring helps prevent infestation as part of an overall prevention strategy. If you're purchasing a foam mattress to help discourage bedbugs, make sure it lacks any nooks, crannies or defects where they could shelter.
Signs of Bedbug Infestation
Bedbugs leave behind small dark spots when they excrete digested blood, and shed tiny exoskeletons as they mature. They typically live within 10 to 15 feet of places where people sleep. If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and place it in a double plastic bag, then take your bed apart and thoroughly inspect it and the surrounding area. Use a high-powered flashlight to check for bugs and debris, and look closely along any seams, piping, stapled areas or corner guards of your mattress or box spring.
Reclaiming a Foam Mattress
If you're using a foam mattress and have a bedbug problem, it's not necessary to throw it out and replace it. Don't apply pesticides -- anything that can kill bugs isn't good for humans to sleep on -- and don't get the mattress wet. Vacuum the mattress, box spring and surrounding areas thoroughly, wash all hard surfaces with hot, soapy water and disinfectant, and wash and dry all bedding on the hottest available setting.
Bedbug-proof encasements are an effective method of keeping bugs at bay. If there are bedbugs hiding in some corner of the box spring after cleaning, they'll be trapped in the encasement and unable to bite you, and eventually die. Purchase encasements specifically designed to protect against bedbugs; other types may be too porous.
Using Bedbug Interceptors
Bedbug interceptors may be purchased, but you can make your own using sturdy metal or plastic jar lids, dishes or other containers big enough for the legs of your bed to rest loosely in. Smear a thin layer of cooking oil within the interceptor. Slippery bugs can't climb; as long as you keep covers off the floor and your bed away from the wall, your bed will stay bug-free.
Avoid rescuing used furniture from the curb if it has stuffing or upholstery in which bedbugs can lurk, and thoroughly inspect any secondhand purchases. When traveling, check the bed and linens in your room for any signs of bedbugs. When returning home from a journey, unpack your bags directly into the washing machine. If you work in a place that might harbor bedbugs -- any group housing situation carries this risk -- do the same with your work clothes when you come home.
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