Isolating Your Bed

After I inspected, and steamed, and isolated my bed doing ALL the protocols below, I never got bit in bed again.

Isolating your bed means turning your bed from a nightmare into a safe island where you can sleep and bed bugs can’t easily get to you.

I’m not a pest control person, just a person who had a large infestation of bed bugs, and won the bed bug war without moving. I didn’t know bed bugs were a real thing, or anything about them prior to my infestation, thus the slow learning curve. I’m sharing what I learned to spare you the time, expense and stress they caused me because I started out at “what, those are real?!”

I am a BIG advocate for isolating your bed as soon as you think you have bed bugs.

exhausted sleeping woman
photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz, unsplash

You need a clear head and plenty of energy to fight bed bugs no matter what kind of treatment you choose, so sleep is high on the list, for me at least.

One of the biggest problems with having bed bugs is you can’t sleep and you never see them. If you have been getting bites repeatedly while asleep over a period of days or weeks, you need to find out what’s biting you. It could be bed bugs.

Taking these steps as soon as you suspect an infestation could stop it in it’s tracks! Whether and when to isolate your bed is a big decision and somewhat controversial. Here are the reasons you may or may not want to isolate your bed. When we describe isolating your bed that typically means you have:

What does isolating your bed mean?

bed bug traps

Isolating your bed means the entire bed is at least 6 inches from the wall, mattress encasements on your mattress and box spring, with bed bug traps under your bed legs.

Freshly cleaned bedding, blankets, pillows, comforters, quilts or sheets touching the wall or the floor, your bed can go from being the worst place in your home to a blissful sanctuary where you can finally sleep.

Do not put books, purses, clothes, paper, or ANYTHING but you in fresh clean pajamas on or in your bed. Not even socks if they touch the floor, carpet or shoes. If you walk around in your socks in your house, they should not go on your bed.

NOTE: If you deny bed bugs their meals by sleeping in an isolated bed, they will go wherever you are, including the sofa, sitting in a chair, where ever you land they are going to follow you, day or night, lights on or off.

How to start isolating your bed

  1. Inspect your bed slowly and carefully, especially your headboard, bed frame and under your box-spring if you have one. If you can get ahold of a steamer and steam around your entire bed, under it, both sides of the mattress, box-springs, headboard and bed frame, and around the baseboards behind and next to your bed. Doing this gives you a reasonable chance at having killed any bugs or eggs on or around the bed. Now encase those mattresses!
  2. Use bed bug tested mattress encasements on your box spring and mattress if you have to. Applying bed bug proof mattress encasements and box spring covers means any bed bugs that made it inside of your mattress or box-spring are now trapped forever and can’t bite you. IMPORTANT: Pest professionals advise if you can only afford one encasement, cover the box spring. Underneath and inside the box spring provide bed bugs with a private and generally undisturbed place to reproduce like crazy.
    This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t also nest on your mattress piping and seams, or under a label, or in your bed frame itself, they would. Pillows can go in the dryer for two cycles if the dryer gets hot enough and it won’t damage the pillows.
    DO NOT PUT PESTICIDES, CHEMICALS, ALCOHOL, POWDERS OR DIATOMACEOUS EARTH ON YOUR BED, FRAME PILLOWS OR MATTRESS.
  3. Put tested and proven bed bug traps under your bed legs to prevent bed bugs from climbing from the floor to the mattress and you. Follow all directions for use to make sure your effort is not wasted. ORDER THE WHITE TRAPS! The black plastic make it hard to see bed bugs, this is temporary for now.
  4. Wash and dry on extended high heat all bedding and pillows. If you can’t wash your comforter put it in the dryer for two cycles. WARNING: HIGH HEAT OR DRYER HEAT CAN DAMAGE COMFORTERS, PILLOWS AND OTHER ARTICLES. You may lose some possessions to heat damage. It becomes a choice between risking a little damage or bed bugs.
    For delicate items that can’t be put in the dryer because it’s too hot a bed bug oven is a fantastic solution! These are also very good for heating your carseats, toys, pillows, sofa and chair cushions and blankets to 120 for 2-6 hours and killing all bugs and eggs.
  5. Move your bed away from the wall at least 6 inches and ensured no freshly cleaned bedding, blankets, covers or sheets are touching the wall or the floor. Nothing is touching or risks touching the walls or floor. Your bed is about to become an island sanctuary.
  6. Take a shower or bath before getting into bed (every time) to ensure there are no bed bugs in your hair, or ears.
  7. Do not use your bed for anything other than sleeping now. Do not put books, purses, clothes, paper, ANYTHING but you in your birthday suit or fresh clean pajamas on or in your bed. Not even socks because they touch the floor.

REMEMBER: They will go to the bed to eat, but they will not be able to get to you. Plus you have trapped them so that is that many fewer bed bugs. Talk about this with your trusted pest control operator.

Beautiful restful sleep! (Check those traps)

Get in bed knowing you can rest and sleep and that you have done all you can possibly do to start the end of your sleepless nights. Now you are in charge of the battle. Yes, they will come for you but they will not be able to reach you.

YOUR BED IS NOW THE SAFEST PLACE IN YOUR HOME!

Continue these protocols until you have been bed bug free for at least 90 days. That’s no bites for 90 days. This also assumes you have or will either treat or store your possessions before putting them back in your living space. What could be more disappointing that re-infesting your own home. It can happen by reintroducing your possessions that haven’t been treated within 18 months of your infestation. But let’s take steps to prevent that from happening.

Benefits of Bed Bug Traps and Isolating your Bed

You can sleep! This is a big one and hard to resist if you’ve had bed bugs for some time and are suffering from sleep deprivation. As far as I’m concerned if I’m trapping bed bugs in the bed bug traps under my bed frame, then that is that many fewer bed bugs because they are gonna die. They didn’t get to feed or bite me. Isolating your bed without the proper traps will not stop bed bugs. Your bed is not truly isolated and they can climb up and bite you, hide in your bed and you are now back to stage zero.

Drawbacks of isolating your bed

Traditional pesticide treatment relies to a large degree on bed bugs biting and feeding on you while you are sleeping. If you’ve read or been told that YOU need to be the bait, that’s why. After feeding bed bugs can be four times heavier and they will drag their bellies on the ground when just fed. Since bed bugs don’t groom and won’t ingest pesticides they need to drag their full blood-bloated body through and on the pesticides. This is how they get the residual pesticides on them.

Should you throw away your mattress?

Typically no.  

bed bug proof mattress encasement

Steaming followed by mattress encasements are a better solution than throwing away your mattress. If you get a new mattress you would have to put encasements on it to prevent it from getting infested. Encase your existing mattress and maybe reward yourself with a new mattress when you no longer have bed bugs.

If you have confirmed bed bugs in your home, the next question might be what to do about the mattress. It’s pretty normal to not want to sleep in your bed after discovering you have bed bugs, but you must or you will expand your infestation to the sofa, car or chair or wherever you decide to start sleeping.

Get the mattress encasements that are university tested, not just lab tested. I call my kitchen a laboratory on some days. You want a legit university tested encasement because that zipper is specially designed to prevent bed bugs from getting out, or in. It’s better to treat the mattress with steam and then encase the mattress and box-spring. If you can only afford one encasement, it is suggested you cover the box-spring as mattresses are more easily inspected. The box-spring is also easier for bed bugs to hide in but ideally encase both. It’s best if you encase both. You can always celebrate the end of your infestation with a new mattress or continue to sleep on your encased mattresses.

Will the bed bugs still try to bite me?

The bugs will still be hungry and WILL seek you out in other locations around your home. This has the potential to expand the geography of your infestation. In an early infestation, most of the bed bugs will be living on or near the bed, however, there is never any guarantee they are all near the bed. They’re not that smart, they can get lost.

The possibility also exists that a random bug could crawl up a wall and fall onto your bed from a wall or ceiling. This is very unlikely in a small or new infestation. Bed bugs will instinctively stay close to their food source unless the population starts exploding. But it’s not completely out of the question. They’re not devious strategists, they’re just bugs, but they can get lost or wander around.

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