How Long Can Bed Bugs Live In An Unused Mattress?

Imagine you just bought a brand new mattress and are excited to get a good night's sleep on it, only to discover a few days later that it is infested with bed bugs. It's a nightmare scenario, but it happens more often than you might think. In this article, we will explore how long bed bugs can survive in an unused mattress and what steps you can take to prevent and eliminate these pesky pests.

Table of Contents

Understanding Bed Bugs and Their Lifespan

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that belong to the family Cimicidae. They are nocturnal pests that are known to infest homes and thrive in areas where people sleep or rest for extended periods. While typically associated with infestations in beds and mattresses, bed bugs can also be found in furniture, upholstery, and even cracks and crevices in walls.

What do bed bugs feed on?

Bed bugs are blood-feeding insects that primarily feed on the blood of humans and animals. They are attracted to the warmth and carbon dioxide emitted by their hosts, making beds an ideal feeding ground. While bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases, their bites can cause discomfort, itching, and allergic reactions in some individuals.

How long do bed bugs live?

The lifespan of bed bugs varies depending on several factors, including temperature, availability of food sources, and the presence of pesticides. On average, an adult bed bug can live for several months to a year. However, in ideal conditions with a steady supply of blood meals, bed bugs can live up to 18 months.

What factors influence the lifespan of bed bugs?

Several factors can affect the lifespan of bed bugs:

  1. Temperature and Humidity: Bed bugs thrive in environments with temperatures ranging from 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C) and humidity levels between 70% and 80%. Extreme temperatures and low humidity can shorten their lifespan.

  2. Availability of Food Sources: The presence of regular blood meals is crucial for the survival and longevity of bed bugs. A lack of accessible hosts can lead to starvation and a shorter lifespan.

  3. Access to Hiding Places: Bed bugs are notorious for their ability to hide in cracks, crevices, and other hard-to-detect areas. The presence of ample hiding places can increase their chances of survival and thus, their lifespan.

  4. Exposure to Pesticides: Bed bugs have developed resistance to many common pesticides. Continuous exposure to ineffective treatments can prolong their lifespan and make eradication more challenging.

Understanding these factors is essential for effectively dealing with bed bug infestations, especially in unused mattresses.

Survival of Bed Bugs in an Unused Mattress

Can bed bugs live in an unused mattress?

Yes, bed bugs can live in an unused mattress. Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not solely attracted to unsanitary conditions or poor hygiene. They are primarily drawn to carbon dioxide and body heat, making mattresses an ideal hiding and breeding spot.

How long can bed bugs survive in an unused mattress?

Bed bugs can survive in an unused mattress for several months to a year, depending on various factors such as temperature, humidity, and the availability of hosts. Even without a human or animal host present, bed bugs can enter a dormant state, known as diapause, and survive for extended periods.

Why do bed bugs choose an unused mattress?

Bed bugs choose an unused mattress as their hiding spot because it provides them with consistent access to potential blood meals. While a mattress may not be used regularly, the presence of human scent and body heat can still attract bed bugs. Additionally, the tight spaces and crevices of a mattress provide ideal hiding places for these pests.

Factors Affecting Bed Bug Survival in an Unused Mattress

Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity levels play a significant role in determining how long bed bugs can survive in an unused mattress. Bed bugs thrive in warm environments with moderate humidity, typically between 70% and 80% humidity. Extreme temperatures above 113°F (45°C) or below freezing can be detrimental to their survival.

Availability of Food Sources

An unused mattress may not have a readily available food source for bed bugs. However, these pests can enter a state of diapause, which allows them to survive for extended periods without feeding. Once a new host comes into contact with the mattress or the mattress is used again, the bed bugs will become active and start feeding.

Access to Hiding Places

Bed bugs seek out hiding places to protect themselves from potential threats and disturbances. Unused mattresses offer numerous hiding spots, such as seams, cracks, and crevices, providing bed bugs with ample protection and increasing their chances of survival.

Exposure to Pesticides

If a mattress has been treated with pesticides, the effectiveness can diminish over time. Bed bugs have developed resistance to many commonly used insecticides, making it challenging to control infestations solely through chemical means. Pesticide resistance can allow bed bugs to survive longer in an unused mattress, even if treated.

Preventing and Managing Bed Bug Infestations in Unused Mattresses

Regular Inspection and Cleaning

Regularly inspecting and cleaning your mattress is crucial in preventing and managing bed bug infestations. Check for any signs of bed bug activity, such as live bugs, shed skins, or dark stains. Vacuum your mattress regularly to remove any potential hiding spots for bed bugs.

Safely Disposing of Infested Mattresses

If you discover an infestation in your unused mattress that cannot be effectively treated, it is essential to safely dispose of it. Encase the infested mattress in a tightly sealed plastic bag before disposing of it to prevent bed bugs from spreading to other areas.

Using Mattress Encasements

Using mattress encasements can help protect your mattress from bed bugs. These encasements create a barrier that prevents bed bugs from entering or exiting the mattress, ultimately reducing the risk of infestation.

Seeking Professional Pest Control Services

Dealing with bed bug infestations in unused mattresses can be challenging, and DIY methods may not always be effective. In such cases, it is advisable to seek professional pest control services. Pest control professionals have the knowledge, experience, and specialized treatments to effectively eliminate bed bugs from mattresses and prevent re-infestations.

Identifying Bed Bug Infestations in an Unused Mattress

Visual Signs of Bed Bug Presence

Inspect the seams, folds, and tufts of your mattress for live bed bugs or their characteristic reddish-brown exoskeletons. Adult bed bugs are approximately the size of an apple seed and may be visible to the naked eye.

Presence of Bed Bug Fecal Stains

Bed bugs leave behind dark fecal stains on mattresses, which appear as small, black smears. These stains are typically found in clusters or lines and are a telltale sign of bed bug infestation.

Finding Bed Bug Eggs or Shells

Bed bugs lay tiny, translucent eggs, which appear as pearly white or light-colored ovals. Look for these eggs or any empty eggshells on the surface of your mattress or in the surrounding areas.

Detecting Bed Bug Bite Symptoms

If you find unexplained bites on your body, particularly in a linear or clustered pattern, it could indicate bed bug bites. Bed bug bites are usually painless but may cause itching, redness, and swelling. Keep in mind that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites, so it may be challenging to identify them solely based on bite symptoms.

How to Properly Dispose of an Infested Mattress

Is it safe to throw away an infested mattress?

It is safe to throw away an infested mattress, but it is crucial to take certain precautions to prevent the bed bugs from spreading to other areas. Simply discarding the mattress without proper containment may lead to further infestations in other parts of your home or even neighboring properties.

What precautions should be taken when disposing of an infested mattress?

To safely dispose of an infested mattress:

  1. Containment: Encase the infested mattress in a tightly sealed plastic bag to prevent any live bed bugs from escaping during transportation.

  2. Labeling: Clearly label the mattress as infested to alert waste management personnel about its contents and potential risk.

  3. Coordinate with Local Regulations: Check with local waste management authorities to understand their guidelines and regulations regarding the disposal of infested mattresses. They may have specific requirements or designated collection points for such items.

  4. Avoid Curbside Disposal: Refrain from leaving an infested mattress at the curbside or common trash areas. This can result in the spread of bed bugs and potential infestations for others.

Alternative disposal methods for infested mattresses

If you are unsure about disposing of an infested mattress yourself, consider contacting a professional waste removal service that specializes in handling infested items. These services can ensure proper containment, transportation, and disposal, minimizing the risk of bed bug spread.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs in an Unused Mattress

Non-chemical Treatment Methods

Non-chemical treatment methods can be effective in eliminating bed bugs from an unused mattress. These methods include:

  1. Heat Treatment: Subjecting the mattress to high temperatures above 113°F (45°C) for an extended period can kill bed bugs and their eggs. This can be achieved using steamers, heaters, or professional heat treatment services.

  2. Cold Treatment: Exposing the mattress to temperatures below freezing for several days can also kill bed bugs. However, this method requires specialized equipment and may not be suitable for all climates.

Chemical Treatment Options

Chemical treatments can be an effective way to eradicate bed bugs from an unused mattress. However, it is essential to follow the instructions and safety precautions provided by the manufacturer. Some chemical treatment options include:

  1. Insecticide Sprays: Apply insecticide sprays specifically labeled for bed bug control to the mattress, focusing on seams, tufts, and other hiding spots. Allow the mattress to dry thoroughly before use.

  2. Dusts: Dusts containing insecticides, such as diatomaceous earth, can be applied to the mattress surface and infested areas. These dusts dehydrate and ultimately kill bed bugs.

Effectiveness of DIY Bed Bug Treatments

While DIY bed bug treatments can be successful for minor infestations, they may not always be sufficient for larger or more severe infestations. Bed bugs have developed resistance to many over-the-counter insecticides, making professional treatments necessary in some cases.

Seeking Professional Bed Bug Extermination

For persistent or widespread bed bug infestations, it is advisable to seek professional bed bug extermination services. Professional exterminators have the knowledge, experience, and specialized equipment to effectively eliminate bed bugs from an unused mattress and other infested areas.

Preventing Bed Bug Infestations in the First Place

Inspecting Used Mattresses Before Purchase

If considering purchasing a used mattress, thoroughly inspect it for any signs of bed bug infestation. Check for live bugs, fecal stains, shed skins, or eggs. Avoid purchasing any mattress that shows signs of bed bug activity.

Avoiding Second-hand Furniture with Bed Bug Potential

When acquiring second-hand furniture, including mattresses, exercise caution to avoid introducing bed bugs into your home. Inspect the furniture thoroughly and consider using preventive measures, such as mattress encasements, to minimize the risk of bed bug infestations.

Taking Precautions While Traveling

Bed bugs can easily hitch a ride on luggage or clothing while traveling. To prevent bringing them home:

  1. Inspect Hotel Rooms: Always inspect hotel rooms carefully for any signs of bed bugs, such as live bugs or black stains on mattresses, before settling in.

  2. Use Luggage Protectors: Encase your luggage in plastic bags or protective covers to prevent bed bugs from infesting your belongings.

  3. Laundry Precautions: Immediately wash and dry all clothing and bedding on high heat after returning from a trip to kill any potential bed bugs.

Regularly Cleaning Bedding and Vacuuming

Maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene practices can help prevent bed bug infestations. Regularly wash and dry bedding, including sheets and mattress protectors, on high heat. Vacuum your mattress, bed frame, and the surrounding areas to remove any potential hiding spots for bed bugs.

Dealing With Bed Bug Bites and Health Risks

Common Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites

Bed bug bites typically appear as small, itchy red bumps on the skin. They often occur in a linear or clustered pattern and may remain itchy for several days. While most people tolerate bed bug bites with mild to moderate symptoms, some individuals may experience stronger allergic reactions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you experience severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites, such as difficulty breathing, significant swelling, or severe itching, seek medical attention immediately. Additionally, if your bites become infected or do not improve within a week, consult a healthcare professional for appropriate treatment.

Treating Bed Bug Bites

To alleviate the symptoms of bed bug bites, consider the following remedies:

  1. Clean the Area: Wash the affected area with mild soap and water to prevent infection.

  2. Topical Antihistamine Creams: Apply over-the-counter calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching and inflammation.

  3. Cold Compresses: Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected area for temporary relief from itchiness and swelling.

Health Risks Associated with Bed Bug Infestations

While bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases, their presence can have adverse effects on mental health and well-being. Bed bug infestations can cause anxiety, sleep disturbances, and emotional distress. Additionally, excessive scratching of bed bug bites can lead to skin infections.

Is the Consumer Reports Best Mattress for Back Pain Effective at Preventing Bed Bugs?

When it comes to preventing bed bugs, the effectiveness of the Consumer Reports Best Mattress for Back Pain might not be directly related. While this mattress is designed to alleviate back pain, it doesn't necessarily offer specific features for bed bug prevention. If you're concerned about bed bugs, it's important to consider additional measures and consult professionals for the best mattress options for back pain and bed bug prevention.

Can I Dispose of a Mattress Infested with Bed Bugs for Free?

When dealing with a mattress infested with bed bugs, it is crucial to handle its disposal properly to prevent further spreading. Fortunately, there are numerous mattress disposal options available, some of which may be free of charge. Research local facilities, sanitation agencies, or community programs that offer this service to effectively dispose of your mattress and eliminate the bed bug infestation.


Understanding the lifespan of bed bugs in unused mattresses is crucial in preventing and managing infestations. Bed bugs can survive for several months to a year in an unused mattress, depending on various factors such as temperature, humidity, food sources, and pesticide exposure. Taking preventive measures, such as regular inspection and cleaning, using mattress encasements, and avoiding second-hand furniture with bed bug potential, can significantly reduce the risk of infestations. In the event of an infestation, proper disposal, non-chemical and chemical treatment methods, as well as seeking professional pest control services, are essential for effective eradication. Prompt action, identification, and appropriate management of bed bug infestations are vital for maintaining a comfortable and healthy living environment.

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