How To Help Your Customers Protect Their Homes From Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are, for lack of a better word, the worst. Take it from someone who is currently in the midst of trying to rid their apartment of the tiny pests. In addition to the inherent ick-factor, bed bugs pose a uniquely frustrating problem because the process of exterminating them is both time-consuming and disruptive. And unfortunately, over the course of the past decade, bed bugs have become more common than ever before. Once thought of as only an issue for urban spaces, they have more recently been spotted in less crowded areas as well. Thankfully there are things you can do and products you can buy to prevent or minimize the impact of an infestation. And while some people would prefer not to even mention the tiny parasites— it’s important to broach the subject from time to time so that consumers can protect themselves from a major headache down the line.

For bedding retailers, it’s important to figure out how to talk to consumers about this potential issue. For some people, protecting their bedrooms from any types of bugs will seem like common sense—for others, they may simply not want to bring it up. The first piece of advice is to make sure to remove any stigma or judgement; this is a problem that can affect anyone, no matter where they live, and therefore everyone should do what they can to be prepared. It may also be helpful to talk more generally about creating and maintaining a clean sleep environment. Above all else, it’s important to prioritize prevention. Even if it may seem like it in the moment, spending a little bit more money up front is worth it if you can avoid having to clean up a problem down the line.

What Is It Like To Have Bed Bugs?

While they are most definitely something to avoid at all costs - there are some “glass half full” ways of looking at a bed bug problem. Namely, you don’t have to worry about them carrying diseases or eating away at your clothes like other vermin. Beyond the psychological impact, the biggest concern is that bed bugs do bite. Since this usually happens while you are sleeping, it’s hard to catch them in the act—the best way to identify them is by the bites they leave on your skin and the little black marks they may leave behind on your bedding.

If you think you may have bed bugs, here is a good guide for identifying the problem.

Determining that you do indeed have bed bugs is just the beginning. While it can be tempting to try at-home remedies - these are rarely effective. Your best bet is to call a pest control service. When you make your appointment, they will likely provide you with a step-by-step guide of what you need to do to prepare. 

The main concern is your bedding, clothing and any fabric-based items you have around your house. These are all common hiding spots for the tiny bugs—and you need to prevent them from simply relocating to these places when the exterminators make their other homes inhospitable. While pesticide can be used to eliminate the bugs en masse, you can also use heat to kill them. So all of your fabric based foods should be washed and dried on the highest heat setting, and then placed directly into tightly sealed trash bags. Many exterminators will also ask you to remove the plastic cover plates from all outlets and lights switches and move all furniture away from the walls, so that they can have more thorough access to all the nooks and crannies of your home.

Now here’s the really annoying part: all of your soft good items must be kept sealed for at least two weeks as the extermination process unfolds. Pest control will likely have to come spray your home at least two times—more if the problem persists. Once they have come to do the treatment at least two times, and only after you have found no signs of any lingering bugs, then you can unpack your stuff and go about your life. 

So, as you can see, the best way to avoid such a headache is to simply not get bed bugs in the first place. Easier said than done, of course. Because they’re very thin in size and mostly nocturnal, it can be difficult to spot a potential invader before they’ve fully set up shop in your stuff. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself anyway.

How To Prevent Bed Bugs — Or At Least Limit Their Impact:

  • Invest in a full encasement protector—for your mattress and pillows.
    Your mattress is a prime location for bed bugs; seams, tape edges, tufting buttons are all perfect places to hide—and they get easy access to you while you sleep. Unfortunately, the mattress is also one of the most difficult to clean. The best solution for this is actually preventative: buy a total encasement protector. These five-sided covers have a zippered enclosure to keep any bugs from ever getting near the mattress itself. If you’re someone who has invested in quality pillows, then it may be worth it to also invest in pillow protectors as well.
  • Wash your sheets regularly.
    There’s nothing better than slipping into a clean set of sheets at night. Beyond the self-care benefits, washing your sheets on a regular basis can also nip any potential bug problem in the bud before they have a chance to spread. While the presence of bed bugs does not actually have anything to do with how clean your home is, regular washing and drying will help eliminate any bugs you may not have even known were there. Having a few sets of quality sheets on hand can make it easier for you to get in the habit of changing them regularly.
  • Rethink your under-bed storage.
    It’s almost ironic: bed bugs tend to be a problem is large urban areas—which are unfortunately the very same places that are known for tiny apartments that require more creative storage solutions. A platform bed with lots of clearance can seem like your best bet for maximizing your space—just be careful about what and how you’re storing under there. Instead of piling your sweaters or extra bedsheets in open baskets or fabric bags, opt for storage containers that you can seal. If you’re using this space to put away off-season clothes, try space bags—which will fully protect against any potential bugs.
  • Limit the clutter in your bedroom.
    Again, bed bugs are not in any way a sign that your bedroom is unclean. But an excess of clutter does give the bugs more places to hide—which, in turn, makes it more annoying for you to clean. As an added bonus: limiting the knick-knacks and clothing piles around your room can also help you create a more relaxed environment and may help you sleep better! 

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This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on June 13, 2019.

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