How to Deal With Bedbugs in the UK

10th October 2023

By Graham Matthews

Bedbugs have been hiding beneath our sheets when we sleep, creeping along bed frames, and lurking behind loose wallpaper in UK homes for many years. They’ve even taken up residency in hotels, hostels, and B&Bs. In most cases, the owners take action after they’ve long exceeded their checkout time.

Recent rises in infestations of bedbugs in France have created fears it could spread to the UK. The good news is that bedbugs haven’t been shown to carry diseases or cause health problems, according to the NHS. However, the bad news is their bites lead to raised, itchy, and irritating little bumps.

There are various things you can do if you’re worried about bedbugs moving into your home or think you’ve found an infestation. Discover how to deal with bedbugs in the UK and ways to dispose of any furniture or other infected items in this guide.

bedbug crawling on grey bedding.

What are bedbugs?

Bedbugs are little insects that normally live on furniture and bedding. They’re around 5mm long when fully grown and can be a dark yellow, red, or brown colour. Bedbugs don’t have wings and are a flat oval shape. Young bedbugs (or nymphs) are translucent or yellow while bedbug eggs are small and white.

It’s tricky to spot bedbugs as they’re so small. Bedbug infestations happen as they move around by attaching themselves to furniture, clothing, bedding, and luggage that moves from an infested area to a non-infested environment. They’re not a dangerous pest but their bites are irritating and uncomfortable and some people may be allergic to them.

How to prevent bedbugs

Preventing bedbugs is challenging due to their small size and because they can travel around on luggage, furniture, and bedding. If you’ve been on holiday or introduced some new or second-hand furniture into your home then there could be a higher risk of bedbugs appearing. There are ways to prevent the risk of bedbugs if you’re concerned about an infestation.

A few things you can do to prevent bedbugs inviting themselves into your home are to:

  • Regularly wash bedding – cleaning bedsheets, blankets, and pillowcases reduces the presence of any bedbugs and their eggs. If there are only a few it can get rid of them before they lay eggs and increase the problem.
  • Check your accommodation – inspect the bed frame and sheets for any signs of bedbugs, including their eggs and faeces. Request a different room or accommodation if there’s evidence of them.
  • Look at your luggage – leave your bag or suitcase away from the bed to reduce the risk of any bugs hopping on. If you’re going abroad, check your bag and give it a shake when you receive it from baggage handling at the airport, as they’re a common source of bedbugs.
  • Inspect second-hand furniture – always check any used furniture items before moving them into your home, as this is a key passage for bedbug infestations. Thoroughly clean the furniture away from your home to avoid accidentally inviting any of the little pests inside.
  • Try bedbug repellents – some people try various repellents but the evidence about their effectiveness varies. Applying essential oils, peppermint leaves and oil, and diatomaceous earth are commonly tried but their success rates vary.
  • Remove clutter in your bedroom – the less furnishings and furniture near your bed, the fewer hiding places bedbugs have to start an infestation. Items close to your bed can act as ladders to give bedbugs a helping hand to reach their new home.

How to get rid 
of bedbugs

Seen a bedbug crawling across your sheets? Developed little red bites overnight? Spotted some small yellow eggs or dark spots of bedbug poo? Firstly, don’t panic. Bedbugs are common and there are ways to get rid of them without turning your house upside down. Some things you can try to get rid of bedbugs are to:

  • Hot wash your bedding – put any affected bedding and clothes on a high-temperature wash cycle of 60°C and then place them in a tumble dryer on a hot setting for at least half an hour.
  • Iron or steam-clean bedding – you can go one step further by then ironing your sheets and duvet covers, or steam-cleaning in the first place. Exposure to extensive heat kills bedbugs so this is often effective.
  • Clean and vacuum the infected area – regularly clean and vacuum your bedroom carpets and mattresses especially to remove any bedbugs and their eggs. They can live, hide, and lay eggs in the cracks of mattresses so this helps remove them.
  • Freeze clothing and bedding – if you’ve got a big freezer then wrap up the affected bedding or clothing in a plastic bag and freeze it for three or four days. Freezing bedbugs should kill them. Then you can thaw out and wash the bedding before using it again.
  • Throw out your mattress – an extreme but effective action is to get rid of your mattress. This helps remove the bedbugs from your home, but you’ll need to buy a new mattress. Bedbugs can live in the bed frame so it must be cleaned thoroughly before introducing a fresh mattress. Find out more about mattress disposal in the UK.
  • Contact the professionals – find a company or individual accredited by the British Pest Control Association. Using professionals should ensure all bedbugs are exterminated so you can sleep soundly again.
old bed and mattress next to wooden wardrobe.

How to throw away a 
bedbug-infested mattress

When there are bedbugs in a mattress getting rid of them isn’t easy. Throwing away a bedbug-infected mattress can be a cheaper and simpler solution in some cases that eradicates the problem. If you’re considering disposing of a mattress full of bedbugs there are a few extra considerations and steps to take:

  • Wear protective gear – put on a pair of gloves and some old clothes to handle the mattress. This protects your skin against any potential bites from the bedbugs and throwing away the old clothes avoids passing them onto any other clothes in the wash.
  • Wrap up the mattress – seal the mattress with plastic wrap before you move it if possible. This helps contain the bedbugs within the mattress and reduces the risk of passing them onto other furniture and carpets throughout your home.
  • Stick on a label – ensure nobody else takes the mattress wherever you put it by adding a label explaining it’s bedbug-infested. Even if you leave it on your drive for just a few hours before collection, there’s a chance someone may see it and consider taking it.
  • Check other items and areas – inspect the bed frame, the carpet, any furniture, and soft furnishings nearby, as bedbugs could have spread onto these. Conduct a deep clean of the area after removing your old mattress but before you introduce a new one. This should prevent your new mattress from becoming infested.
  • Arrange mattress collection – book mattress collection by a professional waste management company. They’ll collect your old mattress and dispose of it properly to ensure the bedbugs don’t spread. Taking the mattress to your local household waste recycling centre (HWRC) could introduce bedbugs to your car and lead to bites for workers at the HWRC.

At Divert we can help with mattress collection and disposal across Yorkshire. All old mattresses are handled and removed by licensed waste carriers and diverted away from landfill where possible. We provide a range of mattress removal services at various locations, including:

What to do with 
bedbug-infested furniture

It’s not just mattresses and bedding where bedbugs like to live, despite their name. Sofas, chairs, and other upholstered furniture make great homes for these little pests. That’s why it’s important you thoroughly check any second-hand furniture before introducing it into your home. Don’t despair if you’ve found some living in your furniture though.

To get rid of bedbugs from furniture you can take similar steps to getting rid of them from your bedding. Strip off any cushion covers, wash them on a high heat and tumble dry, or wrap them in a plastic bag and freeze. Give the furniture a thorough vacuum and steam, including along the frame.

You can install interceptors under each leg of the sofa chair, or table to prevent bedbugs coming back. These are multi-walled plastic cups that have a slick coating so the bedbugs can’t climb up the legs. If you want to get rid of your furniture to get rid of bedbugs, arrange furniture removal by professionals.

You should never donate any old furniture including beds and mattresses that you know are infected with bedbugs. Booking collection by licensed waste carriers and informing them that the item(s) of furniture is infested with bedbugs should ensure they’re disposed of responsibly. It reduces the risk of bedbugs spreading and solves the problem in your home.

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