Can Air Mattresses Get Bed Bugs?

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Bed bugs are a problem for homeowners of all types. And as it so happens, for campers too. Campers use air mattresses mostly. You might also be using an air mattress during your stay in a hotel or Airbnb.

Bed bugs can get on an air mattress. Unlike other beds, they cannot get inside the mattresses. Air mattresses are typically made of PVC plastics and as such, it’s not possible for these creatures, no matter how tiny, to get inside. It doesn’t mean that they can’t plague you because you would be sleeping on the surface.

Let’s talk about bed bug infestations in air mattresses and how to deal with them. If your air mattress is infested with bed bugs then it might be a good idea to put something on it. A few effective bed bug repellant materials include essential oils, peppermint leaves, petroleum jelly, alcohol, baby powder, and so on. Putting fresh drier sheets can also work.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are bloodsucking bugs. They are parasites that feed on mammals and birds alike. Bed bug infestations can be found mostly in beds inside homes, and thus their name. They infest beds and grow exponentially if you don’t take care of them swiftly.

A close up of a bed bug in a mattress.
A close of up an bed beg

Considered a high-risk problem, many pest control services provide bed bug cleanup services. Bed bug infestations grow over time and you won’t have to struggle much if you can nip them in the bud.

Bed bugs are found in all 50 states as per the NPMA’s Bed Bugs survey. Consequently, camping sites from all over the US can have bed bugs.

Can bed bugs get in an air mattress?

Bed bugs cannot get inside an air mattress. They can, however, get on the surface. There’s a difference between “getting on an air mattress” and “living in an air mattress”.

Bed bugs can live in normal mattresses and beds, but they cannot live in air mattresses. They can, however, infest it temporarily and if they find a good amount of blood from living on the surface then they can stay there for as long as they like.

So technically, it is not possible to have a bed bug infestation inside an air mattress. Newer air mattresses come with a rubber composition or urethane composition, which are both slightly better at repelling bed bugs than polyvinyl chloride (PVC) based air mattresses.

An air mattress bed with electric pump for sleep

How do you check your air mattress for bed bugs?

Assuming you’re not ready to sleep on an air mattress just to wake up with bloodstains on the sheets to check an air mattress for bed bugs – there are a few nifty tricks you can use.

  • There will be dark-colored spots on sheets and mattresses, or even in the general area around an air mattress if it’s been there for a while. This is the excrement of the bed bugs.
  • Bed bugs often find areas to hide and lay their eggs in. You should thoroughly check the air mattress itself and the surrounding areas for shed skins, eggshells, or fecal spots.
  • Sometimes you will get a strong musty odor that bed bugs produce. Don’t take your nose too close to an air mattress you believe is infested – but if there’s a repelling musty odor then it’s a sign of a bed bug infestation.

Even if you have the slightest doubt, you should examine the sheets, mattress, and fabric extensively. Bed bugs can easily attach themselves to clothing so you also want to look around a little and check any piece of clothing that came in direct contact with the air mattress.

Should I throw out my air mattress if infested?

Old and acutely infested air mattresses can be thrown away. However, it’s often the case that the mattress isn’t the culprit and consequently, taking it out won’t solve the problem. In any case, it’s not an effective solution to the bed bug problem. You have to exterminate them out of the home completely.

If your air bed is infested then you should first try cleaning it before throwing it out.

How to clean it?

Cleaning the air mattress is a simple chore and should be done the way you do it after every excursion. Clean it properly with water and detergent. If that’s not possible then here are some tips.

  • Vacuuming is not 100% effective but is still a good way to get the bed bugs off the air mattress. Note that blowing air will not help as these tiny creatures can almost glue themselves to the surface of an air mattress. Be sure to use a vacuum that is fitted with a HEPA filter.
  • Steaming the air mattress will definitely get rid of all the bed bugs. Bed bugs die at 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam is usually 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Apply the steam slowly and especially covering all the folds, crevices, and tufts. Also, steam the surrounding regions where you suspect bed bugs might be hiding. In fact, any type of heat treatment is efficient for killing bed bugs – just make sure you don’t damage or deform the air mattress.

Any treatment has to be comprehensive. Even if you leave one egg group out then that means the problem will resurface in a while. Bed bugs also multiply quickly. The eggs hatch within a couple of weeks – so another treatment at that time can take care of the remaining ones.

Bed bugs are resistant to pyrethroids – chemicals you’d use typically for pest management as pesticides.

How to dispose of it correctly?

Air mattresses have a lot of plastic. You cannot risk polluting the soil or water around you by being careless in disposing of them.

If it comes to disposal, then an air mattress should ideally be sent to a recycling center for recycling purposes. If that’s not an option for you, then you might want to throw it away with the rest of your trash and not keep it in a recycle bin.

Typically air mattresses are made of PVC so you should ask around to find a recycling center that recycles PVC.

Alternatives to air mattresses that you can bring to either a hotel, Airbnb, or camping

If you need an alternative to air mattresses then here are 5 options for you:

Folding mattresses

Folding mattresses are perhaps the best alternative to air mattresses. Simply put, these are mattresses that you can fold, which makes them more portable. The most commonplace of them are tri-folding mattresses.

Olee Sleep Tri-Folding Memory Foam Mattress Topper, 4 Inch Gel Folding Mattress for Camping, Foldable Guest Bed, Washable Cover, CertiPUR-US Certified, Soft, Blue, Single Size

Best tri-folding mattress: Olee Sleep. This 4 inches thick foldable mattress comes with a memory foam topper that adapts to your body and makes your life more comfortable.

Click here to see this foldable mattress on Amazon

Futon mattresses for car camping

Futon mattresses are highly portable and a great fit for camping. They can be easily carried in cars. Futon mattresses are usually fluffy and can be rolled instead of folding. They are also light and can be carried easily once rolled.

FULI Japanese Futon Mattress, 100% Cotton, Foldable & Portable Floor Lounger Bed, Roll Up Sleeping Pad, Shikibuton, Made in Japan (White, Twin)

Best futon mattress for car camping: Fuli Japanese Shiki Futon. It’s a very comfortable and high-quality futon mattress even for usage at home. A good length ensures maximum capacity.

Click here to see this futon mattress on Amazon

Camping cots

A camping cot is traditional camping gear. It’s clean and comfortable. Camping cots can be quite bulky sometimes so always do your research before buying one. The basic composition of a camping cot is an aluminum frame with durable fabric stretching across the edges. This fabric can hold a lot of weight.

MARCHWAY Ultralight Folding Tent Camping Cot Bed, Portable Compact for Outdoor Travel, Base Camp, Hiking, Mountaineering, Lightweight Backpacking (Black)

Best camping cot: The Marchway Ultralight camping cot bed is great for outdoor travel, hiking, mountaineering, lightweight backpacking, base camps, and more. It’s made of nylon and is particularly sturdy.

Click here to see this camping cot bed on Amazon

Camping sleeping pads

Camping sleeping pads are also called ground pads, thermal pads, or roll mats. These sleeping pads are used to provide thermal insulation as well as some padding to sleep on. You will get very cold without a sleeping pad even inside a tent with its flooring. These are fairly inexpensive compared to others on the list.

Sleepingo Large Sleeping Pad for Camping - Ultralight Sleeping/Camping Mat for Backpacking - Camping Pad - Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact Camping Air Mattress - Backpacking Sleeping Pad - Sleep Pad

Best camping sleeping pad: Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad is a large mat that’s very light and packs down to the size of a water bottle. The nylon is tear-resistant, waterproof, and durable.

Click here to see this camping pad on Amazon

Self-inflating air mattresses

A self-inflating air mat is a layer of foam sandwiched between the fabric. This airtight envelope of fabric has a sealable valve. When you open this valve, the compressed foam will expand by sucking air into the mat. It will slowly become semi-firm.

Intex Queen Dura-Beam Standard Series 20 Inch Thick Lightweight Inflatable Bed Air Mattress with Built-in Electric Pump and Convenient Carry Bag

Best self-inflating air mattress: The Intex Queen Dura-Beam is a 20 inches thick inflatable bed that inflates and deflates using a built-in electric pump.

Click here to see this self inflating air bed on Amazon

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