Can Bed Bugs Go Through a Plastic Mattress Cover?

If you’ve ever dealt with a bed bug problem, you’ve probably considered everything possible to try and deter the critters away. You might have even considered setting your mattress on fire. However tempting, mattresses are expensive to replace.

Sounds like you need a cheaper solution to your bed bug problem. Whether your mattress is already riddled with the pesky bugs, or if you’re being wise and looking for a prevention to the cure, you might want to look into getting a plastic mattress cover!

But wait, won’t the bed bugs find their way through the mattress cover? Surprisingly, no. Here is our guide on why you should buy a plastic mattress cover to solve your bed bug problems!

How does a plastic mattress cover prevent bed bugs?

How does a plastic mattress cover prevent bed bugs? bed with mattress in plastic cover

Plastic mattress covers are an encasement that wrap around the mattress of a bed. People will often buy a plastic mattress cover if they have an issue with wetting the bed at night (or if their child does), or if they have a bed bug problem. These covers are also generally useful for preventing stains on the mattress, which is why renters will often buy a plastic mattress cover to protect their security deposit.

The way that these mattress covers work to prevent bed bugs is by killing them off by the source. If your mattress is already riddled in bed bugs, the plastic cover will essentially trap the bed bugs and suffocate them. As the bed bugs won’t have access to food (your blood), they will starve and die.

By extension of this, a plastic mattress cover is a worthy investment to make for anyone with a mattress in a house that is prone to bugs, as it will prevent the bed bugs from going to your bed in search of food in the first place.

However, a plastic mattress cover won’t prevent bugs from other areas of your house.

So...can bed bugs go through a plastic mattress cover?

Can bed bugs go through a plastic mattress cover?

Plastic is a non-porous material, which means that it has no holes for anything to seep through. This is why people will use a plastic mattress cover to prevent liquids such as urine or wine from staining their mattress. As this means that even if the smallest of water droplets can’t pass through, then neither can bed bugs!

As we have explained, plastic mattress covers stop bed bugs from crawling onto your skin and biting you, which starves them of their food. They can’t get through to your blood because of the plastic protective layer, which means they cannot get through the plastic.

Plastic mattress cover vs encasement

So, here’s where it gets a bit risky. Not all plastic mattress covers will prevent bed bugs from biting you in your sleep. This is because some plastic covers aren’t designed to wrap around the entire mattress, which means that the bed bugs will find their way out of the plastic cover to find blood.

This is why you need to find a suitable plastic mattress encasement. These protective layers go around the whole mattress with a zip to stop bed bugs from leaving any part of the mattress, including the under side.

Do plastic mattress covers kill bed bugs?

While plastic mattress covers do kill bed bugs, their death is a slow one. Don’t expect to see hundreds of tiny bodies lingering under the plastic immediately, as bed bugs can survive for up to 5 days without oxygen. That’s right, even if you wrap the plastic cover tightly around your mattress, the little critters will still be alive.

Not all mattress covers are completely airtight - particularly the ones made of cotton - which is why the plastic covers are the best option for killing and preventing bed bugs. Plastic is non-porous, remember, and even the zip will be too tight to allow air to come through.

So, while a plastic mattress cover won’t suffocate a bed bug to death, it will starve them out. Bed bugs live off human blood, so starving them from their supply of blood will result in their death.

Again, bed bugs can last several days without food, but they will die within time. Most bed bugs only need to feed off blood once a week to survive, with the juveniles (nymphs) feeding more regularly. However, they can probably live far longer than a week without food, and there is no scientific explanation for this.

How long do I keep the plastic mattress cover on for?

As bed bugs are notoriously indestructible, with some living up to 6 months without food. Due to this, once you put a plastic mattress cover on, you’ve got to leave it on for a long period of time. Not just a few months. It is recommended to leave a plastic mattress cover on a bed bug-ridden mattress for a minimum of two years.

It’s not too much of a hardship, because a plastic mattress cover certainly has more pros than cons. Not only will it protect you from bed bug bites and a larger infestation, but it will also protect your mattress from stains.

If you need to buy a new mattress (whether as a result of the bed bug or if the mattress is getting old and uncomfortable), you will need to thoroughly wash the plastic mattress cover. Washing the cover at 140 °F before transferring it to the new mattress will kill off any remaining bed bugs and eggs that would settle into your new mattress.


So, there you have it! If you’re unfortunate enough to have a bed bug-ridden mattress and you’re sick of waking up itching at night, all you need to do is buy a plastic mattress cover. Plastic mattress covers work to protect yourself from bed bug bites as the cover works as a protective layer that stops the bed bugs from reaching their food source. As bed bugs don’t have teeth, they cannot bite their way through the tough plastic, resulting in their eventual death.