What I am about to share is counter intuitive and contrary to some of the contemporary information and conventional wisdom in our industry related to homeowners and exterminators dealing with bed bugs.
Many articles in our industry purport the benefits and even necessity of mattress and box spring encasements when dealing with a bed bug infestation. The idea behind having these covers on both mattresses and box springs is that bed bugs are locked either in or out. If bed bugs are locked in then they can’t get to you and if they are locked out, then they do not have access to hiding areas in the tufts and folds of the mattress, they are more easily seen and therefore detected on these encasement surfaces, and they do not have access to a number of areas inside and around the box spring to hide in as well.
As an exterminator, our goal, when dealing with a bed bug infestation, should be to eradicate the population, not to control it, not to manage or minimize it. The objective is total eradication and annihilation of every bed bug present in the structure. The problem with encasements is that bed bugs can technically be locked inside of them. If bed bugs are locked in and survive, they can potentially live up to a year or more without a blood feeding. If during that time, a rip or tare were to occur in the encasement, then the problem could potentially start all over again. Some encasements are not certified to fully lock bed bugs in or out, therefore providing small spaces for them to travel in and out of these covers, thereby delaying normal observations available if the encasements were not used. Also, if an encasement is certified to fully lock, simple human error may not fully zip them shut as well.
When an exterminator treats a home for bed bugs, we want immediate feedback from the occupant whether bed bugs are still present in the environment. If bed bugs are still present after an initial treatment we want to know right away so that we can treat it again in a timely manner. No matter what method is used to eradicate bed bugs from a structure (heat, freezing or chemical), attention to detail is crucial if we are to achieve total eradication. Encasements have the potential of hampering immediate feedback be delaying detection of bed bugs that may be trapped or have their travel stymied by them.
In short, save the one to five hundred dollars you might spend on covers for beds in your home and put it toward eradicating the bed bugs.