What’s the difference between bed bug mattress encasements and mattress liners?

Eric Braun

When it comes to protecting your property against bed bugs, there’s a lot of information to sort through. Products that promise to protect against bed bugs have flooded the market, particularly in the area of mattress and box spring encasements and mattress liners. Many customers often ask, “What’s the difference?”

Both products are great tools to help you protect your brand – but they work in very different ways. Here’s what you should know about them so that you can make the best decision for your business.

What do mattress and box spring bed bug encasements do?

Mattress and box spring encasements are covers that “encase” an entire mattress or box spring. When they are used to protect the investment in bedding or to salvage older or infested bedding, they essentially have two functions. The first is that they can prevent any introduced bed bugs from being able to infest the seams and crevices of a mattress. The second is that they can prevent any bed bugs that may be present in a mattress or box spring prior to encasement from escaping and continuing to feed.

What are the benefits of mattress and box spring encasements?

The biggest benefit of encasements for a business or homeowner is that they can protect the capital investment you’ve made in your bedding by keeping bed bugs from infesting mattresses and box springs (and potentially having to be thrown away). Therefore encasements can be beneficial in businesses, such as hotels, where there is a significant investment made in bedding.

A secondary benefit of using encasements is that they make inspecting for bed bugs easier, whether that be by a business’s staff or for a pest control provider. With encasements in place, bed bugs have fewer places to hide.

housekeeper making hotel bed

What should you look for in a mattress or box spring encasement?

Encasements can be a powerful tool, but there are a lot of choices on the market. What should you consider when making a decision? The answer is three-fold: durability, size, and zipper.


One limitation of encasements is that they are subject to rips and tears – and once they are damaged, they lose their effectiveness. A single tiny hole can allow bed bugs to gain access to a mattress. Just the daily repetition of getting in and out of bed causes friction that can lead to tears. That’s why it’s critical to look for encasements made of a durable material that can hold up over time.


All too often, people purchase the wrong size encasement for their mattress or box spring. That can contribute to rips and tears. Too big, and bunching or extra fabric can easily catch and rip during daily use or housekeeping. Too small and friction on material stretched too tight will quickly lead to a tear. It’s best to think like Goldilocks: not too big, not too small, but just right. Be sure to measure mattresses carefully and buy the appropriate size.


Why is the zipper important? Because the smallest of gaps where the zipper meets the seam can create an opportunity for bed bugs to gain access to a mattress. Ensure that you are purchasing quality encasements that provide bed bug-proof zippers.

What are mattress liners and what do they do?

Mattress liners are a specially treated, thin polyester fabric liner that easily installs over a box spring or mattress. These liners are impregnated with an active ingredient that, if a bed bug comes into contact with it, disrupts the feeding and reproductive capabilities and/or leads directly to bed bug mortality.

What are the benefits of mattress and box spring encasements?

Bed bug mattress liners actively work to eliminate bed bugs. By interrupting the feeding and reproductive cycle or killing bed bugs, the presence of mattress liners can prevent or reduce the chance of a full-blown infestation developing.

What should you look for in a bed bug mattress liner?

Like encasements, size is important to ensure that the mattress liner stays in place. Be sure to select the right size liner for the bed that is being protected. Unlike encasements, however, a rip or tear doesn’t alter the effectiveness of a liner.

The other thing you want to look for is the lifespan of the product. Bed bug mattress liners won’t be good forever, because the active ingredient will degrade over time. Look for a product that promises effectiveness of about two years.

ActiveGuard Mattress Liners is the brand that Rentokil Steritech recommends that fulfills all of these qualities.

Mattress liners are a truly proactive tool that, when used as part of an integrated bed bug program, can help many facilities prevent serious bed bug issues. However, they should not be used as a stand-alone treatment method. Instead, use them as part of a treatment protocol including effective pesticide applications and other mechanical means of control.

rentokil steritech bed bug protection

Get professional advice before making any purchase

With the range of choices on the market today for bed bug encasements and liners, it is important to understand the differences between these products and how their limitations may impact your specific environment.

To ensure you select the right tools to keep your brand protected from bed bugs, work closely with your pest management professional to determine the best fit for your business.


For bed bug protection you can count on, contact Rentokil Steritech today.

Eric Braun
Eric Braun

Eric Braun is a Technical Services Manager for Rentokil. Since joining the company in 1997, Eric has held a variety of service and operational management roles. In his current role, he holds responsibility for the technical and operational support within the north eastern region of North America. Eric has a Bachelor of Science in Entomology from the University of Delaware and holds the Board Certified Entomologist credential from the Entomological Society of America. He has his Commercial Pesticide Applicator License in Pennsylvania and is also Sentricon Certified, and GreenPro and QualityPro Certified by the National Pest Management Association. When he’s not immersed in the world of pest control, Eric, his wife, and two small children enjoy being outdoors and exploring U.S. National Parks and have a goal of visiting all 58 parks.

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