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Bed Bugs 101: How to treat your sofa for bed bugs

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Lottie Leggett
sofa cleaning

Bed bugs are little creatures that can live in clothing, sofas, luggage and, of course, beds. 

These insects can be incredibly irritating and will hide anywhere they can find a source of food. And what do they eat? Blood. 

Yep, these tiny vampires can hide away in the crevices of the comfiest areas of your home, and are often drawn to the warm climates of soft furnishings. 

The good news is that bed bugs aren’t very dangerous. They may cause tiny bites but they do not spread disease. 

That said, they’re still an annoying thing to have to deal with. That’s why we’re going to share how you can tell if you have bed bugs (in the couch or bed), and how to get rid of them. 

In most cases, bed bugs can be treated. But there may be some scenarios where it’s best to throw away the infested item and buy new.  

Can bed bugs live in sofas?

Despite their name, yes, bed bugs can live in sofas. 

These pests are drawn to anywhere they’ll find a food source. So if you frequently use your favorite armchair, lay around on your sofa, or snuggle into the duvet on your bed, you might find you’re not relaxing alone. 

How can you tell if a sofa has bed bugs?

There are several ways you can tell if a sofa has bed bugs. 

When bed bugs bite, they’ll leave the skin feeling itchy and irritated. You’ll usually feel this irritation on the back of your legs, your back and other areas that have been in contact with the infested area. 

Another sign is specs of blood on both your clothing and the furniture. 

While these signs may take a while to recognize as bed bugs, it’s recommended that you check for an infestation more thoroughly, and more regularly. Because nobody wants to have to get blood stains out of their upholstery. 

But bed bugs are incredibly difficult to see. Like fleas, they’re often no larger than a fruit seed, so you’ll need a few household items to help you do your inspection:

  • An old credit card wrapped in double sided sticky tape (the ultimate, ever-so-professional bed bug catching tool)
  • Rubber gloves
  • A flashlight 

It’s a good idea to remove any casing and covers from the sofa and place these in a sealed bag. That way, you can inspect each section thoroughly, without any bed bugs escaping. Similarly, if you see any evidence of bedbugs on the cushions themselves, bag these too. 

The sticky taped card will help you to get right into crevices and seams, so be sure to check all the hems, zips and creases. Comb the surfaces with the card to collect any evidence of an infestation.

Bed bugs have a tendency to hide in dark places, so the corners of the sofa, and under it are good places to target.

Signs of bed bugs

So, you’ve got your equipment and have started to inspect the sofa. But what are you actually looking for?

Red and black spots. Bed bugs that have managed to feed may leave specs of red or dried blood in the furnishings. Black spots indicate bed bug excrement, neither of which are great! 

Insect skins. Bed bugs shed their skin, so you may find what looks like shells or insect casings. At first, you might think you’ve caught a bug. However, skins are more translucent than live bed bugs. 

Eggs. You may need to use a flashlight to find bed bug eggs. You’ll most likely find them in the darkest crevices of the sofa, waiting to hatch. They’re tinier than a piece of rice and have a milky-white appearance. 

Bed bugs. Of course, the surest sign of bed bugs is the bugs themselves. Adult bed bugs are browny red in appearance, and are either oval or circular.  Baby bed bugs will be smaller and more translucent - making them even harder to find. 

Should I throw away my couch if it has bed bugs?

If you find any signs of bed bugs, you have two options: Throw the sofa away, or try to clean and treat the problem. 

Knowing when it’s time to throw out the sofa and start afresh is tough. If you’ve found that you’re consistently suffering from infestations, it’s almost definitely the time. Your sofa should be somewhere you can relax, and having to constantly get rid of bed bugs can be frustrating and upsetting. 

If you’re really not sure about whether you should throw out your sofa, check out this blog post, how long should a sofa last? You might find you’re long overdue an upgrade anyway. 

For those that have only just bought their sofa, or can’t really afford to buy a new one, there are still ways to clean and treat a bed bug infestation. 

How to treat bed bugs in your sofa

There are two main ways to treat bed bugs in the sofa: Washing and steaming the upholstery normally, or using a chemical treatment. 

Wash and steam

When treating bed bugs, the key is to kill the bugs at all stages: Adults, nymphs, eggs, etc. This is the only way to completely eradicate the issue. 

Anything that can be removed from the sofa, should be placed in the washer on a high heat. It can then be tumble dried. 

For the upholstery and framework of the sofa, you’ll need to use the vacuum. You want to pick up as much residue as possible, so the more suction, the better. Once you’ve finished vacuuming, make sure to empty it into a sealed bag in the outdoor bin. 

Cushions can be placed in bags in the garden or on the windowsill so that they reach a high temperature. This should help to kill off any leftover eggs or bugs. If it’s the Winter, or it’s unlikely to reach a hot enough temperature, you can do a similar process with cold. Store the cushions in a freezer, instead. 

Finally, for one last attempt, you should use a steamer. This will combine cleaning fluid, water and heat to replicate the process of putting everything in the washing machine. This is particularly useful for getting into all the creases of the sofa and cleaning those items that can’t be removed. 

For more detailed instructions, check out this guide for how to clean a sofa at home.

Chemical treatment

The frustrating thing about bed bugs is that they can hide in all sorts of places: The carpets, the sofa - even the curtains and on wallpaper. Worse still, bed bugs can actually live for up to a year without ever feeding.

If you’re suffering from a home infestation, rather than just a single piece of furniture, you’ll need a chemical treatment. 

Residual sprays can be used on all soft furnishings and can help to protect your home for several weeks. 

How to prevent bed bugs

Of course, the best way to manage bed bugs is through prevention. While it’s difficult to know where bed bugs come from, there are a few things you can do to try and protect your furniture and home from an infestation. 

The first step is to regularly clean your furnishings. Not every material is easy to clean, so use our stain-resistant and easy-clean sofa fabrics guide to help. 

Another preventative measure is to install interceptors to the legs of your sofa or armchair. Interceptors are made with a plastic and glossy coating to stop bed bugs being able to climb into the sofa. The interceptors sometimes even have a sticky coating, so you can see if you catch any bed bugs on the regular. 


Bed bugs are a frustrating issue to have to deal with, but they’re somewhat harmless. If you want to find an easy to clean, stylish and fresh sofa in the event of an infestation, check out the swyft sofa range. You’ll be back to relaxing and lounging, without the involuntary audience, in no time.

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