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Can bed bugs get through sheets?

Bed bugs are a common pest that can infest homes and cause frustration for homeowners. One of the main questions people have about bed bugs is whether they can get through sheets on a bed. The short answer is yes, bed bugs can get through sheets, but the level of protection sheets provide depends on the type of fabric and thread count. In this article, we will examine whether bed bugs can penetrate different types of bed sheets and look at ways to prevent them from biting you at night.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Sheets?

Bed bugs are small insects that feed exclusively on blood. They are reddish-brown in color, oval shaped, and wingless. An adult bed bug grows to about 1/4 inch long, which is small enough to hide in cracks and crevices around the bed. Bed bugs typically feed at night when people are sleeping. Even though bed sheets act as a barrier between you and the bugs, they can still bite through the fabric.

The ability of bed bugs to bite through sheets depends on the thread count and weave tightness. Bed sheets with a lower thread count and looser weave make it easier for tiny bed bugs to poke their needle-like mouthpart through the gaps and reach the skin. High thread count sheets with a tight weave offer more protection, but determined bugs can still push their mouthpart through extremely fine weaves given enough time. So while sheets do provide some protection, they will not fully prevent bed bug bites.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Specific Fabrics?

Let’s take a look at whether bed bugs can get through some of the most common sheet fabrics:

Cotton: Cotton sheets with a thread count below 200 are more easily penetrated by bed bugs. Pima or Egyptian cotton with a higher 400+ thread count offers better protection.

Polyester: Synthetic fibers like polyester have an extremely tight weave. But polyester tends to be hot and not very breathable. Bed bugs can still potentially bite through with effort.

Flannel: The napped surface and loose weave make it easy for bed bugs to reach through flannel sheets and bite.

Silk: The fine, smooth texture of silk makes it difficult for bugs to get leverage to push through. But silk is prone to tearing and not as durable as cotton.

Linen: Linen has crisp fibers that create small gaps in the weave. But the gaps are not always tight enough to stop tiny bed bugs.

Bamboo: Bamboo viscose or rayon sheets combine the sheen of silk and the breathability of cotton. The smoothness can prevent easy biting.

So in summary, while bed bugs can potentially bite through any fabric given enough time, sheets like high thread count cotton, silk, and bamboo provide more protection.

Where Do Bed Bugs Bite?

Bed bugs tend to bite areas of exposed skin that touch or are closest to the bed. Some of the most common bite sites include:

– Arms, shoulders, and neck
– Legs and feet
– Back, chest, and stomach
– Hands and wrists

They prefer thin sensitive skin where blood vessels are closest to the surface. Areas with hair like the scalp offer some protection. Bites often appear in linear or cluster patterns as bed bugs feed along blood vessels.

While bed bugs cannot fly or jump, they can crawl very quickly to reach exposed skin to feed. Even if you are completely wrapped in sheets, bed bugs hiding in the folds and edges can still crawl over to areas like your face, hands, and feet to bite.

Do Bed Bugs Bite Through Pajamas?

In addition to sheets, pajamas and sleeping clothes provide another layer between your skin and bed bugs. Thin or tight fitting pajamas like t-shirts and shorts offer less barrier to biting. Thicker pajamas like flannel pants and long sleeve shirts are more protective.

The type of fabric also makes a difference. Cotton, linen, and silk pajamas are more difficult for bed bugs to penetrate versus synthetics like polyester. As with sheets, bed bugs can potentially push through any fabric given enough time and motivation. So it’s best not to rely solely on pajamas as protection from bites.

Double layers of clothing can help reduce exposed skin and make it harder for the bugs to reach you. But keeping skin covered may not prevent all bed bug bites, especially if infestations are high.

Tips for Preventing Bed Bugs From Biting Through Sheets

While it’s very difficult to fully prevent bed bugs from biting through sheets, here are some tips to reduce your risk of getting bitten at night:

– Use tightly woven, high thread count sheets. Choose pima, Egyptian, or bamboo cotton with a 400+ thread count.

– Wrap sheets tightly under the mattress. Don’t let sheets hang loose where bugs can crawl underneath.

– Apply mattress and box spring encasements. Zippered covers trap bugs inside and prevent penetration.

– Wear full coverage pajamas. Choose tightly woven fabrics like flannel to minimize exposed skin.

– Wash and heat dry bedding frequently. High heat kills bed bugs and removes organic matter they can feed on.

– Inspect your sheets regularly. Look for fecal spots, shed skins, and live bugs, especially along seams and edges.

– Treat beds with insecticides. Registered chemicals like pyrethroids can be sprayed onto mattresses to kill bugs on contact.

– Isolate and wrap bedspreads. Comforters and duvets can hide infestations – use special bed bug proof covers.

– Don’t let sheets contact the floor. Tuck them under the mattress so bugs can’t crawl up from the floor.


Bed bugs are adept at finding ways to bite through sheets when feeding at night. While sheets provide some physical barrier, they will not fully prevent bed bug bites in heavily infested areas. Tightly woven fabrics like high thread count cotton make it more difficult for them to reach the skin. But even through silk, linen, and bamboo sheets, bed bugs can potentially push through and bite with persistent effort. The best protection involves wrapping mattresses in encasements, treating with insecticides, washing bedding frequently, and inspecting regularly to eliminate infestations before they can spread. With vigilance and monitoring, you can help reduce bite risk and sleep more soundly at night.