Bed Bug Stains on Pillows: How to Identify, Clean, and Prevent Them

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Bed Bug Stains on Pillows

Sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite’ is a popular way of wishing a person a good night’s sleep! Indeed, if you’ve ever experienced a bed bug infestation, you know how frustrating and annoying it can be.

Not only do these tiny pests bite and feed on your blood while you sleep, but they can also leave behind stains on your bedding, including your pillows. In this article, we’ll teach you how to identify and clean bed bug stains on pillows so you can sleep comfortably and peacefully again.

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What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small insects that are reddish-brown in color and about the size of an apple seed. They have flat, oval-shaped bodies and are typically active at night when they come out to feed on their hosts.

These bugs have six legs and two antennae, and they can move quickly when they feel threatened. They have a pair of mandibles that they use to bite and feed on their hosts, and they can leave behind itchy, red welts on the skin.

Bed bugs are difficult to spot with the naked eye because of their small size and reddish-brown color, which allows them to blend in with their surroundings. They are often found in the seams, folds, and crevices of mattresses, bedding, and upholstered furniture, making them hard to detect.

Please remember that adult bed bugs are flat, oval, and reddish-brown in color. If they have recently consumed blood, they will seem even rounder. On the other hand, newly born bed bug nymphs are translucent, small, and extremely hard to spot.

Can Bed Bugs Live in Pillows?

Bed bugs do more than just live up to their name! Apart from beds, they can also live in a variety of places, including pillows. While they do not typically infest pillows to the same extent as they do mattresses and upholstered furniture, it is possible for bed bugs to live in pillows, especially if the infestation is heavy.

The tiny bugs tend to hide in small, dark spaces, and the seams, folds, and crevices of a pillow can provide an ideal place for them to hide. If a pillow is infested with bed bugs, you may notice small, dark stains or spots on the surface, which is basically bed bug poop. You may also see small, white eggs or shed exoskeletons on or around the pillow.

What are the Telltale Signs of Bed Bug Infestations?

Some of the telltale signs of a bed bug infestation include the following:

Bed Bug Stains

Bed bugs can leave behind several types of stains on your bedding and other surfaces. Here are some common types of bed bug stains to look for:

Blood Stains

The bugs bite to feed on the blood of their hosts, and they can leave behind small, reddish-brown stains on your bedding when crushed or smashed. These stains are often found in clusters and may be accompanied by other signs of bed bug activity, such as shed skin cells or eggs.

Yellow Rust Stains

The insects can also leave behind tiny dot-shaped yellow stains on your bedding, which are caused by the insects’ excrement or crushed eggs. This type of stain is black, brown, or rusty red in color and eventually bleeds into the fabric and diffuses to fade into a yellowish or light brown color. 

Black Spot

Bed bugs can also leave behind black stains, which are caused by the fresh blood or bed bug feces on pillow. It appears as a cluster of dark spots scattered in a small area of the fabric that looks like mold.

Bed Bug Remnants

In addition to staining your pillow fabric, bed bugs can also leave behind other remnants that can help you identify an infestation. Here are some common types of bed bug remnants to look for:

Shed Skin Cells

Bed bugs go through a process called molting in order to reach full maturity. During this process, they shed their skin at least five times. As a result, if you have bed bugs in your home, you may notice traces of their shed skin. These skins are smaller than the bugs and are typically pale yellow in color and crusty. Over time, they break down into small, dry flakes.


Bed bugs lay small, milky white eggs the size of rice grains, which can be found on or around your bedding. These eggs are sticky and often found in clusters or pods in difficult-to-reach locations, such as underneath the mattress. Crushed or hatched bed bug eggs leave faint yellow stains on the fabric.

Musty Smell

Bed bugs release a pheromone when threatened or crushed. This pheromone, secreted from their scent glands, has a strong, musty smell that is unpleasant.

Some say it is similar to the odor of a stink bug, others compare it with the smell of concentrated coriander, while still others find it similar to something woody, rotten, or sweet. Whatever it is, the smell is more noticeable in areas where there is a larger concentration of bed bugs.

Bed Bug Bites and Rashes

One of the most common signs of a bed bug infestation is the presence of mysterious bites and rashes. Bed bugs can leave behind itchy, red welts on the skin after biting to consume their hosts’ blood.

These bites frequently appear in a line or cluster and become more obvious in the morning. They can, however, be mistaken for other kinds of insect bites, including flea, chigger, or mosquito bites.

Here’s how to distinguish between them: any portion of your exposed skin can develop bed bug bites, which often appear as little red lumps. They could have a zigzag pattern, a swollen exterior, or a clear or dark center. After the initial bite, the itching from these bites could get worse.

Live Bed Bugs

If you see live bed bugs in your home, it is a strong indication that you have an infestation. As already mentioned, these pesky insects are small, reddish-brown, and have flat, oval-shaped bodies. There, you now know the basics!

How to Identify Bed Bug Pillow Stains

There are several ways to identify bed bug pillow stains:

  • Remove your pillowcase and examine the surface of the pillow. Look for any small, dark spots that may be bed bug stains. These spots are bed bug excrement made up of digested blood and resemble small, dark specks.
  • Check for small, red stains on the pillow. These stains may be blood from crushed bed bugs or from bites that you have received.
  • Look for clusters of stains. Bed bugs tend to leave behind multiple stains in a single area, so if you see multiple stains close together, it could be a sign of bed bug activity.
  • Inspect the seams and edges of the pillow for small, yellowish stains. These stains may be bed bug rust, which is a mixture of bed bug excrement and dried blood.
  • Look for small, white, sticky eggs on the pillow. Bed bug eggs are usually found in clusters and are very small (about the size of a pinhead).
  • Check for small, translucent, pale yellow skins or flakes of skins on the pillow. These skins are exoskeletons shed by bed bugs as they grow and molt.

How to Clean Bed Bug Stain on Pillow

If you find bed bug stain on pillow or pillowcase, it’s important to take the necessary steps to remove them as soon as possible. However, as long as there is a source of food for them, bed bugs will continue to persist and proliferate rapidly. You need to kill them before cleaning the stains to ensure that they don’t keep coming back.

See recommended bed bug sprays

Step 1: Vacuum the Pillow

Use a vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment to thoroughly vacuum the surface of the pillow. This will help remove any bed bugs, eggs, or debris that may be present on it. Remember that vacuuming will not remove any bed bug that’s hidden inside the pillow.

Step 2: Use Pesticide Sprays

Using pesticide sprays is an extremely effective way of killing bed bugs. These sprays kill the bugs and their eggs on contact and are known to have a prolonged effect, which means the bugs won’t be returning for a while.

Step 3: Use Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth works in a way similar to pesticide sprays and is effective in killing bed bugs and their eggs. It sticks to the bodies of the insects and penetrates through their protective cuticle. The particles in diatomaceous earth then stick to the exoskeleton joints of the bugs and eventually kill them.

Step 4: Treat it with Heat in a Dryer

Bed bugs are susceptible to heat. So throw your pillows into the dryer on medium to high heat for at least half an hour. This should kill the adult bugs as well as the nymphs and eggs. But remember, even this is a temporary solution if the real source of bed bugs is your bed.

Step 5: Give Your Pillow a Thorough Wash

Wash all of your pillows and pillowcases in hot water to kill any bed bugs or eggs that may be present. Use a high heat setting and add a cup of white vinegar to the wash to help kill the pests. However, this is a temporary solution, as the eggs might be hidden even if the adult bed bugs die.

Step 6: Spot Clean the Stains

Beg bug stains are difficult to remove. Even if you wash them thoroughly, they might persist. For this reason, you must spot-clean the stains after you’ve killed the bugs. For fresh, light stains, a mixture of cold water and laundry detergent usually works.

However, heavier stains need to be pre-treated with a peroxide-ammonia solution or an enzyme-based stain remover. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and scrub the fabric of the pillow gently until the stains go away.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs on your Pillow

Take these simple steps to prevent bed bugs from infesting your pillows again:

Keep your Bedding Clean and Fresh

Treating your bed is a way to kill all bed bugs, not just the ones that invade your pillow. Wash your bedding regularly, using hot water and a high heat setting. This will help kill any bed bugs or eggs that may be present. If you clean only your pillows, the bugs from your mattress will eventually find their way to your pillows.

Use Bedbug-Proof Covers On your Pillows

Once you clean your pillows from bed bugs, you can try using bedbug-proof pillow protectors to protect your pillows from another infestation. These are covers made of a special material that bed bugs are unable to penetrate. They can easily provide a barrier between these insects and your bedding.

Keep your Bed Away from Walls and Other Furniture

Bed bugs tend to hide in small, dark spaces, so keeping your bed away from walls and other furniture can help prevent them from finding a place to hide.

Inspect your Bedding Regularly

Periodically check your bedding, including your pillows, for any signs of bed bug activity. If you do find any stains or other indicators of bed bugs, take steps to remove them and prevent further infestations.

What to Do if the Bugs Can’t be Killed or the Stains Can’t be Removed?

Not every pillow is washable, and not every pillow can sustain heat treatment, detergents, and enzyme solutions. Moreover, it may not be possible to completely remove all bed bug stains from a pillow. If the bed bugs on your pillow keep coming back, the stains can’t be removed, or the cleaning process is too much for you to handle, consider replacing your pillow.

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Bed bug stains on pillows can be frustrating and annoying, but with the right approach, you can easily get rid of them. Refer to this comprehensive guide to learn the basics of how to identify, clean, and prevent bed bug pillow stains effectively.

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