How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: A Complete 7-Step Guide
Bed bugs are a common household pest that can wreak havoc on your sleeping habits and overall well-being. These tiny bloodsuckers can infest your bed, furniture, and even your clothing, causing itchy bites and leaving you feeling uncomfortable in your own home.
If you’ve ever experienced a bed bug infestation (or heard of one!) you know just how frustrating and difficult it can be to get rid of them.
But fear not, as there are several effective methods for eliminating bed bugs and preventing them from returning. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most practical and effective ways to get rid of bed bugs and enjoy a peaceful, bug-free sleep.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs (cimex lectularius) are small, flat, reddish-brown insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They are called ‘bed bugs’ because they often live in and around the bed area, feeding on the blood of unsuspecting people while they sleep at night.
Bed bugs are nocturnal and can hide in small cracks and crevices during the day, making them difficult to detect. They do not transmit disease, but their bites can leave red, itchy welts and swelling all over your body.
Adult bed bugs are oval-shaped, are oval-shaped, reddish-brown insects that are wingless and flat. They’re small in size, around 1/4 to 3/8 inch long. After a meal, they become swollen and elongated when engorged with blood.
Bed bug eggs are white and are about 1/32 inch long. Newly hatched nymphs are the same shape as adults but are yellowish-white in color.
Life Cycle of a Bed Bug
Active at night, female bed bugs lay white eggs in batches of 10 to 50 on bedding and in cracks and crevices. Under favorable conditions one adult female can lay as many as 450 eggs over her lifetime.
Baby bed bugs hatch in about 10 days and use their beak-like mouthparts to feed on hosts. It takes 1-2 months for nymphs to become mature adults.
Adult bed bugs can live a year or longer (most live about 10-11 months) and there may be three or more overlapping generations per year.
Note: While bed bugs carry human pathogens, it has not been shown that they transmit these diseases to humans or animals.
Is It Possible to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Your Own?
It is possible to get rid of bed bugs. Getting rid of bed bugs can be a time-consuming process, so try to be patient during the process that we have fully explained below. Depending on the extent of the infestation, you may need to experiment with both chemical and nonchemical treatments.
Certain conditions can make it more challenging to get rid of bed bugs. If you have a lot of clutter or frequently travel and bring new bed bugs home in your luggage, you may find it more difficult to get rid of them.
If you are unable to get rid of them on your own, you may need to hire a professional exterminator. Follow the steps below to learn how to get rid of bed bugs.
Step 1: Identify All Infested Areas
If you suspect that you have bedbugs, you should look for them as soon as possible, preferably before they begin to lay eggs. A minor infestation is significantly easier and less expensive to treat than a larger one. Smaller infestations, however, may be more difficult to identify and locate.
You can perform a DIY bed bug inspection or contact a professional to perform one. Some inspectors use specially trained dogs to sniff out bed bugs.
To perform your own bed bug inspection, check all of the following areas with a flashlight and a magnifying glass:
Check Your Bed
Start by looking at and under the bed area, including mattress and box spring, bed frame, headboard, as well as footboard.
Make sure to focus on the trim and seams of the mattress, and inspect the cracks and crevices under the box spring. It’s always a good idea to check the sheets and pillowcases as well.
Inspect Furniture Near the Bed
Next, start by inspecting any and all furniture that’s near the bed since bed bugs can hide there as well. Make sure to check your dressers, nightstands, and wardrobes. If there is any other furniture near the bed such as storage containers, or chairs, inspect those as well.
Remove and inspect all drawers, frames, and cracks after emptying the furniture and containers. It’s also important to look at seemingly harmless areas that bed bugs or bed bug eggs can be hidden in, including rails, joints, and screw holes within the frames.
Check the Walls and Trims
After that, start checking any cracks in the plaster or drywall in the rooms, especially behind peeling wallpaper and paneling. Then look around the floorboards and baseboards, especially if you notice any cracks there.
Inspect All Windows and Doors
It’s also important to inspect all windows and doors. To do that, check the frames and trim of the door. When it comes to windows, inspect cracks if there are any, and then check the drapes, curtains, blinds, or any other window coverings that your home might have.
Carefully Check the Electrical System
You’ll also have to check your electrical system with caution. Inspect all clocks, phones, smoke detectors, and the face plates of electrical outlets and switches. But, for your own safety, be careful not to put anything into an area with electrical wires while you’re doing this.
Take a Closer Look at Your Decor
Even decoration pieces such as picture frames and wall hangings can be spaces where bed bugs hide! So make sure to inspect them properly.
Inspect Floor Coverings
Next, look examine carpet and rug edges, as well as under rugs, floor cloths, and other any other movable floor coverings.
Check All Upholstered Furniture
Check the tufts, seams, trim, and zippers on upholstered furniture like sofas, chairs, and couches. Make sure to examine their undersides, legs, and even the slipcovers if you’re using any.
Look for Other Signs of Bed Bugs
Apart from this, there are various other signs of bed bug infestations that you should look into. We have a complete guide for this that we highly recommend you check out, which mentions the 6 early signs of bed bug infestations including stains and unpleasant odors that will also then allow you to identify infested areas.
Step 2: Make Sure They’re Actually Bed Bugs
Once you’ve inspected all areas, you’ll be faced with one of three situations:
Situation 1: You Didn’t Find Any Insects
The first situation could be that you didn’t find any insects that could be remotely close to a bed bugs! In that case, congratulations – you don’t have to go through the process of getting rid of them!
But if you still suspect any, it’s important to keep an eye out for early signs of infestations or hire a professional to inspect your home since they can be notoriously hard to find in certain situations.
Situation 2: You Found Insects That Might Be Bed Bugs
The second situation is to find bugs that look like bed bugs. Unfortunately, this is a common situation for many homeowners and it can be tricky to figure out if the insect that’s bothering you is actually a bed bug. It’s important to be sure because control methods will vary depending on the insect you’re dealing with.
There are 8 common bugs that look like bed bugs, and we have a complete guide to help you identify them. So if this is the situation you’re facing, check out that guide and come back here if you are indeed dealing with bed bugs.
Situation 3: You Found Bed Bugs
The third situation is simple: you actually found bed bugs. If that’s the case, then it’s time to move on to step 3 to learn how to contain the infestation and then kill the bed bugs!
Step 3: Contain the Infestation
Now that you’ve found the infestation, it’s time to contain it so that you can get rid of the bed bugs.
Start by washing lines, and then start vacuuming! Your vacuum is a simple and efficient tool to trap bedbugs. It’s important to run the vacuum over common hiding places such as your bed, carpets, dresser, and even electronics like your TV unit.
Place the vacuumed contents in a plastic bag, seal it, and then dispose it of properly. Then, carefully clean the vacuum.
Put all of the sheets and contaminated clothing into separate plastic bags and seal them tight until you can wash them. Finally, wash and dry them using the maximum temperature settings. If you can’t wash something, put it in the dryer at the highest heat setting for 30 minutes.
Place in a plastic bag anything that can’t go through the washing machine and dryer. If you want to be sure all the bugs die, you should leave it there for a few months.
Throw away any furniture that can’t be cleaned properly. Before anyone else attempts to take it home, tear it up and clearly label it with ‘bed bugs’ on it so that it doesn’t end up infesting someone else’s home.
You can also apply temporary barriers to keep these crawling insects from migrating into the bed at night. Often this can be achieved by placing bed legs in containers full of soapy water or by spreading a 2-3 inch layer of petroleum jelly around them.
Also consider caulking cracks and other daytime hiding places found around frames, floors, and moldings in your home. Next, remove or eliminate animal nests, such as bird nests or bat roosts, from your house. These animal habitats may also be the source of the infestation.
Step 3: Prep for Bed Bug Treatment
Before you begin treating your home, you need to do some prep work to increase your chances of success.
To do this, start by ensuring that all of your clothing, drapes, carpets, linens, and other hiding places have been cleaned or discarded.
Then start clearing up other clutter that bed bugs can hide under by picking up any books, magazines, toys, or other things that are lying on your floor or under the bed.
But while doing this make sure of one thing: don’t move items from an infested room into a clean room since it has the potential of spreading the bed bugs even more.
Also, seal up any open cracks and crevices. Pay special attention to loose wallpaper that you may have to glue down, and tape up any open electrical outlets. Another important thing to do is to caulk cracks around baseboards.
The last step in prepping for your bed bug treatment is to move your bed away from the wall so that bed bugs can’t climb onto it and hide there while you’re treating the space.
Step 4: Kill the Bed Bugs
Time to start killing bed bugs! You have quite a few options, and we’ll start with the least invasive, home remedies and move on to stronger ones such as chemical insecticides. Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
1. Use Temperature
The first non-chemical treatment you should try is to use temperature as a way to get rid of bed bugs in your mattress and other key areas. High heat at 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46.1 degrees Celsius) or extreme cold at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) will easily kill these bugs.
To do this, wash any affected clothing and bedding in very hot water for 30 minutes. Once that’s done, put them in a dryer for another 30 minutes on the highest possible heat setting.
To use the cold method instead, you can place all infected items in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer at least 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave them there for around five days to make sure all the bugs are dead.
2. Try a Steamer
Another way to kill bed bugs is to use a steamer! You can easily use it on your couches, mattresses, or other places where they hide.
3. Cover Mattresses and Box Spring
Once you’ve done that, you can make their key hiding places inhospitable for whichever ones have survived the initial treatment steps.
To do this, place bed bug-proof covers over your box spring and mattress, and zip them all the way up. The ones that are trapped inside will eventually die and new ones won’t be able to get in or out.
What’s best is that this is a great way to protect yourself from bed bug bites while you sleep and follow these steps.
4. Use Desiccants
Another effective but slower method is to use desiccants to destroy the protective outer coating around bed bugs which will ultimately kill them. These substances make them dry out and die.
Diatomaceous earth is the most commonly found desiccant which is great to have one hand to deal with a number of garden pests, including bed bugs. Silica aerogel, namely CimeXa, and Tri-Die, is another option to use as a desiccant.
Bed bugs can’t become resistant to these substances, unlike some other insecticides, but it may take a few months to kill all the bed bugs.
5. Chemical Insecticides
If the home remedies mentioned above aren’t working, then it’s time to turn to insecticides. It’s important to look for products that have registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are marked for use on bed bugs. This is important not just for your health, but also because certain substances are illegal to use in some states.
The two most common insecticides to kill bed bugs are pyrethrins and pyrethroids. Unfortunately, some bed bugs have become resistant to them. These are relatively low in terms of toxicity for pets and humans, and lower doses can be used to kill these pests.
There are also other, stronger pesticides available such as pyrroles like chlorfenapyr, that disrupt bed bugs’ cells, or neonicotinoid, which is a synthetic form of nicotine. The latter damages their nervous system and is good for bed bugs that have become resistant to other types of pesticides.
Since these are more toxic to humans and pets, it’s important to be careful while using them or to contact professionals to use them instead.
6. Foggers and Bug Bombs
Want to know what kills bed bugs instantly? The answer is bed bombs and foggers.
They’re both good broadcast solutions to kill bed bugs instantly but it’s important to note that they can be highly toxic to both pets and people. So before using them, make sure to read the label carefully and leave the house before setting them off.
Step 5: Monitor the Bed Bug Control Process
Eliminating bed bugs can be a time-consuming process. Before you can be absolutely sure that your treatment methods have worked, you’ll need proof that they’ve actually left your property.
To do this, start by inspecting the infested areas for signs of bed bugs once every 7 days. We also recommend placing bed bug interceptors under each leg of your bed to spot any bugs that may have survived. This will trap them and not allow them to climb into your bed and reproduce. You may have to do this for a full year to be absolutely sure.
Place bedbug interceptors under each leg of the bed to make surviving bedbugs easier to spot. Bedbugs will be trapped by these gadgets before they can climb into your bed. You may need to keep checking the interceptors for a full year.
Unfortunately, bed bugs are persistent, nuisance pests that can stick around for a while before being eliminated completely. They can actually live for up to 400 days without food!
Try the different methods in this complete guide to getting rid of bed bugs to control the infestations. If all else fails, it may be time to contact a professional exterminator.
Step 6: Contact a Professional Pest Control Company
If you still haven’t gotten the desired results after using the methods above, you may have a severe infestation that requires professionals!
Pest control companies have the advantage of having access to chemicals and other treatments that aren’t available to us. Plus, they can use these insecticides safely. Not only do these stronger insecticides kill bugs on contact but some can also stay inside furniture and cracks to kill bed bugs over time.
They also have access to equipment to safely use heat treatments for an entire room. This special equipment can heat up a room to a temperature between 135 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit (57.2 to 62.8 degrees Celsius) which is high enough to effectively kill bed bugs.
Professional treatments may cost anywhere from $300 to $5000 depending on the severity of the infestation, and they will provide you with prepping instructions before they begin their work. Treatment may take two to three visits to start working.
Sometimes, this is the only thing that can be done if all other methods aren’t working. That’s why, we recommend you learn the early signs of bed bugs to make sure you can handle the issue before it gets out of hand and to take appropriate preventative measures.
Step 7. Prevent Future Bed Bugs
When dealing with bed bugs, prevention is definitely better (and cheaper) than controlling it later!
The first step to preventing an infestation is to learn where bed bugs come from in the first place. We’ve written a complete guide that’ll help you know the three main causes and what attracts them to your home (hint: lack of sanitation is not the cause!).
The most important thing to do is to inspect your clothes, luggage, purse, and belongings when coming home after traveling domestically or internationally. Whether you stay at a five-star motel, an Airbnb, or a motel, bed bugs can be anywhere and it’s important to be cautious.
In fact, common public places like hospitals, airports, and even daycare facilities can have bed bug infestations. And, unfortunately, all it takes is for one to hitchhike in for an infestation to begin!
Vacuum your floors and mattress often, and wash all sheets and clothing in hot water regularly (at least once a week). Seal cracks around baseboards, light sockets, furniture, and electrical outlets with caulk to eliminate hiding places as much as possible.
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