Yes, bed bugs can cause property damage, expense, and definitely nuisance – learn how to get rid of bed bugs at home and how to prevent them from infesting in your house.
How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Even though bed bugs problem is a worldwide issue, the good news is that you can control them. You can choose either chemical or non-chemical techniques, but one thing you should remember is that there is no such thing as a quick fix. You have to be patient.
Identify the Bed Bugs
In order to get rid of bed bugs yourself, first you have to be able to recognize them. Bed bugs feed essentially on human blood. A newly emerged bed bug has a different appearance from an adult one. ‘Baby’ bed bugs are rather transparent, light-tan colored, with the size of poppy seeds. The adults are rusty-red colored, with flat, oval bodies, about the size of an apple seed. Don’t confuse them with other small insects!
The first sign of bed bugs infestations is the bites. If you or other family members have bite marks while sleeping, then great chance bed bugs are already spread in your house. The marks could be on your face, neck, arms, legs, or other parts of your body.
Other signs of bed bugs infestations at home:
- Dark spots – this is a bed bug excrement
- Eggs or eggshells – white, the size is about 1 mm
- Exoskeletons – shed after molting
- Stains – red, or rusty and can be found on sheets or mattresses, caused by crushed bed bugs
- Odor – sweet and musty
Control the Bed Bugs by Yourself
In most cases, controlling bed bugs by yourself is a very complicated and time consuming task. You have to move furniture, household goods and other belongings. Next, you should determine and prepare a clean area where you can collect all clean objects. Treated furniture and objects should be gathered here also, and after the respective room is treated, you can put those objects back to where they belong.
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs by Yourself #1 – The Primitive Way
- Old credit card
- Clear tape
- Plastic bags
- Hot soapy water
Move the old credit card along cracks and fractures to push out the bed bugs. Use the clear tape to trap them, and finally use the hot soapy water to wipe up infestations. Wipe up also all bed bugs, stains, droppings, shed exoskeletons and eggs that you find. Use the flashlight to spot them.
Captured bed bugs can be crushed, or disposed. Do this over and over again. After all, it’s a numbers game!
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs by Yourself #2 – Vacuuming
Vacuuming is also not 100% effective, but it can help, especially to get rid of clustered bed bugs. But be careful, if you do it the wrong way, you can spread the infestations all over the place, instead of eliminating them. Here are some tips on vacuuming bed bugs:
- Set the suction at maximum power
- Use a crevice tool attached to the vacuum
- Concentrate on cracks
- Try not to press the fabric too hard to avoid making the bed bugs jump to other places
- Vacuum do not kill bed bugs, so you must seal the vacuum bag and dispose it in the trash
- Do repetitive vacuuming at spots where you find many clustered bed bugs
- Combine vacuuming with other non-chemical techniques
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs by Yourself #3 – Steaming
Studies show that if you heat bed bugs through to at least 113 ºF (45 ºC) for 60 minutes, they can be killed in all stages of development. If you use higher temperature, you can kill bed bugs at all life stages, faster.
This makes steaming a very effective technique, if done correctly. Here are some important tips when using a steamer to get rid of bed bugs:
- Use a commercial steamer with a minimum capacity of 1 gallon
- A steamer with a steam volume control is better
- DO NOT use carpet cleaning machine, the temperature is not enough
- To effectively kill bed bugs, the surface temperature should be 160 – 180 ºF. You can use a non-contact thermometer to measure it, right after the steam brush has passed
- Test the steam first before applying it to certain places, because the heat can damage some fabrics
- DO NOT use a pin-point steam nozzle, as this can blow bed bugs away from the spot, instead of killing them
- The best nozzle to kill bed bugs is the triangular one. It works well for most usage
- It’s OK to moist fabric that you want to steam, but don’t get it wet, because it can ruin the steam’s temperature
- You might have to repeat the process a couple of times to achieve better results
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs by Yourself #4 – Laundering
Washing and drying bedding and clothing at high temperatures is a simple and cheap technique to kill bed bugs completely, and this should be done too when you hire a professional pest control company.
The first step is to sort clothes. Put them in plastic bags, according to their conditions. Separate dry-clean-only clothes from others, and use dryer to kill the bed bugs on them. Don’t forget to seal the bags.
Wash and dry clothes on the hottest temperature they can afford. Fold empty plastic bags and collect them in another plastic bag, then seal it for disposal. For dry-clean-only clothes, use medium to high temperature setting for the dryer, and run for at least 20 minutes. Because drying only kill the bed bugs, afterwards, you should take them to a professional cleaner for cleaning.
Cleaned clothes should be immediately stored in a new, clean plastic bag. Once your home is treated, you can take the laundry out of the bags.
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs by Yourself #5 – Freezing
You can also kill bed bugs using cool temperature, but it can take days to complete. With cool temperature below 0 ºF (-19 ºC), most bed bugs will be eliminated in 4 days. If you use lower temperature, it will be faster.
Some tips on freezing bed bugs to death:
- Use a chest freezer
- DO NOT use a freezer attached to a refrigerator, because the temperature is not stable
- Put infected objects in sealed plastic bags
- Most dry household items can be frozen (new books, shoes, clothing, jewelry, toys, etc)
- DO NOT freeze electronics, old books, and items that contain liquids
- For chest freezers using a 0 ºF temperature, it takes 7-10 days to complete the treatment
- Bulky items might need longer time
- DO NOT put your stuff outside in winter, as this will mostly not kill the bed bugs, due to the variations of temperature, sunlight, and humidity
All of the above are non-chemical techniques to get rid of bed bugs. To help notice infestations, use mattress covers, box spring, and pillow encasements. They can help trap bed bugs and make it easier for you to identify the presence of bed bugs.
One of the most effective chemical ways to control bed bugs is by using pesticides. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has listed over 300 products, and most of them can be used to get rid of bed bugs at home. I also found a very useful Bed Bug Product Search Tool. You can use it to find a product that suits your needs.
Another way to find a pesticide you can use at home, is by checking with the Cooperative Extension Service in your area. If eventually your chosen product doesn’t work in getting rid of bed bugs, then I suggest you consult a pest management professional.
Be careful when using pesticides, and make sure you always follow the directions for use. Don’t use outdoor pesticides for indoor usage, as this can harm your health
Learn More About Bed Bugs to Prevent Infestations
To effectively prevent bed bug infestations, you should get to know this creature!
Bed Bug’s Life Cycle
It takes approximately 2 to 4 months for bed bugs to grow from eggs to adults. A female bed bug may produce up to 500 eggs during its lifetime (which is about 1 year). These eggs are usually found in clusters of 50 or less, and hatch in 7-14 days.
In order to molt, the nymph must consume blood, and most of the time they do this ‘blood hunting’ when we sleep. Most people don’t feel the bites and sometimes it takes days to realize they have been bitten by bed bugs.
To reach adulthood, the nymph usually molts 5 times, which can be completed within 3 weeks in warmer temperatures, or many months in cooler temperatures. Most adult bed bugs can live up to 10 to 12 months.
Preventing Bed Bug Infestations
Bed bugs are hitch-hikers. They can travel around using clothing, furniture, pipes and wiring as the media. Here are some tips to prevent bed bugs from entering your home:
- Be careful when buying used items
- Be careful when bringing anything you find on the street into your home
- Be careful when renting furniture
- It’s always wise to check for bed bugs when you stay at a hotel room
- Use caulk to seal cracks and crevices in your home
- Perform a regular inspection for the signs of an infestation
Hiring a Pest Management Professional
Make sure you identify them correctly as bed bugs. You don’t want to hire a professional only to find that you have cockroach nymph, for example
- Hire an expert in the specific field of bed bug control
- Be careful of exterminators who come to your home univinted, even though they offer a free service
- Hire a qualified and licensed professional. You can check with the State Department of Agriculture, the state Attorney General, or Better Business Bureau
- Check for feedbacks from previous customers
- Prioritize quality over price
- What to emphasize in the contract:
- The condition of the bed bug infestation
- The work plan
- How many treatments needed to achieve best results
- A credible professional will do these things:
- Inspect your house before quoting a price
- Inspect your house before starting any pesticide application
- Inform you with a written report of the inspection
- Has a complete plan for treatment and prevention
- Ask whether the company has liability insurance that protect your home and furniture from damage
- Ask for a guarantee and what it covers
Good luck getting rid of bed bugs!