How Can I Get Rid Bed Bugs
Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control
Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?
Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:
- How many bed bugs you have;
- How much clutter is available for hiding places;
- Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
- Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.
Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.
The following steps will help you begin:
You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.
Identify the Problem
- Identify the pest:
- Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
- Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
Develop a Strategy
- Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
- Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
- Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.
Keep the Infestation from Spreading
- Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
- Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
- Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
- Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
- Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
- Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
Prepare for Treatment
Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.
Kill the Bed Bugs
- Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
- Considernon-chemical methodsof killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
- Heat treatment:You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
- Cold treatmentcan be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
- Steam cleaners(wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
Evaluate and Prevent
- Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
- Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.
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Bed Bug Treatment: How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Nothing evokes sheer panic like seeing a bed bug or waking up with bed bug bites. Here are the steps entomologists (bug experts) recommend to get rid of them.
The first thing to know is that there’s a difference between spotting a bed bug and having a full-blown infestation. An infestation is when bed bugs have taken up residence in places such as a hotel or dorm room, multi-unit apartment, or single family home—basically, any place that has a consistent food source—human blood—says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The way you’re more likely to run into the bugs is in the form of an “introduction,” says Green, which sounds nicer but still panic provoking. “An introduction is when a bed bug is dropped or crawls off an item that may have been from an infestation.” What you do next can be the difference in ending the problem quickly or the bugs establishing a foothold in your house, leading to an infestation.
How do the experts get rid of bed bugs?
Their two top weapons are chemicals and heat. While fumigation is one solution, it’s not as popular because of the cost, the tenting, and the toxic gas that permeates the house. Other options include spraying surfaces with chemicals that will repel or kill the bugs and others that kill the bugs on contact. This approach focuses on sleeping areas and where the bugs are active.
“Eggs are not susceptible to chemicals, but usually there is at least one follow up treatment, and its residual in the targeted areas and can kill bed bugs for a while,” says Green. “Heat treatments use commercial heaters, fan and thermal detectors to verify all areas have been brought to lethal temperatures for the required amount of time. This kind of heat kills all life stages of bed bugs and can be used in the entire house.” Once the bed bugs are gone, use these home remedies to keep them out for good.
If you see a bed bug, follow these steps that are outlined below:
- Don’t panic
- Do an inspection
- Make your bed an island
- Store the right stuff
- Store items that can’t be washed
Step 1: Don’t panic
If you wake up with a bite or see a crawler, don’t assume it’s a bed bug, says Green: “Panic possesses people to throw out their mattress and all their things.” That can be unwise, she says, since hauling infested furniture out can distribute the bugs around the house or allow them to spread to neighbors.
If you see a bed bug—and this is what they look like—capture it and place it in a sealed container. Then call a pest control company to get confirmation that it is what you think it is. Because one bed bug does not equal an infestation, says Green, don’t rush to the store to buy an insect bomb or repellents; these can actually make the problem worse.
Step 2: Do an inspection
If you don’t have a specimen but suspect you might have bed bugs, grab a flashlight. “Do an inspection of the bed first and work outward,” says Green. Look for bed bug evidence like molted skins, eggs, feces (looks like an ink mark), nymphs, and bed bugs under in the seams of the mattress, box spring or sofa/recliner. Check the headboard and frame too and the nearby nightstand, including the drawers.
Finally, check the cracks and crevices near the bed including the molding. If you see any evidence of bed bugs you’ll want to contact a licensed pest professional immediately. (If you live in an apartment, contact your landlord first.) “Bed bugs are one of the most difficult pests to control and cannot be effectively treated with do-it-yourself measures, says Brittany Campbell, PhD, an entomologist with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). Here are some more signs of bed bug infestation you may be missing.
Step 3: Declutter
Even if the exterminators are on the way, it’s a good idea to deal with any clutter—like stacked magazines or boxes on the floor and piles of clothing—because bed bugs love it. Cleaning up makes it easier for the exterminator to treat your house; also, a clutter-free house is easier to monitor for future infestations.
If you’re tempted to hustle your stacks of books or clutter out to the garage or into a closet, know that you could be spreading the bugs. Instead, take a deep breath, put on some gloves, and carefully bag up everything that can be washed into sturdy garbage bags and seal them with duct tape. Simply tying off a bag won’t work—the bugs can easily escape. If you have lots of clutter, don’t believe that’s the reason you have an infestation: This is what actually causes bed bugs.
Step 4: Vacuum
“Vacuum rooms thoroughly including often overlooked sites such as drapes, the back side of pictures, and the underside of furniture, all known hiding spots for bed bugs if you suspect any of these items to be infested,” says Campbell. Don’t forget to give floor molding a good vacuum. (If you see loose molding, don’t repair it until you talk to your exterminator—you don’t want to seal or caulk cracks with live bed bugs in them.)
Use the crevice tool to do the seams on the mattress and box spring, the recliners, and even the sofa. Don’t use a stiff brush attachment as the bed bugs and eggs may stick to the brush and transfer to another surface. If your vacuum is bagless, carefully empty into a trash bag and put it in the trash outside. If your vacuum has a bag, carefully place the bag into a trash bag and put it in the trash outside. Wash the vacuum tools in hot and soapy water. Store the vacuum in a plastic garbage bag and seal it with duct tape until it can be inspected for bed bugs.
Step 5: Make your bed an island
Although you’ll be tempted to toss your mattress and start fresh, you may not have to. Your exterminator may treat the bed, depending on the treatment option you choose. If it will be a few days before the exterminator gets there, you can isolate your bed. First, move it a few feet from the wall. Remove all your bedding and place it in a sealed plastic bag until you get to your washing machine. Run the bedding through a hot wash cycle and then dry it for at least 30 minutes on the hottest setting—soapy water won’t kill the bed bugs, but the heat will.
Now, place a bed bug-proof encasement over your mattress and box springs. Make sure the zipper closes tightly so any bed bugs trapped inside will stay there and starve to death—which, by the way, can take up to a year, so don’t peek. Tuck all sheets in so they don’t touch the floor and place bed bug interceptors under each leg of the bed (you can do the same for furniture). Interceptors trap bed bugs and help in monitoring efforts. Keep the area under the bed clear.
Step 6: Store the right stuff
In case you’re worried: You probably won’t have to part with your cherished mementos. However, if an item is infested with bed bugs, like a book or a piece of upholstery, it may be tough to save. Exterminators can help you with this, and they will have a detailed plan and checklist for you to complete.
Should you have to stay away from home during treatment, says Campbell, plan to only take items you absolutely need; everything you leave will get treated. Just make sure anything you take is bug-free. “Smaller items can be placed in plastic bags for transport, like clothes, if you need to do laundry. As with the bedding, anything that can be laundered should be washed in hot water and dried on the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes to kill bed bugs. Be sure to use a clean bag once items are returned after a treatment to prevent bringing bed bugs back into a home,” she says.
Step 7: Store items that can’t be washed
Depending on the type of treatment, you may need to remove artwork and decor from the walls. Stuffed animals, picture frames, electronics, books, and other items that can’t be laundered should be placed in a clear tote with an airtight seal until the exterminator can thoroughly inspect them—and potentially treat them in the container. Ask the pest management company what treatment is best suited for your items. Avoid having to go through all of this again by following these bed bug infestation tips prevention tips from entomologists.
Bedbugs are small insects that often live on furniture or bedding. Their bites can be itchy, but do not usually cause other health problems.
Check if it’s bedbugs
Jeff March / Alamy Stock Photo
Bedbugs can hide in many places, including on bed frames, mattresses, clothing, furniture, behind pictures and under loose wallpaper.
Signs of bedbugs include:
- bites – often on areas exposed while sleeping, like the face, neck and arms
- spots of blood on your bedding – from the bites or from squashing a bedbug
- small brown spots on bedding or furniture (bedbug poo)
Bedbug bites can be red and itchy. They’re often in a line or cluster.
Otto Pleska / Alamy Stock Photo
Some people have a reaction to the bites. They can be very itchy and there may be painful swelling.
How you can treat bedbug bites
Bedbug bites usually clear up on their own in a week or so.
Things you can do include:
- putting something cool, like a clean, damp cloth, on the affected area to help with the itching and any swelling
- keeping the affected area clean
- not scratching the bites to avoid getting an infection
You can ask a pharmacist about:
- using a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone cream to ease bedbug bites (children under 10 and pregnant women should get advice from a doctor before using hydrocortisone cream)
- antihistamines – these may help if the bites are very itchy and you’re unable to sleep
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- the bites are still very painful, swollen or itchy after trying treatments from a pharmacist
- the redness around the bites is spreading
You may have an infection and need treatment with antibiotics.
Coronavirus update: how to contact a GP
It’s still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:
- visit their website
- use the NHS App
- call them
How to get rid of bedbugs
contact your local council or pest control service – it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get rid of bedbugs yourself because they can be resistant to some insecticides
wash affected bedding and clothing – use a hot wash (60C) or tumble dry on a hot setting for at least 30 minutes
put affected clothing and bedding in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer (-16C) for 4 days (alternative to hot washing)
clean and vacuum regularly – bedbugs are found in both clean and dirty places, but regular cleaning will help you spot them early
do not keep clutter around your bed
do not bring secondhand furniture indoors without carefully checking it first
do not take luggage or clothing indoors without checking it carefully if you have come from somewhere where you know there were bedbugs
Page last reviewed: 21 January 2019
Next review due: 21 January 2022
Home Remedies for Bed Bugs
You take care of your house. You vacuum the rugs, clean the windows, and keep the bathrooms spotless. Guests visit, and they feel like a cleaning service makes daily trips to your house. Now imagine one morning you wake up to find that you have tiny bite marks on your body. Upon further inspection, you realize that there are small bugs in your bed. That’s right. Bed bugs.
What do you do?
Your first instinct might be to think that your house isn’t clean enough, but that may not be the case. Rest assured, bed bugs can come from several different places and are rarely a reflection of housekeeping skills. Here are some home remedies for bed bugs.
How Do People Get Bed Bugs?
Like most bugs, bed bugs come from outside the house. If you live in an apartment or any other shared living situation and have a bed bug infestation, it could be that they came from an adjoining apartment through cracks in the floors and walls.
Pesticide foggers like bug bombs don’t get rid of bed bugs, but instead, displace them– they go searching for a new home. For that reason, you want to avoid using bug bombs to deal with the infestation. I
f it makes you feel any better, if you live in a shared housing situation, it’s possible that your infestation is the result of one of your neighbors bug-bombing an infestation.
Introducingused furnitureto your house is another way bed bugs find their way inside. Be wary of used furniture, especially upholstery. Check and treat any pieces of furniture carefully before bringing them into the house. Check used clothing and books as well.
Even if it’s brand new, pay close attention to any furniture that has beenstored or transported in the back of a truck.
Finally, if you stay somewhere with bed bugs, they can also hitch a ride on you, your family, or your guests, either via your clothing or in your luggage.
How to Detect Bed Bugs
Bites on your skinare the first sign of a bed bug infestation. If you have unexplained bug bites, especially first thing in the morning, you might want to start checking around for other signs of an infestation.
Check your mattress for the visual signs of bed bugs. If you have them, you may see red or rust-colored stains, indicating crushed bed bugs.
Signs of Bed Bugs
- Tiny,Living Bugs
You might also see tiny black dots, which are bed bug excrement, and egg shells (around 1mm, a pale yellow color) resulting from the bed bugs reproducing. Finally, you may see the bugs themselves walking around.
Make sure you check every surface down to the box spring, and anything surrounding the bed as well. Check curtains, baseboards, behind wallpaper and even under the carpet. Bed bugs prefer fabric and wood to plastic and metal, so check any wooden furniture as well.
If you suspect you have bed bugs, call a professional exterminator to confirm it for you.
Bed Bugs and Your Health
Bed bugs bite because they live on blood, either human or animal blood. They feed on your blood for about ten minutes, then swell and turn red. Their bites are painless but can become itchy, but unlike mosquitos, they are harmless and do not transmit diseases.
However, if you scratch the bites, you can cause an infection. One characteristic of bed bug bites?
They are numerous, and they have a tendency to appear in straight rows. If you seemultiple bites arranged in a straight line, there’s a good chance you’re looking at bed bug bites.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
The best way to get rid of a bed bug infestation is tocall an exterminator. They’ve dealt with bed bugs before and know how to do a thorough enough job to keep them from returning. An exterminator is your best bet, just to make sure you take care of the problem completely.
However, there are some things you can do at home to get rid of bed bugs and to supplement a professional.
Treating an Infestation
Usehot waterto wash all clothes, linens and anything fabric that may have contacted the bugs. Heat will kill anything hiding in your linens. Use a dryer to dry everything as well, because a dryer will hit the bugs with a double dose of heat.
Just make sure you pay attention to the tags on the fabric, as your linens may be dry clean only. Dry cleaning can also kill bed bugs, but make sure you inform the dry cleaner of the possible infestation.
Treating an Infestation
- WashAll Clothes, Fabric and Bedding With Hot Water
- SteamYour Mattress and Box Spring
Once you’ve given your bedding the heat treatment, follow up by vacuuming all areas of the infested room(s).Vacuuming will remove any bugs from the nooks and cranniesin which they may be hiding.
Use a brush to loosen all bugs and eggs. Make sure you clean out your vacuum thoroughly afterward and dispose of any vacuum bags outside of the house. Use a steamer on things like your mattress and box spring. Steam will take care of remaining eggs.
Finally,coveryour mattress, box spring, and pillow in a completely closed bug-proof cover. Sealing up your bedding with a cover ensures that anything left will not be able to escape or feed and will eventually starve. Starvation can take up to a year, however.
Whether you’re looking to prevent bed bugs from re-infesting a room or looking to avoid one before it happens, there are a couple of things you can do. Start by making sure that your house isspotless.
Messy rooms and improperly stored items create a lot of places for bed bugs to hide, so the less attractive your home to bed bugs, the less likely you are to experience an infestation.
Preventing an Infestation
- Clean Your House
- Prevent Bed Bugs From Climbing Your Bed
- Make a Habit of Cleaning
- Inspect New Items for Bed Bugs
Remove bridgesfrom the floor to the bed. Keep bed bugs out of bed by keeping blankets from dragging the floor, and don’t use the bed as storage for anything.
Bed bug interceptors are relatively inexpensive and are placed under the feet of the bed, preventing bed bugs from reaching the legs and climbing to the bedding. Consider using them. Finally,prevention is ongoing. Clean often, checking for signs of a recurrence.
The earlier you catch bed bugs, the easier they are to clean out. Inspect all used items that you introduce to the house. When staying in a new place, check that bed for bugs. When returning from a trip, clean everything you took, including your luggage.
Home Remedies for Bed Bugs
The best ways to get rid of bed bugs are pesticides, heat treatment, and thorough cleaning, but there are a few home remedies that might help.
- Silica gel(the packets included in various products to ensure dryness) ground up and applied to affected areas will stick to the bugs and dehydrate them. Be very careful to avoid inhaling the silica gel, and it is probably best to avoid using it if you have pets or kids. Baking soda can also work for the same purpose.
- Tea tree oilin your laundry and sprayed in affected areas will repel bed bugs, as well as lavender oil. Mix lavender oil with eucalyptus and rosemary oils and water to make a repellent spray.
- Sprayingrubbing alcohol can kill some bugs on contact.
- Scented dryer sheetstend to deter bed bugs. Placing a layer of them on your bed may keep them from visiting you.
- Double-sided tape.Much like bed bug interceptors, double-sided tape prevents bed bugs from reaching your bed in the first place. Apply the tape to the underside of your bed near the legs and the bugs will get stuck on it. Just be sure to keep your blankets from touching the ground, or some of the bugs will be able to reach the bedding.
Bed Bug Removal Recipe
- Cayenne Pepper– 1 Tsp
- Ground Ginger– 1 Tsp
- Oregano Oil– 1 Tsp
- Water– 1 Tsp
You might have ingredients for this simple homemade bed bug repellent right in your kitchen. The strong smells of cayenne, ginger, and oregano repel bed bugs and other insects, too. If you know where the bed bugs are entering the room, use a mixture of cayenne pepper, ginger, and oregano oil to keep them away.
Mix the ingredients in water, strain it, and use a spray bottle to apply the solution at entry points. Make spraying a regular habit, and you’ll prevent the bugs from entering. To keep other insects from getting into your home, spray doorways and windowsills.
If you have bed bugs or are just worried about preventing an infestation, rest easy — there are plenty ofnatural bed bug repellentsand ways to kill bed bugs available.
Bed bugs can happen to anyone and even if you keep a tidy home, random variables, like your neighbor setting off a bug bomb next door, mean that an infestation can happen anytime.
In this article, you learned how to detect bed bugs, as well as a few home remedies for bed bugs, including how to repel bed bugs naturally.
Do you have a friend struggling with a bed bug infestation? Use the buttons below to share to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.
Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
When Bedbugs Bite
Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.
People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.
Signs of Infestation
If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.
If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.
Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:
- Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
- Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.
While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.
Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."
The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."
University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."