How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs For Good
Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Before you panic, read up on how the pests really operate.
The resurgence of bed bugs in American homes has caused many a sleepless night — but not everything you hear is true.
Before you start pointing fingers at the reasons your home is infested or why you do — or don’t — have a bed bugs problem, know this: Entomologist Richard Pollack, Ph.D., has found fewer than 10% of the critters people identify as bed bugs actuallyarebed bugs. That’s also why he doesn’t trust websites that list reports of bed bugs at hotels.
If you suspect you’ve got some unwelcome visitors at your house, here is everything you need to know about these nasty insects first.
Where do bed bugs come from?
Bed bugs most notoriously hitch rides on luggage, but traveling isn’t the only way to pick them up. They can easily be carried into the house on secondhand furniture, clothing, boxes, and pillows, so inspect such itemsverycarefully. Encasement products like Good Housekeeping Seal holder AllerEase mattress protector can also prevent bugs that do make it inside from hunkering down in crevices.
But while reports of bed bugs at movie theaters and in retail stores have made headlines, it’s rare that someone actually brings them home, says Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist at Cornell University.
What are bed bugs attracted to?
Whether you have a messy home or a neat home, bed bugs only care that their food source, a.k.a. people, are nearby. Luckily, there’s no evidence they transmit diseases as they feed. The real threat: itchy, red bites, which are the first sign of an infestation.
Can bed bugs bite through clothes?
Unfortunately, long-sleeved pajamas won’t shield you from bed bug bites. In fact, that’s one of the tell-tale signs of an infestation. "If you wake up with numerous bites, especially under your clothes, it could be bed bugs," says David Dunham of Go Green Bedbug Dogs. Not everyone experiences the same skin reaction though. "It’s common for one person to become the host or the person getting all the bites, while their spouse or partner will get no bites at all," he adds. "Usually the person not getting bites will discredit their partner’s concerns.
Now, here’s how to get rid of bed bugs:
The first step is searching your furnishings, particularly along and behind the headboard and sides of the mattress. Bed bugs will hole up in furniture, along baseboards, in cracks in walls and, yes, in beds. Look for black stains (they leave behind blood and fecal matter), discarded molted skins, and the bugs themselves, but don’t wait too long to contact a professional.
"The biggest mistake people make is waiting too long to call for help, because the longer the problem goes on, the bigger of a chance they’ll spread within the home and even outside of the home," Dunham says.
Send or bring evidence to your local Cooperative Extension office (usually $5) or contact an online bug-ID service such as Pollack’s IdentifyUS ($30) for a diagnosis. Accuracy is very important, so pinpoint the areas and rooms in your home that need treatment and act swiftly.
As soon as you determine you have bed bugs, seal the infested bedding and clothing in clean plastic bags. Sort items based on how you would wash clothes and make a separate dry-clean only pile, advises the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology. Then wash and dry the items at the hottest temperature they can withstand.
While some bugs will die in the washing machine, it’s the heat of the dryer that will kill more of them. At least 60 minutes on a high-heat setting should do the trick, according to New York State Integrated Pest Management. Immediately dispose of the used plastic bags and put clean clothes in new ones. Don’t take the items out of the bag until the infestation is successfully controlled.
Thoroughly vacuuming rugs, floors, furniture, beds, and all cracks and crevices can also cut down on your bed bug population, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Afterwards, put the contaminated vacuum bag in a tightly sealed bag and throw it away in an outside garbage bin.
While some people think over-the-counter sprays are a solution, pyrethroid-based pesticides may kill or repel some of the insects, but can be dangerous if misused, and it’s doubtful you’ll be successful on your own. Instead, get written quotes from three licensed exterminators detailing their course of action, including pesticides, traps, and/or heat treatments they’ll use and how and where they’ll use them. "You should ask lots of questions to the companies you interview, because a good company will answer them and will never pressure you to make an appointment," says Dunham.
Asking the company about their success rate and if their treatment comes with a guarantee, should their efforts not be successful, is a must. Good luck!
How to get rid of bed bugs for good
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Bed Bugs Signs & Symptoms
The real cause of a full-blown infestation in any home is thatmost people are not aware of bed bugs. The reason for this is because bed bug bites are usually painless. Also, if allergic reactions or itchiness might occur, it usually happens a few weeks after the bite.
Then, most of the time, people just blame mosquitoes or fleas. This gives bed bugs ample time to feed and reproduce; and before you know it, a house becomes fully infested.
What Are Bed Bugs?
*Parasites- bed bugs are classified as parasites, specifically warm blood feeding. This means they are specifically feeding off from warm-blooded creatures like humans and furry pets.
*Nocturnal- bed bugs are nocturnal, which means they are most active during the night. This means that when you are sleeping comfortably in your bed during the night, they are feeding off of you.
*Furniture-dwelling- if you are thinking that bed bugs only infest beds, then you are mistaken. In fact, they infest all kinds of furniture within your home such as cribs, sofas and beds.Bed bugs may be hiding at the movie theater, hospital waiting room, on the train or the bus- even at your own workplace.
*Health Hazard- bed bugs not only feed off of you and your family, but they cause multiple bites which cause irritation and itching. The real danger is when you or one of your family members is allergic to bed bugs. Keep in mind that while unlikely, some allergic reactions may be fatal if immediate necessary medical attention is not given.
*Hard To See- bed bugs are so small that it’s difficult for the normal human eye to see them. They may be minute in size, but there is nothing small to them when it comes to the health hazards they can cause.
*Hard To Kill- bed bugs are resilient creatures. Without the proper tools or cleaning agents, these nasty little creatures can survive for years within your bed. In fact, these pests are able to stay alive for 12 months without feeding.
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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."
How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
Bedbugs measure just 5 millimeters across—smaller than a pencil eraser. These bugs are smart, tough, and they reproduce quickly. Bedbugs know where to hide to avoid detection, they can live for months between meals, and a healthy female can lay 500 eggs in her lifetime.
No surprise that these tiny bloodsuckers can wreak a lot of havoc in your home. If they get into bed with you, they can leave red, itchy welts all over your body.
Fortunately, you can get rid of bedbugs. Be patient as removing bedbugs often takes some time and effort. You may have to try a few different chemical and non-chemical approaches, especially if you have a large infestation.
Certain factors can make bedbugs harder to remove. You may have a tougher time ridding your home of them if you have a lot of clutter, or you travel often and bring new bedbugs home in your luggage.
If you can’t rid your home on your own, you may have to call in a professional exterminator. Read on for a step-by-step guide on getting rid of bedbugs.
If you’ve got bedbugs, you want to find them early before they start to reproduce. It’s much easier—and cheaper—to treat a small infestation than a big one. Yet smaller infestations can be harder to detect.
Search for bedbugs yourself, or hire a professional to do an inspection. Some inspectors use specially trained dogs to hunt down bedbugs by scent.
Bedbugs’ small, narrow bodies enable them to squeeze into tiny spots—like the seams of a mattress or couch, and the folds of curtains.
Also look for them in places like these:
- near the tags of the mattress and box spring
- in cracks in the bed frame and headboard
- in baseboards
- between couch cushions
- in furniture joints
- inside electrical outlets
- under loose wallpaper
- underneath paintings and posters on the walls
- in the seam where the wallpaper and ceiling meet
Use a flashlight and magnifying glass to go over all of these areas.
You can spot bedbugs by these signs:
- live bedbugs, which are reddish and about ¼-inch long
- dark spots about the size of a period—these are bedbug droppings
- reddish stains on your mattress from bugs that have been crushed
- small, pale yellow eggs, egg shells, and yellowish skins that young bedbugs shed
Once you find a bedbug, put it in a sealed jar along with 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. Other types of bugs can look a lot like bedbugs. If you’re not sure what type of bug you’ve found, bring it to an exterminator or entomologist to identify.
Once you know you have bedbugs, you need to keep them contained so you can get rid of them. A quick and easy way to trap bedbugs is with your vacuum. Run the vacuum over any possible hiding places.
This includes your:
Seal up the vacuumed contents into a plastic bag and throw it away. Then thoroughly clean out the vacuum.
Seal up all your linens and affected clothes in plastic bags until you can wash them. Then put them on the highest possible temperature setting in the washer and dryer. If an item can’t be washed, put it in the dryer for 30 minutes at the highest heat setting.
Anything that can’t be treated in the washer and dryer, place in a plastic bag. Leave it there for a few months, if possible, to make sure all the bugs die. If you can’t clean furniture, throw it away. Tear it up first and spray paint the words “bedbugs” on it so no one else tries to take it home.
Before you start treating your home, do a little prep work to maximize your odds of success. Make sure all your linens, carpets, drapes, clothing, and other hiding places have been cleaned or thrown out (see Step 2).
Next, get rid of bedbug hiding places. Pick up books, magazines, clothes, and anything else that’s lying on your floor and under your bed. Throw out whatever you can. Don’t move items from an infested room to a clean one—you could spread the bugs.
Seal up any open areas. Glue down loose wallpaper. Caulk cracks in furniture and around baseboards. Tape up open electrical outlets. Finally, move your bed at least 6 inches away from the wall so bedbugs can’t climb on.
Home cleaning methods
You can first try to remove bedbugs without chemicals. These bugs are pretty easy to kill with high heat, 115°F (46°C), or intense cold , 32°F(less than 0°C
Here are a few ways to treat bedbugs using these methods:
- Wash bedding and clothes in hot water for 30 minutes. Then put them in a dryer on the highest heat setting for 30 minutes.
- Use a steamer on mattresses, couches, and other places where bedbugs hide.
- Pack up infested items in black bags and leave them outside on a hot day (95 degrees) or in a closed car. In cooler temperatures, it can take two to five months to kill sealed-up bugs.
- Put bags containing bedbugs in the freezer at 0°F (-17°C). Use a thermometer to check the temperature. Leave them in there for at least four days.
Once you’ve cleaned all visible bedbugs, make the area inhospitable for their friends. Place bedbug-proof covers over your mattress and box spring. Zip these covers up all the way. Bugs that are trapped inside will die, and new bugs won’t be able to get in.
If these methods don’t wipe out all the bugs, you may need to try an insecticide.
Non-chemical and chemical treatments
Insecticides can help rid your home of bedbugs. Look for products that are EPA-registered, and specifically marked for “bedbugs.”
Here are a few types of insecticides you can try:
- Pyrethrins and pyrethroidsare the most common chemicals used to kill bedbugs. Yet some bedbugs have become resistant to them.
- Pyrroleslike chlorfenapyr kill bedbugs by disrupting their cells.
- Neonicotinoidsare man-made versions of nicotine. They damage the bugs’ nervous system. This type of chemical works on bedbugs that have become resistant to other pesticides.
- Dessicantsare substances that destroy the bugs’ protective outer coating. Without this coating, the bugs dry out and die. Two examples of dessicants are silica aerogel (Tri-Die and CimeXa) and diatomaceous earth. The advantage to dessicants is that bedbugs can’t become resistant to them, but they work slowly. These products can take a few months to kill off all the bugs.
- Foggers or bug bombskill bedbugs, but they can’t get into cracks and crevices where these bugs hide. They can also be toxic to humans if you use them incorrectly. Read the label carefully. Leave the room before you set off a fogger.
- Plant oil-based products likeEcoRaider and Bed Bug Patrol are less toxic than chemical insecticides, and they work well against bedbugs.
How to get rid of bed bugs for good
If you find yourself waking up with itchy red welts all over your body, bed bugs might be to blame. Bed bugs can be difficult to get rid of, but not impossible. Follow these 6 steps to help get rid of bed bugs in your home for good.
Step 1: Inspect Your Home
The first step in getting rid of bed bugs for good is to know exactly where they are. By performing a thorough inspection of your home, you will know which areas are infested and need treated. Bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices in walls, boxes, luggage, and even books! However, since they feed on humans while they sleep, they’re typically found in beds — mattresses, box springs, and pillows.
Helpful Tip:Bed bugs can also hide in electronics and other appliances, so be sure to inspect these areas as well.
Step 2: Vacuum Thoroughly
Once you’ve identified the affected areas, give a thorough vacuum in order to get rid of as many bugs as you can. Don’t forget to vacuum all carpets and mattresses in the home, making sure to get deep into any crevices. Once you’ve finished vacuuming, remove and dispose of the vacuum bag (or empty the canister) into a sealed plastic bag outside.
Helpful Tip:If you can’t completely remove all bed bugs and need to dispose of your furniture, do so in a responsible manner. Leaving a note on the couch that says “bed bugs” can help prevent the further spread of these annoying insects.
Keep in Mind:If there are any rips or tears in your mattress or box spring, bed bugs may be hiding inside, as well as on the outside. Many professionals recommend discarding infested beds for this reason.
Step 3: Apply Heat
After you’ve thoroughly vacuumed any bed bugs, you’ll want to treat the area with high heat — at least 100 degrees. Crank up that thermostat, or bust out a handheld steam cleaner to blast any corners and crevices where bugs might be hiding.
Helpful Tip:Clothing and other fabrics can either be sealed in black garbage bags and placed in the sun for a few days, or laundered on high heat in order to help kill bed bugs.
Keep in Mind:You can also freeze bed bugs in order to kill them, but that will require up to two weeks of below freezing temperatures in order to be effective.
Step 4: Apply an Insecticide/Alternative
The next step in getting rid of bed bugs for good is to apply a natural insect killer such as diatomaceous earth, boric acid, or silica gel into cracks and crevices around your home. These powders work to kill bed bugs by damaging their outer coating so they dry out and die.
Warning:Be careful not to ingest or inhale these insecticide alternatives, as they can be very irritating to the lungs. Be mindful if you have pets in the home as this could be an issue for them as well.
Keep in Mind:There are aerosol and spray liquid bed bug killers, but these should be used with caution and only following the manufacturer’s instructions for use.
Step 5: Seal Cracks and Holes
Bed bugs like to hide and breed in holes and cracks around the home, so caulking cracks and crevices, and patching any drywall that needs repaired can help to reduce these harboring areas.
Step 6: Prevent Bed Bugs from Returning
Finally, you’ll want to take steps to ensure that bed bugs don’t return and set up shop in your mattress. The best way to do this is to purchase a protective cover to encase your mattress, pillows, and box spring so that they can’t get cozy in your bed.
Helpful Tip:If you travel, be sure to check your clothing and luggage before bringing them into your home, as you may have picked up bed bugs from your hotel. Bed bugs can even hide in the creases of books!
Keep in Mind:You MUST repeat treatment steps every 7-10 days until there is no further evidence of bed bugs in order to ensure they are completely gone. This can take 8 weeks or longer to achieve.
Some bed bug infestations will still persist, despite these treatments. If you’re having trouble getting rid of bed bugs for good, call in a professional pest control company that can help determine the correct treatment or insecticide to use. Even for professionals, it can take hours of pesticide application and multiple treatments before your home can finally be declared bed bug-free.
Caitlin McCormack is a freelance writer based in Toronto, Canada. A high school co-op placement at her local daily newspaper planted a love of reporting in her heart, which propelled her into a career in journalism. Over the last 10 years, she’s written for outlets such as Yahoo, HuffPost, What to Expect, Flipp, Canadian Living, and many others.
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