Anyone, anywhere can get bed bugs. Having bed bugs doesn’t mean that a home, office, school or other building is dirty. It just means that the bed bugs found a place to live where there are places to hide and people to bite. They could have hitched a ride from a friend’s house, from the apartment next door, from a hotel room or from a chair in a clinic waiting room.
Bed bugs are hard to control, but you can do it!
Using insecticides alone to control bed bugs is not the best solution. Cleaning, getting rid of clutter and taking a few other steps are just as important as applying insecticide when you’re trying to control bed bugs.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs ?
This article to walk you through how to:
- Inspect your home for bed bugs.
- Decide whether to try to get rid of the bed bugs yourself or to call in a pest management professional to do it.
- Treat your home for bed bugs.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that are about the size and color of apple seeds. They live indoors and feed only on human (and sometimes other animal) blood. They don’t eat crumbs, skin cells or anything else.
Bed bugs are flat and very good at hiding in small cracks. They don’t have wings, and they don’t jump. The smaller, younger stages (nymphs) start out tan and darken as they grow to the adult stage. Bed bugs that have recently fed will be swollen and reddish.
Bed bugs don’t carry diseases, but their bites can cause itchy skin reactions. People who are worried about being bitten, or that they have bed bugs in their homes, also may be anxious and lose sleep.
Looking for Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can hide in the smallest cracks, and tend to prefer areas near where people sleep (including beds and living room couches). You will need to carefully inspect your home to figure out which parts of it to treat. You’ll need these tools to help you with the inspection:
- Bright flashlight
- Magnifying glass
- Long, thin probe (such as a putty knife, playing card or nail file)
- Vacuum cleaner with crevice tool
- Latex or rubber gloves
- Paper towels
While you inspect, you will also want to crush or vacuum up any bed bugs that you find.
What to Look For
Signs to look for when you’re looking for bed bugs include:
- Live or dead bed bugs
- Empty skins they have shed as they grow from one stage to another
- Fecal stains or droppings.
How to Look
Start to look for bed bugs within 15 or 20 feet of where people sleep. (This is where bed bugs are most likely to be found.) Move carefully across the whole area. Angle your flashlight beam along the surface you’re inspecting to help make eggs and newly hatched bed bugs easier to see.
It’s important that you look at all of the cracks and crevices that might hold bed bugs so that you don’t miss anything. Stick a probe such as a putty knife, playing card or nail file into the cracks to force out any bed bugs that might be hiding in them.
You may want to take notes on where you find bed bugs to make it easier to remember all of the places that will need to be treated later.
Where to Look
Look at and under the mattress and box spring, bed frame, headboard and footboard. Focus on the trim and seams of the mattress. Also look inside the cracks and crevices under the box spring. Check the sheets and pillow cases, too.
Furniture near the bed
Examine the nightstands, dressers, and wardrobes, toy chests and other storage containers, chairs and other furniture. Empty the furniture and containers, then remove and inspect all drawers, frames and cracks. Check the rails, joints and screw holes in the frames.
Check cracks in the plaster or drywall and behind peeling wallpaper and paneling.
Inspect any cracks in and along the floorboards, baseboards and crown molding (if you can reach it safely).
Windows and doors
Check the frames and trim.
Inspect the blinds, drapes, curtains, shades and other window coverings.
Look inside smoke detectors, clocks and phones, and behind the face plates of electrical outlets and switches. (Warning: Don’t put anything into any area with electrical wires or connections!)
Check the frames and behind any decorative objects on the walls, including wall hangings, pictures, posters and mirrors.
Look along the edges of carpet and rugs, and under rugs, floor cloths and other movable floor coverings.
Inspect the tufts, seams, trim and zippers of upholstered furniture such as sofas, couches, chairs and ottomans (foot stools). Look at their undersides and legs, and under the slipcovers, too (if you have them).
Treating Your Home
After your search, you know which parts of your home have bed bugs. And if you’ve crushed and vacuumed up all of the bed bugs that you found while you searched, you’ve already made progress. It’s time to take the next steps in the process of ridding your home of those pesky critters.
A list of the steps to take follows, and each step is explained in the next sections. Doing as many of these steps as possible will get you the best results. Bed bug treatment takes time, and you’ll have to repeat some of the steps, but remember that every time you do, you’re closer to being free of bed bugs.
Isolate & Protect the Beds
Start off by isolating the beds to help reduce the bed bug bites you get and improve your quality of life. Then encase the mattresses to keep more bed bugs from getting into them.
- Vacuum the bedroom carefully to reduce the number of bed bugs, especially in the sleeping areas and around and under the bed.
- Inspect and clean the headboards and bed frames with standard household cleaners or soapy water to get rid of any bed bugs you see.
- Enclose the mattresses and box springs in sturdy zippered covers labeled “allergen rated,” “for dust mites” or “for bed bugs.” Look for smooth, strong covers that don’t have any folds around the zippers (folds can hide bed bugs). The covers will trap any bed bugs that are already inside them and will help keep more bed bugs from getting into them. The smooth covers are also easy to inspect, vacuum and clean. If a cover rips or tears, replace it or fix it with duct tape.
- Move the beds away from the wall. Take off any bed skirts and make sure the bedding doesn’t touch the floor. (This will help keep bed bugs from climbing onto the bed.)
- Put interceptor devices under each leg of the beds. Interceptor devices keep bed bugs from crawling up from the floor and help you monitor for bed bugs. You can buy ready-to-use bed bug interceptor devices in local stores or online, or make them by placing each leg of the bed into a sturdy plastic dish, empty soup can or cream cheese container with a thin layer of cooking oil in it. If the interceptors crack, be sure to replace them right away.
Clean & Organize
Cleaning and organizing a room or home to help get rid of bed bugs can be a lot of work. It’s very important, though, because bed bugs thrive in the many hiding places of cluttered living areas.
A bucket of hot water with soap or detergent and a vacuum cleaner will help you clean up bed bug debris and allergens, making the environment healthier for the people living there.
Inspect, treat and seal all movable items from infested rooms into plastic bags or tote bins that don’t have air holes. Pick up everything from the floor and remove everything from all shelves, closets, dressers, wardrobes, and other furniture and storage containers.
Suggested cleaning methods for various items follow.
» Washable clothes, shoes, stuffed toys, pillows and bedding – Wash these items in hot water and dry them on the highest heat setting possible. (Note: Clean clothes don’t have to be rewashed. Just put them in the dryer on medium to high heat for 30 minutes.)
» Hard toys, electronics, books and other papers, and breakable items that can’t be washed – Store items like this in sealed plastic bags or bins until you can inspect and treat them.
» Hard toys and breakable items that can be washed – Some hard toys (such as building bricks and plastic figures) can be put into lingerie bags and run through a dishwasher with “heated dry” turned on. It’s probably best to hand wash breakable items.
» Once items have been washed or treated, store them in plastic bags or bins so that bed bugs can’t reinfest them. You can remove items from the bags and bins once you’ve killed all of the bed bugs.
After everything in a room has been cleared, move all furniture away from the walls. You may want to install interceptors on the legs of the furniture, too.
Vacuuming is one of the best ways to remove the live bed bugs that are hiding in a room. A regular vacuum is fine, but a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (highefficiency) filter will also help reduce the spread of allergens. A crevice tool will help focus the vacuum’s suction in small spaces, cracks and crevices. You could also use a brush attachment, which may help in dislodging eggs.
How to Vacuum
Once all of the personal items, clothing and bedding in the room have been organized and bagged, it’s time to start vacuuming.
» Start with the bed. Pay special attention to the mattress and box spring seams. Take the mattress and box spring off of the bed frame. Inspect and vacuum all surfaces to remove all loose dirt and visible bed bugs. Use a brush or crevice tool with a scraping motion to loosen bed bugs and eggs.
» Vacuum inside and under the drawers of night stands, dressers and other furniture. Be sure to vacuum any screw and nail holes. » Vacuum along the bottoms of the walls and all of the moldings and other trim. If molding or wallpaper is loose, lift or remove it and vacuum underneath or behind it. Make sure to vacuum around the heating vents.
» Vacuum upholstered furniture such as couches and recliners and their cushions. Pay special attention to all cracks and folds. Turn the furniture over to vacuum the undersides.
Clean & Store the Vacuum Cleaner
» When you’re done vacuuming, the vacuum cleaner may have live bed bugs and eggs inside. Remove the entire vacuum bag or debris container (if you have a bagless vacuum) after each use. Put the whole vacuum bag or the container contents into a plastic bag. Seal the plastic bag with tape and throw it outside in the garbage. Wash the debris container with hot water and detergent.
» Wash the vacuum brush attachment with hot water and detergent to remove any live bugs or eggs caught in the bristles.
» After you’ve cleaned the vacuum cleaner and attachments, store them in large plastic garbage bags that are closed tightly.
Making simple home repairs will help control bed bugs, get rid of their breeding areas, and keep them from coming back.
» Caulk along moldings and joints with sealant (silicone or latex will work; however, silicone is generally not paintable) to close off bed bug hiding spots. Pay attention to small cracks and crevices, any window or door molding that a dime can slide under, and old screw or hardware holes in wooden furniture. Try to fill in screw heads and nail holes on the bottom of furniture.
» Inspect and repair wall outlets and switch plates to reduce gaps that could let bed bugs into the room.
» Seal the openings around pipes and other objects that come through walls, floors and ceilings to keep bed bugs from moving to and from nearby rooms or units.
» Repair or remove peeling wallpaper.
» Repair cracks in walls and floors.
Throw Away Infested Items
You may not have to throw away everything that has been infested with bed bugs. But some things may have so many bed bugs and be so hard to clean that throwing them away is the best choice.
Things you might be able to save:
» Mattresses or box springs that have been infested with bed bugs. Use the types of mattress encasements mentioned earlier.
» Furniture items such as dressers, night stands, bookshelves, desks and tables can be successfully cleaned or treated with insecticides.
Things it will be hard or impossible to save or that may not be worth trying to save:
» Some furniture items, such as upholstered couches and recliners, or wicker furniture, may be so difficult to treat that it is best to throw them away. If you throw away infested furniture or mattresses, wrap them in plastic and put labels on them that read “infested with bed bugs.” You should also destroy or deface the infested items to keep other people from taking and reusing them. Slash mattresses and upholstered furniture, break box spring frames, and label items with the words “bed bugs” to prevent the spread of bed bugs in your community.
» Small items that aren’t washable, that are heavily infested or that aren’t worth the hassle of trying to save.
Put the smaller items you plan to throw away into plastic garbage bags before moving them around. That way you won’t release bed bugs into other parts of your home. Label the bags with the words “bed bugs” before taking them outside. Keep the bags in a secure area until trash pickup day if you can so that other people aren’t tempted to take them.
Wash Surfaces & Furniture
» Wash all furniture that isn’t upholstered and all hard surfaces in the room using soap and water. Be sure to wash the crevices and spaces in the frames.
» Wash cribs and children’s bed frames with soap and water. Don’t use insecticides on children’s beds or bedding. » Wash the floors, moldings, window sills and walls thoroughly.
» Pet beds may also become infested with bed bugs. These beds can be placed in the clothes dryer or steamed (see the “Treat With Steam” section that follows), or they may need to be thrown out.
Treat With Steam
Steam treatments are optional but recommended, because they will kill all life stages of bed bugs, including the eggs, and can be used in places where insecticides cannot. That makes steam a good partner to use with most insecticides, which won’t kill bed bug eggs and can’t be applied to certain areas. If you are using both steam and insecticides, always do the steam cleaning before you apply insecticides. Otherwise, the steam is likely to remove your insecticide.
You can use steam on mattresses and upholstered furniture, such as couches and chairs. One of the drawbacks of steam is that it will only kill bed bugs in places where the steam can reach. You can help the steam reach up to three-quarters of an inch into mattresses and furniture if you move the nozzle slowly. Take about 20 seconds to move the nozzle 12 inches.
A professional steam machine with a large waterholding tank, many types of attachments and variable output rates is best. You may be able to rent a steam cleaner from a local grocery, hardware or home improvement store. Dry-steam or low-vapor steamers are better because they use and leave behind less moisture. Clean the steam machine before you return it to make sure no bed bugs hitch a ride to the store on it.
Treat With Insecticides
If you can afford it, hiring a pest management professional may be a better choice than applying insecticides yourself. Professionals are trained in how to safely and effectively use pesticides in a home. Note: Even if you decide to hire a professional, you still need to do most of the steps described earlier.
Monitoring bed bug activity with sticky traps and interceptors can give you an early warning of the need to attack the problem again. Try not to be too discouraged if you have to repeat the whole inspection and treatment process. You can get back to the point where you go to bed without worrying about the bed bugs biting.