Bed bugs – no one wants them. These pests are a person’s worst nightmare. Bed bugs will crawl between the crevices in your mattress, and they will share the bed with you when you sleep. Did we mention that they’ll also sleep in the framing of the bed and in headboards?
If the thought of sharing your bed with bugs is a bit skeevy, it’s time to learn how to get rid of bedbugs.
And it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
Bed bug removal requires persistence. The good news is that there are many methods and avenues to take to remove these bugs once and for all. Professional bed bug extermination is an option, but it’s a costly option that we’ll discuss deeper into this article.
First we’re going to briefly discuss bed bugs and what they look like so that you’re positive you’re using the right tactics to kill the right pest.
Table of Contents
- Preparing to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
- 4 Ways to Kill Bed Bugs Instantly
- 7 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally
- 4 Tips to Prevent Bed Bugs at Home
Identifying Bed bugs Before Extermination
There’s a lot of pests you’ll find in your home, and if you try a pest control method meant for bed bugs on a flea, it may not work. You need to be able to tell the characteristics of a bed bug before you go in for the kill.
Identifying these pests is rather simple:
- Size: Small
- Shape: Oval
- Color: Brownish
What’s neat and distributing all at the same time is that the color of bed bugs will change after they feed on blood – yup they feed on human and animal blood. After feeding, they’ll swell up a bit and their color will turn from a brown to a reddish color.
When looking at them, you’ll note that they’re about the size of an apple seed.
These pests are wingless, but they’re extremely fast when they run. Bed bugs try to remain undetected, and since they have a flattened body, they can hide in the tiniest of places.
If you have a credit card, pull it out and take a look at it. The thickness of a bed bug is equal to the thickness of your credit card.
So, it’s easy to imagine all the nooks and crannies where these bloodsuckers can be found. If there is space available, they’ll make sure that they can hide away undetected.
But since females can lay hundreds of eggs during their lifetime, you’ll eventually notice them. These bugs may hide from humans, but they thrive in groups.
And when you tuck yourself in for the night, they’ll see you as easy access and bite you to drain your blood (it’s not going to kill you, but the bites are unsightly).
A good tip to see if you have a bedbug infestation is to look in:
- Box springs
- Bed frames
If you find bugs skittering away trying to hide, it’s a good chance that you have a few bedbugs that want to call your home their own.
Preparing to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
You’ve found a bedbug infestation, and now you want to get rid of these pests. It’s going to take quite a bit of work on your part, but we’re going to show you how to conduct proper bedbug pest control from start to finish.
The first step, and this is very important, is to perform a thorough cleaning to remove as many bed bugs and eggs as possible.
We’re going to recommend that you follow a multi-step approach:
- Bedding and Linen Cleaning: Bedbugs hide away in the following places: clothes, curtains, linens and bedding. They’ll even invade your kid’s shoes, stuffed animals and other items. Gather up these items and place them in the washer. If the item cannot be washed, place it in the dryer for at least 30 minutes. If the item cannot be washed nor dried, clean it by hand or discard it.
- Clean Around the Bed: If you’re the type of person that must jump over a pile of clothes or has clutter around their bed, you need to change these habits. All the clutter must go. Don’t worry about vacuuming just yet (we’ll get there soon – I promise).
- Scrub the Mattress: Find or buy a stiff scrub brush. This brush will be used to scrub your mattress seams. The goal is to remove any bedbugs and eggs that may be left behind. This is a good practice leading up to our next point.
- Encase Your Mattress: A zippered mattress cover should be used to kill the bedbugs. The idea is to encase the mattress and box spring in a cover. This cover will need to be zippered so that the bed bugs cannot enter or exit the covering. But since bedbugs can live for an entire year without feeding, you’ll need to keep the cover in place for at least a year before removing.
- Vacuum Up: Finally, you’ll want to vacuum around your bed. If you have an extension or a handheld vacuum, it’s also suggested that you vacuum the mattress itself. This process should be done often. When finished, place the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and place it in a garbage bin outside of the home. Bed bugs will escape from bags if allowed.
This concludes the cleaning portion, but there is always more to do. Cracks in the molding around your home or peeling wallpaper need to be fixed or repaired. This means plugging up all of these cracks so that these pests don’t go and hide in the walls while you’re on your killing rampage.
And as a bonus, filling these cracks will help your home be more energy efficient, which is always a bonus.
My Mattress is Infested! What Can I Do?
If you find that your mattress is extremely infested, you may be able to kill them with bed bug bombs. In extreme cases, some people recommend discarding your mattress if it’s overrun with bed bugs.
This is an expensive endeavor, but it’s an option to consider, too.
The issue with buying a new mattress is that if the infestation in your home hasn’t been corrected, they’ll simply come back to infest your new mattress. So, if you plan on discarding your mattress and getting a new one, you’ll need to ensure that you have the infestation completely under control.
The better option is to thoroughly vacuum and chemically treat your mattress and box spring with a commercial bed bug killer. Once you’ve done this, you’ll want to enclose your mattress and box spring in an encasement bag.
These bags have special zippers that will trap the bed bugs inside of the bag and prevent them from escaping. They should be left on your mattress for at least a year to ensure that all bed bugs are dead. A fully fed bed bug can go up to 10 months in between meals.
If you don’t like the idea of sleeping on a bed bug cemetery, the only other option is to toss the mattress and box spring. But that won’t solve your problem if you have bed bugs in other areas of your home. They’ll just find their way to your new mattress and infest that one as well.
4 Ways to Kill Bed Bugs Instantly
If you’ve had enough of the natural methods of getting rid of bed bugs, there are numerous ways to kill them with chemicals, or professional services. Let’s look at a few of the ways that these bugs can be killed:
1. Bed Bug Heater
Remember how we talked about how heat kills bed bugs? Well, there are such things as bed bug heaters. This isn’t to keep the bugs comfortable, but instead, this is to kill the bed bugs. Now, this isn’t an option for everyone because buying one of these heaters is quite expensive – in the thousands of dollars range.
But professionals will use these heaters to kill bed bugs.
Motels and hotels also make extensive use of these heaters to kill pests. After an hour or so of being turned on, the room will be at the proper temperature to kill these pests. The machine(s) will stay running for quite some time, often 4+ hours to ensure that the bedbugs die.
This is a much better option than spraying harmful chemicals where you sleep.
And if you ask a professional, they’ll often offer this option to you. The maximum heat that these units produce is 132F (or somewhere around this limit) in most cases.
2. Bed Bug Traps
There are numerous traps that aim to kill or trap bed bugs. But the main issue is that a lot of these traps don’t work, so you’ll need to make sure that the model you pick is highly rated and works to kill the bed bugs properly.
Different types of traps are available:
- CO2 Bed bug Trap: These traps state that they draw in bed bugs and kill them. The bugs are drawn into a trap, and the carbon dioxide is the reason. The issue is that adult bugs will be caught, but eggs will be left to remain. This is a problem with all traps.
- Glue Traps: Often associated with roach motels, these traps have food on the outer layer that will lure the bugs in. When the bugs step foot on the trap, they’ll often get stuck. This is best for monitoring as bedbugs can live almost a year without food – so they’ll be stuck, but they’ll be alive.
You’ll also find traps that are filled with poisons that will kill the bedbug eggs.
But, keep in mind that many traps say that they’ll help you “identify” an issue. Traps are only a small method of eradication, and you’ll need to use other methods to stop the infestation.
3. Bedbug Pesticides
If you see flea and bed bug spray, you’ll know that you have chemical options to kill bed bugs. This is a go-to method that many pest control services use because it’s one of the fastest and easiest methods of control.
But there is a major drawback to using pesticides, too.
These chemicals are often harsh, and since they’ll need to be sprayed all over the home, they do pose some form of risk to humans and pets. The risks are dependent on which chemical was sprayed, and the EPA states that there are over 700 products registered to control bed bugs.
The good thing is that these products fall into one of seven categories:
- Growth regulators
But some of the chemicals aren’t always bad either. Desiccants, for example, can include diatomaceous earth, which is safe to use in or around your home.
So, you need to do your research on the category and type of chemical spray you use before deciding to cover your home in a potentially harmful substance.
4. Bed Bug Bombs or Foggers
If you’ve ever had fleas or bed bugs, you’ve likely seen foggers or bombs that state they can get rid of bed bugs. These are strong pesticides that will cover the entire home, and it’s important that you:
- Remove animals from the home
- Leave the home as directed
You’ll even want to remove fish as they can be affected by these pesticides, too.
Normally, you’ll place a canister, often called a bomb, in the home in an appropriate location. The product’s directions will tell you where to place the canister, so it’s very important that you follow these directions, as the manufacturer will know what’s best when using their product.
Bed bug stains are enough, and you don’t want to stain your home further, so it’s recommended that you place down newspaper or some covering to protect the floor or table where the bomb will be set off.
What occurs is that you’ll let the bomb off, following the directions, and then you’ll need to vacate the home for a few hours.
The pesticides will make clouds of deadly poison that will kill the bugs in even the deepest crevices of the home.
Again, make sure that you remove all living things from the home at this time.
If a good product is used, you’ll often find that all the adult bugs have been killed. You’ll want to make sure you follow the directions in the first part of this article to lower the risk of a repeat infestation.
You’ll need to monitor the situation for a period of 30 days after you’ve tried any of the methods above. Eggs can hatch during this time and repopulate your home with bed bugs. Of course, there is always a chance that a few adult bed bugs escaped the initial killing and are going to lay eggs, too.
So, you’ll want to monitor the situation and use the appropriate action as you see fit if you do find any of these pests hanging around.
If you’re looking for a natural predator, there is the masked bed bug hunter. These bugs will feed on certain species of bed bugs, and they aren’t considered a pest because they aren’t normally found in large groups.
This may be something to consider in extreme cases, but in most cases, calling a professional exterminator will remedy the problem.
When it comes to bed bugs, females can lay hundreds of eggs during their lifetime, leading to just one female populating your home. The ability of the bed bug to live up to 300 days without feeding is a marvel, so unless you trap them and leave them for nearly a year, they won’t die of starvation.
7 Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Naturally
You need to be aware of the high likelihood that you’ll need to call in a professional or use harsh bed bug chemicals in your home to eradicate these pests. We’re going to discuss a few home remedies which you can do on your own before going to more intensive route.
1. Bed Bug Steamer Death
Do you have a carpet steamer? Well, even if you don’t, you can use hot water to kill these pest’s dead. A steam cleaner is the easier method. Simply steam clean everything from your floor to your mattress.
Keep in mind the mattress will take quite some time to thoroughly dry.
Steam is a necessity for one reason: bed bug eggs.
Hot water may kill regular, adult bed bugs, but it doesn’t kill all the eggs in most cases. So, you may think that your killing rampage was a success until one egg hatches and the rest follow.
And this is where steam comes in.
Eggs have protection, so they won’t easily be able to be removed and kill the growing bed bug babies. Steam, on the other hand, will destroy the egg, allowing you to sleep well at night without fear that the baby bed bugs will come out and take revenge on you for killing the rest of the colony.
2. Isopropyl Alcohol
Isopropyl alcohol is the same rubbing alcohol that you’ll find in your medicine cabinet. This alcohol is deadly to pests, and it also doubles as a disinfectant, which is much-needed during an infestation (who knows where these bugs have been).
What I recommend is purchasing 99% Isopropyl Alcohol.
This is a very potent form of rubbing alcohol, and it will kill them in different ways:
- The cells of the bed bugs will begin to dissolve.
- The bed bugs will begin to dry out and dehydrate.
- Bed bug eggs will dry out and kill any forming bed bugs.
- Rubbing alcohol will also work as a deterrent – bed bugs hate it.
So, this neat trick will work in four different ways to finally get rid of bed bugs in your home. The first and most important thing to do at this point is to transform all the alcohol into a spray bottle.
It’s a lot easier to ensure that all the surfaces are covered when you use a spray. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to spray your:
Anywhere that you’ve seen bed bugs, start spraying. Don’t forget to spray under your mattress, between frames and even the headboard.
If you’re thorough with your spraying, you’ll find that this method often works better than bed bug traps that seem to work initially until the rest of the pests learn that it’s not a good idea to go near the trap.
Tip: If there is still a strong smell on items that have been sprayed, you can spray a bit of essential oils on the surfaces after you have the infestation under control.
3. Tea Tree Oil to the Rescue
A lot of essential oils have been known to repel these pests, but one seems to work better than the rest: tea tree oil. This oil is strong, and while its pungent smell may turn away bugs, it’s not filled with harsh chemicals that you wouldn’t want around your pets or children.
Getting started is the hardest part for many people.
You don’t want to use this oil without diluting it first; this is the key most important thing. You’ll want to use a spray bottle for this method, too. Simply:
- Place 20 drops of tea tree oil into a spray bottle
- Fill the rest of the bottle with water
But this will only work as a deterrent since it’s diluted, so we suggest using this method in conjunction with one of the other pointers on this list for the best results.
The only thing that’s left to do is spray all infested areas with your mixture.
So, why doesn’t tea tree oil kill bedbugs?
It does, but it can be toxic in very large amounts to animals. And the oil can cause staining – this is the biggest concern. You don’t want to stain your carpets or walls trying to get rid of bedbugs, do you?
Lavender oil is also a strong repellent that smells better than tea tree oil if you can’t stand the smell.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
If you fear any type of pest, one of the absolute best things you can keep in your home is diatomaceous earth. This is a substance that comes from the fossils of algae. It sounds like a science project, but it works so well, you’ll be blown away.
See, small pests will have their skeletons ripped apart by this substance.
These tiny grains have jagged edges that won’t hurt a human or dog because they’re small yet deadly to small bugs. What happens is that the jagged edges will rip through the exoskeleton, allowing it to be exposed and dry out.
And the bugs will die if they dry out.
What I recommend is:
- Sprinkling DE around the parameter of the infested room
- Sprinkle DE all around the bed
If you have a place or another room that you can sleep in that’s not infested, you can even sprinkle this substance on your mattress and let it sit for a few days while it works its magic on the bed bugs.
When you finally see these dead pests on the floor, make sure to vacuum up all the DE.
In fact, you’ll want to sprinkle a light coating and replace it (after vacuuming) every day or two for best results. This will ensure that you have the maximum potential to kill as many bed bugs as possible.
5. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil has been used to repel bugs and insects for a long time over the course of history. In fact, they were used to protect linen from moths in the olden days. Lavender oil is another great natural alternative when trying to get rid of bed bugs.
This oil has a cytotoxin property, which basically means that it is toxic to specific types of cells. Fortunately for us, bugs are not resistant to this property. Lavender oil also has a distinct smell that bed bugs really do not like and may contribute to the exterminating process.
The good news is that Lavender and its products have very minor side effects in humans as well as pets when compared to many other essential oils. This means that for anyone who is rather unsure on what kind of DIY spray they should make, the Lavender spray is definitely a safe bet.
How To Use
There are 3 types of usages when using Lavender Oil to make an insecticide. They are as follows:
- Add 15-20 drops of Lavender oil, soap, or powder to 50ml of water.
- Mix well and pour into a spray container to use as a spray.
- Spray on infested areas and points of entry where insects may try to re-enter your home.
- Apply fresh flowers or leaves from a Lavender plant in the infested area.
- Remember to change the leaves or flowers regularly once they are no longer fresh.
- Continue to replace the leaves and/or flowers until infestation has reduced.
- Combine 15 drops of lavender and peppermint oil into a spray container.
- Fill with water.
- Shake well and apply to infected areas.
6. Black Walnut Tea
Black walnut tea is believed to be an effective insecticide and repellent because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
This remedy is easy to use and apply to just about any area of your home. Simply place black walnut tea bags or loose tea leaves in suspected areas, such as:
- Bed creases
- Room corners
- Closet areas
You can even mix lavender buds, mint leaves and thyme with the black walnut tea for an even more effective repellent and insecticide. Plus, the strong aroma of these extra ingredients will help keep bed bugs away.
7. Baking Soda
Baking soda is commonly used to treat bug problems, and bed bugs are no different. The drying properties of baking soda help absorb the moisture in the bug’s body, causing it to dehydrate and die.
Baking soda also has antimicrobial properties that can kill bed bugs.
Simply spread a light layer of baking soda in the affected areas of your home, including doorways, room corners, cracks and crevices where bed bugs may hide.
Allow the baking soda to sit for a week before vacuuming it up and reapplying as needed.
Another bonus: baking soda is safe to use around pets and children.
4 Tips to Prevent Bed Bugs at Home
1. Cover Your Pillows and Mattresses
An effective way of keeping bed bugs away is to keep all your pillows and mattresses covered completely. This needs to be done in order for the bugs to stop manifesting in them. Bugs like to stay in warm and humid places.
Pillows and mattresses often retain some of your body heat when you are sleeping or laying down. Hence, this creates a very suitable living environment for the bugs to thrive in.
It’s important to keep the covering on for at least 1 year so that any bugs inside will die off over time. Once this occurs, you can take it off, clean it properly and replace it so that the bugs do not have a chance to infest.
These covers are usually made from a well-knitted material that has very small openings within the fibers. These small openings allow air to pass through for temperature regulation. However, it keeps bigger particles out (or permanently in) such as bugs, or in some cases even liquids.
This ensures that your mattresses don’t become a home to bed bugs while not heating up too much. The fabrics that are often used for these kinds of linings include cotton, silk, polyester and even bamboo.
Investing in pillow and mattress covers are not only an advantage to keeping the bed bugs away. In fact, there are often high-quality covers that come with other great features, such as being waterproof and stain-proof.
2. Vacuum Every Nook and Cranny
Bugs are small and can be tough to find with the naked eye, so vacuuming your whole living space as well as your furniture and belongings is a great way to keep bugs from multiplying in your home.
Bed bugs are tough and adaptable creatures, so they will abandon their original homes if it’s necessary to their survival. That means vacuuming every single thing in your sight, including the mattress and pillow covers.
Sometimes, bed bugs will also move to more unconventional homes such as in electrical appliances, which may be more difficult to clean once manifested. That is why you need to make sure to check those too.
Bugs tend to favor dark, damp places, so if there are any areas such as these in your house, make sure to vacuum them regularly. It may seem as if the area is uninhabited, but chances are, that area already has insect eggs ready to hatch.
Consistency is key.
Vacuuming once every one or two months will not do you much good. Many bugs reproduce in a span of days, so vacuuming once every week would be the most efficient way to keep your home safe and sanitary.
You must also keep in mind to dispose of the vacuum bag properly when you are finished cleaning the area. There is a likely chance that the bugs will re-enter your home if they are not disposed of properly, most preferably outside.
3. Be Persistent
Bed bugs are persistent creatures and notoriously hard to get rid of. You need to be even more persistent if you want to win the battle against them.
Whether you’re sticking to one treatment or using a combination of treatments, make sure that you’re consistently working to get rid of the bed bugs.
Natural remedies, while effective, need to be reapplied or performed regularly in order for them to be effective. Be ready – every single day – to fight back against bed bugs.
4. Know When It’s Time to Hire a Professional
Because bed bugs have a reputation of being really difficult to get rid of, it’s important to know when it’s time to hire a professional.
An exterminator may be expensive and may use harsh chemicals, but if your infestation has gotten out of control or you haven’t been able to completely eradicate your bed bugs, it’s time to bring in the professionals.
DIY Homemade Bed Bug Killer
There are many different options that you can turn to when your home is suddenly infested with some unwanted guests. Below are some natural sprays that you can make at home and apply immediately.
Since most of these sprays are made from natural ingredients, many of these plants can be grown in your own homes. Doing so will further reduce the chances of your home being infested by insects.
However, if the infestation seems serious, it’s probably best to call in some professional exterminators and let them handle the problem. Also, keep in mind that every natural ingredient usually has some kind of side effect, which you may react in different ways to.
Bed bugs are also very persistent creatures, so this means you will have to keep up the cleaning process for a while before being able to completely eradicate all them. This also doesn’t mean that once your home is bug-free, it won’t happen again.
Constant cleanliness and dryness is necessary to reduce the chances of these bugs coming back.
Citronella spray is derived from a plant familiarly known as Lemongrass and is very popular among insecticides. It has a distinct smell that does not appeal to bed bugs, reducing the amount of bed bug incidents drastically as a result.
This spray operates by applying high-acidity levels of liquid onto a surface where the bed bugs are residing, which is harmful to these bugs and their eggs.
A certain level of acidity will actually harm their exoskeletons as well as the outer egg layer, which leads to the elimination of bed bugs. An advantage of using Citronella spray is that it is also effective when repelling mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers.
An important note to keep in mind is that this oil may cause allergies in certain individuals. You are also advised to refrain from inhaling the oil, as it can be damaging to the lungs.
How To Use
- First, you must obtain the citronella or lemongrass in oil form.
- Mix together a small bowl of water and about 10 drops of the citronella oil.
- Place the mixture into a spray bottle and close tightly.
- Shake the bottle well.
- Spray the oil onto any affected areas or places that are close to previously affected areas, as the bugs may have moved.
Distilled white vinegar is actually quite effective at killing bed bugs. Vinegar is a strong acetic acid, and it will disrupt the bug’s nervous system.
If you have a severe infestation, this spray won’t be enough to get rid of the problem, but if you have a few bed bugs crawling around, a little vinegar will do the trick to get rid of them.
Vinegar is natural, so you don’t have to worry about spraying harmful chemicals. But do keep in mind that vinegar does have a strong smell, so you should ventilate the area for best results.
How To Use
- First, make sure that you grab a bottle of distilled white vinegar. Apple or other more exotic vinegars won’t work and could stain your fabrics.
- Fill an empty spray bottle with the vinegar and tighten the lid securely.
- Spray and soak the perimeter around the infested area, including cracks and crevices in walls or near furniture. This way, when you spray the bed bugs directly, they will scatter into the vinegar-soaked areas.
- Next, spray directly onto the bed bugs to kill them on contact or running to areas nearby.
Be careful spraying vinegar on some of your furniture – the low pH could cause some damage.
Also, you’ll need to reapply this spray regularly if you want to keep your bed bug problem from getting worse.