Bed bugs are small, wingless insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They crawl out at night to bite you while you sleep, leaving behind red, itchy bumps. Although they cannot fly, bed bugs can move quickly over floors, walls and ceilings. As they are not attracted to dirt, a bed bug infestation has nothing to do with personal cleanliness.
These hitchhikers are most commonly found in short-term accommodations like hotels and inns. They tend to crawl from the infested bedding and furniture into your luggage, ready to infest your home when you return. Once introduced in your home, they can spread easily from one room to another.
There are no quick fixes to get rid of a bed bug infestation. It can take weeks to months to control the problem completely. Depending on the nature and extent of infestation, you may also have to hire a professional pest control operator.
Here are a few things that you can do to get rid of bed bugs.
Identifying these annoying creatures’ hideouts is crucial to their extermination. When inspecting for bed bugs, check for live and dead bugs, rusty stains caused by the bugs being crushed, small spots of reddish-black fecal material, tiny cream-colored eggs, and pale yellow skins that nymphs shed as they grow.
The most common places where you are likely to find the signs of infestation are:
- in your mattresses (the piping, seams and tags)
- behind headboards, in the folds of curtains
- cushion seams
- between cushions
- along carpet edges
- under loose wallpaper
- the junction where the wall and ceiling meet
- in electrical receptacles, cracks in wood molding
- other dark cracks and crevices
Bed bugs most often hide near where you sleep because you are their food source. Also, remember that they tend to prefer wood or fabric over plastic and metal.
After inspecting, vacuum and disinfect any infested areas. Plus, seal up any cracks or crevices around baseboards and molding that the bed bugs might be using to hide.
2. Reducing Clutter
Cluttered areas are excellent for bed bugs to hide in. When fighting bed bugs, reducing clutter in your house is critical. It will also help make inspection and treatment easier. However, make sure you do not spread the bugs by moving clutter to other rooms.
A good place to start when removing excess clutter is to get rid of all the magazines, newspapers and items like clothing that you no longer use. Discard infested items that cannot be washed, heated or steam cleaned. Replace an infested mattress if it has holes or tears. For heavily infested items, bag them before discarding.
After identifying the infested areas and removing the clutter, vacuum your house to help suck up most of the bugs as well as their eggs. You may also have to scrape the end of your vacuum attachment over the infested areas to help dislodge the eggs. As soon as you empty the vacuum, make sure to get rid of the trash in a sealed bag.
Vacuum the floor, carpeting and your entire house, particularly the areas that are infested. Also, vacuum your entire mattress, bed seams, box spring, bed frame and joints. As wood and fabric are bed bugs’ favorite habitats, make sure to vacuum items made of these materials, even the ends of your curtains. Make sure to cover all the cracks and crevices before vacuuming so they can’t run there to hide. Vacuum your house at least once a week.
Washing infested clothes and bedding in hot water and drying them on a hot cycle is a simple yet effective way to get rid of bed bugs. In fact, a sustained temperature of 50 degrees Celsius or 120 degrees Fahrenheit can help kill these blood-sucking pests at all stages of the life cycle.
Wash all your clothes, sheets and other bedding at the hottest possible setting for 30 minutes or more. To eliminate the chance of survival, wash the entire load twice. Then, place it in the clothes dryer and run it on high heat for at least 20 minutes. For items that can only be dry cleaned, use a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes.
Steaming is an effective method to kill all stages of bed bugs. Steam cleaners emit steam at a minimum temperature of 100 degrees Celsius and bed bugs generally die at 50 degrees Celsius, or about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Steam clean infested mattresses, upholstery and plush items that cannot be washed. You can opt for dry steam or a low vapor steamer that leaves behind less moisture. To be effective, steam treatment should be used for a sustained period and may need to be repeated.
At times, putting small items in the freezer can help you get rid of bed bugs. A direct 1-hour exposure to temperatures of -16 degrees Celsius or 3 degrees Fahrenheit has been found to be effective in killing all stages of bed bugs, including the eggs.
Decontaminate small infested household items in your kitchen freezer for at least 1 hour. Make sure to set the temperature at or below -16 degrees Celsius or 3 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures may not be effective. Bed bugs have been found to survive at temperatures above -12 degrees Celsius or 10 degrees Fahrenheit even after 1 week of continuous exposure.
7. Diatomaceous Earth
You can also get rid of bed bugs and proof your home against reinfestation using food-grade diatomaceous earth. It is a non-toxic, chalky substance that helps kill these pesky pests organically. The powder is derived from fossilized remains of hard-shelled algae called diatoms.
Though harmless to humans, its tiny particles cut through the waxy shells of bed bugs, causing them to become dehydrated and eventually die. Plus, it acts as a mechanical barrier as the bed bugs avoid crawling through it.
Spread a small amount of this chalky substance around your house, including areas where the walls meet the floors, where carpeting meets the walls, behind light switch face plates, on baseboards, behind picture frames, and into all the cracks and crevices. You may also want to dismantle your bed and lightly dust the powder on all the joints and crevices.
Be sure to use food-grade diatomaceous earth. Though a light dusting will suffice, if you are using a lot of diatomaceous earth and it becomes airborne, you may want to wear a dust mask to avoid getting any fine particles in your lungs. As long as it stays dry, diatomaceous earth will continue to work, even for months.
8. Enclosing Your Bed
Encasing infested mattresses and box springs can help you get rid of bed bugs. It helps trap these pesky creatures, leaving them to eventually die. It can also work as a good preventive measure if you do not have bed bugs yet.
Use a good set of bed bug-proof encasements for your mattresses and box springs. Though not absolutely necessary, it is strongly recommended to destroy or remove as many bed bugs and their eggs as possible before installing the encasement. As bed bugs can survive for a full year without a meal, keep your bed encased at least for 1 year and check regularly for any rips or tears.
- Consider using climb-up insect interceptor cups.
- Move your bed and other furniture away from the walls.
- Make sure the bed sheets do not touch the floor.
- Keep clothing off the floor.
- Tighten loose electrical face plates and remove or repair peeling wallpaper.
- Although heating helps kill bed bugs, simply turning up your thermostat won’t do the trick. It will require a professional heat treatment.
- Be careful when purchasing second-hand beds, bedding and furniture.
- When staying at a hotel, store your dirty clothes in a large plastic bag and wash them as soon as you get home.