How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: A DIY Guide
Bed bugs have been pestering humanity for thousands of years, but in the 1950s they finally met their match: the pesticide DDT. Then DDT was banned, but for most of the 40 years since, bed bugs have not been a major problem. Now, however, these blood-sucking vermin are back with a vengeance. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, unlike mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs don’t spread disease, and there are practical steps you can take to prevent an infestation. And if you do get bed bugs, you can get rid of them yourself. We’ll show you what to look for, how do you get rid of bed bugs if you find them, and how to keep them out!
Check Your Mattress
Perform a quick inspection of the upper piping every time you change your sheets. Make a more thorough examination by folding the piping over and closely inspecting both sides all the way around, top and bottom. Do this a couple times a year or every time you flip or rotate your mattress. If you spot any signs, keep reading to learn how to get rid of bed bugs.
Photo: JAY BRUESCH
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Set Traps
If you confirm you have bed bugs in one bedroom of the house, one of the ways to get rid of bed bugs is you’ll have to treat that entire room, but you won’t necessarily need to treat the entire house. Set up traps to monitor other bedrooms and living areas to make sure they stay bug free. These Hot Shot traps are available at The Home Depot.
Plus: How to Get Rid of Ants
Look for Bite Marks
Everyone reacts differently to a bed bug bite. Some will develop small itchy bumps like mosquito bites; others will suffer from large, puffy red lesions the size of a quarter. A lucky few will have no reaction at all. Other signs of bed bugs are bloodstains on your sheets, pillows and blankets. Are you scratching yet?
Know What They Look Like
If you find what you think might be a bed bug, take it to the entomology department of the nearest university or to a pest control company for official identification.
Bed Bugs in Apartments
DIY Extermination: What is the best way to kill bed bugs?
When working with chemicals, always read the directions. You should be able to stay in the room during the treatment process. Room treatments entail thorough cleaning and applying chemicals. The process needs to be repeated three times, two weeks apart.
How to get rid of bed bugs on clothes and bedding: Bag and Wash Clothes and Bedding
Store clean clothes in another room until you’ve finished treating the infested room. If you plan to take laundry to a professional cleaner or public laundry, treat it chemically first to avoid spreading the bugs.
Now that all the stuff is out of the bedroom, it’s time to treat the room itself. The first step is to vacuum every surface in the room, the baseboards, all the furniture, the mattress, box spring, bed frame, everything. Use a small wand to get into all the corners and crevices.
When you finish, throw out the vacuum bag to avoid spreading the bugs. If you use a shop vacuum or bagless vacuum, dump the contents you’ve collected into a bag, tie it up, and throw it out. And treat the filter and the inside of the canister with contact spray insecticide. Flat surfaces like walls and dresser tops can be wiped with alcohol. Wipe a small inconspicuous area first to see if the alcohol will damage the paint or finish.
How to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress: Isolate the Bed
Finally, place all the legs into insect interceptors like these made by ClimbUp. They allow bugs to climb into the outer pitfall area, but the slick plastic coated with talcum powder keeps them from climbing out or reaching the center well and climbing up your bed frame leg.
What to use to kill bed bugs: Spray Bug Killer
Most sprays are contact killers, which means they kill only the bugs and eggs they touch directly, so there’s no reason to spray all the walls, ceiling and the entire floor. Spray pesticides are available online and at home centers and hardware and discount stores. Many brands kill other insects, like fleas and roaches, as well.
How to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress: Bag Your Mattress
If the idea of sleeping on a tiny bed bug cemetery is too much to bear, the only alternative is to toss the mattress and box spring and buy new ones. Just be sure to wrap up the infested one before hauling it through your house, and don’t buy a used mattress!
Spread a Residual Powder
It’s not likely that you’ll kill all the bed bugs with a bed bug spray. That’s where a residual powder insecticide comes into play. It kills any bugs that wander through the powder. Some powders can kill bugs for many years if left undisturbed. Skip the open areas and spray the powder in those places where you think they’ll be traveling to and from, like near bed legs and under baseboard trim.
If at all possible, pull up the carpet where it meets the wall and puff powder around the whole perimeter of the room. Inside outlet boxes is a great place to use powders because sprays and electricity don’t mix. Bellow dusters work great for spreading residual insecticide powder. An old makeup brush is a good tool to spread the dust around on hard surfaces. Bed bug powders are available the same places you’ll find the spray pesticides.
Ways to Kill Bed Bugs: Create a Kill Chamber
Flat surfaces can be wiped with alcohol or sprayed with a bed bug—killing contact pesticide, but all items that have a small nook or cranny where bed bugs could hide (which is most stuff) need to be treated with penetrating fumes. Build yourself a kill chamber out of a large storage bin. Tape a pesticide strip to the side or lid of the bin, and seal your stuff inside for a couple days or however long the manufacturer recommends. Seal the lid of the bin with duct tape.
You can treat all your belongings by reusing the same bins; just make sure to keep your other stuff that’s waiting to be treated bagged up in the meantime. Always wear gloves when handling pesticides and be sure to follow all safety instructions. The pesticide strips shown here are Nuvan ProStrips.
Don’t Pick up Hotel Bed Bugs
Hotels are a common source of bed bugs, and even the best hotels can have infestations. Here’s how to avoid bringing them home:
- Inspect mattresses when you arrive in your hotel room.
- Ask for a new room if you find them.
- Keep clothes and luggage off the bedspread and floor.
- Hang up clothes and keep other clothes in your suitcase, not dresser drawers.
- Keep suitcases in large bags tied off or in store-bought luggage bags.
- Bag up daily items like shoes and wallets.
- Bag up dirty clothes and transport them directly to the washing machine upon return.
- Wash clothes in hot water and dry thoroughly.
- Inspect luggage and store away from living/sleeping areas.
- Wipe luggage down with alcohol or spray with insecticide if you find bed bugs.
Houseguests and Bed Bugs
Instruct those returning scholars to bag up their mountains of dirty laundry and leave the bags in the garage until transporting them directly to the washing machine. Wash clothes in hot water and dry thoroughly.
Ways to Kill Bed Bugs: Use Heat Instead of Chemicals
Heat chambers like this one (bottom) can be used to heat personal belongings and kill any hidden bed bugs without chemicals. They come in various sizes, and prices start at less than $200. In the summer, you could let Mother Nature do the dirty work. Bag up your belongings and set them on the driveway. On a day when the temp tops 95 degrees, a bag placed in the sun should easily reach 120 degrees F inside.
Bottom photo: ZAPPBUG
Ways to Kill Bed Bugs: Turn Up the Heat
Photo: JAY BRUESCH