Home and Apartment Bed Bugs Pest Control Tips

overview

There are several chemical, organic and non-chemical methods that can be used for effective bed bugs pest control. This includes the use of insecticides, dusts, carbon dioxide, home remedies and other approaches such as heat. Newer methods are constantly being developed to meet consumer demand to fight a growing number of infestations around the world.

For home or apartment use, the most popular spray is called Bedlam. It is a water based insecticide that kills bed bug eggs, bed bugs on contact, and that provides some residual killing effect for one or more weeks on sprayed surfaces. If you want to try home treatment, this is the product to use.

Watch the video below to learn more. 

Most Popular Bed Bug Spray Review

Bedlam spray works as a bed bug contact killer and provides some lasting protection.

If you are considering hiring a professional, the best approach is to get multiple quotes from a network of experienced and certified exterminators such as Home Advisor (877-233-1145).

If you are treating bed bugs at home or in an apartment, only use products that are labeled for indoor use and that specifically state that they are for killing bed bugs. Read labels carefully since some indicate that the products can be used on mattresses while others cannot.

Why Hire a Pest Control Professional

The advantage of calling a pest control professional is that they have access to a broader range of insecticides and other non-chemical approaches such as the use of heat remediation or a freezing spray. 

A bedbug extermination expert can cost up to $500 for an initial inspection and quote (particularly if a dog is used) and then $500 to $1000+ for the bed bug s pest control treatment itself.  We suggest starting with an exterminator as they can be a source of advice and education, even if you decide to do it yourself. 

If you do call an expert, we suggest the following:

  1.  Check the Home Advisor Network (877-233-1145): this is a network of local pre-screened pest control companies.  They will provide 4 free quotes to each person contacting the network either on line or via phone.
  2.  Search our Bed Bug Pest Control Provider List: We have a free on line database of thousands of bed bug pest control experts.  Just enter your zip code and click.

Professional Treatment Methods

Insecticides

Professionals have access to many types of insecticides that are not available to the public. These can be applied up to three times in order to kill a large infestation. For this reason, make sure any work is guaranteed. If you have pets are children ask the exterminator about safety on surfaces such as mattresses.

Insecticides registered for control of bed bugs on surfaces other than mattresses:

  1. chlorfenapyr
  2. (s)-gydroprene
  3. propoxur (bed bugs not indicated on label)
  4. fenvalerate
  5. bifenthrin
  6. permethrin
  7. lambda-cyhalothrin

Insecticides registered for control of bed bugs on mattresses:

Residual Chemicals:

  1. pyrethrins
  2. permethrin
  3. ground limestone
  4. silica aerogel dust + pyrethroid
  5. cyfluthrin
  6. deltamethrin

Contact Chemicals:

  1. alcohols
  2. d-phenothrin
  3. pyrethrins

Heat Fumigation

ed bug exterminators are increasingly using heat fumigation for bed bugs pest control.  Heat treatment involves the use of special equipment which super heats a room or entire building to kill bed bugs and eggs. 

This "Temp-Air" system  works through a process called thermal remediation.  It involves sealing a room, floor or building and then super heating the area to approximately 120F - 140F  for several hours.  The heat permeates all walls and items in the building killing all bed bugs and eggs.  It is highly effective, but costly given the equipment and labor involved. Total treatment time from start to finish is 6 to 8 hours.   The only drawback might be bed bugs that are hiding in insulated walls, although the manufacturers of this system believe that this is not a problem.  At minimum, heat can be used in conjunction with other methods.  Fans are used to move the heat through the building and sensors detect when the optimal temperature is reached.

A list of bed bugs pest control service providers that use bed bug heat remediation can be found here.

If you just have a small area that needs to be treated, the use of heat in a sealed chamber is also the best way to treat furniture such as a couch or sofa  and other household items that are thoroughly infested.  Many pest control companies have either a heat chamber in a remote building, or on the back of a truck that can be used to treat an item.  This is also a preferred method for purchases of used furniture such as antiques.

bed bug infestation in mattresssPicture of Bed Bugs in Mattress

Cold Treatment

Another alternative used by bed bugs pest control professionals is to "freeze" bed bugs. Some firms freeze the bugs using CO2.  The advantages of a freezing process is that it is chemical free and can be used to treat electronics.

According to Health Canada, Bed bugs and bed bug eggs are killed after 3 days at freezing temperatures.  If you live in a cold climate, complete bed bugs pest control can be achieved by leaving items outdoors.

Do It Yourself Bed Bugs Pest Control

The key to doing it yourself it to purchase the right set of products. These are found in a kit that contains at minimum 2 sprays (a knock down spray and a spray for lasting protection) and bed bug dust. Aerosol products are usually most effective when sprayed directly on the bed bugs. A few have residual or longer lasting effects. Best to use products designed for each purpose, leaving you with two aerosol spray products. Kits can cost from $100 - $200.  If the kit includes one spray, make sure it have knock down and longer lasting (residual) effects after spraying. 

There are  few insecticide products registered for indoor use. The few that are are tested and found to be effective are mentioned on this page. Those that are registered are primarily from one chemical class, the pyrethroids. Bed bug populations in the United States are known to be resistant to pyrethroids. Because of this, no single insecticide is capable of eliminating a bed bug infestation if used alone. This is why professionals and this site recommends the use of multiple insecticides that attack the problem using several types of ingredients.

Other items that can help fight an infestation include a bed and box spring cover and a steamer. 

If you are interested in do it yourself approaches, we recommend reviewing our step by step instructions for bed bugs pest control found in our guide to bed bug treatment.

A kit from Bed Bug Supply includes everything needed for under $100

Preparation Before You Treat

All treatment methods start with a thorough cleaning of the area to be treated.  Inspecting and cleaning every surface in the room is a good start. Recent studies show that as many as 80% of the pests can be found on or near the bed.

All blankets should be removed from beds and washed in hot water and then placed into a dryer on a high heat setting. When removing clothes from a room, be sure to bag before removal to avoid dropping bugs throughout the house. A normal hot water wash cycle followed by 30 minutes in a dryer will kill all bed bugs  and eggs. A special detergent is not needed.

Items that cannot be washed, but that can withstand the dryer, should be placed in a dryer at high heat for 30 minutes.  Sneakers are a good example.

Other items such as newspapers or magazines should be placed into a plastic bag, sealed and thrown into a garbage can located outside of the house or apartment.

Next, vacuum all surfaces and use a crevice tool to vacuum seams and tight places. Dispose of the vacuum bag when done (outside of course). Inspect the vacuum to make sure all the bugs went into the bag. Do not use the brush attachment since this could hide bed bugs that get caught in the brush hair.

Don't be afraid to wipe up bugs with a rag. You'll be able to kill bugs you pick up just by squeezing them inside the rag.

If bed bugs are a frequent problem, purchase a foldable PackTite heat chamber that will kill bed bugs in any items placed in the chamber.  Items need to be able to withstand a temperature of 114F.

Home Use Bed bug Sprays and Solutions

Bed bug sprays are available that use natural ingredients or that use insecticides. The natural products may take longer to use and should be accompanied by other methods such as the spreading of a light coating of natural bed bug dust after treatment.

Insecticide based sprays should only be used as directed but are very effective. Be sure to buy a product that both knocks down (kills on contact) and that provides some type of residual or longer lasting effect. The later is to kill any late hatching or bed bugs you might have missed.

Natural Bed Bug Sprays

There are several products on the market that use organic ingredients to "knock down" the bed bug population. This means that bed bugs are killed on contact.  

Most organic or natural bed bug spray products kill bed bugs  using plant extracts such as Euginia Carophylla, Mentha Piperita, and Sodium Lauryl Sulphate which is made using oconut extract.  Examples of popular organic sprays are Bed Bug Killer and All Stop

After spraying an organic product, apply natural bed bug dust that will cling to and kill any bed bugs that you might have missed.  This includes any bed bugs that hatch after treatment.

Bed Bug Dust

Bed bug natural sprays, while providing an immediate killing effect, are less likely to provide a residual effect, so they are often used in combination with  another organic product, bed bug dust (also called fossil dust and diatomaceous earth).  These products are all natural and are mined out of the earth from ground up animal fossils.  The fine dust sticks to the outer shell of bed bugs, eventually penetrating the shell and killing the bed bug.  Silica dust is another dust product that will also work.

Since dust products rely on the bed bug crossing through a dust field, it needs to be thinly applied in cracks and crevices with a duster.  The added advantage of bed bug dust is that it will have a long residual effect if left undisturbed.  Also note that some bed bug dust products have insecticides mixed into the dust.

Heat and Steam for Killing Bedbugs

Bed bug eggs are resistant to some bedbug sprays and will not be picked up by a vacuum since they are bound to surfaces with a cement like substance.  Heat is often used along with natural treatment options and insecticides as an effective way to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.

Hand Steamers

A hand held steamer can be used for bed bugs pest control to heat the eggs/bed bugs and kill them.   Preference is for more of a professional model such as the Vapamore,  however an economy model such as the SteamFast will get the job done.


If you have a carpet you should steam clean it to kill any bed bugs or bed bug eggs attached to the surface. Consider adding a disinfectant to the steamer's water to kill any eggs in the carpet.  Test in an out of the way area to make sure products will not stain the carpet.

Pack Tite Heat ChamberPack Tite Heat Chamber

packtite home heat chamber

If you believe that a suitcase has bed bugs, you want to starve them out. Park your car in the sun and leave the suitcase in the trunk for a day or use a Packtite as indicated below.

Many savvy travelers are purchasing heat units for the home called a PackTite (and other brands).  These are large folding vinyl cases that are slightly larger than a suitcase.  The suitcase is placed into the unit, and heated to the required 120F.  If you live in an area with a bed bug problem, these units can be used to heat anything brought into the house.

PackTite Review

Video describing how to use a PackTite home heat system to kill and prevent a bed bug infestation.

Insecticide Based Bed Bug Sprays

These are some of the most popular pesticide ingredients for bed bugs pest control. See our complete guide to bed bug pesticides.  Two types of spray products are needed for effective bed bugs pest control.

  1. Knock Down Sprays: Kills bed bug eggs on contact.
  2. Residual Sprays: Creates an invisible field that will kill bed bugs for several weeks after treatment. This will kill any bed bugs you might have missed during the first treatment.

    You could also buy a spray that combines ingredients to offer both on contact killing and some longer lasting protection such as Bedlam.
Time it Takes for Bedlam Bed Bug Spray to Kill on Contact

All in One Spray

Bedlam is one of  the most popular sprays for bed bugs pest control.  It is water based and combines multiple insecticides to create a strong knock down and residual effect that will kill bed bugs for several weeks.  It is used along baseboards, and for bed bug treatment in cracks, crevices and furniture (test in an out of the way area to avoid staining).

appying bed bug spray to creviceApplying Bedlam Bedbug Spray to Baseboards

chart showing efficacy of bedlam bedbug sprayKnockdown and Residual Efficacy of Bedlam Bed Bug Spray

Pyrethoids (Pyrethrin) Knock Down Sprays

These products kill the bed bugs when the bug comes in contact with the poison. After spraying the killing effect lasts for several weeks. These products are made from chrysanthemum flowers (pyrethoids). They are not always effective since they can work as an insect repellent, so instead of the bed bugs entering the area treated, they might avoid it. There has also been reports of bed bugs developing a resistance to this product. For most problems, using pyrethoids will be an effective method when deciding how to kill bed bugs. Products that contain pyrethrin usually come in the form of a pump or aerosol spray (565 Plus XLO, Bedlam, Cb 80 Extra brand).

Sterifab is widely considered to be the best mattress safe knock down spray for bed bugs pest control. A knock down spray is ideal for killing bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact.  It uses a synthetic pyrethroid combined with alcohol.  Follow up treatment using a spray that provides lasting protection by creating an invisible barrier such as Phantom.

spraying a mattress for bed bugsApplying Bed Bug Spray to a mattress. Spray into seams per the manufacturers directions.

Bed Bug Detection and Removal

Video describing a do it yourself approach to bed bug pest control.

J.T. Eaton (red label) as shown in the video above is also a popular "knock down"  product formulated using pyrethrum in an oil base.  It is widely popular as a spray among both home owners and professionals.  They recommend using this product in conjunction with their "blue label" spray which provides residual protection for up to 16 weeks.  Both bed bugs pest control products are available from Bed Bug Supply.

Chlorfenapry Based Sprays

The insecticide chlorfenapry is one of the best choices for a bed bugs pest control residual spray.  Chlorfenapry is a newer insecticide that doesn't  have repellent properties. It will kill both bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact.  This type of product comes in a liquid and aerosol form. For home and apartment owners, Phantom is the most popular chlorfenapry brand in its aerosol form.  This product is used with a knock down such as Sterifab since it takes up to seven days to fully work.

IGR (Insect Growth Regulator)

These types of products interfere with the bed bugs reproduction. They work slowly by making sure that the bed bugs you have cannot reproduce. Because of this, you often see an IGR mixed into other types of products.  Gentrol is a popular IGR product.

Mattress Safety

Note that not every bed bugs pest control product is mattress safe. Examples of products that cannot be used of mattresses include Demand, Dragnet, Talstar One, Onslaught and Gentrol.  Phantom is labeled for use on seams only.  The best choice for a single product that is also mattress safe is Sterifab.

Other methods

Fogs or bombing

A fog of insecticide is used to kill large bed bug infestations. The problem with this approach is that fogs have been shown not to enter smaller cracks in the room, thereby missing some bugs. The bed bug bombs also have been known to disperse bed bugs, only to have them return later. This approach might be used in conjunction with others. Treatments last for a few hours. Consumers or professionals can use this approach to treat a single room or more.

Most products available in home stores that are labeled for bed bugs do not work. These products use a relatively safe chemicals called pyrethroids. Today's bed bugs are highly resistant to pyrethroids.  The result is over use of these products. Products such as "Hot Shot" foggers are not recommended. If you do use them, check the label to avoid over use.

fumigation

Bed Bug fumigation is similar to fogging, but is more intense and lasts for 1 day. A high dose of insecticide is used to not only kill bed bugs, but the eggs as well. Vikane is one brand commonly used. This approach requires have a pest control license and special equipment. All bed bugs will be killed with this approach and is used to rid an entire building of pests. The advantage of fumigation is that it is effective, while negatives include cost and having to leave home. Note encased plastic mattresses cannot be fumigated. Another fumigation approach is to place belongings into a container or truck which is then fumigated to ensure that all bed bugs are killed, such as a mattress.

bed bug monitors and traps

Nightwatch Bed Bug Trap: This product simulates the presence of a human host to lure the bed bugs out of hiding into a trap. The product came out in November 2008 and is considered to be the most advanced active bed bug monitor available.   Some bed bug companies will lease these traps to consumers.

Best Bed Bug Monitor and Trap Review

Video describing how a bed bug trap and monitor works.

More information on bed bug traps is available here.

brochures

Each of these free brochures provides additional information on how to identify bed bugs in your home or apartment.

List of bed bug pesticides and review of pest control effectiness.
Available in a free Ebook (PDF Download)

Bed bug treatment with insecticides.
Available in a free Ebook (PDF Download)

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Resources

Do It Yourself Bed Bug Control - Texas A&M

Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs - University of Minnesota












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