Successful Bed Bugs Treatment
Instructions and Advice

"The best bed bugs treatment approaches are to either hire a professional or if you can't afford an experienced exterminator, to purchase a kit that contains the combination of products required to do the job correctly. When hiring an exterminator, be sure to ask the questions outlined on this page such as experience and guarantees, since 2 to 3 treatments are required if using insecticides. Professional application of heat requires one treatment, but is the most expensive approach. A do it yourself kit contains at least two sprays, bed bug dust and other products required to kill bed bugs on contact and to provide protection against bed bugs and eggs that might have been missed. If you live in an apartment, be sure to contact the managing agent, as all adjacent apartments will need to be inspected and possibly treated.  "  

Bed bug treatment options include both chemical and non chemical approaches.  Both are often used in combination to ensure that an infestation is eliminated and so that it doesn't return.  Whether you do it yourself or hire a pest control firm to kill bed bugs, more than one treatment might be needed. 

Quick Links to Bed Bug Treatment Information:

    
Available Bed Bugs Treatment Methods:


Finding and Identifying Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs Treatment Products, Instructions and Methods:


Do It Yourself vs. Hiring a Pest Control Expert

The key to bed bug removal is to know where to look, to be thorough and to have the right tools.  It's always better to hire a professional although this approach can be expensive. Do it yourself treatment is an alternative, particularly if an infestation was caught before it gets out of hand.

Both approaches are reviewed below:

Do It Yourself Bed Bugs Treatment:

Removing bed bugs from a room will take 1 to 2 people an entire day.  Products needed include a good vacuum, mattresss safe bed bug spray, steamer, fossil dust and mattress covers designed to trap bed bugs in the mattress.  A typical kit can be affordably purchased on line such as Bug Patrol  (organic bed bug kit) or as an alternative an insecticide based bed bug kit.  The link will take you to an insecticide based kit with sprays that have been tested for bed bug insecticide resistance 

Tip: Many bed bug spray products purchased in local hardware stores will not work in areas such as the Northeastern United States, where there are large populations of insecticide resistant bed bugs.  Bed bug sprays  that have been independently tested and work against all bed bugs includes Sterifab, Phantom and Bedlam.  

Tip: Purchasing only 1 bed bug product product, such as a knock down spray, will kill visible bed bugs and eggs on contact, but will not provide lasting protection against bed bugs and eggs you might have missed, such as those that are hiding deep inside baseboards, resulting in a return of the infestation. 

Professional Bed Bugs Treatment:

Professional bed bug treatment can be expensive with treatments often costing $1,000 or more (approximately $900 per room for bed bug insecticide treatment, $5000 or more for heat treatment which is called thermal remediation).

For this reason, we suggest getting several quotes.  Start with the Service Magic Network (877-233-1145), which pre-screens each member and ensures that they are licensed and insured. Members of the network will provide up to 4 free quotes.  Compare the quotes provided to bed bug exterminators from our list of local bed bug experts.

Be sure to ask questions such as the cost for in-home inspections  (some firms charge  $50 - $500 for a bed bug inspection).  The higher end of the estimate  involves the use of a bedbug sniffing dog  (bedbugs give off a unique smell that can be detected by trained dogs with high levels of accuracy).   A professional firm can determine if you actually have a bed bug problem and will know where to look for the pests.

The benefit of a professional is their experience and access to chemical and non chemical treatment methods that aren't available to consumers.

The bottom line is that if you have a small infestation in 1 room, then a do it yourself approach might make sense.  If you believe that the infestation is larger, then call in the professionals.

Either way, it will probably take 2 to 3 bedbug treatment sessions to eradicate the problem.  

IMPORTANT: Be sure to get a written guarantee if you use a professional.

Bed Bugs Apartment Infestations

Tenants or apartment owners are often reluctant to admit to a landlord, management company or co-op board that they have bed bugs out of fear or embarrassment.  Once they call, it is also unclear in many municipalities who is responsible for bed bugs treatment.

While most local government building codes call for a building manager to keep an apartment habitable and free from vermin, the codes or laws don't alway address bed bugs.  

If you have a bed bugs apartment problem, first check with your local government to and ask who regulates apartments or rental units in your area.  Then specifically inquire about your rights such as the right to treatment, whether or not timeliness for inspection and treatment are defined in the law, and if it is clear who pays for treatment. 

If local laws do not mandate landlord or building management treatment and responsibility for payment, it may make sense to negotiate with a landlord, such as splitting the cost of bed bugs treatment 50/50.  Your local department of health can be helpful in getting a managing agent to act.  Contacting the media as a last resort may also speeds things up.

It is important that all units near the infested apartment are inspected and possibly treated.  If this does not occur, after treatment the bed bugs are likely to return. Studies show that there is a 20% chance that they will spread to an adjacent apartment and a 7% chance that they will spread to an apartment above or below the infested unit.

Tip: When you request treatment from a managing agent or landlord, send a registered dated letter requesting an inspection within 30 days.  This acts as a legal record of the request.

How Do You Know The Bugs You See Are Bed Bugs?

The insects you see in your home may resemble bed bugs, but actually be something else.  One way to tell is via appearance of the bed bug and if there are any symptoms of bed bug bites on your body.  A bed bug bite or red bump on the skin is actually an allergic reaction.  Bed bugs do not spread disease to humans, but the bed bug bite can be extremely itchy.  They do naturally go away in a few days.

photo of bed bugs
Photo of Bed Bugs

You can mail a sample bug with this form (PDF download) to IdentifyLLC. They have a team that will examine your specimen and let you know if the insect in question is a bed bug. There is a $20 fee for this service.  Most local cooperative extension offices and some health service offices will do the evaluation for free. 

bed bug signs

Bed bug signs include fecal marks on the mattress, seeing live insects with the naked eye and bed bug bites on the arm.  Note that bed bug bites vary between individuals based on how allergic or sensitive the individual is to the bites.  Most people show now bed bug bite skin reaction.

Bed bugs change in appearance at each stage of their life cycle.  They also change in size before and after each blood meal.

bed bug lifecycle
Bed bug life cycle
Bed bugs change in appearance at each life stage.  They need to feed to move from one stage to another.  They can be seen with the naked eye.

Bed Bugs Treatment for Bed Bugs Bites

Bed bug bites are usually seen in clusters or neat rows on the skin. it is possible to see individual bites.  In most cases, bites are only on skin areas exposed during sleep.  

Tip: To minimize the number of bites, wear tight fitting clothes to bed such as socks. Consider using a natural bed bug skin repellent as well.

 Everyone reacts differently to the bites with some people having no allergic reaction (the majority of people) with others getting large red bumps and in severe cases, blistering.  

To stop the itch, try using an over the counter anti-itch product such as Aveeno or you can purchase a product made specifically to stop bed bug itch such as those offered by All Stop.

Bed Bugs treatment for bites is not necessary as they will naturally clear in several days and are not dangerous.  Human allergic reactions tend to vary each time a person is bitten.


Photo Bed Bug Bites
Photo of Bed Bug Bites on Arm


Products for Do It Yourself Bed Bugs Treatment

Required Bed Bugs Products (all should be proven against insecticide resistant bed bugs):

1. Contact Mattress Safe Spray (kills bed bug eggs and bed bugs on contact).

    • Sterifab (insecticide based mattress safe pump spray tested against insecticide resistant bed bugs)
    • Bug Patrol (natural organic spray)
2. Residual or Long Lasting Protection Spray (kills bed bugs missed during treatment and late hatching bed bugs)

    • Phantom (best spray for creating a long lasting invisible barrier against bed bugs
    • Bedlam (New York Residents only, Phantom not available)
    • No organic option available, use bed bug dust for longer lasting protection.
3. Bed Bug Dust

    • Bed bug powder (also called fossil dust or diatmomaceous earth) clings to the outer layer of the bed bug, causing suffocation.  Requires that bed bugs pass through the thinly applied dust field.
    • Applied with a duster or in a bottle designed for application such as the one shown below.

      bed bug kit
      Save money on bed bugs treatment by purchasing a bed bug kit.  A typical kit is shown, which includes a mattress safe spray, residual sprays, bed bug powder or dust and a dust applicator

Optional Bed Bug Products:

There are several optional products that will help you with your bed bugs treatment.  These include:

1. Mattress, box spring and pillow covers: These covers are used after treatment to trap any bed bugs and bed bug eggs inside the mattress or box spring.  This step is critical to a successful treatment program.  We mark it as optional as they can be expensive, but are very important if you can afford it.  You do not have to throw out your mattress or box spring if you plan on covering them.  A good example are these covers from Allerzip.

2. Bed Bug Traps: Inexpensive bed bug traps such as Climbup Interceptors can be placed under each bed leg.  They will prevent most bed bugs from crawling up onto the bed.  Empty traps indicate that your bed bugs treatment was successful.

3. Hand Steamer: Steam heat is a safe method for killing bed bugs and eggs. While not required, it is another helpful tool, particularly for those that prefer to use organic methods of killing bed bugs treatment.  Use a nozzle type hand steamer.

Step by Step Instructions for Do It Yourself Bed Bugs Treatment

The following bed bug removal techniques are used to remove bed bugs from a home or a bed bug problem in an apartment (note in apartments, adjacent units should be treated as well). 

The majority of bed bugs in a room will be 5 to 10 feet from the bed.  You can see adult bed bugs with the naked eye.  Bed bug Eggs are the size of a pin head and may be difficult to see or find, but can be killed as described below.

1. Inspect the Room: Use a flashlight and a magnifying class to locate where bed bugs are hiding in a room.  Check every crack and seam that is at minimum 5 feet to 20 feed from the bed.  Establish a "safe" area outside of the treatment area to store items as they are treated and removed.

bed bugs treatment
Diagram of Typical Bed Bug Hiding Places. Studies show 50% of bed bugs will be within 10 feet of the bed, an area which is your primary bed bugs treatment focus.

2. Bag and wash all linens: Place any clothes and linens that can be washed into sealable plastic bags or a plastic bin with a snap tight lid. A good choice is to use Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags since they are bed bug proof.  Wash in hot water and then dry at highest temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.  Heat and drowning in water will effectively kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.

Empty any nearby closets and wash or dry clean what you can.  Do not bring clothes back to the room until the bed bugs treatment in the room is complete.  As an alternative, freezing for 8 or more days (5 should be enough, 8 to be safe) will also kill bed bugs, which is perfect if you have a large freezer or for items that cannot be washed.

Tip: As an option you can buy a Pack Tite, which is a portable heat chamber.  Items are placed into the chamber, heated to the needed temperature and then are 100% bed bug free.  This method can save time and is 100% chemical free.

3. Throw Out Clutter: Bed bugs can easily hide in magazines, newspapers and books. Inspect and throw out any disposable items.  Remove any hiding place such as objects that are under the bed.  They can also hide inside electronics, particularly items near the bed such as the bottoms of lamps and inside clock radios.  Dispose of cheap items.  Inspect more expensive items.  

4. Vacuum the Entire Room: If you can, loosen carpet around the perimeter of the room.  If you can't don't worry, sprays should be able to penetrate the area.  Bed bugs like to hide along the joint where carpet meets the wall.  Use the vacuum attachment to remove the bugs.  Do not use a brush attachment to avoid bed bugs and eggs getting caught in the attachment and then falling off.  

Tip: If you spot any bed bug eggs, pick them up with the sticky side of tape such as duct tape.  Vacuuming will not pick them up as they are cemented into place by the female bed bug.  Most bed bug sprays will kill the eggs.

Vacuum all areas thoroughly.  Use the crevice attachment to vacuum along the seams on the bed frame, box spring and mattress.  Dispose of the vacuum bag when done in a sealed plastic bag and then place outside the home.  If needed, loosen bed frame to expose any joints to see if bed bugs are hiding.

5. Treat the mattress: Start the bed bugs treatment by vacuuming all seams with your vacuum crevice tool. You can also use a hand steamer for an added level of protection, as steam will kill both bed bugs and eggs.

bed bug mattress steam treatment
Applying steam to a mattress.  Hold the steamer in each location 10 seconds.  Steam heat will kill bed bugs and eggs.  Vacuuming will only pick up bed bugs as eggs are attached to each surface with a cement like substance.


From your bed bug kit, use a mattress safe spray such as  Sterifab (insecticide based spray) or Bug Patrol (organic spray). Spray into cracks, onto any visible bugs and around the seams of the mattress, box spring and bed frame. Spray around the edge of the room, window sill if near the bed and behind pictures and headboard.  

Tip: Be sure to treat under labels, a common bed bug hiding place.

bed bug mattress treatment
Bed bugs treatment for mattresses involves applying a thin layer of spray along all possible hiding places such as mattress seams.  Wear gloves to protect the hands from insecticides.
Source: BBS

Follow the manufacturers bed bugs treatment directions.  Do not soak the mattress and do not cover or use until dry.  When done with the contact spray, treat the seams only with a residual spray such as Bedlam or Phantom (check manufacturers label).   Skip the second spray step.

Apply organic bed bug dust (also called diatomaceous earth or fossil dust) to all seams after spray products have dried.  This will provide additional residual protection.

When finished treating both sides of mattress, move to the "safe area" outside the room.

6. Empty Night Table Drawers on Box Spring: Now that the mattress has been moved out of the room to the "safe area", use the remaining box spring as a table to treat items in drawers.  The goal is to examine, inspect and treat items in a small area of the room to avoid spreading bed bugs.

Inspect and treat or place items into a plastic bin with a snap lid, or sealable plastic bag such as Ziploc Big Bags. Items should be inspected closely.  Those that are bed bug free should be placed into container. Others should be washed in hot water followed by 20 to 30 minutes in the dryer or placed into the freezer for 8 days.  As an alternative, place items into a PackTite portable heat chamber for heat treatment.

Dispose of what you can.  As items are treated, place into sealed containers and remove to the safe area outside the treatment area.  Treat the drawers and move to the safe area.  First use the knock down contact spray, followed by the residual spray.  Be sure to spray into any cracks and tracks that hold the drawers.

7. Treat the Night Tables: For all furniture, bed bugs treatment includes spraying both inside and outside. Use both types of bed bugs spray.  Test in an out of the way area to make sure that sprays do not stain your furniture.

bed bug furniture treatment
Treat the inside and outside of furniture with both a contact bed bug spray and a residual spray.  Pay attention to areas such as tracks which hold drawers.

8. Treat the Box Spring - Follow similar steps to treating the mattress.  Start with vacuuming and as an option, steam all seams.  Pay special attention to any plastic corner covers.  Peel back fabric on bottom or remove and dispose when applying bed bug treatment. After vacuum/steam, apply the contact spray and then the residual or longer lasting spray.  When spray is dry apply bed bug powder.  Move box spring to "safe area" when treatment is complete. 

bed bug boxspring treatment
Bed bugs treatment for box springs includes looking behind any plastic corner guides and inside the box spring itself (peel back any fabric or dispose fabric as part of bed bugs treatment).  
Shown: Bed bugs hiding on box spring

9. Treat the Bed Frame and Headboard: Follow the same steps for the headboard.  Remove or loosen from wall to be sure you are getting all bed bugs.  Loosen all frame joints and treat.  Also treat any hollow areas such as frame legs.  

bed bugs behind headboard
Bed bug hiding in crack behind headboard frame. Be sure to check and treat every crack in the room.l

10. Treat along the baseboard, remaining areas of room and carpets: Start by vacuuming along baseboard with crevice tool. Use both sprays along baseboard and other possible hiding areas.  Some exterminators like to do baseboard step first to kill any bed bugs that might have been moved from items being treated.

Bed bugs treatment for Carpets can be accomplished with steam cleaning.  For added protection, consider adding a disinfectant to the carpet cleaning fluid such as PuraCleenRX. Test in an out of the way area to make sure cleaning fluid plus disinfectant does not discolor carpet.

Loosen and check behind electrical covers and cable TV wall covers.  Do not use liquid sprays around electrical outlets. Instead opt for bed bug powder or dust.  The same applies to lamps.  Be cautious around any electrical item.

11. Cover the Mattress and Box Spring: If a mattress has a rip in it or is old, consider disposing of it outdoors.  If it is worth saving and not ripped, then buy a bed bug proof zippered cover for both such as the AllerZip Waterproof Bed Bug Proof Zippered Bedding Encasement from Amazon.com.

Covers trap any bed bugs and eggs into the mattress, box spring or pillows.  After about 14 months, any adults will starve to death.  

Tip: It is not necessary to throw out the mattress or box spring as part of bed bugs  treatment.  Just be sure to cover both after treatment with a zippered cover that specifically states that it is made for bed bug treatment.

12 Return all items to room and use a bed bug trap: It is helpful to place inexpensive bed bug traps such as Climbup Interceptors under each bed leg.  When the traps stay empty for 2 to 3 weeks, you know that the bed bug treatment has been successful.  Fewer bed bugs in the trap will also indicate that you are making progress.

Note that it can take 2 to 3 bed bugs treatment sessions to completely eliminate the problem.  

Caution: Be sure to avoid over application of any sprays during bed bugs treatment.  Only use mattress safe products on any surface that comes in contact with people or pets.  Follow manufacturers directions at all times and do not use any time until sprays are completely dry. Wash any bedding that may have been treated or in a room that has been treated.  If you experience any symptoms after treatment such as nausea, vomiting, respiratory pain, or dizziness seek medical help as you may have had a reaction to products used.

Professional Bed Bugs Treatment

A pest control expert has several bed bugs treatment tools at their disposal that are not available to a home owner or apartment owner.  These include:

  • Bed Bug Sniffing Dog: Bed bugs give off an odor similar to raspberries.  Dogs are trained to sniff this smell and locate bedbugs.  This method is considered to be 98% accurate.  Be sure to accompany the exterminator when doing a home inspection and ask to see an actual bed bug if the dog finds that an infestation exists in your home.
  • Heat: Rooms that are super heated for at least 7 minutes to 114 F degrees kills all bed bugs.  Fans are used and heat sensors to make sure that heat is evenly distributed. Some firms may have a heat room on a truck, where possessions such as clothes can be placed.  The chamber is super heated, killing any hiding bed bugs and eggs.  This approach to treating a bed bug infestation is called thermal remediation.  H
  • Bed Bug Pesticides: A room or building can be sealed and fumigated to kill all bed bugs.  Exterminators are licensed to use a broad range of chemical treatments.
  • Freezing: A freezing carbon dioxide spray can be used and is a popular tool among exterminators.
  • Fumigation: As a last resort a home can be tented and fumigated for at least 12 hours.
Check our list of local experienced bed bug companies and ask which of these bed bugs treatment approaches are used.  Also, be sure to ask for references.

To learn more about bed bugs treatment  check our page on bed bug facts.  To save money you can buy the bed bug killer products mentioned above in a bed bug kit. You can also check our list of home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.



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