Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

"Getting rid of bed bugs involves inspecting and treating every surface of the infested room. For apartment tenants, it involves discovering who is going to pay for the problem and then how to go about treatment. Don't despair.  There are insecticide, organic and non-chemical approaches that do work, they just may take 2 or 3 treatments. While we recommend the use of a bed bug exterminators since they have the required knowledge and equipment, we also provide step by step directions below for those that would like to treat their home and kill bed bugs themselves."  

Getting rid of bed bugs has many methods and approaches. Despite the panic you hear about on television, there are insecticides and organic products that are effective in killing bed bugs. The challenge is to find them, and then apply the right bed bug product to get rid of the bed bugs. Here are a couple of ways you can effectively kill bed bugs and remove them from your home or apartment.

Hire a Bed Bug Exterminator for
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Professionals have the experience and specialized equipment for getting rid of bed bugs.  Even if you decide not to use a professional, they are a great source of education and can confirm the size of any infestation, even if you decide to do it yourself.  

Because some professionals charge for on-site inspections, and with bed bug treatment costs of $1000 or more, we suggest getting quotes from multiple bed bug exterminators using the following approach:

  1. Call Service Magic: Service Magic (phone 877-233-1145) is a network of local pest control companies that have been pre-screened prior to accepting the company for membership.  They will provide up to 4 free quotes.
  2. Check Our Database: Search our list of local bed bug experts here.


After calling a bed bug expert, ask the following questions regarding getting rid of bed bugs:


  1. Experience of the specific person servicing your home
  2. Cost for in-home inspection (if any)
  3. Chemical and non-chemical methods used.
    1. Pesticides
    2. Heat or Freezing (carbon dioxide or dry ice spray)
  4. Is the work guaranteed and for how long? (bed bug treatment often requires 2 to 3 treatments)
  5. Safety for children and pets
  6. Required preparation prior to treatment


Are Bed Bug Dogs Helpful in Locating Bed Bugs?

You may have heard about the use of bed bug dogs as part of a plan for getting rid of bed bugs.  Bed bugs give off a distinct odor that can be picked up by trained dogs.  This is an accurate approach for finding infestations, however, an on-site inspection by a dog can cost several hundred dollars just for the inspection.  While the use of a dog is helpful, if you know you have bed bugs, it isn't critical to a successful bed bug treatment plan.

Also, be sure to accompany any bed bug exterminator as they inspect your home.  Bed bugs can be seen by the naked eye.  Ask to see an actual bed bug before agreeing to treatment.

Do It Yourself Bed Bug Treatment

It is possible to treat a bed bug infestation yourself if you are willing to purchase the bedbug products needed to do a thorough job.  We do understand that many readers do not have the money to do this.  For this reason, we do provide no cost and low cost suggestions as alternatives.

A bed bug control kit can be an effective way for individuals that want a cost effective "do it yourself" approach to killing and preventing bed bugs. They are significantly cheaper than buying products individually (although you can use this approach as well).

Most bed bug kits include all or some of the following bed bug products:

Bed Bug Spray: These come in a pump or aerosol can, and also come in organic/natural or as an insecticide.  There are also sprays known as "knock down" sprays which kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact, and those which interfere with the bed bug life cycle, that provide protection for several weeks.  Recommended bed bug spray products are as follows:

  • Organic:
    • Bed Bug Patrol (kits also offered by manufacturer): this is a knock down spray that uses plant extracts to kill bed bugs.  It is mattress safe.
  • Insecticide
    • Sterifab  (synthetic pyrethroid and alcohol): This is the most popular knock down product.  It is mattress safe and highly effective on bed bugs and eggs.  If you were to buy one product, we would suggest this one as it has been widely tested.

      As mentioned, in addition to a knock down contact spray such as Sterifab or Bug Patrol, you should also purchase and use a spray that can kill bed bugs that you might have missed by having a lasting or residual effect.  Here we would only suggest insecticide based sprays. If you prefer to only use organic products, then use bed bug dust as an alternative.

      These two insecticide based bed bug products are widely popular, with each a good choice for killing bed bugs for several weeks after applying the spray..
    • Phantom: Uses a newer insecticide, chlorphenapyr which is invisible to bed bugs, so they don't repel away from the area treated.  One of the most popular residual sprays.
    • Bedlam: Uses a combination of insecticides to provide a lasting effect. Also a very popular and effective choice.

Bed Bug Dust (also called Fossil Dust or Diatomaceous Earth): Bed Bug dust is spread in a very thin layer in cracks, crevices, along baseboards and behind cable and electrical outlets.  Some dust products also contain an insecticide.  Dust should be applied after spray products have dried. It is recommended that bed bug dust be applied with a powder applicator which can be purchased for approximately $10 from Amazon.com.

Mattress Covers - Approximately 85% of bed bugs will be in or around the bed. By sealing the mattress and box spring, bed bugs trapped inside will die since they will not be able to feed.  A good low cost source for bed bug tested zippered covers is WalMart.

Healing Spray - A bed bug itch spray such as All Stop is made specifically for bedbug skin reactions and will help to reduce the primary symptom, skin itch. In most cases, bed bug bites will go away on their own in 2 to 5 days.

Bed Bug Information - Information on how to kill bed bugs. A step by step guide with pictures of what to look for (although everything you need is outlined on this website).

Home or Apartment Plan for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Yourself

The key to getting rid of bed bugs is to clean all surfaces and treat all cracks and surfaces where bed bug eggs could have remained behind.  Follows this suggested bed bug treatment plan.

Preparation for Home Bed Bug Treatment


1. Select a Safe Area: Choose an area just outside of the room to be treated where you can move items out of the room.  It can be a hallway just outside the door of a room.  The largest item placed into the safe area is the mattress.

2. Throw Out Clutter: Bed bugs can hide in newspapers, magazines, books and other items found near the bed.  Dispose of anything you can in plastic bags.  Remove plastic bags and dispose of items outdoors.

3. Purchase Required Bed Bug Products 

The Bed Bugs Handbook is continually researching the most effective products available for getting rid of bed bugs.  Here are our recommendations.

Products Recommended Products Lower Cost Alternative
Vacuum with Crevice Tool Use any vacuum Rags to collect bed bugs
Hand Steamer Vapamore Steam Cleaner Steamfast or any other hand steamer you currently own. A hair dryer on low air, high heat setting is an alternative as well.
Knock Down Mattress Safe Bedbug Spray Insecticide Based:
Sterifab
Organic:
Bug Patrol
Sprays are low cost.  If you pick only one bed bug spray or product, buy Sterifab.  
Residual Bed Bug Spray (kills bed bugs for several weeks) Insecticide Based:
Phantom or
Bedlam
Organic:
Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth applied with a
Pest Pistol Mini Duster
Bed Bug Dust Diatomaceous Earth
Pest Pistol Mini Duster
Diatomaceious Earth
Pest Pistol Mini Duster
Mattress and Box Spring Covers Allerrzip or WalMart MicronOne WalMart MicronOne
Bed bug proof storage bags or bins Ziploc Big Bags or Plastic bins with snap on llids Ziploc Big Bags or Plastic bins with snap on lids


Bed Bug Treatment Steps for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

1. Vacuum all surfaces: The vacuum is ahelpful tool for getting rid of bed bugs. Bed bugs can be picked up by a vacuum. Use the crevice tool to vacuum (no brush attachments), around the bed, bed frame and the perimeter of the room, particularly along any baseboards. If you have carpet, steam clean.  Add a strong disinfectant to the cleaner such as PuraCleenRX. If using a disinfectant test in out of the way area to avoid staining the carpet. When done, seal vacuum bag in plastic and dispose outside of the home.

Note that a vacuum will not pick up bed bug eggs.  These need to be killed with sprays or steam heat.  All of the insecticide based sprays mentioned in this page kill bed bug eggs.

Bed Bug Video: Vacuuming for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

2. Wash All Linens: Bed bugs will be killed by hot water followed by 20 to 30 minutes in the dryer.  Fold blankets and other bed linens on the bed.  Bag, ideally in a Ziploc Big Bag, or plastic bin with lid.  Move to washing machine and wash and dry.

3. Treat and move the Mattress to safe area:  If you have a hand steamer, steam along all cracks and crevices.  The heat will kill any bed bugs and bedbug eggs. 

Use a mattress safe bedbug spray such as Sterifab. Spray lightly (follow manufacturers directions) along all possible hiding places, such as around buttons, tufts and any labels. When done, move the mattress to the safe area you designated outside of the room.

getting rid of bed bugs
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs from a Mattress
Treating Mattress Seams with BedBug Spray

3. Treat the Box Spring: It is possible that more bed bugs are hiding in the box spring than the mattress.  Use the  mattress safe spray (if you only purchased one bed bug product) or preferably a residual spray such as Phantom.  Treat all seams and tufts.  Peel back and bottom cloth covering and treat inside the box spring. Replace or dispose of fabric.

4. Empty Drawers from Nightstands and Inspect other Items such as Electronics: Place all items from nearby drawers on the box spring.  Place all items in a plastic bin with a snap on top or in a Ziploc big bag.  The only way to ensure that items are bed bug free are to either visually inspect them, use a steamer or hair dryer to heat them to the required temperature (hold hair dyer on low air, high heat setting for 30 seconds) or buy a PackTite.  A PackTite is a portable vinyl case that is big enough to hold a suitcase.  Place items into the PackTite and heat.  

The only other alternative is to freeze items for 3 days, or store them in a plastic bin with a snap tight lid for 14 months.  Any bed bugs will starve to death during that time (they can live for 12 months without feeding, extra 2 months is to ensure they are all dead).

Inspect bottoms of drawers and treat with the residual spray.  Remove, inspect and treat the bottoms of the drawers.  First, test the spray to avoid staining any furniture.

6. Treat Remaining Items in Room: Treat remaining furniture, picture frames, cracks in the bed frame, headboards etc. with the residual bed bug spray.  Be sure to inspect behind headboards and electrical plates.  Do not spray liquids into electrical outlets, instead use diatomaceous earth (fossil dust) around edges of wall plate. Also check any cable outlets.

getting rid of bed bugs
Bed Bugs Around Electrical Outlet

7. Spray and Seal Seams and Cracks - Bed bugs will look for a hiding space as close to the bed as possible.  This includes the bed frame, cracks in the walls, behind electrical plates and along bed boards.  Use the residual spray (Phantom or Bedlam) and spray into all bed frame joints. Spray along the baseboard.  

getting rid of bed bugs
Getting Rid of Bed Bugs
Spray Along Baseboard using Attachment that Comes With Spray Products

8. Spread Bed Bug Dust - Bed bug eggs attach to surfaces like cement. This makes them very difficult to remove. They can be killed with a steamer and by spreading bed bug dust that will kill the bed bugs when they hatch.

9. Place Zippered Covers on Mattress and Box Spring: Zippered covers will trap any bed bugs you might have missed.  Bed bug eggs in particular are small and sometimes difficult to locate.  The covers will trap any late hatching bed bugs as well.  Only use zippered bed bug mattress covers that are specifically tested to trap bed bugs, as others may allow them to escape.  We suggest products offered by Allerzip for a premium bed cover and MicronOne for a lower cost option.

When ready, return the mattress to the room and  your bed bug treatment is complete.  To be sure,  you can also place Bed Bug Climpup Interceptor traps under each bed leg.  These traps are effective and when empty, will let you know that your plan for getting rid of bed bugs has worked.  Leave the interceptors in place for 2 to 3 weeks to be sure.

Getting rid of bed bugs may take 2 to 3 treatments to remove all bugs. Check adjoining rooms or if you live in an apartment, including check rooms on each side, and apartments above and below yours to see if your bed bug problem is caused by another tenant.

Bed Bug Traps -
Another Tool for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Companies are continually introducing new types of bed bug traps and monitors to provide alternatives to chemcial insecticide based approaches for getting rid of bed bugs.

A good source for latest bed bug traps is Bed Bug Supply. While we woulnd't walk away from the approaches for getting rid of bed bugs outlined above, the traps can be part of a total bed bug removal plan. Different kinds of bed bug traps include those offered by:

  • BioSensory, has just introduced a product for getting rid of bed bugs called the NightWatch(TM) Bedbug Monitor. It is an innovative product vs. other methods that are available and is designed to detect detect bed bug infestations at the earliest stages.

    According to the manufacturer, the NightWatch Bedbug Monitor mimics a living, breathing human body -- combining CO2, a proprietary kairomone lure, and a patented thermal lure for a powerful three-pronged attractant and trapping system. When bed bugs approach to feed on what they think is a human, they fall into the pitfall traps made of highly polished material and cannot escape. NightWatch can catch both mature and immature bed bugs, since the monitor's detection period spans the 7-10 days bed bugs take between meals.

    A recent field trial conducted in Charlotte, NC demonstrated the product can be effective in luring bed bugs into the trap. By using other approaches such as Bed Bug sprays and dust with the product, it can be part of an effective approach to getting rid of bed bugs.

    The Nightwatch Trap can be purchased online from Bed Bug Supply, alhtough since they cost close to $400, a better option would be to rent one from a local bed bug professional
  • The Bed Bug Beacon emits a small amounts of carbon dioxide to attract and trap bed bugs. For under $50, this device is a helpful way to draw out inactive bed bugs, particularly in rooms other than the bedroom.  While it will not eliminate an infestation, it can be another tool in your plant for getting rid of bed bugs.

If the do it yourself approach to getting rid of bed bugs doesn't work, then call a pest control expert, such as the members of the Service Magic Network.

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