Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

bedbug life cycle - side by side picturesActual Size and Bed Bug Sizes Throughout Lifecycle

Overview

This guide describes several home remedies  for getting rid of bed bugs. While it is possible to treat small infestations yourself, it is better to use a professional who can confirm the presence of bed bugs, determine the size of the infestation, and the proper treatment methods. If you live in an apartment building, always ask for an inspection since it is required that all adjacent apartments be inspected once in infestation is confirmed.

If you want to confirm the presence of bed bugs yourself, capture and take an insect for identification to a local University or Cooperative extension (call first) or send an insect to Cornell Diagnostic Laboratory.

During the early stages of a bed bug infestation they
are easier to spot and kill vs. later on when they have had a chance to hide in walls, cracks and crevices.

Home remedies for bed bugs include insecticides and bed bug traps as described below. The better do it yourself approach is to purchase a bed bug kit that contains instructions and the multiple products to do the job correctly.

In general, do-it-yourself bed bug treatment and home remedies for getting rod of bed bugs are usually not enough to kill a growing bed bug infestation.  Any  approach (even professionals) requires 2 or more treatments.

HOmemade Bedbug sprays

According to pest control technology (11/04), there are several readily available liquids that can be used to kill
bedbugs as a homemade bedbug insecticide.

Isopropyl Alcohol

The lowest cost method is to use 91% isopropyl alcohol. This will kill bed bugs on contact and can be inexpensively purchased at any local pharmacy  for under $5 for 16 ounces.  Buy an inexpensive spray bottle to apply. Be sure to ventilate areas after spraying and allow all surfaces to dry before you place any blankets or other linens back on the bed or box spring.  Also allow to dry before
sleeping in the treated surface.  Alcohol is flammable and gives off toxic fumes (people have burned their house down with this method!), so use with great care.

Alcohol is a contact killer meaning it will kill bed bugs that come in direct contact with the spray. The downside is that if you miss any bed bugs during treatment, or if any eggs hatch that were not removed or killed, you will have to apply another round of treatment. You will need to re-treat areas in 10 to 14 day intervals (time it takes for bed bug eggs to hatch) several times.

Also, an alcohol spray will not kill bed bug eggs, making it nearly impossible to eliminate an infestation.

The better approach is to purchase a kit with a  contact killer that can also kill eggs, and a spray that will kill any bed bugs that cross into sprayed areas is the best approach.

Apply the alcohol spray to the cracks in the bed frame and other areas where bed bugs hide. When treating furniture, do it outdoors and then apply to all seams and cracks.   If using alcohol on furniture, be sure to test to determine if product will stain wood.

Mix soft soap and snuff

Another one of the home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs recommended by the USDA in  is to use a mixture of soft soap and snuff or arsenic.  This combination can also be applied to cracks and crevices.  

Instead of home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs, you can buy an effective low cost  mattress and furniture safe bed bug spray such as Sterifab for under $20.  This is always the preferred approach for those that for financial reasons need to treat a bed bug infestation themselves.

bed bug pest control experts

Killing bed bugs is hard, even for an expert, which is why we recommend going this route. To save money and to find an experienced exterminator, we suggest calling a national network such as Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145).  Before being accepted to the network companies are pre-screened,  licensed and insured. Compare costs and proposed treatment methods to local exterminators who can be found on our list of experienced local bed bug experts

bed bug Sprays and mattress covers

The following tips provide information on home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.  There are also some good products on the market that can be relatively inexpensive.  For example, the best mattress bed bug spray, Sterifab,  is under $10.  The best crack and crevice spray, Phantom, is also relatively inexpensive.  

The key to using homemade bed bug remedies or purchased products is to be thorough.  Inspect every inch of a room, wash every item you can, place any item you can in the dryer, and throw out any clutter, and you have a fighting change. 

There are two fundamental types of bed bug kits, with purchase based on individual preference vs effectiveness.  

Also be sure to purchase and use bed bugs mattress covers and bed bug box spring covers after treatment. This will trap any bed bugs and bed bug eggs you might miss.

where do bed bugs hide?

bed bug hiding places - room diagramBed Bug Hiding Spots

It is important to identify all areas where bed bugs may be hiding.  During the day, they hide in any available cracks, starting with the mattress seams, under the mattress label, box spring and bed frame.  They also hide inside hollow bed legs.

As these areas fill up with bed bugs, skins that have molted, and bed bug feces and bedbug egg shells, bed bugs will seek other areas to hide.  They will then move on to adjoining furniture, and the cracks between the floor and walls.

chemical free treatment

1. Start by identifying areas where bed bugs are hiding.  Look for marks on the mattress such as small brown fecal spots.

bed bugs mattress signs - example 1Bed Bugs Mattress Signs

2. If you live an apartment, bed bugs could spread to units above, below and next to yours.  See our  bed bugs apartment guide for legal and apartment bed bug treatment advice.  You may need to notify your neighbors of the problem, particularly if bed bugs are coming through the walls into your apartment.

3. Every week pack your blankets, sheets and other washable bedding and wash in hot water followed by 20 minutes in the dryer.

4. Make good use of your vacuum cleaner.  The crevice tool in particular can be used to suck up any bed bug nymphs (baby bed bugs) and adults.  Use a brush to nudge them out of mattress seams and crack and vacuum them up. You can also use a putty knife or playing card to nudge the bed bugs into an area where you can vacuum them up.  You can also simply crush each bedbug with a paper towel or catch them with sticky tape.

Vacuum around and under furniture.  Empty drawers that are next to the bed and be sure to vacuum inside, under and around all tracks.  Dispose of the vacuum bag in the room being treating in a plastic bag that you tie and dispose of outside of the home or apartment.

5. Use heat as one of your home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.   The best way to do this is with a hand steamer.  Preference is for one with multiple steam holds.  Bed bugs and bed bug eggs are killed at 113ºF.  

As an alternative, use the hottest setting on the low air setting on a blow dryer.  According to the NYC Guide for Property Owners, Manager and Tenants (free PDF download), You must hold the blow dryer on the bed bug crack for 30 seconds in order to reach the required temperatures.

6. If you spot clusters of bed bug eggs, which are small whitish oval pin head size specs, use clear package tape to pick them up.  Place tape on top of each cluster and peal up.  Dispose in a plastic bag, preferably one you can seal such as a ziploc bag.

bed bugs hiding around screw - example 2Bed Bugs in Furniture Screw Hole
Photo Credit:

7. Seal any cracks and crevices with caulk.  Any cracks in the wall, or along where the floor meets the wall are ripe for bed bugs to hide or spread from an adjoining apartment.  Also tighten all light switch and cable plate covers.  Take down any ripped wallpaper.  The more hiding places you remove, the better.

8. Dispose of any clutter.  Newspapers and magazines are all hiding places for bed bugs.  If you do opt for treatment, clutter blocking walls etc can make a bed bug treatment program less effective.

9. Move the bed at least 6 inches from the wall and any nearby furniture.  Make sure no blankets are touching the floor.  Place homemade bed bug traps under each bed leg or buy inexpensive climb up interceptors. (see picture at bottom).  These interceptors will help to keep bed bugs off of the bed (they aren't 100%, but they will help).  Add a thin layer of talcum powder to the outer well on the bowls for added protection.  

HOme remedies for getting rid of bed bugs that do not work

Insect baits, while effective for killing other insects such as ants and cockroaches are not effective in killing bed bugs.  This is because the "bait" is not interesting to bed bugs since they only feed on blood and are attracted to carbon dioxide when you breathe.  Bug bombs also do not work as they do not penetrate deep enough into cracks to be broadly effective.


Boric Acid (Borax) is not an effective way to kill bed bugs so cross it off your list of home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.

Home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs that also do not work includes, bed bug bombs, cedar oil and other natural oils — these products claim to kill bed bugs, but only cause the bugs to scatter out of sight and hide in cracks in walls and floors.

Dryer sheets are also ineffective.

home made bed bug traps

No trap will catch all of the bed bugs in a room.  They are helpful for reducing the number of bed bugs, and if the trap is bed bug free after 3 weeks, there is a good change that your home or apartment is bed bug free.

You can read about 2 types of homemade bed bug traps here.  An inexpensive option is to buy climb up interceptors for each bed leg (they come in packs of 4).  These are small bowls that trap bed bugs before they can climb up the bed legs and get onto the bed and you.  

bed bug home trapPicture of Climbup Interceptor Bowls,. Buy One or Make It Yourself
bed bug trap - example 4Picture of Climbup Bed Bug Trap on Bed Leg

heat and bed bugs

Heat can be an effective way to kill bed bugs. The downside of heat is that it has no residual effect. If you miss any area, additional treatments will be needed.  Bed bugs will die if exposed to heat at 118F for 20 minutes (eggs require 118F for 90 minutes).

There are three methods for achieving this level of heat in the home.

1. Clothes Dryer: A clothes dryer loosely filled will kill bed bugs and eggs in 30 minutes. Use this method for shoes, bedding toys and other dryer appropriate items, particularly those that would be damaged by spray.

2. Portable Heater: A PackTite heater is similar to a duffel bag that has a heater designed to produce enough heat to kill bed bugs. It is idea for heating an entire suitcase after a trip or for holding household items.

3. Steamer: A hand held steamer will generate the required heat. The downside is the inability to get the steam deep into cracks or with possible damage to surfaces that cannot withstand steam heat due to moisture.

Professional exterminators effectively use portable heaters in a sealed room. Fans are used to spread the heat evenly throughout the room. Heat is applied for 4 or more hours.

bed bug heat treatmentProfessional Bed Bug Heat Pumps Outside Treated Home


Brochures

Each of these free brochures are filled with additional  picture of bed bug bite examples such as photos of rashes, skin reactions, mattress signs and information.

Methods of home or apartment bed bugs treatment using heat.
Available in a free Ebook

Tips and home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs.
Available in a free Ebook

references

Stephen L. Doggett
Principal Editor
Department of Medical Entomology,
Institute for Clinical Pathology & Medical Research,
Westmead Hospital, WESTMEAD NSW 2145, Australia

New York City Department of Public Health

Closing in on Bed Bugs
Some History and Treatment Techniques 
PCT

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