How to Kill Bedbugs

" How to kill bedbugs involves both non chemical mechanical methods such as vacuuming, steam, heat and the use of a washing machine and chemical methods such as sprays and dusts.  Both are required to thoroughly treat an infestation.  With current methods available it may take more than one treatment."  

Bed bugs are small insects that live near their host. They puncture the skin of the host in order to feed. The skin reaction to a bed bug bite is actually an allergic reaction. It is estimated that 70% of people show no skin reaction after being bitten.

Even if you don't have a reaction to the first time you are bitten, it is possible to have a reaction, the next time you are bitten. Reactions can occur within an hour to as long as 14 days later.

It is difficult to kill bedbugs since they are difficult to spot. they can however, be seen with the naked eye when you are able to coax them out of their hiding places, which are usually thin cracks and crevices.

Treatment requires a combination of methods in order to effectively knock down or reduce the bedbug population and then to apply products that provider longer lasting protection. The key is to be thorough and to make sure that you treat the entire infested area. 

Removing bed bugs from an area usually takes multiple applications. If you are planning to remove the bedbugs yourself, you will need a combination of non-chemical and chemical approaches since steps like cleaning a room and vacuuming will only reduce the population of bed bugs so far.  The best way to obtain the needed bedbug products in through the purchase of a bed bug kit.

Not living in the infested room is usually not an option since bedbugs can live about a year without feeding.

how to kill bedbugs
Picture Bed Bug Life Cycle
Bed Bugs Change in Appearance as they move through their life cycle.  they also change before and after feeding.

How to Find Bed Bugs

Start with your bed since up to 90% of the bed bugs can be found within 10 feet of the bed. When looking for food, they can crawl over floors, no walls and on ceilings for up to 100 feet. For this reason be sure to check adjacent rooms.

how to kill bedbugs

How to Kill Bedbugs: Typical Bed Bug Hiding Places in Bedroom

Bedbugs like to live in small, warm, dark places. Use a strong flashlight and carefully inspect the crevices of your mattress and bed frame. Adult bedbugs are usually reddish-brown in color and are about a quarter of an inch long. Their larvae are the size of a grain of rice. Look carefully, because they can be easy to miss.

Inspect other furniture beside your bed. Bedbugs can live on sofas or chairs. They can even live in dresser drawers. They can also live in carpet, usually along the baseboard. If you find bedbugs in one location, go ahead and inspect your entire house. If you miss a spot when treating them, the infestation will just return.

Use a magnifying glass to spot the white bed bug eggs. They are approximately the size of a head of a pin as are nymphs, which are bedbugs that were just hatched. The eggs are difficult to kill because of their protective shell, size and the sticky substance that cements them to a surface, making vacuuming ineffective. As bed bugs grow they will shed 5x which is why you might see bed bug skins on a mattress. They feed in between molting. A bedbug can grow into an adult in 30 days and create three new generations in a year.

Preparation - How to Kill Bedbugs


  1. Do not remove anything from the room to be treated unless bagged. Do not remove furniture. 
  2. Loosen the edge of carpet at the perimeter to inspect for bed bugs 
  3. Remove and inspect all items from the walls including pictures and lights if mounted on the wall 
  4. Loosen all switch plates such as electric, cable etc. 
  5. Remove all linens, clothes and blankets and bag/seal before they leave the room 
  6. Remove all items from adjacent closets and clean items in the closet 
  7. Remove all items from the floor 
  8. Dispose of items such as newspapers and magazine in a sealed plastic bag

Bed bugs are also difficult to spot because they are active at night. You can try and pinpoint a location where a bed bug is hiding by any nearby staining due to molting are any brown fecal matter they leave behind. The bedbugs also have a distinct sweet smell, which is why dogs are sometimes used to locate areas where they are hiding.

how to kill bedbugs
Picture of Bed Bugs at Bottom of Wall

How to Kill Bedbugs

You’ll need a combination of product when learning how to kill bedbugs. These treatments usually come in sprays (knock down and residual), powders/dust. Other tools needed include a vacuum, and if you have one, a hand steamer.

To save money, consider purchasing either an organic bed bug kit or an insecticide based bed bug kit. that contains all of the products needed to kill bedbugs and bed bug eggs. You can often find them at hardware stores. Here are the products contained in most bed bug kits and how they should be used: The kits also contain detailed instructions on how to kill bedbugs.

How to Kill BedBugs - Instructions

Designate a Safe Area - Identify an area just outside the area to be treated where you can place treated items such as the mattress.  The bed will be the work area, which helps to limit the spread of bed bugs.

Launder - The first step in how to kill bedbugs is to launder your bedding in hot water by bagging the clothes in the room of the infestation and then carrying the bags to the washing machine. After washing anything you can including blankets, clothes and linens in hot water, be sure to dry on high heat for 30 minutes.

Vacuum - The second step in how to kill bedbugs is to vacuum thoroughly. Use the crevice tool on a strong vacuum cleaner to get into the crevices of your mattress and the corners of your bed frame. Of course, you can use the crevice tool on other soft furniture as well, such as sofas and chairs, and also on hard furniture like the insides of dresser drawers. Also use the crevice tool to vacuum the floor along the baseboards near the bed or other infested furniture. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag when done. Do not use the brush tool since it may disperse bedbug eggs or they will get caught in the tool.

If you have a carpet, be sure to vacuum and steam clean.  For added protection, add a disinfectant formulated to kill parasites such as PuraCleenRX to the cleaning fluid. Be sure to treat along the baseboards.  Larger infestations should be treated by a professional as bed bugs can hide along carpet tacks as shown below.

pictures of bed bugs
Picture of Bed bugs and Bedbug eggs (white oval objects) on Carpet Tack

Dispose of Clutter - Dispose of anything you can in the infested room such as magazines and newspapers. Bed bugs like to hide in clutter. Check every item in a room such as behind picture frames and even inside electronics. They may even hide behind wall electrical or cable plates. Check along the perimeter of the carpet as bedbugs can hide in the carpet and attach themselves to the wood holding the carpet in place.  Removing hiding places makes how to kill bedbugs an easier task.

If a mattress is torn and old, then it should be disposed of. If the mattress is in decent condition, then there is no need to dispose of it.

Steam
- a hand steamer will push steam into areas where there are eggs. Steam is an effective for how to kill bedbugs at all stages of life and is most effective when used prior to the application of insecticides such as sprays and dusts. It is preferable to use a steamer sold specifically to kill bed bugs as it will have high heat and low water vapor.

Steam all areas, including the mattress, box spring, bed frame, head board and along the baseboards.

how to kill bedbugs
Use a Hand Steamer for a Safe Way to Kill Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Eggs
Picture: Steaming Mattress Seam

Open a window after treatment to avoid the growing of mold on surfaces treated. Start by treating the mattress surface, mattress seams and then the furniture. Bed frame joints are a favorite hiding place. Treat all edges of the carpet as well.

Mattress Safe Spray: After steaming, use a mattress safe knock down spray to immediately kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. It also  well for killing bed bugs hiding in cracks such as bed frame joints, and cracks/crevices in furniture. Good choices are Bug Patrol (organic/natural spray) or Sterifab (insecticide bedbug spray). Use after steaming.  You should also purchase a residual spray that will provide several weeks of lasting protection such as Phantom.  (New York residents cannot buy Phantom, so purchase Bedlam instead).

After treating the mattress, move it to the safe area, and then treat the box spring.

how to kill bedbugs
Picture: Use a Mattress Safe Bedbug Spray to Along Mattress seams and tufts.  Be sure to treat around the mattress label.

Treat objects in drawers - First remove the drawers from furniture near the bed such as night tables.  Dump contents onto the box spring. All contents need to be treated.  Methods include heat (steam), washing (for machine washable items), bed bug knock down sprays andfreezing (place items in the freezer for 2 weeks). After treating drawers place into the safe area.

How to Kill Bedbugs in Box Spring - It is just as important to treat the box spring as it is to treat the mattress.  Be sure to treat the inside of the box spring by peeling back or removing of the cover. After treating, carry box spring to safe area.

Treat the Furniture, Bed Frame and Baseboards - Be sure to treat every possible hiding place, including the bottoms of drawers, the backs of furniture, and along the baseboard.  Bed frame joints and hollow bed legs are favorite hiding places.

how to kill bedbugs
Be sure to treat the inside of furniture such as drawer tracks

how to kill bedbugs
Use an Aerosol Spray with Top Attachment (comes with spray).  Follow manufacturer instructions for how to kill bedbugs

Bed Bug Dust: Even if you vacuum up and kill all of the bugs, it is very difficult to locate and kill the eggs. Which is why an infestation may reappear several weeks after treatment. By spreading a thin layer of dust (called fossil dust or diatomaceous earth) around the room, the bedbugs will be killed on contact. Dusts are also useful around electrical outlets such as wall plates, since liquids could be dangerous. Since dust is visible after it is spread around, it is limited to out of the way areas such as under furniture and the bed.  It can also be placed into the tufts of the mattress and inside the box spring.  Most dust products are all natural.

how to kill bedbugs
After treating the mattress, apply bed bug dust to seams before covering with a mattress cover

If the dust product you purchase also contains an insecticide, the active ingredient in dusts is usually carbamates such as bendiocarb and propoxur. 

Do not vacuum the room 10 to 14 days after treatment to allow the residual effects of sprays and any dust placed around the room to do its job. This is because any remaining eggs will hatch in 7 to 10 days.

Mattress and Box Spring Covers - on approach for hot to kill bedbugs is to buy a tight fitting mattress and box spring cover.  The covers will trap any remaining bed bugs and those that hatch inside the mattress, denying them food. This is an easy approach for how to kill bedbugs. There is no need to throw out a mattress. It is equally important to cover the box spring as it is to cover the mattress.  Covers purchased must specifically state that they were made for bed bugs.

After covering both the mattress and box spring move back in place.  Be sure to either dispose of pillows or use bed bug pillow covers.

If you decide to replace the mattress and bed frame, buy a metal frame since bed bugs hate the smooth and hard surface of metal. If you use any linen around the edges of a bed, make sure that it is off the floor to avoid having bed bugs use this as a pathway back into the bed.  Also keep the bed at least 6 inches from the wall and any adjacent furniture.

When to Hire a Bed Bug Pest Control Expert

You can hire an exterminator to come in and treat your home for you. It's not a bad idea to get a few quotes from a pest control network such as Service Magic (1.877.233.1145) since members are pre-screened and need to be licensed and insured before joining. You can then compare it to the cost of doing it yourself.  You can also check out database of bed bug exterminators.

A pest control company may have specialized equipment such as room super heater, which involves sealing a room and then heating it to a high temperature.  They will have specialized knowledge on how to kill bedbugs.

If you have a large infestation, if the bed bug infestation has spread to multiple rooms, or if the bed bugs reappear after treatment, then bringing in an expert makes sense.  They have the knowleged for how to kill bedbugs that are spread throughout the home.

References for How to Kill Bedbugs:

Bed Bug Control: Challenging and Still Evolving Harold J. Harlan, Kadix Systems LLC, Arlington,VA 22203, USA 

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




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