Tips for Killing BedBugs

It pays to know your enemy when Killing bedbugs. It  requires that you understand where they hide and then deciding whether or not to hire a professional or if you decide to do it yourself. Each of these topics is reviewed below.  If you do decide to hire a professional (not a bad idea to get a quote) be sure to check our list of experienced bed bug exterminators in your area. 

Killing BedBugs Basics:

It's helpful to understand some of these basics for killing bedbugs, regardless of which approach you take.

Know the Enemy:

One female bedbug will lay somewhere between 200 to 500 eggs.  Each egg can hatch and develop into an adult in as few as 3 weeks.  The adult can live up to 12 to 14  months without feeding.  If you have bedbugs, try and stop them early and fast.

signs of bedbugs
Signs of Bed Bugs includes stains on sheets (top left), mattresses (top center and top right) and bed bug bites on arm which can appear as a single bite, in a row or pattern.  Severity depends on how allergic the individual is to bedbug bites, with most people showing no skin reaction. (bottom pictures)

Approximately 50% of bedbugs will hide in and around the bed including the mattress, box spring and bed frame.  They prefer to hide in tight spaces such as under mattress labels, behind plastic box spring corder guards, inside wall cracks, along baseboards, bed frame joints, and in torn fabrics. Hollow bed legs could also make for a convenient hiding place.

bedbugs hiding boxspring
Picture of bedbugs hiding behind a box spring corder guard

Bed bugs do leave behind clues that they were present.  This includes brown feces marks on sheets or the mattress, old molted skin and egg shells.

Each bed bug will feed in intervals that are 3 days apart.  Each meal lasts approximately 10 minutes.  A bed bug can survive for 2 months to a year without feeding.  Bed bugs also have a distinct raspberry type odor.  This is why trained dogs are an effective way to spot bedbug hiding places.

Hiring a Bed Bug Pest Control Expert or Killing Bedbugs Yourself:

Bed bugs can rapidly multiply, so if you suspect you have bed bugs and can afford an exterminator, we suggest using an expert.

Don't wait or the problem will get much worse and possibly more expensive to treat.  We have a list of pest control companies that are specifically qualified to treat bed bugs. These companies will provide a quote at no charge to you.

Follow this link to find a qualified local bedbug exterminator near you. Please keep in mind that if the bed bugs are not treated correctly, insects missed will begin to multiply and the problem will return.  Don't use a pest control company unless they have extensive experience treating bed bugs.

The downside of using an expert for killing bedbugs is the cost which often involves a fee for a home inspection ($100 - $500), with the high end expense in larger cities where a bed bug sniffing dog is used. The treatment itself can cost between $750 to $1000 depending on the number of rooms that need to be treated. When calling a bed bug pest control expert, ask the following questions:

  1. Cost for the estimate
  2. What chemical and non chemical approaches will be used for killing bedbugs. Professionals use sprays that contain pyrethrins, bromophos, phenchlorphos and propoxur.
  3. If you have children, fish and pets, ask about safety
  4. Is the treatment guaranteed (often 2 to 3 bed bug treatments are needed)

Regarding treatment approaches, heat is one of the most effective ways to kill bedbugs. This is often used on combination with chemical approaches. Many contractors have special equipment that can super heat a room to the required 120F. This will kill all living bedbugs and their eggs.

Required Products and Methods for Killing Bedbugs Yourself:

A bed bug infestation cannot be eliminated with only one type of spray or mechanical method such as vacuuming. The best approach is to purchase either an insecticide based bed bug kit or organic bed bug kit, which will have all of the products and instructions to the job correctly.  Some products are designed to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact, while others are used to provide lasting protection; they kill bedbugs that you might have missed.

  • Bed Bug Spray: There are two types of bed bug sprays:
    • Knock Down Sprays: These products kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact.  They are mattress safe and come in  insecticide formulation and organic formulations.  We recommend purchasing the insecticide bedbug spray Sterifab for this purpose as it has been tested against insecticide resistant bed bugs and costs under $20 per bottle.  If you prefer organic products, we recommend Bed Bug Patrol.  
    • Residual Longer Lasting Sprays: These sprays last for 3 to 6 weeks and are used to create a lethal area that kills bed bugs when an insect crawls through the treated area.  After applying a mattress safe spray, these products are applied to areas such as baseboards, furniture and bed frames to kill any bed bugs that were missed and late hatching bed bugs.  We recommend the insecticide based Phantom spray since it was tested against insecticide resistant bed bugs. New York State residents should buy Bedlam instead since Phantom is not available in that state.  For those that prefer organic treatment, use bed bug dust as we are not aware of an effective natural residual spray.
  • Bed Bug Dust: This product is naturally made from crushed fossils.  it is spread around a room after treatment.  Bed bugs come in contact with the dust and then quickly die when a scab forms on their exoskeleton. 
  • Vacuum: Use a crevice tool to pick up bed bugs. The insects can be seen with the naked eye.  Dispose of the vacuum bag outside of the home after use.  Note that bed bug eggs cannot be picked up with a vacuum.  These can be picked up with duct tape (apply to eggs and pull), or with steam and sprays.
  • Hand held Steamer: For the do it yourselfer, the only way to kill bedbug eggs is with high heat.  A streamer and steam will superheat the eggs and kill the bedbugs.
  • Mattress and Box Spring Covers: Zippered covers will trap any bed bugs and bedbug eggs that are missed inside.  They will eventually die.  You do not have to throw out a mattress or box spring.

Quick Home Remedies When Killing Bedbugs

These are the basic steps that will start to protect you from bed bugs:

  1. Pull the Bed From the Wall: Bed bugs will climb the wall and then jump onto the bed. Pull the bed at least 6 inches from the wall.
  2. Popular home remedies for getting rid of bed bugs is to buy 4 plastic bowls. Glue fabric to the outside of the bowl so that a bed bug can climb up the side. Please each bowl under a bed leg. Please an inch of rubbing alcohol in each bowl. Bed bugs will climb up the side of the bowl and then slide into the alcohol and die. This is a convenient way to both catch the bed bugs and by the number found in the bowel, you can determine the extent of your bedbug problem or if a problem still exists.

  3. Double Sided Tape: Put double sided tap around each bed leg. The bed bugs will get attached to and avoid the sticky surface.
  4. Bed Bug Traps: Place a home made bed bug trap or purchased bed bug trap such as a climbup under each bed leg.
  5. Vacuum/Steam: Vacuum and steam (if you have a hand steamer) the bed seams, box spring and bed frame.  You can see bed bugs with the naked eye.  Use a wire brush or thin object to pull them out of seams and cracks.
  6. Dispose of Clutter: Items such as newspapers and magazines provide hiding places for bed bugs.
  7. Duct Tape to Remove Bed Bug Eggs; Bed bug eggs are cemented to each surface where they are laid and cannot be picked up with a vacuum.  An easy bed bug home remedy is to pick up the eggs by applying duct tape and pulling.

Step by Step Approach for Killing Bedbugs

For detailed instructions, see our guide to bed bug treatment.

  1. Inspect the Room: Look for brown feces marks.  As bed bugs congregate they will leave behind brownish/reddish marks and molted skin.  Inspect adjoining rooms as well as bedbugs will move 100 fee in every direction, including rooms that are above and below, or any apartment that has a shared wall.

    bedbug hiding places
    Picture of Bed Bug Hiding Places
  2. Throw Out what You Can: Dispose of all lose papers, books and any other item that could act as a hiding space. Consider disposing of electronics as bed bugs can hide inside such as the casing of a clock or radio. Do not use liquids around electrical items. For treatments around electrical outlets use dust products.
  3. Try Home Remedies for Getting Rid of Bedbugs: Look at the bed bug home remedy ideas mentioned above, although we recommend purchasing an inexpensive bed but kit to ensure that you have products tested for killing bedbugs that are insecticide resistant. If you trap any bed bugs, you know that you may need to repeat the entire treatment approach.  It may take 2 to 3 tries.  The key is to inspect and treat each part of the infested room.

    - Wash all linen, clothes and blankets in hot water followed by 20 minutes on high heat in dryer
    - Treat the mattress with steam/vacuum followed by a mattress safe spray.
    - Treat the box spring, bed frame, adjacent furniture, around windows with vacuum/steam mattress spray and residual spray.  Inspect all electronics.
    - Treat with both sprays along baseboards
    - Vacuum carpet and steam clean
    - Empty and inspect all items in drawers that are near the bed.  Treat inside and outside of night tables and other furniture.

    bedbug spray furniture
    Bedbug Spray Furniture both inside and out. When killing bedbugs, most are going to be found within 10 feet of the bed with 50% on or near the bed.
    Shown Here: Sterifab sprayed inside of night table
    Source: Bed Bug Supply

    - Encase mattress and box spring in bed bug covers

    Killing bedbugs often require 2 to 3 treatments.  They can hide inside lamps and electronics such as clock radios.  Do not spray electronics.  Instead, store in a sealed container for 18 months to starve any hiding bed bugs.  Items such as computers should be thoroughly inspected.

What Doesn't Work when Killing Bedbugs

Avoid older dangerous methods of bed bug removal such as the use of flammable liquids such as gasoline. Also products such as boric acid which comes in a dust form do not work as they are not ingested by bedbugs. If treating an apartment, products that contain pyrethroids may result in bedbugs dispersing from the treatment. Pyrethroids will kill them on contact, but may cause other bugs to run away toward other rooms or apartments.

Again, the best approach is to hire a bed bug exterminator.  A good starting point is our list of experienced bed bug exterminators.  It also can't hurt to call Service Magic (toll free 1.877.233.1145) since they provide 3 free quotes for killing bedbugs.

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References for Killing Bedbugs:

Closing in on Bed Bugs
Kramer, Richard

Ohio State University cooperative extension

Bed Bug Search

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