How to Get Rid of Bedbugs
Step by Step Instructions

Getting rid of bedbugs is a problem faced by more and more people as the incidence of bed bug problems has gone up 500%.  They are being found in schools, on public transportation and of course in homes and apartments, across all 50 States in the U.S. and around the world.  They are spreading due to fewer pesticides targeting these bugs as they used to be exterminated when killing other household insects.

Quick Reference:
How to identify bed bugs in your home
How to find a bed bug exterminator
How to get rid of bed bugs (step by step instructions)
Bed Bug Prevention

Note that products are suggested based on our research on how to get rid of bedbugs.  Links will take you to the lowest cost resource we could identify for each product mentioned.

Bed bugs bite during the night.  Serious infestations could result in over 500 bites (they are actually skin punctures, not bites).  Any reactions  to bed bug bites are an allergic reaction.  While they don't spread disease, the allergic reaction itself can result in red markets or bumps on the skin, impetigo which is a bacterial skin condition, asthma and even shock which is called anaphilaxis.  Bites are often found in clusters of 3, but can consist of a single bite.

rid of bedbugs
Picture Bed Bug Bites

Not everyone shows a reaction to bed bugs.  Some people can get a rash in a hour while others will show no reaction.

Bed bugs are attracted to body heat and the carbon dioxide given off when sleeping.  As they find skin, they puncture the skin and feed from 3 to 5 minutes before returning to their hiding place.  

Bed bugs can only get into a building if they are brought into the building by a person that carries them in via used furniture, luggage etc.  It is not a matter of being neat or clean.  A person who is visiting could be carrying the bugs which jump off their belongings into a  home or apartment.

One bed bug can quickly reproduce, with each bed bug leading to 500 babies in 1 year time, so removing them early is important.  Often bed bug bites are confused with mosquito bites, resulting in treatment or extermination being delayed.

Finding Them Before you Get Rid of BedBugs:

The key to getting rid of bedbugs is to  know where they hide.  Since they feed on human hosts,  most are found around the bed itself with studies showing over 50% found hiding around the mattress and bed frame.  They are going to hide where they will not be disturbed. The rule of thumb is that the least likely places to look or be disturbed are where bed bugs are going to hide.  Look in any dark tight places. Here are the 5 places bed bugs are most likely to hide:

Getting Rid of BedBugs Starts with Knowing Where Bed Bugs Hide

Take the linens off the bed.  In the early stages look for spotting which is caused by fecal staining (digested blood). 

1. Underside of the Box spring: Fecal or brown stains may appear on the bottom of the box spring.  If you suspect bed bugs, you may need to rip the fabric covering and inspect the inside of the box spring for live bed bugs.

2. Head board: Look behind the head board and the bed frame.  In hotels the head boards are wall mounted.  This is a common hiding place because the head boards are not disturbed.

3. Furniture Near the Bed: As infestations get larger, bed bugs need more places to hide.  Pull drawers out of the dresser and look underneath the drawers.   Look underneath all furniture.

4. Look behind pictures : any pictures or wall hangings could be hiding bed bugs.

5. Look in Cracks in Wallpaper or Wall Cracks: Bed bugs can hide behind the torn wallpaper or in cracks.

This diagram  shows common bed bug hiding places:

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Picture of Bed Bugs at Different Stages of the BedBug Lifecycle
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An adult bed bug is approximately  1/4 inch long and is brown/red in color.

Getting Rid of Bedbugs

The first decision you have to make is to go the "do it yourself" route for getting rid of bedbugs or hire a professional.  If you can afford it, the professional option is the way to go, particularly in the case of  larger bedbug infestations.  

The cost for a typical home bed bug treatment is $750 to $1000 plus some exterminators may charge for a home inspection.  Often a bed bug sniffing dog is used to find all of the bed bug hiding places.  Ask about the chemical and non chemical approaches you choose when selecting a professional.  Compare quotes and equipment used for getting rid of bedbugs from 2 or more companies.

Here are two easy steps for finding an experienced bed bug exterminator in your community:

  1. Call Home Advisor (877-233-1145): Home Advisor is a network of independent pest control companies that are pre-screened by the network. They will provide up to 4 free quotes.
  2. Search our Database: We maintain a database of bed bug exterminators which can be searched here.

If you pursue the do it yourself approach for getting rid of bed bugs, do not buy a "bed bug bomb" found in many local hardware stores as these may kill  or knock down the bed bug population, but not their eggs. They can also cause the bed bugs to disperse instead of being killed, only to return later on.

Instead, purchase a bed bug kit such as the one offered by Naturasil for Bed Bugs (organic approach) or from Amazon (insecticide based approach) These cost approximately $70 - $160 and contain the products you need to remove the pests from your home including a mattress safe pump spray, bed bug dust, a hand steamer, and an instruction booklet.  It is also highly recommended that bed bug proof mattress and box spring covers are purchased (instead of throwing them out).
The steps needed for getting rid of bedbugs are described below. The key is to kill all bed bugs and the bed bug eggs.

Steps for Getting Rid of Bedbugs Yourself

The key to bed bug treatment is to be thorough.  If you can fit a credit card into a crack, it is big enough to hide bed bugs.  Every item within 10 feet of the bed such be treated including furniture, picture frames, window ledges, headboards and bed frames etc.

1. Designate a Safe Area: You'll need an area outside of the treatment area to move items that have been treated.  Select a hallway or bathroom next to the treatment area.

2. Bag and remove all clothes and linens: Fold the blankets and other linen on the bed. Don't remove anything from the room unless it is bagged. A convenient way to do this in sealed bags is to use either a plastic bin with a snap lid or Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags.  Bring clothes to the laundry room and wash what you can in 120 degree hot water (highest setting) followed by 20 to 30 minutes in the dryer.  What you can't wash, place in the dryer for 30 minutes at high heat.  This will kill all bed bugs and eggs.

3. Vacuum the Room:
The vacuum can pick up any bed bugs that you can find.  As mentioned, they like to hide in areas that can't be disturbed, such as along the cracks between the floor and baseboards.  Use the crevice tool, not the brush tool.  Bed bugs could get caught in the brush.

4. Treat the Mattress: Start by using the vacuum with the crevice tool along all seams and tufts of the mattress.  If you have a hand steamer, steam areas vacuumed and let dry. Steaming is an optional step for extra protection./

Next use a Knock down Spray, which is a type of bedbug spray that will kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact. (They do not have a long residual effect, so other sprays or products are needed for lasting protection.) We recommend the knock down spray Sterifab (alcohol and synthetic pyrethroid) as it was tested by ICR and resulted in 100% of bed bugs sprayed being killed,  Another good choice is JTEaton Red Label and Bedlam.  Follow the manufacturer directions. If you prefer to use organic products on surfaces that come in contact with your family, use Bed Bug Patrol.

After treating the mattress let it dry and then move it to the safe area.  When dry, place the mattress into a zippered bed bug mattress cover (WalMart offers low cost covers called MicronOne).  Spray anywhere you believe bed bugs are hiding, particularly under labels and in tufts/seams.

rid of bedbugs
When Getting Rid of Bedbugs, Treat Mattress with a Knock Down Bed Bug Spray that is Mattress Safe such as Sterifab

5 Treat the Perimeter of the Room: Use a spray that has a lasting residual effect along the baseboards and furniture.  We prefer the sprays Phantom (1st choice). JTEaton Blue bottle is also a good choice.

Why Phantom for getting rid of bedbugs? The active ingredient in Phantom cannot be detected by bed bugs,  so it doesn't repel them away from treated areas,  a risk in some other products.   Bed bugs have also started to show some resistant to commonly used products in some  cities, reinforcing Phantom as the best choice for a residual spray. That said, the other products mentioned are also  excellent choices with excellent feedback from readers of the Bed Bugs Handbook.

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Getting Rid of Bedbugs with a Spray
Picture Bed Bug Treatment with Bedlam Aerosol Spray around Perimeter of Room

6. Treat the Box Spring: Follow the directions above for treating the box spring (vacuum then steam). If the bottom of the box spring has a fabric cover, either dispose of the cover or peel it back.  Be sure to  inspect for bed bugs.  Here you can use the Phantom Spray or the Sterifab.  Place the box spring into a zippered bed bug box spring cover when done and move to the safe area.

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Treat All Cracks and Seams inside the Box Spring
Here an Exterminator uses JTEaton Blue Label as a Residual (long lasting) Bed Bug Treatment

7. Treat the furniture and other areas near the bed: Bed bugs tend to be hiding near the bed.  It is important to thoroughly treat nearby furniture. Empty the contents of drawers onto the box spring. Check items for bed bugs and place into a plastic bin with snap lid or Ziploc Big Bag.   When getting rid of bedbugs in furniture with drawers, remove drawers and treat around the edges. Use the Phantom spray, Bedlam or JTEaton Blue Label.

rid of bedbugs
Lightly use Bed Bug Spray Around Window, Picture Frames and other Areas In Case Bed Bugs are Hiding.  Look for credit card sized cracks.
Source: Bed Bug Supply

Bed bugs can hide inside electronics and clutter such as newspapers, magazines and books.  If not of value, dispose of any item you can.  Electronics can only be treated in a heat chamber such as a PackTite, or they need to be stored for 1 year in a sealed plastic container to ensure that all bed bugs were starved.   Confirm with the manufacturer of the electronics/computer that they can withstand temperatures of about 120F.

Bed bug dust such as JTEaton Bed Bug Powder (Green Label) can also be placed around the electronics to kill any bed bugs when they leave their hiding places.

rid of bedbugs

rid of bedbugs

Treat Tracks with a Knockdown and Residual  Bedbug Spray such as Sterifab or JTEaton Red Label for a knockdown to immediately kill bedbugs and Phantom or JT Eaton Blue Label for a Residual Spray.
Also Treat Inside of Furniture (all cracks/joints)  and Underneath Drawers Test to avoid Staining
Source: Bed Bug Supply

8. Treat the Carpet: Bed bugs like to lay their eggs on rough surfaces such as carpet.  We suggest steam cleaning any carpets.  For added protection when getting rid of bedbugs, add a small amount of disinfectant formulated to kill parasites such as PuracleenRX to the cleaning fluid.  Test in an out of the way area to ensure that the mixture doesn't stain your carpet.

9. Spread Bed Bug Dust: Bed Bug Dust (also called dessicant dust, diatomaceous earth or fossil dust)  is a natural product made of ground fossils.  Some products are mixed with an insecticide.  The purpose is to use Bed bug dust to kill any bedbugs that hatch from eggs that you might have missed.  As the bed bug walks through a thin dust field, the dust will attach to their body, eventually suffocating the bed bug.  Dust can be spread places where the spray shouldn't be used, such as around electrical outlets, and under furniture and along walls.  A duster such as the Mini Pistol should be used as well as some type of dust mask to avoid breathing in the product.  You can also use JTEaton Green Label, which comes in an applicator bottle.

The advantage of bed bug dust is that is doesn't break down, so it will provide lasting protection. One tip is to place dust  into areas where bed bugs might return.

Bedbug Video: Applying JTEaton Green Label Bed Bug Dust
to Get Rid of Bedbugs

Bed Bugs Prevention

1. Buy a bed bug encasement for the mattress: This will prevent bed bugs from getting into your bed and will trap and kill any that are already there. Using covers is standard practive when getting rid of bedbugs.  It is not necessary to replace the mattress unless it is in bad condition.  If removing a mattress from the home. wrap in plastic to avoid dropping any bugs.  Mark the mattress as having a bed bug problem to keep other people from taking the used mattress.  Cover options include Allerzip and lower cost options from MicronOne.  Note that covers alone do not protect against bed bugs that are hiding elsewhere in the room.

2. Put plastic bowls under the legs of the bed when getting rid of bedbugs:  Bed bugs will climb up the outside wall and will get stuck in the bowl. You can make your own by pasting fabric to the outside of the bowl so the bed bugs can climb up.  For added protection, put 1 to 2 inches of rubbing alcohol or powder into the bowl.  If there are no bugs in the bowel after a few days, there are probably no more bed bugs in the home and you have successfully got rid of bedbugs.  You can buy inexpensive bowls called Climbup Interceptors, with one going under each bed leg.

3. Put Double Sided Tape Around Bed Legs: Tape will stop any bed bugs from climbing up back to the bed.  They also sell low cost bed bug traps such as Bed Bug  Patrol Traps that will do the same thing.

4. Move bed 6 inches from the wall: This will prevent any bed bugs from climbing the wall and jumping back into the bed.

5. Be Careful When Traveling:  When entering a hotel room, keep luggage away from the bed and furniture.  Ideally keep it near the door.  Check the box spring and bed to see if their are any brown spots.  When you get home, wash clothes in hot at 120 degrees or place into a dryer on hot for up to 30 minutes.  Both methods will kill bed bugs.  For those that want to be extra careful, buy a portable heat chamber called a PackTite.  When returning home from a trip, place your packed luggage in the PackTite.  It will heat the luggage to the required temperatures to ensure that it is bed bug free.

References for Getting Rid of Bedbugs:


Bed Bug Supply

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