According to a recent poll of bed bug exterminators, killing bedbugs is the most difficult challenge they face. The reason is that they are difficult to find and are resistant to many insecticides that historically have been effective at killing the insects such as DDT (which was banned) and many commonly used products.
Luckily, there are bed bug insecticides, organic products and mechanical approaches that when used in combination, can help to eliminate a bed bug infestation from a home or apartment.
The basic principle of bed bug eradication is to use products which can immediately reduce the bed bug population in a home or apartment. This is combined with products such as residual bed bug pesticides or bed bug dust, which provides residual or lasting protection.
These quick links to Bed Bug Eradication Information will get you to the bed bug information required to either hire a bedbug exterminator or to treat a room, home or apartment yourself.:
Selecting and Working with a Bed Bug Exterminator:
- How to Hire a Bed Bug Exterminator
- Bedbug eradication methods used by professionals
- Questions to ask when hiring a bed bug exterminator
Bed Bug Eradication Using Do It Yourself Methods:
How to hire a professional
We always recommend the use of a professional for bed bug eradication. They have the knowledge, equipment and access to bedbug pesticides that are not always available to homeowners. The downside of hiring a bedbug exterminator is the cost, which can include $50 - $500 for the in-home inspection and over $1,000 for the bed bug treatment itself.
Get Quotes from Several Bed Bug Exterminators
It is very easy to get quotes from reputable companies that have experience with bed bug eradication in your area:
- Call Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145): Home Advisor is a network of local bed bug exterminators and other contractors that are pre-screened by the network. They will provide up to 4 free quotes, either online or when you call.
- Search our Database: We have an online database of qualified bed bug exterminators that can be quickly searched.
Methods used by BedBug Exterminators
Professionals (and do it yourself home owners) will use a variety of methods to kill bedbugs. These include:
- Bed Bug Sprays: Sprays fall into two broad categories.Knock Down Bedbug Sprays: These bed bug sprays are formulated to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs on contact. They do not have a lasting or residual bed bug killing effect, so they will not kill any bed bugs or bed bug eggs that were missed.Residual Bed Bug Sprays: These Bed Bug sprays keep their ability to kill bedbugs after they dry. Products are often IGR's or insect growth regulators which interfere with the bed bug life cycle. Because they interfere with the bed bugs ability to reproduce, they take at least 7 days to work, and then kill bed bugs for several weeks. Because they take time, they are often used in combination with a knock down bedbug spray.
- Heat Treatment: There are two types of heat treatment for bed bug eradication, air heat and steam. Bed bugs and bed bug eggs are killed at temperatures above 113F. Higher temperatures are used when the heat needs to penetrate an object such as a wall or piece or luggage.
- Steam: A hand held steamer generates enough heat to kill bed bugs. The steamer is used prior to the use of any sprays to knock down or reduce the bed bug population. It is a convenient way to treat the mattress, box spring and other areas that water will not stain.
- Hot Air: The Temp-Aire thermal remediation system is designed to super heat a sealed room or building. Temperatures in the room/building are heated so that all items, both inside and out, reach 113F.
The pro's of this method is that it is 100% effective for bed bug eradication, only takes a few hours and is chemical free. No household items need to be thrown out. The negative is that it is expensive and can cost more than insecticide based treatment.
- Freezing: Many bed bug exterminators believe in the use of a freezing spray made up of carbon dioxide (dry ice). In New York it goes under that trade name Instant Freeze. It penetrates surfaces and uses freezing temperatures to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. This method is also effective at bed bug eradication, but relies on the knowledge of the bed bug exterminator to locate and treat all bedbug hiding places. The advantage of this method is that it is also chemical free. The negatives include the risk of missing bed bugs and the cost.
- Organic Pest Control Bed Bugs: Organic and chemical approaches are frequently combined for bed bug eradication, depending on the use. One of the most popular organic methods is the use of Bed Bug Dust (also called fossil dust or diatomaceous earth). A thin layer of dust is applied to cracks, crevices and around the mattress. As long as the dust stays in place, it provides a lasting barrier against bed bugs. The bed bug or fossil dust clings to the outer layer of the bed bug, eventually killing the insects.
This bed bug eradication approach is often used with organic bed bug sprays with spray acting as a knock down or a way to reduce the population and the dust providing a longer lasting or residual way to kill bedbugs that might have been missed.
- Vacuuming: Bed bugs can be seen with the naked eye. Often the first bedbug treatment step is to vacuum them up. The vacuum crevice tool is used to suck up bedbugs hiding in mattress seams, in and around the box spring and other areas of the home. Note that bed bugs eggs are attached to surfaces with a sticky substance and cannot be removed with this method, which is why it is used in combination with other approaches such as steam and bedbug sprays.
Questions to Ask Prior to Starting Bed Bug Extermination Efforts
- Do they charge for an in-home inspection?
- Do they use a bed bug sniffing dog (higher charges apply for inspection)
- Written Guarantees and for how long?
- Experience of the specific bed bug exterminator that will be treating the home
- Availability of local references?
- Are payment plans available?
- Chemical and Non-chemical/mechanical bed bug treatment methods used?
- Pet and child safety of bed bug extermination methods?
- What preparation is needed before bed bug treatment?
- Do mattresses and box springs require covers?
- Length of time you will be out of the home during bed bug eradication?
- How will electronics such as televisions be treated?
- If you live in an apartment building, will they help to educate tenants?
- If you live in a building with bilingual tenants, can they provide materials in multiple languages?
Do It Yourself Bed Bug Treatment
If an infestation is first starting, you can't afford a bed bug exterminator or you just prefer to do things yourself, it is possible to kill bedbugs yourself. The key is to use the right combination of methods the ensures that the bed bug population is knocked down or reduced in size, combined with methods that will kill any late hatching bed bugs.
Bed Bug Products for Bedbug Extermination
We suggest purchasing a Bed Bug Kit, since it is the most convenient and economical way implement a bedbug eradication program. Essential bed bug eradication products include:
- Bedbug Sprays: There are several insecticide sprays that are approved for home use and that have been independently reviewed by the University of Kentucky (download study PDF) as being effective against insecticide resistant bedbugs. You will two spray products for bed bug eradication, one that kills bedbugs and eggs on contact, and another that provides lasting bed bug protection.
- Knock Down Bed Bug Spray: Our preferred mattress safe knock down spray is Sterifab (pump spray) and Bedlam. If you prefer organic products, then purchase Bed bug patrol.
- Residual Bed Bug Spray: In terms of a residual or longer lasting spray, we recommend Phantom (aerosol). New York residents cannot purchase Phantom, so we suggest using Bedlam instead.
- Bed Bug Dust: Any bed bug dust, fossil dust or diatomaceous earth product will due. This type of product is applied after treatment for lasting protection.
- Mattress and Box Spring Covers: Bed bug mattress and box spring covers are used after treatment to trap bed bugs and bed bug eggs that might have been missed during bedbug treatment. They are essential. You can either dispose of your pillow or protect it with a bed bug pillow cover as well.
- Bed Bug Traps: Bed Bug Traps (optional) such as a Climbup Interceptor are helpful to know when the bed bug problem is gone. Bed bug sticky traps are also popular.
- Hand Steamer: As indicated above, bed bugs are killed at high temperatures. Steam applied with a hand steamer can be a helpful way to kill bedbugs.
- Vacuum: A vacuum with a crevice tool is helpful in the first round of treatment.
Step by Step Instructions
The key to successful bed bug treatment is to be thorough. Every inch of the infested room needs to be inspected and possibly treated.
1. Designate a Safe Area: Choose an area outside of the area to be treated where you can move the mattress and box spring after they have been treated. When treating bed bugs, do as much as you can in one are of the room, such as the bed.
2. Vacuum: Thoroughly vacuum the room. Use the crevice tool to vacuum around the baseboards/edges of the room.
3. Treat the Baseboard: As bed bugs are dislodged, they might run to hiding places under the baseboard. This sets of a perimeter around the room for killing any bed bugs that might try to escape. If you have a steamer, start by using steam around edges of room. After it dries, spray around baseboard with knock down spray, followed by residual spray.
4. Wash Linens: Fold linens on the bed and move to the washing machine in a plastic bin with a snap lid, a Ziploc big bag or if all you have is a regular plastic garbage bag, it will do. Wash linens in hot water followed by at least 20 minutes in the dryer on the high heat setting. When done, put in the safe area.
5. Treat the Mattress: Steam the seams and tufts of the mattress.
When dry, use a mattress safe knock down spray such as Sterifab in the same areas. Treat all sides of the mattress. Pay particular attention to areas under the mattress labels. When done, move mattress to the safe area.
6. Remove drawers and treat items in Drawers in Night Tables: Pull drawers out of the adjoining night tables (if any) and place on top of the box spring (if you have one). Pull contents out of drawers. Items should be inspected and treated for bedbugs. Options include:
- Place items in Freezer: Items kept in the freezer will be bed bug free after 5 days.
- Place items in Washer: All washables should be washed in hot water followed by 20 minutes in the dryer.
- Place items in Dryer: Items that can withstand the heat and motion, can be place in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes.
- Treat drawers with both the knock down spray and the residual spray. Test to ensure that sprays do not stain the furniture surface. Treat all cracks where bed bugs may be hiding.
- Treat inside and outside of night tables with the knock down spray and the residual spray.
7. Treat Box Spring: Start by vacuuming with crevice tool. Treat box spring with steam. Be sure to treat the inside of the box spring by peeling back or removing the covering fabric. It is likely that more bed bugs are hiding in the box spring than the mattress. When dry, follow this with use of the knock down spray. Residual sprays are usually limited to use on seams (check manufacturer directions).
When done, move to the safe area.
8. Treat the Bed Frame and Head Board: Use the knock down and residual spray (check to make sure it doesn't stain). Spray all cracks and crevices.
9. Treat Remainder of the Room: For successful bed bug eradication, treat all cracks and crevices with both sprays, such as around the window, cracks in walls and floors and other furniture that might be infested.
It is possible that bedbugs are hiding in electronics such as the clock radio. These items are very difficult to treat yourself. Options are to purchase a PackTite, which is a portable heat chamber, assuming your electronics can not be harmed by temperatures of 120F or electronics can be stored for 14 months in a container with a snap tight lid. Bed bugs will die after not feeding for this length of time.
10. Apply Bed Bug Dust: Spread a thin layer of dust into cracks and crevices such as around the baseboard. It is an all natural product made of fossil dust. Apply with a duster or dust application tool. When bedbugs move through the dust field, it clings to the insects causing death. Caulk or fill in any cracks where bedbugs might be hiding.
Bed Bug Dust (fossil dust) Can Be Applied to Mattress Tufts to Provide Another Layer of Protection. After Applying dust, place mattress into a zippered cover. Bed bug dust can be applied in a thin layer in any crack and crevice, including the inside of furniture, inside the box spring and other areas where you think you might have missed bed bugs. Dust is a natural bed bug eradication method.
11. Cover the Box Spring and Mattress: When all sprays dry, place bed bug proof zippered mattress and box spring covers over the mattress and box spring. Put both back in place. Buy new pillows or cover existing pillows with a bed bug pillow cover.
12. Put Bed Bug Traps in Place: Bed bug traps such as the climbup interceptors will let you know if your bed bug eradication efforts have been successful. The bed bugs climb up the outside of the trap and fall into the well where they are trapped. Empty traps after 2 to 3 weeks means that your efforts have been successful.
Note for rooms with carpet: It can be helpful to steam clean the carpet. Be sure to treat along all carpet edges and check sprays in an out of the way area to see if they will stain. It can also be helpful to add a disinfectant formulated to kill parasites to the carpet cleaner. Larger infestations will require a professional exterminator to treat hiding places such as carpet tacks.
Efforts Not Successful?
Note that bed bug eradication can take 2 to 3 treatments. If your do it yourself efforts are not successful, you can always call in a bed bug exterminator.
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