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Killing Bed Bugs and Steps for Getting Rid of an Infestation

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Are Bed bugs easy to get rid of?

Bed bugs are one of the hardest insects to eliminate from a home or apartment. This is true for a professional or if you do it yourself. If an infestation is small or if you cannot afford an exterminator, then follow the steps described below and be sure to purchase a kit that contains the necessary products (more than one type of spray is needed to kill on contact and another to provide longer lasting or residual protection).

Getting rid of or killing bed bugs is a multi-step process which requires thorough cleaning of infested rooms and at minimum an inspection of adjacent rooms. On average, bed bugs will travel approximately 20 feed to find a host. Use that as a general rule when deciding what rooms and areas to inspect and clean. Bed bugs will also move to adjacent rooms that are above and below the ones where your spotted the bed bugs.

Bed Bug in Mattress Seam

Why Bed Beds are Hard to Get Rid Of

Bed bugs are great at hiding in narrow credit card size cracks. Adults can survive for months depending on the temperature without eating a blood meal from a host. It is easy to miss bed bug eggs which are small and white. However, if you keep on attacking the problem, eventually it will be at tolerable levels and then completely gone. If you live in an apartment, be sure to involve the landlord and other tenants, since rooms above and next to the bed bug problem may be the cause.

It is unlikely that products made for other insects will kill bedbugs, since insecticides tend to be insect specific.

Bed bugs getting rid of them will at minimum take a full day for each room.  Because this is a difficult process we recommend that you confirm the presence of bed bugs by calling in a professional. 

We suggest a 2 step process:

1. Contact a Local Firm that has been pre-screened by a national network: Home Advisor will provide 4 free quotes from local bed bug experts. Their toll free phone number is 877-233-1145.  Network members also must be licensed and insured.

2. Check our List of Bed Bug Experts: You can search our list of bed bug exterminators here.

It is not unusual for do it yourself or professional attempts to require 2 to 3 bed bug treatments before a bed bug problem is brought under control.

how to get rid of Bed Bug bites

Bed bug bites are an allergic reaction. The bites can appear within an hour to several days after being bitten. The bites will naturally disappear in about 3 days.  In severe cases the bites can turn into blisters, although this is rare.

How to get rid of bed bugs

The key to getting rid or killing bed bugs is to not only kill or remove the bugs themselves, but to protect against the eggs they leave behind.

Identify Bed Bugs First

Getting rid of bed bugs involves looking around, under and behind every object in the room. The bugs are flat and range in size from a speck or poppy seed sized when born to 1/4 inches when they are adults. They can cling to any surface, even upside down. Bed bugs have a range of colors including burnt orange, brown and even white if they just molted.

Here are some pictures to help you identify bed bugs.

magnified bed bugMagnified View of Bed Bug

On a mattress you can identify bed bugs by looking at the seams and what they left behind. If a bedbug has been on a mattress, they sometime leave behind blood stains or fecal matter.

bed bug fecal marks on sheetsBed Bug fecal marks and adult insect on sheets

Bed Bug Size

bed bugs size at different life stagesActual size of bed bugs at different life stages

An adult bed bug is about  the size of an apple seed (3/8 inch in length) and is visible with the naked eye. They are reddish brown after feeding and larger. Small straw colored bed bugs are referred to as nymphs. They are sometimes called baby bed bugs (1mm to 4.5 mm or 1/4 inch). The insect hatches from an off-white egg that is about the size of a poppy seed (1 mm in length).

First Signs

The first signs of a bed bug infestation are bite marks on the arms or legs. Bites are an allergic reaction, so no two people have the same symptoms. It is possible for one person sleeping in a bed to have no reaction while another person has a more distinct skin reaction.

Room Preparation

here are several steps involved in preparing a room for bed bugs getting rid of treatment.  Steps for how to kill bedbugs include:

  1. Loosen carpets around the edge of the room if possible since this is a possible bedbug hiding place.
  2. Removing all bed linens.  Bag and wash them.
  3. Loosen all electrical and cable switch plates so that you can inspect behind them.
  4. Make sure there are no items in the floor
  5. Empty and bag the contents of closets and any nearby drawers.  Never transport items from the infested room to another area such as a washing machine unless they are bagged to avoid dropping any bed bugs around the house.
  6. Throw out any items such as newspapers and magazines since these are favorite hiding places.

How to Use a Portable Heat Chamber to Kill Bed Bugs

Video with step by step instructions for killing bed bugs using a portable heat chamber. This approach is ideal for quickly treating room items that can withstand 113F. It is also a fail safe way to treat luggage when returning from a trip.

bed bug sprays and product you will need

When killing bed bugs you will need multiple products that are best purchased in a kit.  There are two types of kits for getting rid of bed bugs yourself:

  1. Insecticide Based Kit
  2. Organic (to get rid of bed bugs naturally)

We highly recommend a kit since they come with detailed instructions.

Products you will find in a kit for getting rid of bed bugs include:

Knock Down Bed Bug Spray: This is a bed bug spray will kill bugs on direct contact. This is what is known as a "knock down" spray as they help to reduce the population of bed bugs.  They are helpful since they can reach into cracks in the floor. A good organic product is Bug Patrol.  The best mattress safe insecticide based spray which is mattress safe is Sterifab.  We always recommend the insecticide based product since the sprays we mention have been tested to kill bed bugs where they are insecticide resistant such as in the Northeast United States.  Organic products should work, but we have not seen test results.

Residual Bed Bug Sprays: Knock down sprays should be used together with a spray that has a lasting effect (called residual effect).  We suggest either Phantom or Bedlam.  These take up to 7 days to fully work, but will not repel bed bugs and will provide several weeks of protection.  There are no equivalent organic products.

spraying crevices with bed bug sprayApplying Bed Bug Spray to Crevice

Dust to Kill Bed Bugs: A fossil dust to kill bedbugs is sprinkled around the room, particularly in cracks and crevices, after you do your thorough cleaning and spraying. The reason is that since bed bugs are hard to find, any that you miss will come in contact with the dust, which will attach to their outer shell and kill the bed bug. Also, since bed bug eggs are very hard to find and destroy, when they hatch, the new born will come in contact with the dust. It is easy to miss the eggs since there is no specific place where they are laid out by the female. Eggs take 10 days to hatch.  Dust is also helpful around electrical outlets, since liquid sprays could be dangerous.

Disinfectant and/or Steamer - Bed bug eggs stick to surfaces and can only be killed by a spray, steam or a freezing spray. Some kits come with a steamer for this purpose. Steam can also kill the bed bugs themselves.

Zippered Mattress and Box Spring Cover - After cleaning, lock any bugs or eggs you missed into the mattress and box spring with a zippered cover. The bugs inside will eventually die. Make sure the cover is made for bed bugs such as the one in the kits above or you can get the AllerZip Waterproof Bed Bug Proof Zippered Bedding Encasement from If you buy one that isn't made for bed bugs or have one in the house, make sure it is hypoallergenic. You may also want to purchase a pillow cover, although these are just as easy to replace.  If a mattress is ripped, it  should be thrown out.

It is not necessary to dispose of a mattress that has been infested. Just cover it with a bed bug cover for at least a year.  Other approaches are to leave a mattress in freezing temperatures for 30 days.

Bed Bug Luggage Protection Instructions

Video with step by step instructions for treating bed bugs. Note that the bed bug spray in the video has changed to this product"

Step by step instructions

Note that is not unusual  to have to repeat the process to treat bed bugs for 3 to 5 times since it is very easy to miss when eliminating bed bugs and their eggs.

1. Inspect - Look in every crack and crevice, particularly near the bed. Look in the cracks of the bed frame, cracks in wooden floors, at the edge of carpets, in the box spring and behind the clock radio. Looks in the cracks of windows. Go inch by inch and check every item. Even pull off electrical plates and switch plates from the wall for inspection.

2. Clean :
Vacuum - A vacuum can pick up live visible bed bugs. If you have carpet, vacuum every inch, and then do it again. Dispose of the vacuum bag in the room where you just vacuumed by placing it in a securely tied plastic bag. Remove and dispose out of doors, preferably in a garbage can that is outside in the sun.

Note that a vacuum will not pick up bed bug eggs.  A tip for getting rid of bed bugs is to pull them up with clear packing tape, kill them with bed bug spray, or use a hand steamer.

Designate a clean area outside of the room being treated. As you treat the mattress or removable draws, move it to the clean area after treatment. This could be an adjacent hallway.

Wash - Bag first and then wash any fabric item in hot water including clothes, blankets, sheets and bedding. Only carry items out of infested room in a sealed bag or bin. Wash in hot water. After the items dry, seal in plastic bags such as Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags  to avoid re infestation.

Clean Carpet (optional) - After vacuuming, there may be bed bug eggs in the carpet. Consider renting a carpet cleaner or if you have one, add a strong disinfectant to the cleaner. Test an area of the carpet first to avoid discoloring. If this doesn't work you may need a professional to super heat the room.

Typical bed bug hiding places in roomTypical Bed Bug Hiding Places In Bedroom

2. Treat the Mattress first, followed by the Box Spring and Furniture

For how to kill bed bugs on the mattress, start by treating around buttons, the labels and folds. Use a mattress safe knock down spray such as Sterifab. After treatment, move to a "safe area" outside of the room.  After spray dries, place in a zippered cover. Move mattress out of the room into a designated "clean" area.  Use spray lightly.  For added protection, steam all seams before applying spray, as bed bugs and bed bug eggs are killed from heat levels above 113F.

Treating Mattres with Sterifab Bed Bug Spray

Treat the box spring in the same way you treat the mattress.  This is an important part of the bed bugs getting rid of process as more bed bugs might hide in the box spring.  Approximately 50% of bed bugs in a room are in and around the bed. 

3. Inspect all furniture around and near the bed.  Empty items in drawers into plastic containers with snap tight lids or Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags.  Treat furniture with a  residual spray such as the Bedlam or Phantom. Be sure to test the spray in out of the way area to ensure that product doesn't stain furniture.  Treat all cracks and the inside of furniture, particularly along any tracks. Look closely at head boards and end tables that are near the bed.

4. Use the Bed Bug Dust: Follow the manufacturer directions. Spread a light layer of dust using a duster under the bed, in cracks and anywhere else the bed bugs might be. When a bed bug nymph is born, the dust will kill them.  You can also apply a layer of residual spray which provides several weeks of protection.

5. Steam: (optional) As an added level of protection you can steam all surfaces.  A professional steamer heats surfaces to the required 113F.

5. Put Climbup Interceptors under each bed leg: This is one of the more helpful bed bug remedies.  When bed bugs approach the bed, they climb the outside of the bowl, and when they reach the top they fall in and get trapped.  When bed bugs stop being trapped you know that you have eliminated the infestation.


Review and even print these brochures for more information on how to get rid of bed bugs in your home or apartment.

What to do when you find a bed bug in your home or apartment. Bed Bug treatment advice.
Available in a free Ebook

Advice on how to control bed bugs at home adn when you travel..
Available in a free Ebook

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