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Tips For Eliminating Bed Bugs

Table of contents

" Anyone eliminating bed bugs will quickly realized that it is not easy. While best left to a professional exterminator, it is possible to treat a smaller bed bug infestation yourself.  The amount of difficulty depends on the size of the problem, location in the home, and whether you live in an apartment or single family home. This guide to removing bedbugs provides all of the information you need including home remedies and products you can purchase. We'll also explore the costs of hiring a professional and of doing it yourself."  

Do it Yourself or Hire a Bed Bug Pest Control Professional?

Removing bed bugs involves a combination of knowing where bed bugs hide, and having the right supplies to kill both bed bugs and their eggs. When fighting bed bugs in the home it requires multiple products and treatments. Professionals may also use multiple methods and up to 3 treatments until an infestation is removed. Both are explained below. If you have bed bugs hiding in places such as the walls, then it is best left to a professional (click here for resources offering a free quote).

How to Hire a Professional Bed Bug Exterminator

The advantage of using a pest control expert for eliminating bed bugs is that they have the experience to attack the problem. Professionals also have access to equipment and knowledge that a home owner may not have. This includes heat, freezing sprays and chemical treatments not available to the public.

The disadvantage of a professional for eliminating bed bugs is cost. Some pest control firms charge for both an on site bed bug inspection, which can cost anywhere from $75 to $500. The higher amount is when a bed bug sniffing dog is used to confirm and locate the location of the infestation. Bed bugs can be hard to find, and a dog can be an easy way to detect their musty raspberry like odor. The cost of the total treatment itself can be $750 or more depending on the size of the problem. 

Because of the high cost of bed bug treatment, we recommend contacting several bed bug exterminators (it can't hurt). A good source for free estimates from experienced exterminators are:

  • Call or Visit Online Home Advisor: Home Advisor (877.233.1145), a national network of pest control experts that are pre-screened and insured before being allowed to join the network.  They provide 4 free quotes at no charge.
  • Search our Exterminator Database: You can also search our directory of bed bug exterminators by entering your zip code here.

Bed Bugs and Apartment Buildings

If you live in an apartment, all adjacent units will need to be inspected and treated since there is on average a 20% chance that they spread from unit to unit. Laws vary by State in terms of who pays the cost. Your local department of health or our State by State information should provide some guidance.

Treating several floors in an apartment building can cost upwards of $10,000 when eliminating bed bugs, with many landlords reporting pest management expenses rising as high as $100,000 per year.  If hiring a professional for eliminating bed bugs, be sure to get a written outline of chemical and non chemical approaches used and a guarantee that the problem will be taken care of. Removing bed bugs from a home can take several treatments. 

Ask the exterminator about the need to remove children and pets from the home before you start the process for eliminating bed bugs.

Bed Bugs Do It Yourself Instructions

Eliminating bed bugs yourself is best accomplished with a do it yourself kit. You can either choose a kit that contains natural products such as the one offered by Naturasil for bed bugs. The kits provide the 3 or 4 critical products needed for the project and cost approximately $70 to $160 depending on what is included. The choice is one of preference and what is included. Buying only one product to save money is as good as not treating a room at all.

The typical kit includes:

  • Mattress Safe Knock Down Spray: A knock down spray "knocks down" or reduces the bed bug population by killing bedbugs that are directly sprayed with the product. Organic sprays such as Bug Patrol use plant extracts to kill bed bugs. Insecticide sprays such as Sterifab use a synthetic pyrethroid to kill bed bugs.  We highly recommend Sterifab as it has been independently tested by researchers from the University of Kentucky and was shown to kill bed bugs that are demonstrating a resistance to other commonly used products.

  • Residual Bedbug Spray: In addition to the use of a knock down spray, a residual spray will provide lasting protection by killing any insects when they walk into treated areas.  The best in class spray that has also been tested to kill insecticide resistant bedbugs is Phantom (an important factor for anyone leaving in the Northeastern United States).

  • Hand Steamer: A hand held steamer will provide the heat needed to super heat bedbugs and  bed bug eggs. Bed bugs and their eggs are killed at approximately 114F.  Professionals often seal and superheat a treated room or move personal belongings to a heat chamber located on the back to a truck to ensure that all bed bugs and bedbug eggs are killed.  While you can't seal a room if doing it yourself, you can heat each area of a mattress seam and other hiding spots to the required temperature.

  • Fossil Dust: Crawling Insect Control Dust or diatomaceous earth is a natural product made up of ground fossils. It is used or spread around a room and into cracks after treatment in order to kill any late hatching bedbugs that weren't killed previously. This type of product can be purchased separately or as part of a kit. After you apply the dust, do not vacuum the room for 2 weeks.

  • Mattress Covers: Bed bug zippered mattress covers are used after treatment in order to trap any remaining bed bugs inside the mattress and box spring. Studies show that 50% to 80% of bed bugs that are in a room are within 5 feet of where the human host sleeps. The bugs are trapped inside the mattress, and will die within a year without feeding. You do not have to throw out a mattress. If it in good condition, it pays to invest in a cover such as the collection offered by Amazon.

How to Prepare Your Home

The key to eliminating bed bugs is to be thorough. This means a complete inspection of every inch of the room being treated. Here are the steps that will help the room be ready for either the do it yourself approach or if you are hiring a professional. If hiring a bed bug exterminator, as if they have a printed list, since different extermination techniques may require different levels of preparation.

The first thing to know about eliminating bed bugs is that nothing should be removed from the room that is going to be treated, unless it is bagged or sealed in a plastic crate. The reason is that simply moving items out of the room can drop bedbugs throughout the house.

  1. Select A Bed Bug Free Zone: Choose an area just outside the room that you are going to treat. This is where you'll carry items as you declutter the treated room.

  2. Remove clutter from the room: Bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices. This includes tears in a mattress, the joints of a bed frame or along the wall where a carpet meets the molding. Removing clutter will remove potential hiding places. Start by throwing out newspapers and magazines. Bed bugs could be hiding between the pages. Bag, tie and dispose of these types of items out of the home.

  3. Bag and wash clothes, linens and sheets: Clothes that can be washed should be bagged and left in the room for the time being. For big infestations empty the closet and drawers if you suspect that the bugs have spread that far. When ready, wash clothes in hot water and then place in the dryer for at least 30 minutes. This will eliminate any bed bugs and eggs hiding in the clothes.

    Tip: Ziploc Big Bags are bed bug proof and can be used to protect clothes after washing.
  4. Loosen the bed frame: A favorite hiding place, particularly in wooden frames, is where the joints of the frame come together. Make sure you can access all the possible hiding places when eliminating bed bugs. You'll need to spray into the cracks.

  5. Loosen Wall Plates: Any cable or electrical outlet plates are hiding places if they are not tight against the wall.

Eliminating BedBugs from a Room

  1. Vacuum: The vacuum is the first line of defense. It will not pick up bed bug eggs, as these are cemented to whatever surface they are deposited on, which is why they are difficult to find and kill. Use the crevice tool to vacuum along the edges of the mattress, the bed frame and along the edges of the room.  When finished, remove the vacuum bag in the room treated, seal in a plastic bag, and dispose out of the home.

  2. Spray the Mattress and Box Spring:: Use a  mattress safe "knock down" spray such as the Sterifab mentioned above. The spray will kill bed bugs on contact. Spray gently on the mattress, without soaking it to avoid mold. Spray into all cracks. As a reminder, spray will not kill bed bug eggs.  After spraying, move the mattress to a safe area that is out of the way such as a hallway as mentioned above.
applying sterifab to mattress seamsSpray the Seams, Tufts and Around Mattress Labels with a "knock Down" bedbugs spray such as Sterifab

3. Treat the Furniture, Window Frames and Bed Frame: Empty drawers onto the box spring and inspect for bed bugs.  Spray items that will not be ruined with the knock down spray.  Be sure to treat furniture inside and out.  Test any surfaces to avoid staining.

applying bed bug spray to furniture tracksUse Bed Bug Spray inside of Furniture such as the tracks that hold the drawers and along the back inside edge
spraying bedlam in the crevices and along baseboardsSpray along any crack that is as wide as the edge of a credit card. Be sure to spray along baseboards
    4. Steam: A hand steamer is a helpful way to kill bugs and eggs. Avoid the electrical outlets when using any liquids. Steam inside all cracks, around the bed, frame, drawers etc.  If you have carpet, steam clean. For added protection,  and add a disinfectant to the cleaning fluid made to kill parasites such as PuracleenRX.  Test in an out of the way area to make sure the mixture doesn't stain.

    5. Apply Fossil Dust: Insect Control Dust acts as a barrier around the bed and the walls. New construction in cities such as New York are now including Fossil dust in the walls to keep bedbugs from spreading from apartment to apartment. The dust is a natural product and works by burning through the back of the bed bug.  It's a helpful step as part of your eliminating bed bugs plan.  
applying fossil dust to perimeter of mattressFossil dust (diatomaceous earth) can be used around the perimeter of the mattress and box spring to provide residual bed bug protection

6. Cover the Mattress: Buy zippered mattress covers that specifically state that they are made to protect against bedbugs. Any bed bugs that you missed will be trapped inside the bed. This is a perfectly acceptable way to save your mattress from disposal while eliminating bed bugs. Cover the mattress and box spring. Some people also cover the pillow.  Economy covers can be purchased from Walmart.

The following can provide an added level or protection when eliminating bed bugs:

  • Bed Bug Bowls: Bed bugs look for their human hosts just before sunrise. They are attracted to phermones and carbon dioxide given off the the human host. A home made bed bug remedy is to take 4 large mixing type bowels. Glue fabric on the outside so that the bed bug has a way to climb up the side. They prefer rough to smooth surfaces. Place approximately 2 inches of rubbing alcohol in the bowel. Prepare 4 bowels and place each leg of the bed in each bowel. The bedbugs will climb up the outside, and since the inside of the bowl is smooth, they will fall into the rubbing alcohol and die. It is also an excellent way to see how many bedbugs you collect in order to determine the extent of your problem.

  • Double Sided Tape: Wrap double sided tape around each leg of the bed. The bedbugs will get stuck to the tape as they climb toward the bed.

  • Clean the Carpet: If you have a carpet cleaner, steam clean the carpet on the hottest setting. Add a disinfectant to the cleaner in order to kill any eggs that were deposited. Consider a disinfectant such as PuracleenRX. Test in an out of the way area to make sure it doesn't stain your carpet.

  • Move the bed away from the wall: Move your bed 6 inches from the wall. This will keep bed bugs from climbing up the wall and then moving onto the bed.

Not Sure You Have Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are often confused with other parasites. If you are unsure, a sample can be sent to Cornell University for evaluation for a $25 fee.  As mentioned above, you can also call in a professional exterminator such as a member of the Home Advisor (1.877.233.1145) network, since they provide four free quotes. 

You can also tell if you have bed bugs based on the pattern of bites. Bed bugs bite skin areas that area exposed when sleeping. Look for bites primarily on the arms, legs and neck. The bed bug bites themselves are actually two small skin punctures. Any redness that appears on the skin is actually an allergic reaction. You can check your reaction against our library of bed bug bite pictures.

bed bug on handPicture of Bed Bug on Human Hand
side view of bed bugWhen eliminating bed bugs it always helps to know what they look like. Note that bed bugs have a different appearance based on the life stage. Young or baby bed bugs have a light straw color while the adult above takes on a red/brown color.


Center for Disease Control

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