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How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

"Getting rid of bed bugs involves inspecting and treating every surface in the infested room. For apartment tenants, it involves discovering who is going to pay for the problem and then how to go about treatment. Don't despair.  There are insecticide, organic and non-chemical approaches that do work, they just may take 2 or 3 treatments. While we recommend the use of exterminators since they have the required knowledge and equipment, we also provide step by step directions below for those that would like to treat their home getting rid of bed bugs themselves."  

introduction to getting rid of bed bugs

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 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 feet 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 you spotted the bed bugs.

table of contents

identify your pests first

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.

Bite Pattern from bed bugsBite Pattern on Arm

TIPS

To ensure you have a bed bug infestation and no other pest, follow these steps and tips thoroughly:

Spots on the Mattress: Red blood smears, brown spots, or pale colored spots (fecal spots) on the mattress along the seams or on sheets, bed sheets or the head board. Look for clusters of spots, particularly on the head board, where the bugs might hide or rest.

bed bug fecal matter and spots on a mattressBed Bug Fecal Matter and Stains on a Mattress
bed bug infested mattressBed Bugs Hiding in an Infested Mattress

Look for Bed Bug Eggs: A female will lay clusters of eggs along the seams of the mattress and in other parts of the room. These are white pin sized specs that will be glued on to the mattress as the eggs are sticky when laid by a female bed bugs. When looking for an egg, use a magnifying glass and a UV detection light.

  1. Getting rid of bed bugs involves looking around, under and behind every object in the room. 
  2. The pests are flat and range in size from a speck or poppy seed sized when born to 1/4 inches when they are adults. 
  3. They can cling to any surface, even upside down. 

required products for bed bug treatment


Product TypeProduct Recommendation
Mattress Safe Knock Down SpraySterifab (best all purpose insecticide based bed bug spray), Bug Patrol if you prefer an organic spray
Aerosol spray with long term residual effectPhantom or Bedlam
DustFossil Dust (also called bed bug dust or diatomaceous earth)
VacuumAny brand vacuum that comes with a crevice tool
Hand SteamerHand Steamers from any brand - preferably a professional grade steamer(one with multiple holes)
Bed Furniture/Bed Frame/Box Springs TrapClimbup Interceptor - 1 for each leg of the bed
Mattress and Box Spring Zippered CoversBox Springs and Mattress Covers - It is important although not required to purchase zippered covers for your mattress/box springs and bed frames. After treating an infestation you can ensure their purgatory by keeping zippered covers on, this way it prevents bed bugs from entering and leaving the mattress seams and it surroundings if there are any.
bed bug kit with all required productsBed Bug Treatment Kit Providing Required Sprays and Products to Remove Bedbugs

Key Information to know When Treating Bed Bugs

It is always important if you are living in an apartment to check with your landlord/property owner before treating any infestations. When at home and treating the infestation yourself make sure if you have pets to get pet safe sprays, there are natural kits and sprays available all over the internet, one of the most popular and effective natural spray is from bed bug patrol.

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

Even if you have felt as if you killed off all the remaining bugs, it is extremely important to double check as they can live many months without feeding and lay tons of eggs in the meantime.

Steps to Permanently Eliminating Bed Bugs

Diy Bed Bugs Removal Preparation

here are several steps involved in preparing a room for bed bugs getting rid of treatment. When bagging things make sure to use a big Ziploc bag and make sure they are closed tight so no bugs can get out.

  1. Loosen carpets around the edge of the room if possible since this is a possible bedbug hiding place.
  2. Removing all bedding and mattresses/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 on/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 get rid of bedbugs

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 all cracks and crevices, particularly near the bed. Look in the cracks of the bed frame, cracks in wooden floors, baseboards, 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.

bed bug eggs shown on the surface of furnitureBed Bug Eggs Shown on Surface of Piece of Furniture

Wash - Bag first and then wash any fabric item in hot water including clothing, 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.

bedroom and living room hiding locationsTypical Hiding Places in the Bedroom and Living Room

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

For removing bedbugs 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 their eggs are killed at temperatures above 113F.

treating mattress with a mattress safe sprayTreating Mattress Seams and Cracks/Crevices with Mattress Safe Spray Sterifab

Treat the box spring in the same way you treat the mattress with insecticides or mattress safe sprats. This is an important part of the treatment methods used as more bed bugs might hide in the box spring/headboard. 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 headboards and end tables that are near the bed.

4. Use the Bed Bug DustFollow the manufacturers directions. Spread a light layer of dust under the bed, in cracks and anywhere else the 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 to reduce the chance of them returning.

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

6. Put Climbup Interceptors under each bed leg: This is one of the more helpful remedies at a low cost.  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 they stop being trapped you know that you have eliminated the infestation.

precautionary steps to take after clearing out an infestation

As you clean things, place them in sealed Ziploc Bags for protection. After vacuuming, remove the vacuum bag, seal in a plastic bag and remove it from the house. As an extra precaution you can freeze objects used to such as the vacuum bag for several days to make sure the insects are dead before bringing them outside. The sprays mentioned will kill bed bugs fast. Just make sure that you have found them all or else they will lay eggs and you will have another infestation.

brochures

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

What to Expect From Bed Bug Treatment

What to do when you find a bed bug in your home or apartment.
Written by: Dini M. Miller, Ph.D., Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech
Available in a free Ebook

Bed Bug Do's and Don'ts

Advice on how to control bed bugs at home and when you travel..
Written by: Contra Costa County
Available in a free Ebook


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