How To Kill Bed Bugs

" How to kill bed bugs involves cleaning the entire room where the infestation occurs. The first step is to thoroughly vacuum all surfaces and wash all linens in hot water followed by 30 minutes in a dryer. Use a mattress safe spray to kill the bugs by spraying in mattress crevices and cracks. Bed Bug dust can help penetrate the cracks and provide lasting protection. While a professional exterminator is always preferred, these tips will help you do it yourself using a step by step approach. "

There are many ways to effectively kill bed bugs including several organic and non-toxic methods. There are also chemical approaches to rid your home of these pests.

While step by step instructions for how to kill bed bugs yourself are provided below, we always recommend that you start with a professional on-site inspection from a company with expertise fighting bed bugs.  This is a great way to confirm that you have have bed bug problem and the extent of a problem.  We suggest finding a professional by doing the following:

1. Call or visit Service This is a nationwide group of local pest control experts that will provide up to 4 free quotes.  The Service Magic toll free phone # 877-233-1145.

2. Search our Bed Bug Expert Directory:
You can search our Bed Bug Exterminator list.

If you are not sure that you have bed bugs, you can have a bug evaluated by downloading this form and sending it to a firm that evaluates insects for a small fee (PDF download).

How to Kill Bed Bugs - Bed Bug Products

In general, the best way to get rid of an infestation if you are going to treat the problem yourself  is to:

  1. Wash all linen in hot water
  2. Vacuum thoroughly and use crevice tool around edges of room, mattress and box spring
  3. Steam all seams and cracks
  4. Treat all surfaces where bed bugs can hide  using sprays.
  5.  Spread a thin layer bed bug dust in cracks and crevices
  6. Seal cracks and crevices
  7. Trap any hiding bed bugs with mattress and box spring covers

Based on recommendations from bed bug experts, we recommend the following bed bug products. Instructions for how to use these products are below the list. Sprays should be able to kill both bed bugs and bed bug eggs.

Recommended Bed Bug Products
Selected Based on Effectiveness and Cost

Product Type Product Recommendation
Mattress Safe Knock Down Spray Sterifab (best all purpose insecticide based bed bug spray), Bug Patrol if you prefer an organic spray
Aerosol spray with long term residual effect Phantom or Bedlam
Bed Bug Dust Fossil Dust (also called bed bug dust or diatomaceous earth)
Vacuum Any brand with crevice tool
Hand Steamer Steamfast or any brand - preference is more a model with multiple holes - professional grade steamers are better
Bed Bug Trap Climbup Interceptor - 1 for each leg of the bed
Mattress and Box Spring Zippered Covers Walmart MicronOne Covers

Always follow the manufacturers directions for how to kill bed bugs. For sprays, wear gloves and some type of eye protection. For bed bug dust, use a duster and apply a thin layer. Wear a face mask to avoid breathing in the dust.

How to Kill Bed Bugs - Where to Find Them

Bed Bugs tend to hide in dark places such as in cracks or under furniture or light fixtures. Before you can kill them you have to know where to look. Anything you can remove and tie in a plastic bag will keep the item clean as you eliminate hiding places. Common hiding places include:

  • Floors: look for cracks in flooring, underneath your carpets, under molding or baseboards.
  • On Walls: If you have plaster, look in any cracks in the wall. Check for wallpaper that is not firmly glued to the wall. Check around anything attached to the wall such as shelves, mirrors and pictures. Remove all of these if you can to clean behind them.
  • Outlets: Check behind electrical outlets that are not firmly mounted. Check behind any wiring that is on the floor or that runs along walls.

    how to kill bed bugs
    Bed Bugs on Back of Electrical Plate
  • Mattress and Frame: check along the cracks and seams of the mattress. Separate the mattress and box spring and be sure to turn over each. Remove any blankets etc for washing in hot water. Check the crack between the head board and the bed frame.
  • Furniture: Check under and around the bottom of any furniture. Check behind the furniture as well. Check inside drawers and if you can pull out each drawer and then remove from the room.

    how to kill bed bugs
    Bed Bugs on Upholstery
  • Clothes: Wash and bag clothes in the room to be sure the bugs aren't hiding. Particularly check laundry bags and any items that are on the floor. Wash clothes in water that is at minimum 120 degrees. As an alternative place clothes and other items in the dryer for 20 minutes with the setting at medium.
  • Books/Magazines: Check the pages of any printed materials. Bed bugs can hide between pages.
  • Electronics: If there are cracks in your phone or radio, look inside to make sure that bugs haven't entered. Same for computers that have the fan grates in the back.  The only way to kill bed bugs in electronics is to hire a professional that uses a dry ice spray or use heat from a hair dryer or a  portable heat chamber such as PackTite.

how to kill bed bugs
Bed Bug Hiding Places in Bed Room

how to kill bed bugs
Bed Bug Hiding Places in Family Room

How To Kill Bed Bugs - Vacuuming

Vacuuming in cracks and crevices can be good way to either remove the bed bugs all together or to at least remove most of them prior to using insecticides, sprays and dusts. Be sure to use the nozzle tools and scrape the surfaces since the bed bug eggs tend to cling to surfaces.  Avoid tools with brush attachments to avoid having bed bugs getting caught in the bristles and then carried to other locations in the home.

After vacuuming, dispose of the vacuum bag by placing it in a sealed plastic bag and disposing the bag outside of the house.

How to Kill Bed Bugs - Wash All Linen and Blankets

How to kill bed bugs on clothes is as simple as washing them. Washing clothes, blankets and other machine washables will help to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs.  Wash everything you can in hot water followed by 20 minutes in the dryer.  When carrying clothes, to avoid dropping bed bugs on the way to the washing machine, carry in a plastic bin or Ziploc Double Zipper Big Bags.  These Ziploc bags are also a great way to protect items from bed bugs.

How to Kill Bed Bugs in a Mattress and Box Spring

First vacuum the mattress and box spring thoroughly. To kill the maximum number of bed bugs and bed bug eggs,  if you own a hand steamer, go over each seam/button  as heat from the steam will kill bed bugs.  If you don't have steamer or vacuum,  hold a hair dryer on low air/high heat setting for 30 seconds over each part of the mattress.

When treating a mattress and box spring, a bedbug spray is a highly recommended way for how to kill bed bugs (use gloves and some type of eye protection for safety). If you prefer organic products, use a spray designed for use on surfaces that go near the skin such as the  Bed Bug Patrol. This is a knock down bed bug product that kills on contact.  It should be used in conjunction with products that provide lasting protection.  

 In terms of safe insecticide based products,  Sterifab is frequently recommended by bed bug experts for how to kill bed bugs.  In fact if you can only afford one product for how to kill bed bugs,  buy Sterifab. Sterifab is a what is known as a contact or knock down killer (60% isopropyl alcohol plus a synthetic pyrethroid). This means that it kills close to 100% of bed bugs on contact.  However, if you miss any bed bug hiding places, which is easy, it doesn't have an effect.  The use of Sterifab will "knock down" the size of the bed bug population.  Any bed bugs missed can be killed by a spray that creates an invisible barrier that has a longer term or residual effect.  Any late hatching bed bugs are killed when passing through dried spray. Popular choices for a residual sprays are  Phantom  and Bedlam.

how to kill bed bugs
How to Kill Bed Bugs - Mattress
Treat Mattress Seams with Light Coat of Bed Bug Spray
Source: Bed Bug Supply

Lightly spray cracks and seams around the mattress.   A common hiding place for bed bugs is under any mattress labels.  You can also use Sterifab as a convenient method for how to kill bed bugs in any crack and crevice in the room, such as along a baseboard.

Peel back the fabric on the bottom and also treat the inside of the box spring.  If you have some, place some bed bug dust (fossil dust) inside the box spring.

Note, only do this if the mattress and box spring are in good condition and do not have holes. If the mattress is old and torn, or was purchased used, you are better off throwing it out.  When disposing of the mattress wrap it in plastic wrap to avoid dropping bed bugs and mark it as having bed bugs so that someone else doesn't pick it up.  Many town sanitation departments have a free mattress pick up service.

Once treated, move the mattress out of the room to a "safe" area such as a hallway so that you can access the box spring.   

After treatment (after spray dries), seal the mattress and box spring in a zippered cover.  This is the easiest way for how to kill bed bugs or late hatching nymphs (baby bed bugs) that you might have missed. Low cost options for covers are available from WalMart and Dermisil.  They are also sold by

How to Kill Bed Bugs in the Bed Frame and Furniture

Empty drawers on treated box spring (assuming you carried the mattress out of the room after treatment). Place content of drawers into plastic bins with snap tight lids. Inspect all items for bed bugs. Wash what you can in the washing machine. Dispose of any items that are of no value to limit the number of bed bug hiding places.  Bed bugs can live for about a year without feeding, so if you store items in bins, leave them there if you can.

Inspect all furniture, bottoms and side of drawers, picture frames, and the bed frame for bed bugs. Treat all cracks with a bed bug spray. For this purpose a good option is Phantom or Bedlam.  When treating furniture test out of the way areas to see if sprays will stain.  Steam can also be used, but test this as well.

How to Kill Bed Bugs in Wall Cracks, Wall Paper, and along Floor Baseboard Molding

Use the spray products such as Phantom to spray along the edges of the wall, and in any cracks.  Phantom takes up to 7 days to work since it interrupts the bedbug life cycle.  

how to kill bed bugs
Applying Bed Bug Spray to Crevice
Source: Bed Bug Supply

After spraying, place bed bug dust (also called diatomaceous earth or fossil dust)  in a thin layer in all cracks and crevices.  Seal what you can to minimize number of hiding places.

how to kill bed bugs
Seal Cracks to Eliminate Bed Bug Hiding Places
Treat Cracks First with Bed Bug Spray

How to Kill Bed Bugs in Carpets

First vacuum any carpets.  Use a crevice tool to vacuum around the edges of the carpet. Steam clean any carpets. For added protection, add a strong disinfectant to the carpet cleaner such as PuraCleenRX.  Be sure to test to ensure that disinfectant doesn't discolor the carpet.  

How to Kill Bed Bugs - Types of Products

There are several types of products that are used when figuring out how to kill bed bugs:

Synthetic Pyrethroid: This is an effective choice for a knock down product that kills on contact, but doesn't provide a lasting effect. Sterifab is a popular choice as it kills bedbugs, bed bug eggs and is mattress safe.

Chlorfenapyr: This chemical is quickly becoming the product of choice when selecting a product that provides a residual effect against bed bugs.  It works by entering the cells of bed bugs and causing paralyzes. It provides weeks of protection and is not detected by bedbugs.  Is is the main ingredient in the spray Phantom.  

Multiple Chemicals: Some spray products use proprietary or multiple chemicals.  One of the most popular sprays, Bedlam, uses this approach (contains SUMITHRIN® and MGK®-264).  It is an excellent choice as a residual spray as an alternative to Phantom.

Permetherins: This is the leading insecticide ingredient. While it is considered safe, it is an insecticide that has shown to cause problems in laboratory animals. See this study by Cornell University researchers. Permetherins (pyrethrum) is the active ingredient in products such as Pronto, Ambush, BW-21-Z, Cellutec, Ectiban, Eksmin, Exmin, FMC-33297, Indothrin, Kafil, Kestril, NRDC 143, Pounce, PP 557, Pramiex, Qamlin and Torpedo

Benzalkonium Chloride: A safe alternative to permetherins, particularly for areas that you sleep in or near. Found in products such as Benzarid.

Plant Extracts: Certain organic plant extracts are a safe way to kill bugs within seconds of contact. Found in bed bug products such as Bug Patrol.

Fossil Dust: Dust products can be sprinkled in areas where the bugs tend to hide. It can also be sprinkled into cracks.  This product can be purchased at low cost from Dermisil.

Steam: Steam heat applied directly to the bugs will kill them.  One the low cost end, a good choice is Steamfast, although a proffesional grade steamer is always better.

How to Kill Bed Bugs with an Exterminator

A pest control expert may with experience killing bed bugs will discuss with you one or more approaches to treating the problem.  They often have access to equipment such as:

Portable Heaters: Bed bugs are killed at 113º F. One effective and chemical free approach to killing bed bugs is to super heat a room, or building to kill bed bugs in all objects.

Freezing with Dry Ice Spray: Bed bugs are killed at freezing temperatures.  A system using frozen carbon dioxide or dry ice, is sprayed into cracks and crevices to kill bed bugs on contact.  The technology has an added advantage of being able to be sprayed into electrical appliances and wall outlets, killing bed bugs hiding in these areas.

Bed Bug Dogs: Bed bugs give off a scent that dogs can be trained to detect.  This is a highly accurate way to find bed bug hiding places in a home.  The only downside is the cost of home inspections that use a dog.  If you suspect a problem, but aren't sure, a firm that uses a bed bug sniffing dog can be an effective way to find any problems.

Fumigation: Used a last resort, a building can be fumigated with chemical pesticides to remove bed bugs.  This approach is effective, but expensive.

In addition to these approaches, bed bug exterminators use many of the chemical and non-chemical approaches found on this page.

After You Have Treated Your Home for Bed Bugs

As you clean items, place them in sealed plastic bags for protection such as the bed bug proof Ziploc Big Bags. After you vacuum 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 kill bed bus such as the vacuum bag for several days to make sure the bugs are dead before you bring them outside. The sprays mentioned will kill bed bugs fast. Just make sure that you have found them all.

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