How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of. These little parasites like to hide in hard-to-reach places where they can’t be seen,

Including bedding, household furniture, or cracks within the walls. 

As of 2018:

Around 97% of pest control experts said they deal with at least one bed bug infestation a year (source). 

More than half of them worked on an infestation during the summer months(when bed bugs are most active). 

Bed bugs, more than any other pest, are a major source of stress. They can take a toll on you physically, mentally, and financially.

So, how do you get rid of bed bugs?

Here are 9 methods for getting rid of bed bugs. 

  1. Heat Treatments
  2. Steam Cleanings
  3. Cold Treatment
  4. Diatomaceous Earth
  5. Sealing Bed Bugs
  6. Vacuuming Bed Bugs
  7. Bed Bug Traps
  8. Household Pesticides
  9. Herbal Treatments

Before we go into detail about each method, you must understand why bed bug infestations happen in the first place…

Then you can begin taking steps to eradicate them.

What is the Main Cause of Bed Bugs?

Bed bug infestations are a global phenomenon. Because they see humans as a food source, bed bugs are found on every continent except Antarctica.

With the rise of international travel in recent decades, bed bugs have spread a lot faster than before.

They often stow away in luggage, then infest the victim’s home upon return.

Infestations are common in indoor areas where people gather, such as hotels, airports or public transport stations. The origin of home infestations can often tie back to these places. 

Bed bugs can also be found in used furniture. They prefer to hide in seams, edges, and other tight places that aren’t easily seen. 

If you plan on buying used furniture, it’s recommended that you inspect it before purchase. 

During the inspection, you should look for the following signs of bed bug activity:

  • Living bed bugs
  • Eggs and eggshells
  • Bed bug droppings
  • Dried blood stains on bedding

How Do You Get Bed Bugs in the First Place?

As mentioned above, bed bug infestations occur when the victim unknowingly brings these pests from the outside into their home. 

Exterminators were surveyed and they reported the top 3 locations where bed bugs are found. 

91% of infestations occur in a single-family home. 

89% happen in apartment complexes.

And 68% of bed bug sightings are reported in hotels. (source).

Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs do not need a filthy environment to survive. They are quite adaptable and have been known to infest high-profile hotels.

Bed bugs travel from place to place by hiding in luggage or furniture. All it takes is one female bed bug infesting your home to establish a full colony. 

Unlike other animals, bed bugs are exclusively indoor pests.

This means an infestation won’t be caused by bed bugs wandering from the outdoors into your home.

How Long Does It Take to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Depending on the size of the infestation, getting rid of bed bugs can take several weeks. Though a large infestation might take months to fully eliminate.

Pest professionals utilize several effective treatment methods for dealing with bed bugs.

These include:

  • Heat treatments
  • Steam cleanings
  • Bed bug traps
  • Pesticides

However, these treatments are usually done over multiple sessions, costing you thousands of dollars in cash!

Keep in mind that though these treatments are effective, there is no guarantee that it gets rid of every single bed bug. 

This is why bed bug recurrence is so common. 

While most treatments target adult bed bugs, they might fail to kill any bed bug eggs laying around. If left unharmed, these eggs will hatch into bed bug nymphs, causing the cycle to begin all over again.

Bed bugs are also very good at hiding. They could easily find shelter someplace where an untrained person wouldn’t think to look.

DIY Methods for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

While hiring a pest control expert is the most effective way of dealing with bed bugs, it’s also very costly.

Many companies use highly-specialized equipment, which is used over several treatment sessions.

(Potentially costing you upwards of $10,000 per treatment). 

Fortunately, there are some DIY methods that may help mitigate a bed bug infestation. 

Heat Treatments

If you hire a pest professional to eliminate bed bugs, they will use a special heating machine that raises a room’s temperature. The heat, while harmless to humans, is deadly to bed bugs and will even kill unhatched eggs.

Of course, the average consumer doesn’t have access to such equipment.

But a washer/dryer could make for an adequate substitute.

Put any bed bug-infested clothing or bedding in the dryer and set the heat to the highest setting. This will kill any bed bugs attached to the laundry, and you can clean off the dead bugs once the laundry cycle is finished.

Steam Cleanings

Similar to a heat treatment, steam cleaning is a quick and easy way to kill bed bugs. It also comes with the advantage of being mobile, and able to reach tight places.

Steam kills bed bugs the same way heat treatments do. The temperature of the steam is too hot for bed bugs to handle, and they will die almost instantly when exposed.

Run a steamer over furniture and clothing that bed bugs have infested. Keep in mind though, that a household steamer is unlikely to kill all bed bugs in a given infestation. 

Cold Treatment

Just as extreme heat can kill bed bugs…

So can extremely low temperatures.

In winter, bed bugs will enter a state called diapause if their body temperature drops low enough. Diapause is similar to hibernation since bed bugs enter a prolonged period of dormancy until the temperature rises again.

If you’re able to catch any wayward bed bugs, place them in a plastic bag and put them in a freezer. 

Leave the bag alone for 3 or 4 days, then throw the bag (and the dead bed bugs) away.

If you’re dealing with bed bugs in the winter, you can also open your windows. The cold air will drift through your house and penetrate any places where bed bugs are hiding, slowly killing them.

Diatomaceous Earth

A popular product for DIY pest control, Diatomaceous Earth is a common tool to use against all kinds of insects, including bed bugs.

This powdery substance contains rugged crystals which embed themselves into a bed bug’s exoskeleton. These crystals slowly eat away at the exoskeleton, gradually dehydrating the bed bug.

The crystals will eventually pierce through a bed bug’s innards, killing it from the inside out. 

Be aware that Diatomaceous Earth doesn’t work immediately. It can take 1 to 2 weeks to start taking effect, and it only impacts the insects that are in close proximity. 

Sealing Bed Bugs Away

If you’re able to pinpoint where bed bugs are hiding, you can seal them off and prevent them from wandering around your home.

Bed bugs can be found in the following places:

  • Mattress seams
  • Bed frames & headboards
  • Couch seams
  • Cracks in walls & floors

If you find bed bugs in or around your bed, you can trap them with a mattress cover. Mattress covers not only keep bed bugs from entering your bedding, they also trap any bed bugs already in hiding.

Use a caulk gun if you suspect bed bugs are lurking in cracks or crevices around your home. While caulk is commonly used to prevent leaks, it can also seal bed bugs and prevent them from traveling freely. 

Vacuuming Bed Bugs

Running a vacuum cleaner over a bed bug’s hiding place is a quick and easy way to get rid of a few bugs here and there.

Regularly vacuum places like your bed, furniture, or any cracks in the walls or flooring. You can use a brush to draw out bed bugs and loosen eggs, making it easier to vacuum them up.

Once you’ve vacuumed all the bed bugs you can see, seal the vacuum bag and throw it away. For extra measure, clean your vacuum out in case any bed bugs manage to escape the sealed bag.

Bed Bug Traps

Traps are a simple, yet effective way of capturing and killing bed bugs.

Interceptor cups are traps that exploit a bed bug’s inability to climb smooth surfaces. Because they can’t get a foothold, bed bugs that fall into the cup will be rendered helpless and can’t escape.

You can also place strips of duct tape around your bed in order to catch bed bugs. 

(Glue traps are another strong alternative). 

Household Pesticides

While chemical pesticides are effective in dealing with bed bugs, they are also risky. If you plan on using pesticides to combat bed bugs, consider using low-toxicity products.

These products will be lethal to bed bugs, but not to you or anyone else in your home.

The EPA recommends the following types of pesticides to use against bed bugs:

  • Pyrethrins: Pyrethrins are chemical compounds that can be found in almost every pesticide product. The compounds are naturally lethal to bed bugs, though in some cases bed bugs have developed a resistance to them.
  • Desiccants: These products erode a bed bug’s exoskeleton, slowly causing it to dehydrate. Diatomaceous earth, mentioned earlier, is classified as a desiccant.
  • Neonicotinoids: These are products that contain artificial nicotine. Because bed bugs have no natural resistance to nicotine, neonicotinoids will repeatedly attack the nervous system until the bed bug dies.

Herbal Treatments

Many insects, including bed bugs, detest the smell of certain plants and herbs. The plants contain chemical compounds which naturally repel insects, driving them away.

You can use objects like lavender, cinnamon, basil or citrus to ward off bed bugs.

Apply these smells liberally around your home for them to be most effective. 

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Car

It may sound unlikely, but bed bugs can survive in a car for prolonged periods of time.

Adult bed bugs can survive for at least 1 year without a meal. Younger bed bugs can survive for a few months but require more regular meals in order to properly grow and develop.

Getting rid of bed bugs in your car is no different from getting rid of them in your home. All of the previously mentioned methods of eradicating bed bugs can also be applied to your vehicle.

Cold Treatment for Cars

While bed bugs will die if exposed to extreme cold, it’s difficult to use it as a means of eliminating indoor infestations. Bed bugs will simply enter diapause until the temperature rises again, or move to a warmer part of the home.

Not to mention most people are reluctant to let the cold in during winter…

Luckily, it’s far easier to expose your car to the cold. 

Simply leaving it out during winter will be enough to kill any bed bugs hiding in your vehicle.

Afterward, take the car to have the interior professionally cleaned and vacuumed. 

Heat Treatment for Cars

On a hot day, the inside of a car can reach sweltering temperatures.

According to one study…

A car that spends 1 hour outside on a 90-degree day can reach 116 degrees Fahrenheit indoors.

Even if parked in the shade, the average temperature can still reach 100 degrees.

While these temperatures are dangerous to vulnerable people and pets, they can actually be beneficial if your vehicle harbors bed bugs.

To help the process along, cover your windows with black fabric or plastic. This will allow your car to absorb even more heat, increasing the temperature further and killing any bed bugs.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in One Day

While it’s important to get rid of bed bugs as soon as possible, it usually isn’t something that can be done in a single day.

Bed bugs are infamous for their adaptability and resilience. Many pest control experts consider bed bugs to be the most difficult pest they have to deal with.

Part of the reason why bed bugs are so hard to get rid of is that it takes time for one-bed bug to become a full-on infestation.

On average, it takes 7 weeks for a bed bug to fully mature.

If you notice several adult bed bugs, then it’s fair to assume that they’ve been hiding for a long time.

In order to properly get rid of an infestation, multiple treatments must be conducted, and ultimately, your best bet is to use a trained professional. 

The process of these treatments can take weeks, even months if a bed bug infestation is large enough.

And even then, it’s possible for bed bugs or their eggs to go unnoticed, allowing the infestation to grow once again. This is why you should use a trained professional to treat your bed bug infestation if you can afford it.

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