Have you ever heard the saying, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”? If only we had the choice!
If you’re dealing with bed bugs then you know it’s no laughing matter. These nasty insects feed on your blood while you sleep and leave you with itchy, unsightly red bumps.
I’ll teach you how to confirm your bed bug infestation, treat it, and prevent it from happening again. Let’s get started!
If you want the short and sweet version, here is our hand-tested round-up of products needed to safely eliminate bed bug infestations. However, I strongly recommend you still follow our guide below, as it walks you through the exact order of steps.
Ultimate DIY Product Bundle
Are You Dealing with Bed Bugs?
When you’re dealing with any sort of pest problem, understanding what you’re up against will help you succeed. The first step of dealing with a bed bug problem is confirming we’re looking to treat for bed bugs and not some other insect.
The best way to confirm you have a bed bug problem is through visual identification of the bug itself. This can be difficult with bed bugs, because when they’re not feeding on you or your pets in the night as you sleep, they’re most likely hiding in hard to find places.
Try stripping your bed sheets and looking in the creases of your mattress, behind your headboard, along your bed frame, or along the floorboards for starters. Should you find anything, here’s what bed bugs look like –
Bed bugs are very tiny, white-ish insects when young. They have 6 legs, no wings, and antennae. As they grow they become more brown in appearance and take the shape of a flat oval.
When a bed bug has fed, they become more red in appearance and their bodies elongate while becoming thicker.
You could also try installing some bug glue traps around your bed. These won’t eliminate your bug problem, but you’ll be able to catch some bugs in order to identify just what you’re dealing with.
Other Signs of Bed Bugs
Other tell-tale signs of bed bugs are specks of blood or bug feces (very small black specks) along your pillow or mattress which the bed bugs leave as they come and go. Look in the creases of your mattress when inspecting as well as checking the legs of your bed frame.
The markings may look like small rust spots as well, could have a bad smell, or you may even find skin/eggs from the beg bugs.
You may want to get something like a credit card and run it along creases of your mattress, box spring, or base boards. See if you come up with anything that looks like a bed bug, bug eggs, or black/brown specs of bug feces (gross, I know).
Bites on you or your pets body is another factor that can point towards bed bugs. Bed bugs will bite any skin they can get to. It may take a few days for bed bug bites to visually appear, but when they do they are red circles with no marked center.
Bed bugs are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale as we sleep, and as a result they most often are found around the head of our beds. This also means that bed bugs bites are typically found on the arms, torso, head, and neck of our bodies.
Bed bug bites often appear in a somewhat straight line, but not always. Bites usually become itchy and inflamed, but everyone reacts to bites differently. As a result it’s not possible to say with certainty if a bite came from a bed bug just by looking at the bite alone.
Some people have allergic reactions to bed bug bites, making them particularly inflamed whereas others may be fairly small red bumps. Without more investigation it can be hard to tell a bed bug bite from another kind of insect bite.
Let’s say you’ve confirmed you’ve got a bed bug problem. The first thing to know is most people find they can successfully handle an infestation on their own without the help of a professional. Time is of the essence though, the sooner you can act the better.
If you don’t want to DIY and would prefer to hire an exterminator, they’ll likely do many of these same steps with the same products but will have to come out multiple times and will run you anywhere from $300 for a small problem to $5000 if you have a huge infestation across a large house.
Here are the steps to getting rid of bed bugs from your home for good.
Step 1: Washing and Containment
Bed bugs love to live in fabric and can lay eggs anywhere. That’s why you need to start off by washing everything you can. It’s important to use high water temperature and high heat when drying. Bed bugs and their eggs die at a temperature of 120 degrees, but otherwise water alone won’t kill them.
Start with your bed sheets and comforter. Place it in a large plastic bag or bin, seal it the best you can, and immediately transport it to a washing machine.
You also need to wash all of your clothes, stuffed animals, fabric curtains, etc. Basically if you can wash it, you should. Nothing’s worse than thinking you have a bed bug problem under control only for more eggs to hatch some place unexpected and you have to start the process all over again.
Also remember that if you have pets, bed bugs will feed on them too. Bed bugs will feed an any mammals, so if you have pet beds be sure to wash them as well.
For clothes that are dry clean only, the dry cleaning process does kill bed bugs as long as they use a common chemical called perchloroethylene (“perc”). However, you need to check with the dry cleaners and see if they accept clothing with a possible bed bug infestation. They may have special requirements for such items to ensure the contamination doesn’t spread.
Remember that before you move anything from your bed room, it should be sealed in a plastic bag or bin. If it isn’t, you could inadvertently transfer bed bugs to other parts of your house.
Similarly for any items you may move from your night stand or dresser, place them in a sealed bag or bin so nothing can spread.
Once all of your clothes are clean, I prefer to keep items out of a dresser for a few weeks (or as long as you can stand it) and instead keep them in a large plastic tote with a lid. It takes a few days for bed bugs to die after we apply our treatment in step 4, so you don’t want any new eggs coming into your clothes from furniture in the meantime.
Step 2: Vacuum EVERYTHING
The next step of taking care of a bed bug problem going to be directly attacking the bed bugs by trying to vacuum up any bugs and eggs we can find which will make ridding yourself of them much faster and easier.
When it’s time to vacuum, ideally you have a vacuum with a HEPA filter which should guarantee that bugs and eggs can’t escape.
If you have a bagged vacuum, immediately take the vacuum outside and remove the bag once finished. If you have a bagless canister vacuum, empty it outside away from your house ideally into a sealed container of some sort to ensure the bugs are trapped.
When it comes time to vacuum, you want to pay special attention to vacuuming your mattress and the area around your bed. Make use of your vacuum’s attachments to really get into creases in the mattress as well as the areas around your floor boards where bed bugs love to hide.
The more you can suck up now, the better the odds are at successfully removing the infestation.
You should also check your couch for signs of infestation. Many people assume bed bugs must be around their bed, but it’s very possible for bed bugs to also be living in your couch.
Step 3: Use a Contact Killer
After vacuuming, we’re ready to use a contact killer. By “contact killer” I just mean a product that will kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact.
For this step you could go with a chemical spray, but given that we’re treating around your mattress I prefer a much safer alternative.
Steam! Instead of chemicals you can use heat to kill the insects and their eggs. A good steamer has a lot of other uses around the house beyond bed bug control so it’s a great long-term investment.
I prefer a more heavy-duty, pressurized steamer like the one below. This steamer comes with attachments that makes it really easy to steam your floor and carpet without breaking your back.
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You also want to be sure to heavily steam your mattress, box spring, headboard, baseboards, and anywhere else you suspect the bed bugs may be residing. You can also use a steamer to steam your clothes before you take them to the washing machine to be extra vigilant!
Step 4: Install a Mattress Encasement
An encasement is basically a cover with an impenetrable liner that goes all the way around your mattress. If you have a box spring, you’ll need an encasement for that as well.
Encasements are very cost-effective and should be used as a strategy for both prevention and treatment of bed bugs. An encasement prevent any beg bugs living in your mattress/box spring from escaping as well as prevents an external bugs from nesting inside. The farther bed bugs have to travel to feed, the less likely you are to have an infestation.
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To be clear, an encasement doesn’t kill bed bugs on contact or prevent a bug from biting you. It offers these benefits –
- Bed bugs can’t live in your mattress or box spring.
- Bed bugs have to travel up and down your bed to access you.
- Bed bugs become much easier to spot since there’s no crevasses they can hide in, and the covers are typically white to let them stand out easier.
Since encasements rely on creating a 100% impenetrable barrier so no bugs can enter or leave your mattress, if you find your encasement has ripped anywhere, it should be replaced immediately.
Step 5: Apply a Residual Bed Bug Killer
Now for one of the most important steps, killing the bed bugs on an ongoing basis. Bed bugs are particularly tricky to get rid of because one round of treatment of a short-living insecticide won’t do the trick.
Bed bugs can live for weeks off of one feeding, and their eggs can take 10 days to hatch. You may think you’ve taken care of the problem, only to find that several weeks later a new batch of bugs has grown up and returned.
So what’s the best solution for a do-it-yourselfer to tackle killing bed bugs? There are dozens of different options out there, but I’ll narrow it down to two that I think are the clear cut best options in this space.
Best Bed Bug Solution: CimeXa Dust
You’d think there would be some debate around calling one bed bug product “the best”, but if you look into the research it’s quite clear. CimeXa Dust is a product from Rockwell Labs that came on the market within the last 10 years that has really changed the game in insecticide dust.
CimeXa Dust is a 100% silica dust that has no odor, doesn’t stain, and is very low-toxic. The way that it works is when a bed bug crawls across it, the dust absorbs all the moisture from the bug’s waxy shell which causes rapid dehydration and death. It isn’t a poisonous chemical, but rather works on a physical level which makes it more safe than most sprays on the market.
One key advantage to CimeXa is it’s non-repellent. At first you may think you want a product that repels bed bugs, but in reality all this does is drive them into other areas of your home and makes them harder to kill long-term.
You want a product that bed bugs come into contact with because that’s what kills them.
Another reason why CimeXa is so effective is the dust is very lightweight, and can stick on to the bed bug’s exoskeleton when they first come into contact. The bed bugs carry the dust with them back to their nesting areas and attach to other bed bugs, killing the population faster.
- For control of bed bugs, fleas, ticks, lice, roaches, ants, firebrats, silverfish, spiders, mites and dry wood termites
- Kills bed bug adults, nymphs and nymphs hatched from dusted eggs – including parathyroid-resistant bed bugs
- Labeled for treating cracks, crevices, voids, mattresses, carpets, pet rest areas, attics and many other areas
When left undisturbed (such as applied into cracks/crevasses or into your walls through outlets), CimeXa remains effective for at least 10 years making this a great long-term solution.
In case you needed more benefits, this product works not only on bed bugs, but also on spiders, fleas, ticks, lice, roaches, ants, firebrats, silverfish, drywood termites and mites.
Alternative Bed Bug Killer- Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth (often referred to as just “DM”) is another kind of dust-product that similarly acts on bed bugs when they come into contact with it. At a microscopic level DM looks like shards of glass. It attaches to the bed bugs and cuts their exoskeleton, leading to a death very similar to CimeXa where the bug dehydrates and dies.
One key difference of diatomaceous earth is it’s available in a “food grade” form, which means it’s completely safe for mammals to ingest. You still wouldn’t want to inhale it (the same as any fine particle), but should a child or dog get into the powder, you should have no negative consequences.
You may now be wondering which of these dust products you should choose, here are the pros and cons of each.
Why You Should Use CimeXa Dust instead of Diatomaceous Earth:
- CimeXa Dust was tested to kill 100% of bed bugs that came into brief exposure with it, compared to less than 65% of bed bogs that had brief exposure to DM.
- CimeXa Dust was found to kill 100% of bed bugs within 3 days, whereas DM took 14 days.
- Bed bugs aren’t repelled by CimeXa Dust, so they’re more likely to contact it and spread it to other bugs.
Why You Should Use Diatomaceous Earth instead of CimeXa Dust:
- Diatomaceous earth is available in food grade form meaning it’s completely non-toxic.
- Diatomaceous earth is significantly cheaper (about 1/4 the price when buying large quantities).
Applying the Bed Bug Dust
Now that you’ve decided on whichever product you’ll use, let’s talk about applying the dust. Overall the process is pretty simple, but you need to have attention to detail for the best result.
In order for the dust to be effective, bed bugs have to contact it. You want to get the product along the route that the bugs travel as they come out to feed and return back to their nest. This typically means in the creases of your bed frame, around your bed’s legs, under your baseboards, in electrical outlets, in the corners of your night stands/dressers/etc, on your headboard, and even along the perimeter of your room if you have carpet.
One way to work product into creases like those along your mattress, bed frame, dressers, etc is to dip a 1-2″ paint brush into your powder and using it to lightly spread some product along those cracks.
Remember that you don’t want to pile dust all over your room! You want to aim for a light, barely visible coating. We’re aiming to have the bed bugs walk across our killing agent, if it instead looks impassible they will go around it or into a different room.
For doing larger areas (such as along baseboards) or if shooting into holes (such as those in your electric boxes) a handheld duster is a great, economical solution.
Step 6: Ongoing Prevention
Once you’ve done all of these steps, you want to be as vigilant as possible. You may still see bed bugs from time to time as new eggs hatch and the new bugs come into contact with the killing dust. I suggest vacuuming them up and disposing of them outside rather than spraying them with some killing spray as the spray could have a repellent effect and chase bed bugs into new areas of your home.
Vacuum your floors and furniture daily, re-applying your dusting agent as needed. You may also want to keep washing your sheets and comforter every few days as a precaution.
If you find new areas of bed bug activity, repeat the steps of vacuuming and applying dust along their path of travel.
You may also want to get some bed bug traps for the feet of your bed which should prevent them from crawling up and down your bed frame. These work by trapping the bed bugs in a smooth valley, but it doesn’t actually kill them. Be sure to dispose of the bed bugs outside your home, ideally killing them with a contact killer first.
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While you’re in monitoring mode, you want to make sure no other part of your bed is touching the floor or the wall so bed bugs have no other way to get into your bed. Pull the bed away from the wall and detach the headboard for awhile if needed.
Also be sure to remove the bed skirt from your bed if it’s touching the floor and keep your comforter and sheets away from touching the floor. Bed bugs don’t jump or fly, but they will crawl on anything to get to you!
If you follow these steps closely, you should find your home to be bed bug free within a few weeks with bed bug bites dropping off dramatically after you first start treatment.
Other Bed Bug Tips
Here’s a few other tips for managing and preventing bed bug infestations in the future.
- Be careful when traveling. Bed bugs love hotels and many people end up bringing bed begs home with them in their suitcase. The next time you get into a hotel room, immediately put your luggage into the bathtub. Pull back the sheets and look for signs of bed bug feces and blood. To be extra cautious, keep your luggage in the bathtub for the entire trip except when in use and bag your dirty clothes if you can’t wash them on-site.
- Vacuum your luggage when you get home. After coming home from a trip, vacuum out your luggage and wash clothing immediately before putting it into your bed room. You may also want to keep your luggage away from your bed room if you have no need for it anytime soon.
- Throwing your mattress out? Seal it first. If you’ve decided to throw out your mattress and/or box spring due to the infestation, be sure to completely seal it before transporting it through your house! They make special bags for this. You don’t want bed bugs jumping off the mattress all over your house as you take it outside or hitching a ride back inside somehow as the mattress sits on the curb.
- Inspect before buying used furniture. If you’re ever buying used furniture, be sure to give it a deep inspection for signs of bed bugs. You could inadvertently be bringing in a Trojan horse!
Bed Bug FAQs
Bed bugs are hitch-hikers and can come from a variety of places. It’s often very difficult to track down the actual source, but it’s common to bring them home in your luggage from a trip. You may have gotten them from visiting a friend’s house who had an infestation or if you have shared walls such as an apartment or town home, they may have come from a neighbor.
The CDC has stated that bed bugs are not known to carry any diseases despite feeding on blood.
Anyone can get a bed bug infection, but those most at risk are people who travel frequently and people who live with shared walls such as apartments or condos.
Yes, bed bugs and their eggs die at temperatures of 120 degrees. Some exterminators advertise services where they come out with special heaters and heat your house up to 120 degrees for a period of time to kill bed bugs. This can be effective, but it’s expensive and quite risky. If every area of the home doesn’t reach 120 degrees then you could be left with bugs and eggs that come back when the treatment is over. For that reason, it’s not a treatment I’d recommend for everyone.
This usually isn’t necessary unless you have an obvious and major infestation that doesn’t seem get better with treatment. You may want to consult with a professional pest control expert before doing something so drastic unless you were planning on getting new furniture anyways.
There are specially trained bed bug dogs that can smell bed bugs, but it’s not really necessary to dealing with your infestation as a first step. I’d only recommend this kind of service if you’re having trouble controlling your infestation and need help pinpointing where the bed bugs are living.
Yes, bed bugs live all across the US. No place is immune to bed bugs as they can live anywhere with a body to feed on and indoor temperatures between freezing and 120 degrees.