Dealing with a bed bug infestation? Don’t sweat it. We’ve been there.
Bed bugs have been around for over 3,500 years, and people have been experimenting with them ever since. In ancient times, they were used as an attempt to cure common ailments. Now, they are mostly seen as stubborn little pests.
If you are plagued by a bed bug infestation, you may be tempted to toss out everything you own and start over in a new space. But there’s no need!
Luckily, the internet has connected us all. It is rich with information about how to rid our homes of bed bugs–and how to prevent them from appearing in the first place.
In this ultimate guide, you’ll learn several different methods for identifying and effectively treating bed bugs in your home.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny, flat insects that are approximately one-quarter of an inch long. Because they are wingless, they cannot jump or fly. But they do crawl–and they are quick!
Bed bugs feed exclusively on both human and animal blood. After bed bugs have eaten, their bodies significantly change. They become engorged and may appear more cylindrical. However, their behavior remains the same. Unfortunately for us, bed bugs can live for a long time without eating, which makes them excellent at hiding.
How Common Are Bed Bugs?
Having a bed bug infestation may seem like a rare occurrence, but actually, it is fairly common. Approximately one in five Americans have experienced bed bugs in their homes or know someone who has encountered them.
Several factors influence the frequency of bed bug infestations. In the 1950s, for example, bed bugs were introduced to several European countries due to the rise of international travel.
Many people believe that the appearance of bed bugs is determined by the cleanliness of a space, but that is a misconception. Bed bugs have been found in both developed countries and five-star hotels.
Because bed bugs are extremely small, they are easily transported from one location to another on luggage, backpacks, or other items. They also crawl from room to room and can become a serious problem for apartment complexes, condominiums, and hotels.
Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
Two main factors determine the area where bed bugs tend to congregate: the presence of tight spaces and the proximity to a host.
Although bed bugs are primarily found in beds, they are known to hide in other crevices as well. They make their homes in all sorts of nooks and crannies–as long as they are close enough to sense the heat and carbon dioxide we emit while sleeping. Typically, this distance is no more than eight feet away.
To check for bed bugs, carefully examine the following locations:
- Mattress seams
- Bed frames
- Box springs
- Seams of couches, chairs, or other upholstered furniture
- Cracks in nightstands and other furniture
- Tears in wallpaper
- Stacks of clutter
- Inside electrical outlets and appliances (such as an alarm clock)
- Edges of the flooring near the bed
Bed bugs usually hide during the day and only appear for a few minutes at night to feed. If you suspect you have bed bugs but don’t see any right away, take a closer look! You may want to use a flashlight.
What Are Signs of Bed Bug Infestation?
There are several ways to determine whether or not you have a bed bug infestation.
One of the most obvious ways is by noticing the recurring appearance of bite marks on the skin. A bite mark from a bed bug resembles that of a mosquito; it is red, inflamed, and slightly swollen. If these bites are scratched, they often leave blood marks on the sheets.
Bed bugs release an odor that may swell musty and sweet, like spoiled raspberries. The smell has also been likened to almonds and coriander, which may not sound too bad, but it is rather unpleasant.
You may also notice the presence of eggs, feces, molted skin, or live bugs. All of these are indicators of an infestation and should be treated as such.
If you’re unsure whether or not you have bed bugs, you can purchase bed bug interceptors and place them underneath the posts of your bed. The interceptors trap bugs that are trying to crawl up into your bed at night. They will not get rid of all the bed bugs in your home, but they will at least catch a few so you can determine whether or not you have an infestation.
How Do You Treat Bed Bugs?
Although bed bugs are relatively slow to reproduce, they should still be exterminated as soon as possible. There are several different ways of treating bed bugs. You can either hire a professional or handle the infestation yourself, but either way, you want to do a thorough job.
Unfortunately, treating bed bugs can be a process. But with the right tools and a little bit of persistence, it is possible to rid bed bugs from your home.
Whether you’re hiring professionals or attempting to treat bed bugs yourself, there are some helpful steps you can take to prepare your home for treatment:
- Discard any clutter near the infested area.
- Use a firm brush and scrub the seams of your mattress and upholstered furniture.
- Vacuum all surfaces near the infested area, including the floor and crevices in walls and furniture. Be careful not to overlook small items, such as alarm clocks, lamps, or picture frames.
- Wash all textiles (affected blankets, sheets, rugs, clothing, etc.) in hot water. Dry for at least 30 minutes on high heat.
- Seal any cracks or openings near the infested area.
Once you are finished, be sure to empty the vacuum and the lint filter. Seal off all bags used to contain the bed bugs. Remember, vacuuming doesn’t necessarily kill bed bugs; it simply gathers up the live ones (and their eggs).
Can You Treat Bed Bugs Yourself?
In the case of a bed bug infestation, you may want to hire a professional. However, if you are opposed to that idea, you can attempt to treat them yourself.
There are various home remedies for bed bug infestations, and they all have their pros and cons. It’s helpful to be aware of the different methods of extermination so you can choose the one that’s best for you and your home.
What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly
If you cannot wash an item but wish to rid it of bed bugs, you may be able to use steam. At any stage, bed bugs will die at temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, steamers yield mist that is at least 200 degrees.
You do not need a professional-grade machine to begin exterminating bed bugs with steam. Personal steamers are available for purchase in several stores and online. The biggest disadvantage is that steamers can be costly–and sometimes bulky. Steaming alone may not remediate the entire infestation, but it’s an excellent place to start.
Dry-cleaning textiles with perchloroethylene is also an effective way to instantly kill bed bugs instantly. If you do not own a steamer, this is a great alternative for treating hard-to-wash items.
For items that cannot be laundered, streamed, or dry-cleaned, you may want to consider purchasing a bed bug oven.
These contraptions are approximately the size of a laundry hamper and can be loaded as such. You can place a variety of items inside the bed bug oven, including (but not limited to) clothing, bedding, books, shoes, luggage, electronics, furniture, and more. Bed bug ovens are natural and effective, but they can be very pricey. They range from $150 to over $1,000.
How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs Overnight
In the same way that extremely hot temperatures get rid of bed bugs, extremely cold temperatures do, too. If you do not wish to steam or dry-clean your linens, you can freeze them.
This process isn’t as instantaneous as heating, but it is just as effective. To kill bed bugs via your freezer, loosely pack clothing and other textiles into a bag. Allow the bag eight hours to get to the appropriate temperature (approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Then let the bag continue to sit for at least two hours.
Keep in mind that in the case of a serious infestation, freezing may not be the most efficient method of extermination. Not only is it time-consuming, but you’re also limited to the amount of free space you have in your freezer (which is not very much). It’s likely that you will only be able to freeze a few items at a time.
What Types of Professional Treatments Are Available?
Pest control companies usually offer several different extermination services, but whole-room heat treatments and insecticide treatments are most common for treating bed bugs.
- Whole-room heat treatments: For a whole-room heat treatment, a pest management professional sets up equipment specifically designed to increase the temperature of your home. Temperatures for this treatment usually range between 135 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The pest management professional monitors the temperature in the home for roughly six to eight hours. All items sensitive to heat (including pets!) must be removed from the home prior to treatment. Whole-room heat treatments are most effective when combined with other measures, like a residual insecticide.
- Insecticide treatments: Some insecticides can be applied by customers themselves, but if you’re hesitant about conducting a chemical treatment on your own, hiring a trained professional might be a preferable option. Just like whole-room heat treatments, insecticide treatments are most effective when paired with other methods of extermination. Extensive preparation is required before a pest management professional will administer an insecticide treatment. Companies typically provide a checklist that includes the following activities:
- Bagging up clothes, toys, shoes, books, etc.
- Removing items from the wall
- Pushing furniture toward the center of the room
- Detaching outlet covers
Three types of insecticides should be used during a chemical treatment: fast-acting contact insecticide for frequently touched surfaces, long-lasting, residual insecticide for furniture, cracks, and crevices, and dust insecticide for vacant spaces (like electrical outlets). All insecticides should be approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure your safety.
You should not reenter the treated area until the insecticides are completely dry. Usually, the pest management professional will advise you when it is safe.
Insecticide treatments can be incredibly effective, but there are downsides. An infested home usually requires two or three treatments in order to rid the space of bed bugs for good, so it can be a lengthy process. Also, as chemical treatments have become more common, bed bugs have started to develop a resistance to certain insecticides. Because of this, there is no guarantee that an insecticide treatment, when conducted by itself, will completely rid your home of a bed bug infestation.
How Much Does A Professional Bed Bug Treatment Cost?
There are multiple factors that affect the overall cost of professional bed bug extermination. The average is anywhere between $300 and $5,000.
If your extermination needs are urgent, prepare to pay the price. Same-day treatment will almost always be more expensive than pre-scheduled treatment.
The larger the infestation, the more expensive the treatment will be. For example, treating a one-bedroom apartment would be cheaper than treating a four-bedroom house.
The type of environment you live in can influence the cost of your treatment as well. If you live in a big city, for instance, you would probably pay more for treatment than someone who lived in a rural town. This is because bed bugs are more likely to spread in urban areas, so the demand for exterminators is higher.
Can Bed Bugs Survive After Professional Treatment?
If bed bugs are professionally treated, all live bugs–both adults and nymphs–will be killed in the process. However, it’s possible that some eggs will survive the treatment. It’s wise to schedule a follow-up inspection after a bed bug treatment to ensure your home is not reinfested.
What Measures Can You Take To Prevent A Bed Bug Infestation?
Despite the fact that bed bugs can be treated in several ways, having them invade your home can feel like a nightmare.
Fortunately, there are plenty of preventative measures you can take to significantly decrease the chance of an infestation:
- Avoid the accumulation of clutter. Make a habit of frequently discarding garbage, junk mail, newspapers, magazines, and other items that may serve as hiding places for bed bugs.
- Vacuum and wash all textiles regularly (at least once a week in hot water).
- Examine used furniture and textiles before bringing them into your home. Even if you do not see any live bed bugs, you may want to wash or steam everything just to be safe.
- Check for bed bugs when visiting friends, family, hotels, condos, Airbnbs, and hostels. Keep luggage and clothing off the ground and away from the furniture. Unpack and wash your clothing in hot water as soon as you return home.
- Regularly inspect your home for cracks and crevices that may need sealing near your bed.
- Purchase a plastic mattress cover or plastic furniture covers to prevent bed bugs from nestling into any upholstered seams.
- Use natural bed bug deterrents such as tea tree oil, vinegar, or neem oil!
Can You Carry Bed Bugs On Your Body?
Because bed bugs spread quickly from one environment to another, people tend to assume that bed bugs can be “carried,” like ticks or lice. But this is a common misconception.
Whereas ticks and lice are contagious–spreading directly from one organism to another–bed bugs do not travel on humans. They may, however, travel on clothing and bed bugs live on clothes as well!.
What Risks Do Bed Bugs Pose?
Although bed bugs are not known to spread disease, there are still health risks involved when experiencing a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs feed often–approximately once per week. Their bites can be extremely itchy, resulting in scratching that may cause a skin infection. Sometimes the scratching may take place subconsciously, as bed bugs typically feed at night when people are asleep.
Some people are allergic to bed bugs, so much so that they might experience anaphylactic shock. If you suspect you are allergic to bed bugs, be sure you have quick access to medical care in the case of an emergency.
Believe it or not, some of the most severe effects of a bed bug infestation are mental and emotional.
If you are up all night worrying or scratching, you may begin to develop insomnia, anxiety, or depression. Insomnia, in particular, causes your immune system to weaken, therefore making you more vulnerable to physical illness.
Socially, having bed bugs in your home can be difficult. If your friends and family members are aware you’ve had an infestation, they may feel less inclined to drop by for a visit or allow their children to. They may even hesitate to invite you to events and gatherings because you could be transferring bed bugs on your clothing or in your bag. This behavior can be extremely isolating.
Final Thoughts On Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs
Bed bug infestations often occur at the most inconvenient times. Treating them can be expensive, time-consuming, and downright irritating. However, using the products and suggestions in this guide, you can remediate the situation quickly and return to your normal, bug-free routine.