What to do if you have bed bugs
Step One: Get a Positive Identification
- Remain calm. Make sure you have positively identified the little blood suckers as bed bugs. If you have a thriving flea population but mistakenly label the fleas as bed bugs and attempt to apply these bed-bug-specific treatment methods, you will have little success.
Step Two: Plan Your Attack
- In other words, determine your bed bug treatment method. You can heroically do it yourself, or smartly call in a professional to get rid of the bed bugs for GOOD.
- Let’s compare the two approaches, shall we?
Some of your options are kind of, how do we say — dangerous to pets and humans. The at-home treatments work, but they work because they are poisonous in a bad way. If you decide to valiantly fight to get rid of bed bugs yourself, you and your family and pets might suffer some collateral cancer-causing damage in the process. So stay away from any products containing salt water diatomaceous earth, please.
A natural, safer mixture that effectively damages the nervous system of all bed bugs it encounters, involves pyrethrums and fresh water diatomaceous earth.
Another option is to use an insecticide mixture intended for fruits and vegetables. These are potent but have some level of peace of mind inherent, considering they are made of canola oil and pyrethins deemed somewhat food-safe. Still, inhaling any kind of insecticide poses a risk to disrupting the proper functioning of your nervous system, so use carefully according to the directions provided. And don’t eat the stuff, thinking the bed bugs will ingest the poison via your blood.
For the DIYer, you can pickup some relatively non-toxic (to humans) spray bottles for peace of mind, to prevent bed bugs from moving into your bed. This stuff has some great reviews on Amazon: “All Stop Dead Bed Bugs Contact Killing Spray” (Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly, Bed Bug Spray).
Do-it-yourself bed bug treatments gone wrong
“Can I kill bed bugs with heat?”
Like humans, beg bugs are sensitive to extremes in temperature. (Bed bugs prefer a comfy window above 65 and below 86 degrees Fahrenheit, just like people!) Mistakenly, some homeowners and renters have attempted to exterminate their bed bugs simply by chilling or heating the heck out of their homes. While creative, these methods do not effectively kill the bed bugs, who each happily remain as cool or warm as a bug in a rug (or bed mattress). Perhaps if these extremes continued for a couple of years, the bugs and their eggs would die off; however, this is impractical for most and a pain in the neck to pull off effectively.
Call in professional help
Find an exterminator to handle this stuff — just make sure your go-to bug killer knows what he or she is doing. Bed bugs are persistent and require a special touch, so before you hire, ensure he or she has experience in getting rid of actual, real-life bed bug infestations. Find a good exterminator who will ideally locate the origin of the infestation and remove those nesting grounds. The more serious or invasive the bed bug infestation, the more treatments will be necessary to ensure complete and lasting freedom from the little biters.
Sounds simple, but it isn’t. Why? Well, for a good reason — happily, bed bugs were near-extinct in North America, so a low demand for bed bug exterminators meant a low supply of people with the knowledge to decimate the little invaders.
Another mixed hiccup is that some of the treatments that actually worked to kill bed bugs pre-1940, are no longer allowed to be unleashed on the public. Think cyan gas. And now stop thinking about it.
Fumigation, baby. Infestations of bed bugs are often successfully treated by a professional who comes into your home and sprays your packed-up, tightly sealed-off living space with a mixture that smells gross at first but then you start to enjoy it as your neurons burn off. It sucks, but it’s effective.
Step Three: Pack Up Your Home and Prepare for Bed Bug Extermination
- Now it’s your turn to shine. You get to handle the pre-fumigation preparations of your home. If you screw up here, you could compromise the effectiveness of the entire bed bug treatment. (No pressure.)
- Pack up your home:
- • clear the perimeter. That is, move all your furniture away from the walls and other potential hiding spots. Take down art from walls. Unplug electrical devices and remove electrical covers from walls. Remove light fixtures if they aren’t sealed tightly to the wall.
- • open up anything closed so the exterminator can spray inside it.
- • empty out desks, drawers, bookshelves, etc. and make sure you clean them before bringing them back into your home post-spraying.
- • wash your stuff. Launder anything that CAN be washed — rugs, stuffed toys, blankets, etc. After washing and drying, immediately place your loads in plastic bags and seal them. The drier is an effective tool at this stage:even if you do not wash your clothes, leave them in the drier for at least 20-30 minutes on medium to high heat. You will effectively kill all bed bugs at all stages in their life cycle in this way. Pack up your freshly washed items and seal them in airtight containers or double-tied plastic bags and remove them from the site of contamination until your home has been treated.
- • if you take items to a dry cleaner, let them know about your “situation” and considerately provide all your items in sealed plastic bags.
- • vacuum ‘em up. Use a high-powered vacuum and take your time along crevices, where the floor meets the wall, and any place you think the bed bugs might be hiding. This will lower your bed bug population dramatically, thus making the chemical treatment method that much more effective. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag into a bag and then place that bag in another plastic bag, double-tied and plop it into the outside trash!
- • if you do not want to chemically treat your furniture you may steam it, although chemical treatment works better in the long run.
- • the bed. The site of most infestations. If you have a heavy infestation, you might want to cut your losses and just burn (or otherwise get rid of) the bed. You can chemically treat your bed, unless your box spring has been infested (box springs give bed bugs lots of places to hide and are therefore tough to clean thoroughly). Mark the mattress as contaminated (by spraying paint all over it) and cover with plastic so that others do not covet your mattress and pick it up and thus infect their own home. Wait until after your home has been treated to bring in your brand spankin’ new mattress, of course.
Step Four: Let the Treatment Begin
There are two popular products your exterminator will most likely use to get rid of your bed bug infestation.
One is called Instant Kill. It doesn’t sound pleasant. And isn’t. This product is sprayed directly on the bed bugs and will, you guessed it, kill them instantly.
The second product is a sneaky border-crossing poison that, once the bed bug crosses it, will kill the poor little thing. This product lasts up to two months, but is most potent in the first two weeks of treatment.
Step Five: What to Expect After Your Bed Bug Treatment
After your bed bug exterminator has come and gone, you may notice a few bed bugs who didn’t get the memo that they’re supposed to be dead now. That’s okay; they are dying and will be dead probably by the 14th day after treatment.
If you notice more and more bugs appearing, however, then there’s a nest that survived and you should call in the exterminator for another round of chemical blasting. But first, make sure you are actually seeing bed bugs. Some people become a bit paranoid and see/feel/dream of bed bugs everywhere, when in fact, the space is clear. So get a second opinion on the matter if you begin to question your bed-bug-related sanity.
****Important note: do NOT vacuum the areas that have been treated, or you might remove the barrier placed there by your exterminator. This is especially true in the bedroom and other high-rate of infestation areas. Your exterminator will let you know when you may return to your regular house chore schedule.
Related: How to Treat Bed Bug Bites