Common-Sense Guide: How to Prevent Bed Bugs
If you’ve never had a bed bug infestation, then you don’t need to worry about getting rid of bed bugs in the first place. We haven’t developed ironclad ways to prevent bed bugs from biting. Bug repellents will kill bed bugs if applied directly, but the poisons themselves do not deter bed bugs from biting. On that happy note, I think you’d agree you’d rather not have to deal with such a problem. Here’s a common sense checklist of ways to prevent bed bugs from entering your home, or from re-infesting your home if you’ve had a treatment already.
- ⊕ This is obvious, but don’t go to places where a known infestation has occurred. Hotels, dorm rooms, vacated premises are all spaces bed bugs like to hide and breed without much interference.
- ⊕ Before you go on a trip, inspect your luggage for signs of bed bugs: fecal matter and brown or red stains are main indicators of an infestation. Inspect all your luggage and things you’ve collected on your trip before you bring them home, too. And inspect the sheets and mattress of every room you’re laying your head for a rest.
- ⊕ Make sure anything like clothes and furniture (especially bed-related stuff) you acquire second-hand is checked over for signs of bed bugs. Wash it with hot water.
- ⊕ For apartment dwellers — talk to your landlord to get the downlow on the bed bug status. Has your apartment been treated in the past, but not the rest of the building? Then chances are that a re-infestation could occur. Ask the landlord about their efforts to eliminate bed bugs and prevent bed bugs from moving into the building.
- ⊕ Seal any cracks or crevices in your home with caulking, and check them or reapply the barrier at least once a year.
- ⊕ Inspect or treat your pets for bed bugs. Pets are ideal hosts, so carefully look over them for signs of bed bug riders. Often, pets will be treated for fleas when they actually have bed bugs. Flea treatments for bed bugs are ineffective so the problem persists and worsens.
Next: Everyday Maintenance: Your Bed Bug Treatment Preparation Checklist will be its own page and linked to as pdf.
- ⊕ Wash or change your clothes and bedding regularly. Wash them in the hottest water (according to your garment care instructions) and dry them for at least 20 minutes on medium high to high heat. This exposure to heat for a sustained time will kill bed beds if they happen to be on your clothes and bedding.
- ⊕ Cleaning your mattress.
Vacuum your mattress monthly; this means removing all sheets and dismantling the mattress from the frame to suck all the debris and potential bed bugs from every tiny crevice. Empty or dispose of the vacuum bag in the trash outside of your home.
- Do not steam clean your mattress, or you may have to deal with problems like mildew and mold-induced asthma.
- ⊕ Cleaning your mattress.
- ⊕ Wrap your box spring, if you have one, with a bed bug proof encasement (like the Hospitology Sleep Defense System Bed Bug Proof Box Spring Encasement) .
- ⊕ Once you’ve properly cleaned your mattress, here’s a smart way of ensuring nothing will get in or out of your mattress — use a high quality dust mite controlling cotton covering, like the AllerZip Waterproof Bed Bug Proof Zippered Bedding Encasement or SafeRest’s Waterproof Lab Certified Bed Bug Proof Zippered Mattress Encasement (Designed For Complete Bed Bug, Dust Mite and Fluid Protection) . That way, if there ARE bed bugs or eggs in your mattress, they will die if you leave the impenetrable covering on for at least a year. The cover also serves to protect your mattress from an invasion from the outside, of course.
- Mattress Covers: can they prevent bed bugs? No. Bed bugs can still crawl on top of the mattress cover or hide out in the bed frame. The main advantage of the mattress cover is that if you already have bed bugs, you can trap them inside the cover and they cannot bite through. If you do not have bed bugs, the cover saves you from having to throw out the mattress if you ever get bed bugs.
“I get into a lot of motels and haven’t had a bed bug problem. I carry a spray bottle of Texas Cedarwood Oil (Juniperus mexicana) and spray it liberally on carpets & bedding. You can get it online, both oil-based for indoor, and water-based for killing bugs/diseases on outdoor plants. The great thing is, it doesn’t stain & is totally safe to use on babies/people as mosquito repellent. It smells nice, like my grandma’s old cedar chest, and it kills fleas, cockroaches, & ALL the other creepy insects as well, without harming good ones like ladybugs & butterflies. Have used it for years to deal with my cat’s fleas.”
Reminder: Oils (cedar, orange, olive, etc.) and hot water are all natural remedies for killing bed bugs. BUT. They will only work if you can get it directly on the insect.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs in Hotels and How to know if your hotel or apartment has/had bed bugs – Bed bugs registry for hotels and apartments across the US and Canada.
Great Downloads Resource:
How to Prevent Bed Bugs While Travelling – from Health Canada.
How to Check for Bed Bugs (pdf) from Manitoba government
Bed Bugs Fact Sheet – From “What You Should Know About Bed Bugs“