Remember back when you had only heard about bed bugs from that tucking-in rhyme? You know the one: “Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
Bed bugs were almost eradicated from the 1950s to the 1990s. Then they made a comeback in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they’ve been an ongoing threat ever since.
What do you do when you spot bed bugs (other than having a momentary panic, of course)? Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own or do you need a professional? Let’s take a closer look.
Can You Really Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Your Own?
If you’re wondering whether you can get rid of bed bugs on your own, it isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” Some bed bugs are more resilient than others. Sometimes home remedies will take care of the problems and sometimes they won’t.
It’s a matter of preference: do you want to bring in the pros right away to make sure you end the infestation the first time? Or do you want to try home remedies before taking that route?
If you’re a DIY type, consider these home treatment options.
Heat is the cornerstone of many self-treating bed bug removal options. Studies show that bed bugs die when exposed to extreme heat for certain periods of time.
The exposure time depends on the temperature and the bug’s life stage. A grown bed bug will die after 20 minutes at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The eggs will need more time at 118 degrees before they die.
Bed bugs can die at slightly lower temperatures, but they need a far longer exposure time.
The easiest way to kill bed bugs with heat is to use your clothing dryer. Put items in the dryer, without filing it too full. Turn the heat to “high” and after 30 minutes, your items should be bed bug-free.
This works great for clothes and bedding. If you have a shelf in your dryer, the dryer also works for items you can’t tumble like shoes, toys, and books.
Some families prefer to avoid chemical insecticides, but they can be effective if you use them correctly.
Look for insecticides specifically marketed toward killing bed bugs. There are multiple types of chemicals available, so take your time to browse your options. Some are meant for typical bed bugs while others are designed for more resistant bed bugs.
The key to using these products safely and effectively is to read the label and follow the instructions to a tee. Read which items you can and can’t use each product for and follow all safety precautions the manufacturer recommends.
Heating Chambers for Items
As effective as your dryer can be for killing bed bugs, what if you don’t have a dryer? Or what if you need something portable?
There are portable heating chambers that are meant for killing bed bugs. Many of them fold up so you can bring them with you to a hotel room or you can store them with ease.
These chambers are around the size of a suitcase. You put your items instead and turn it on, and the chamber will heat the contents for the designated treatment time. The chamber will turn off or alert you when the treatment is done.
You’ve seen those little packets that come in shoes, clothes, and other items when you buy them. Those packets are called desiccants, usually made of silica. They pull moisture out of the items so the items stay fresh and don’t get musty.
As it turns out, these silica packets can dehydrate bed bugs too, even to a fatal level. If you take the desiccants out of the packets and grind them up, you can sprinkle them on your items that have a bed bug infestation. This will kill the bed bugs.
Keep in mind, however, that these desiccants are dangerous for humans and animals too. Block off the room where you’re using the silica and wear a respirator so you don’t breathe in the powder.
If you want a safer alternative, try baking soda. It still dehydrates the bed bugs but without the added risk to your family and your pets.
One way some people administer bed bug-killing heat to their items is with steaming. A professional steamer puts out enough heat to kill bed bugs after they get enough exposure time.
There are professional services that offer this treatment, or you can try it on your own. If you try it yourself, remember that you need a more powerful steamer than your typical household garment steamer.
Carry the steamer around the room and administer the hot steam to your items, one by one. Make sure the temperature is hot enough to kill the bed bugs. Remember that you’ll need to keep the heat up for a period of time.
Another word of caution: make sure the steam coming out isn’t forceful enough to blow the bugs or their eggs around the room. The last thing you want to do is spread the infestation further.
The Best Way to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
All the treatments above have the potential to get rid of your bed bug infestation. The truth is, though, that they sometimes fail. Plenty of people have spent months or years trying every bed bug remedy in the book before finally turning to a professional.
If you want a truly effective way to end a bed bug infestation, take these steps.
Step 1: Verify the Infestation
You can’t address a problem until you know what it is for certain. To do that, you need to know the signs of bed bugs.
Bed Bug Bites
For many people, the first sign of a bed bug is the bites they leave behind. Bed bugs bite you when you sleep so they can get nourishment from your blood.
While some people react in different ways, bed bug bites are usually tiny, itchy red dots. They typically appear in a clustered line.
Visible Bed Bugs
If you suspect bed bugs, you should get down to the nitty-gritty and look for the bugs themselves. Take a close look at your mattress especially in the seams and crevices.
Bed bugs are small and oval-shaped with a reddish-brown color. You might also see the shells that your bed bugs are shedding as they grow. The shells look similar with a slightly lighter color.
Mysterious Stains on Bedding
Bed bugs leave stains behind in multiple ways, but spoiler alert: none of them are comforting.
One type of stain you may see is a bloodstain. You bleed when bed bugs bite you, so if you see dot-like blood stains on your sheets and no other injury can explain them, it could signal bed bugs.
You might also see small, rust-colored stains on your sheets. Those are stains from the bed bugs’ droppings. You might also see these fecal stains on your walls or carpet.
Step 2: Call a Professional
If you see any signs you might have bed bugs, get on the phone with a professional ASAP. As the specialists at Custom Bed Bugexplain, bed bugs reproduce at a rapid rate. The sooner you get treatment, the easier the infestation will be to remove.
Be prepared because the exterminators may give you pre-treatment instructions. They might ask you to remove or restrict certain items to keep the infestation from spreading.
When the professionals arrive, they’ll be able to do a complete inspection to see the full scope of your bed bugs. Exterminators typically offer a variety of treatment options so they can identify the best ones for your needs.
Step 3: Take Preventative Measures
Now that a professional exterminator has gotten rid of your bed bugs, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Don’t get too comfortable though.
Especially if you aren’t sure how you got bed bugs in the first place, you need to take preventative measures so you don’t get a new infestation.
Use Bed Bug Covers
A bed bug cover is a mattress protector you use on an ongoing basis. You place it on your mattress and box spring and zip it up. This prevents any bed bugs from getting in and taking up residence in your mattress.
As an added bonus, if there are any bed bugs still in your bed, they can’t get out to feed on you. Eventually, they’ll starve.
Be Cautious When You Travel
Traveling is one of the most common ways to pick up bed bugs because so many people sleep in the same bed.
Any time you arrive in a new hotel room, check the mattress for signs of bed bugs before you do anything else. Even if you don’t see bed bugs, put your suitcase on a luggage rack instead of on the bed as an extra safety measure.
Keeping Your Home Bed Bug-Free
A bed bug infestation is something every family dreads. Between the uncomfortable bites and the often difficult treatment process, you never want those creepy critters in your home.
If it does happen, though, the tips above can help you get rid of bed bugs and get your home back. For more top tips about caring for your home, check out more articles on our website.