How to get rid of bed bugs and how to tell if you have them – Tom’s Guide

Recommended by Dikshit Aryal, Published on January 27th, 2022

Googling how to get rid of bed bugs can mean one of two things; either you have bed bugs and need to do something about it, or youre not sure if you have them and want to take precautions. Whichever the case, dont worry: We'll take you through everything you need to know about bed bugs, from where they come from to how to tell if you have them, to how to get rid of them. Because knowing how to clean a mattress just isnt enough.

Bed bugs arent something you should be embarrassed about its actually still a very common problem. The good news is you can deal with it yourself. These methods take time and commitment, but they work and will get rid of these uninvited guests. Heres a step-by-step guide on getting rid of bed bugs.

Bed bugs or cimex lectularius are tiny insects, about 5 mm in length, which feed on the blood of humans and animals. Theyre flat with an oval-shaped body and appear a reddish-brown color. Because of their size, theyre difficult to see unless in large groups, and they like to hide in concealed spaces although theyre most commonly found around the bed.

Bed bugs use the blood to grow and reproduce, and with females laying up to 250 eggs in a lifetime, a small problem can quickly turn into an infestation. These parasites do not transmit disease, but they are a health concern and so need to be dealt with swiftly.

Its actually a myth that bed bugs are drawn to dirty environments aside from more hiding places, this wont make a difference to these bugs. What theyre actually attracted to is blood, warmth and carbon dioxide. This means most bedrooms would be a suitable environment for these pests even the best mattress isnt immune. Once theyve found a suitable food source, bed bugs will essentially hide near the area and wait for the next meal opportunity.

If youre wondering how the bed bugs were introduced into your home, there are many possibilities. You may have brought them in on second-hand items such as furniture, or you could pick them up from places youve stayed which are infested, such as hotel rooms. Guests can also carry them in unknowingly. Pets are unlikely to bring them in though, as they do not live on the animals.

If you suspect bed bugs, you should investigate immediately the earlier you catch it, the better. If left untreated, bed bugs can quickly multiply into an infestation which is much more complex and costly to deal with.

The first sign of bed bugs, which most will be aware of, are bites. Once these parasites have finished feeding, they can leave behind a small mark on your skin, or even a rash. However, these bites cant be distinguished from other common insect bites, and some people may not react at all. For this reason, you shouldnt assume you have bed bugs based on bites alone.

You should look for physical evidence of bed bugs, which can include any of the following:

Both chemical and non-chemical treatments are available to get rid of bed bugs. We will take you through what you can do yourself before hiring a professional exterminator.

1. First, check around your home to determine the extent of the problem. Are the bed bugs contained in your bedroom, or is there evidence under the couch cushions? Popular areas to check include:

2. Now you know where the bed bugs are, you need to stop them from spreading any further. Clear out any immediate garbage from the room by sealing it in a plastic bag before throwing it away. If you want to move items out of the room, be aware that you should seal it first as it could be infested.

3. Next, vacuum up any immediate bed bugs using one of the best vacuum cleaners. Vacuum both sides of your mattress as well as inside your closet, dresser and anywhere else you believe to be infested. Dont forget the carpet too!

3. Once youve done that, empty and seal the vacuum canister's contents into a plastic bag and throw it away in an outdoor trash can. Keep in mind that vacuuming wont exterminate the bed bugs, but it will keep the numbers down.

4. Now, you want to wash and launder all infested linens on the hottest cycle allowed in your washer and dryer. This includes bed sheets, clothes, soft toys and upholstery. If the item isnt suitable for machine washing, you can also use steam, which is just as effective.

Now that youve reduced the numbers, its time to kill any unhatched and remaining bed bugs. There are a couple of methods you can try before resorting to chemicals. Not all will work depending on your circumstances, but each are worth considering.

1. Heat High temperatures will kill bed bugs, so if you can contain the infested contents, you can run them through the washer and dryer on a high heat setting. You could also use a portable heat chamber for larger items, such as the ZappBug Room Bed Bug Heater ($1,495, Amazon). Professionals can also treat homes with heat if the problem is more severe.

2. Cold Cold temperatures will also kill bed bugs. Once again, you need to contain the infested items in a sealed bag and, this time, use your freezer to kill them. Your freezer would need to be set to 0F and the bag would need to sit for a minimum of four days for it to be effective, so this isnt the most convenient method.

3. Steam As mentioned earlier, steam is a very effective method of killing bed bugs. Steam can penetrate deep into crevices and carpet, meaning its got good reach. However, the temperature needs to be at least 130F and you dont want the air flow to be too powerful or it can blow bed bugs away. Steamers can be used on many surfaces including mattresses, couches and carpets, but be careful around electrical elements, such as sockets. If you dont own a steamer, we recommend the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner ($149.78, Amazon)

4. Mattress cover You can bed bug-proof your mattress and boxspring with a cover, such as the SureGuard Mattress Encasement ($54.97, Amazon). Bed bugs that are locked in will eventually die and external bugs wont be able to infest your mattress while the cover is on.

5. Bed Bug Traps You can also buy dedicated traps to catch stray bed bugs, such as Harris Bed Bug Traps ($4.93, Amazon). Traps which sit under furniture legs are also popular, such as Lights Out BedBug Pitfall Trap ($24.40, Amazon).

There are also plenty of pesticides available which you can buy and apply yourself if you feel comfortable. If you choose to do this, make sure you follow the instructions exactly. There are different chemical classes, however pyrethrins and pyrethroids are some of the most commonly used compounds. Desiccants are quite effective as well as they dry out the insects, which will eventually kill them.

Harris Bed Bug Killer ($20.35, Amazon) is a widely used liquid spray, but if youve got children or pets around, then EcoRaider Bed Bug Killer ($18.55, Amazon) may be the better option.

You can also resort to bug bombs or foggers, however these are highly toxic to humans and animals and should be handled with extreme care. You would have to vacate your home during the process. Plus, theres no guarantee that this would kill every bed bug as it wont penetrate cracks and crevices.

If youre not comfortable applying these methods yourself, you can always call in a professional to handle the chemicals.

Bear in mind that bed bugs can take months to eradicate, so you will have to be both patient and persistent. Check the environment every few days to look out for more evidence of bed bugs. Its very difficult to catch every bug in one application, plus a fresh batch can hatch from the residual eggs, so re-apply your method and continue to check to see if any remain.

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How to get rid of bed bugs and how to tell if you have them - Tom's Guide

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