Bed bugs can live for months without feeding, but research suggests they feed on human blood for up to 10 days at a stretch. This makes them extremely dormant. It’s important to stay vigilant when dealing with bed bugs. They are known for their resilience when hiding in corners or under furniture.
More importantly, avoid taking old furniture into your home without having cleaned it of dust and debris. This is one of the major causes of a bed bug infestation. Old mattresses, moist and damp bedspreads and furniture are breeding grounds for bed bugs. So if you visually inspect even a single bed bug in your room, it’s time to take action.
1. Identifying A Bed Bug
Do you know what to look for when identifying a bed bug infestation? Research suggests that there are many bugs that look like bed bugs, but aren’t. So identifying a bed bug is important before you proceed with any treatment. (1)
An adult bed bug is about the size of an apple seed, is brown in color, and is commonly characterized by an oval-shaped body. Some bed bugs are long, reddish-brown in color, and are flat. You will also find whitish-yellow colored bed bugs that are almost invisible to the naked eye. This is because they are almost translucent and small in size. These are much younger than adult bed bugs.
A bed bug egg, as a matter of fact, is very easy to mistake. They are tiny resembling a black dot-stain. If these eggs live for more than 5 days, they transform into pearl-white color and are often spotted in a collection of pinhead-sized dots.
Next, you need to look for signs of a bed bug infestation. This step is important because you need to be sure about the areas of infestation before beginning the treatment. You will visually be able to inspect reddish dot-like stains on the edges of your mattress, furniture, and bedsheets.
You will find many bed bugs in groups after dark as they hide during the day. The most common places for bed bugs to hide are in the tags of clothing, bedsheets, mattresses, and linens, seams of furniture, drawer joints, under wall hangings and wall papers, and wooden floorings. (2)
2. Decluttering Is Important
Reducing clutter for treating bed bugs is important. Clutter is a great hiding place for bed bugs so don’t be surprised when you find spots where your bed bugs have taken refuge.
Do not take infested items into non-infested areas. Instead place or seal all possible items in a plastic bag, most essentially trash bags. If you need to throw certain items out, taking them in a trash bag will not spread the infestation to other areas of your home.
In the same way, get rid of magazines, papers, books, and such stationery items. They do nothing but increase the infestation so the bed bugs have a safe place to hide. This also includes cardboard items that catch dust and insects easily. Replace cardboard boxes with plastic ones for better storage.
Another great way to declutter is to give away clothes that you do not use. You can wash them once to kill bed bugs so you don’t spread it.
Have you considered making an island of your bed yet? That’s when you move the bed at least 6 inches away from the walls. Also remove the bed’s frame and headboard. Most bed bugs lay their eggs on the headboard and frame of the bed. So once you do this, any bed bug trapped inside it will starve and become immobile. (3)
That said, avoid storing anything under the bed. This avoids spreading the bed bugs infestation and you can easily inspect for any damages.
It’s possible that with clutter, pest control services won’t be able to completely eliminate the bed bugs infestation. So you need to do your best to reduce clutter as much as possible.
3. Install A Mattress With Box Spring Encasement
Even though buying a mattress with a box spring encasement is expensive, it’s the only way to protect the bed from further infestation. Spring encasements play a major role in detecting early stages of an infestation and protecting the bed from bed bugs. They restrict the presence of eggs and larvae, which is the breeding ground for many bugs.
The exterior of the bed acts as an inspection ground for bed bugs. You can combine the use of a spring encasement with an interception device to detect and kill bed bugs effectively.
But you need to buy a spring encasement that’s designed for bed bugs. And not all encasements are fit for the job. There are all kinds of encasements that offer protection against dust mites, allergies, etc. So finding a bed bug encasement should not be a problem for most of you.
That said, once the bed bugs are trapped inside the spring encasement, it’s almost impossible for them to escape or feed. Furthermore, bed bugs won’t be able to penetrate inside the mattress, so this calls for a good detection tactic. Don’t you think?
Installing a high-quality, hypoallergenic innerspring mattress with box spring encasement is the only high-end investment you have to make. Finally, with it you can sleep comfortably and avoid getting bitten by multiple bed bugs. But make sure to avoid ripping or tearing the mattress as that will allow the bed bugs to escape and enter the encasement. (4)
4. Use Interception Devices For Better Control
An interception device detects bug infestation, but at a lower level. If during visual inspection you missed out on any infestation site in your room, you can dig it out with an interception device. They help you control low-level bed bug infestation. That is under your mattress, close to the legs, or near the sofa.
According to research, if you have what they call “low-level” bud infestation, the use of harsh chemicals or pesticides is unimportant. You can use interception devices to trap and kill bed bugs easily. But this only applies to the early stages of bed bug infestation. You can reduce the amount of bed bugs drastically by monitoring an active monitor and an interception device.
Both of these devices are available on the market at a cheap and valuable price. This mass bug-trapping tactic apartments is a latest discovery. It eliminates infestation, controls the bed bug population, and eliminates the use of pesticides. So if you’re allergic to such harsh chemicals, buying an interception device is important. (5)
On a second note, there are two main types of interception devices. Under-leg interceptors and free-standing interceptors. Under-leg interceptors, as the name implies, get under the furniture to trap bed bugs. While free-standing interceptors can be kept close to the furniture, bed, or in corners.
A free-standing interceptor is good when you have lots of furniture lying around where there’s beg infestation. This can also include offices and apartment complexes. Furthermore, an under-leg interceptor offers maximum bed bug coverage for individual furniture. For example, if you know where the bed bugs travel from, keeping an under-leg inspector under that furniture or bed is most effective. (6)
5. Do Not Sleep Somewhere Else
If you have bed bugs, do not sleep in another bed or stay with a friend or a family member. You’re highly likely to transfer bed bugs to other areas, which will make things much harder. It’s proven that bed bugs travel with you wherever you go, so you might end up infesting someone else’s home or even your living room sofa.
Another reason why sleeping somewhere else is a bad idea is because it makes bed bugs dormant. Bed bugs can live without feeding on humans for at least 18 months. So avoiding treating your home is an impractical and ineffective way of dealing with the problem.
You have to come back to your room, some day. And when you do, the bed bugs will begin biting you again and in large numbers. So staying in your own home, sleeping in the same bed while treating the infestation is your only option.
It also makes sense that you sleep in the same bed during the treatment because if you move out, the bed bugs won’t come out of their hiding place. Which limits the effectiveness of the treatment to poison and kill bed bugs. By sleeping somewhere else, you’re forcing the bed bugs to locate other areas for infestation. Studies suggest that bed bugs are adept at finding potential hosts to fed or live on.
6. Avoid Throwing Away Items
This is a common mistake to make and still many people choose to throw away all infested items before dealing with the bed bugs themselves. The reason why throwing away items is a bad idea is because during the process of packing up the infested items, the bed bugs can easily travel off the items to other infested areas.
So it is critical that you do not allow the spreading of the infestation by packing away infested items in a particular room. For example, you’ve found plenty of bed bugs crawling inside the fibers of your sleeping pillow. Your immediate reaction would be to get that pillow as far away from your home as possible, right?
But as you’re eliminating the pillow, the journey from one corner of your room to another might lead to an increase in the infestation. By disturbing the bed bugs, you’ve accidently dropped them off in an area that’s not been infested yet.
Although in severe conditions, discarding certain items is necessary. But do not discard any item without placing it in a warm black plastic bag first. That way you can throw away aggressively-infested items without spreading the problem.
Instead of throwing away a piece of clothing or linens directly, you can also wash them in hot soapy water to damage all the infested areas. People don’t realize that bed bug infestation is almost unnoticeable unless it blows out of proportion. Also, bed bugs grow rapidly during the night, so they’re invisible to the naked eye. (7,8)
7. Wash All Clothing And Linens
Note that sealing away all your items in a bag isn’t the right way to deal with bed bugs. Unless a professional tells you to. The best thing you can do before bringing in help is wash your clothing and linens. You should know that some professional pest control services do not require you to wash all clothing yourself, they do it for you. But more on that later.
Take all your clothing and linens and dip them in a hot water bucket. Do not use soap at first to clear away the infestation. After 20 minutes, throw all the clothing in the drier and let it dry hot for another 15-20 minutes. Drying your clothes hot is important when you want to save both time and energy. And when you have plenty of clothes, bedsheets, curtains, and linens to wash, this is a more effective method of cleaning.
Other items such as pillows, thick curtains, bedspreads, and comforters may take longer than 20 minutes to dry. So do not remove them until they come out hot and dry. Even a little moisture can increase the risk of an infestation.
After washing and drying all items, seal them in an airtight bag and make sure to keep them there until you’ve contacted a professional pest control service. Research suggests that dry cleaning is the practical way to kill bed bugs and safe your clothing from further infestation. But it’s also important to know that the use of unnecessary chemicals for treating the condition, without professional supervision, is not a good idea. (9,10)
8. Look For Bed Bugs In Other Places
Visual inspection of places that you think might be unaffected by bed bugs is also critical. Failing to find all bed bugs can result in an unsuccessful elimination treatment. The effectiveness of using pesticides or any other methods can only be determined by the extend of the infestation.
You can look for these signs for bed bugs creeping around your home.
- Blood stains on the fabrics.
- Cast bug bed skins or shells.
- Fecal stains on the surface of your bedding or couch.
Bed bugs feast more increasingly by creeping out of hiding places at night. Once they find something to latch, you will find visible signs of stains, eggs, and blood as signs of infestation. Another way to determine a bug infestation is by looking for signs of a bed bug bite. The most common sign of a bed bug bite is a straight line of multiple red bites. These are itchy and slightly swollen welts that go away after a few days.
Overlooking corners and resting areas in your home for bug infestation may encourage the spreading of bed bugs. This can also result in a rapid decline in the infestation of a pesticide treatment conducted by professional pest control services.
9. Avoid Spreading The Infestation
Before preparing for treatment, you need to make sure you restrict the spreading of the infestation to clean and unaffected areas.
- Once you remove any big or small item from the infested room, make sure to seal it in a black plastic trash bag first. Treating infested items in such a way will restrict bed bugs from entering other corners and hiding.
- The longer you wait to declutter or clean your room after inspecting an infestation, the worse it will get. Research suggests that waiting for so long as a year to treat an infestation can have negative effects.
- Clean out the vacuum after each use. Seal the vacuum in a trash container before throwing it away.
- Before discarding furniture for good, rip all covers and the stuffing from the furniture and destroy it so it won’t be reused again. You can even mark the furniture with “bed bugs” to make sure nobody uses it after you’ve thrown it away.
Jumping straight to the treatment is not a good idea. You need to prepare for treatment by cleaning out clothing, linens, furniture, and decluttering is important. This preparation will help kill bed bugs yourself or hire a professional to do the job.
10. Kill The Bed Bugs
Before you begin killing the bed bugs yourself, you need to know about the safest and most effective methods. You can start off by opting for non-chemicals for killing bed bugs. Some might be more effective than others, but these are simple home remedies to control the spreading of the infestation.
Heat treatment is the most common remedy for a minor bed bug infestation. You can use a hair dryer to throw heat on the furniture, bed, and on your clothes infected with bed bugs. Other alternatives include putting all your linens in a black plastic bag or a closed car under the sun.
Pest control professionals use much harsher heating methods that aren’t suitable for you. (5)
If you are able to freeze your room temperature to 0-degrees for a long period of time, then only will the cold treatment work. But in hindsight, you can opt for throwing in your clothing or linens in a freezer set to that temperature. Leave the items in the freezer for 4-5 days. This will reduce the number of bed bugs in your home, if not eliminate the infestation completely. (11)
Moving forward, the use of bug bombs for quick elimination is effective, but harmful. They’re not to be used as the only bug infestation treatment. You can spray them in corners or cracks or crevices where you are sure the bed bugs hide during the day. (12)
You can also use drying agents or desiccants to dry out bed bugs from any corner. Make sure you use pesticide-graded agents and not food-grade. A pesticide-grade desiccant can take up to several months to work, but they are effective in controlling or eliminating bug infestation. (13)
11. Seeking Professional Pest Control Assistance
If things get out of hand, the best thing to do is consult a pest control service. There’s a big difference between conducting your own inspection for an infestation and a qualified pest control inspection.
A qualified professional knows exactly what to look for and where. He or she can identify the type and size of a bed bug and how harmful they really are for your home. More importantly, they detect even low-level infestations which non-trained people are unconcerned of. So seeking professional pest control assistance for dealing with bed bugs is a good decision.
That said, make sure you hire someone who uses human-friendly and effective methods of eliminating bed bugs. A method that uses harsh chemicals for cleaning is a temporary solution. You need something that destroys bed bugs for good so that they never infest your home again.
There are certain protocols to hiring a pest control professional, but look for someone who uses a combination of methods to kill bed bugs.
When you have bed bugs, there’s only so much you can do to kill them by yourself. Apart from contacting a professional for immediate help, there are a few ways to deal with bed bugs that I’ve discussed, at length, in this guide. I hope you find an effective way to reduce, if not completely eliminate, a bed bugs infestation in your room.
All these factors are highly recommended by professionals as ways to prevent a major infestation explosion. Bed bugs become a severe hazard when they’re not controlled from the initial stages. So failing to treat them can lead to a complete overthrow of your bed, furniture, and clothing. Not to mention, nobody would want to enter your home in the fears of catching a taking a bug into their homes.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.