How to Get Rid of Bed bugs: The Ultimate Bed Bug Treatment Guide

How to Get Rid of Bed bugs: The Ultimate Bed Bug Treatment Guide
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Getting rid of bed bugs for good requires a rigorous effort using various bed bug treatment methods. Some of the best treatments for bed bugs involve using bed bug powders, natural pesticide sprays, and other control methods to rid your home of these critters. These natural bed bug treatments help to treat an infestation of these biting bugs without having to use harmful chemicals.

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Bed bugs love to hide in the tiny crevices of bed frames, in the seams of mattresses and cushions, and at the corner of carpets. For example, bed bug powders are good for treating areas around bed frames where bed bugs are frequently found. Natural sprays can be used on mattresses, box springs, and soft furnishings to exterminate bugs fast. You can also freeze-treat bedding and bed linen by putting them in the freezer for a few days.

In this article, you will learn about the best bed bug treatments you can use at home yourself. You will also find out how to prevent infestations of bed bugs and how to spot signs that you need to start eradicating them quickly.

What are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs can quickly become a major problem in the home. Bed bugs are small crawling creatures that generally come out at night time. They are about the size of an apple seed and live in groups.

Finding bed bugs in your home isn’t a sign of dirtiness as bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that bed bugs feed on blood and will bite humans and pets. Bed bug bites will leave itchy red bumps on your skin that can be both embarrassing and irritating. The problem with treating bed bugs effectively is that they like to stay hidden.1

Bed bugs quickly reproduce if they are not treated early enough. According to Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD, it takes about 4 weeks for bed bugs to reach adult maturity. Female bed bugs can produce 3 or 4 generations of bugs a year and will lay their eggs almost anywhere.2

Dr. DerSarkissian says that places around the home where bed bugs like to lurk are in mattresses, the nooks and crannies of bed frames, box springs, behind headboards, and the corners of carpets. If treatment isn’t done promptly to kill the bed bugs at the first sign of them inhabiting, they can move to other rooms in the home.

Signs That You Have Bed Bugs

The first step in treating bed bug infestations is knowing how and where to look for signs of bed bugs in the home.

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Usually, the first sign that bed bugs have set up home near your bed is waking up with a few itchy bite marks. The National Health Service says that bed bugs will bite any exposed area of skin, although bites on the face, ankles, and arms are very common. These red bite marks can swell up into blisters and become very itchy.3

The EPA says that tell-tale signs of bed bugs in your home are reddish stains on bed linen caused by blood spots or bed bug feces. You may also notice shed skins from bed bug nymphs as they grow larger. Also, around areas where bed bugs are living, you will notice a musty odor.4

If you have noticed some brown spots on your bed sheets, bites on your body, or even bugs crawling around your bed, you need to find where they are hiding. The EPA recommends checking for bed bugs in the following places:

  • In the joints of bed frames, furniture, and drawers.
  • In the seams of soft furnishings including mattresses, cushions, and pillows.
  • Behind loose wallpaper and picture frames.
  • In electrical outlet sockets.

To find the bed bugs you may need to use a flashlight and you should check in any crevice that is large enough to put a credit card in.

The Best Natural Treatments for Bed Bugs

To get rid of bed bugs for good and prevent them returning, you need to come up with a complete treatment plan for bed bug extermination. The University of Minnesota says that a combination of treatment methods is necessary to get rid of bed bugs.5

Here are the best ways to get rid of bed bugs by yourself.

Vacuum cleaner for bed bug removal

The first step is to physically remove all bed bugs from your rooms using a vacuum cleaner. This will kill off a large number of bed bugs that are crawling around your mattresses or bed frames. A brush attachment on the end of the vacuum cleaner nozzle can help to loosen any bed bug eggs.

According to the journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews, vacuuming bed bugs helps to reduce the bed bug population and is the first step in your bed bug treatment control plan. You must remember to seal and dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag after sucking up the tiny house pests.6

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Freeze items

Another way to get rid of bed bugs from clothes, bedding, and small pillows and cushions is to freeze them. Bed bugs and their eggs die off in freezing temperatures and this is a great way to treat fabrics without chemicals.

According to the Texas A&M University, you should bag and place fabric items in a chest freezer for up to 10 hours. The freezer should be at least 0°F (-17°C) to ensure that all the bed bugs and their offspring are killed.

Hot steam treatment for bed bugs

Hot steam is also lethal to bed bugs and is an environmentally-friendly way to eradicate these biting pests. Steam cleaners can direct hot jets of steam into bed furniture cracks and crevices and also effectively treat infested mattresses and spring boxes.

The University of Minnesota recommends steam treatment for getting rid of bed bugs yourself. Steam is a great way to easily penetrate fabrics like drapes, carpets, upholstery, and cushions. For the steam to be effective in exterminating bugs and other insect pests, the treated surface should be between 160°F and 180°F (70°C-80°C).

To quickly eradicate bed bugs with steam, you should make sure and have the appropriate kind of steam cleaner. The best kinds of bed bug steam treatments have a steam volume control and a large water tank (like this one). Smaller steamers (like this one) may not have enough power to get the steam up to the correct temperature. They also require frequent filling if you are treating a large bug-infested area.

Hot washing and drying cycle

You can eradicate bed bugs from washable items by washing them in a hot wash. Doctors from the National Health Service say that you should wash bedding and clothes on a full wash cycle at 140°F (60°C).3

Once the bedding and clothes have been washed, you can make sure and kill off all remaining bed bugs by putting them in a dryer on a hot setting for 30 minutes.

Another way you can use heat to treat small groups of bed bugs that are in crevices is by using a hot hair dryer. Turn the hair dryer to its hottest setting and direct the hot air into cracks where you know bed bugs are hiding.

Encase bedding

The next step in eradicating bed bugs from your bedroom is to encase all bedding like mattresses, pillows, and spring boxes. You can buy special encasements for bed bug control that don’t allow the annoying critters to come out at night and bite you.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, encasements should be kept on for at least a year to ensure that all bed bugs die naturally. You can also place special traps under bed legs (such as this one) to prevent bed bugs crawling up.

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Bed Bug Powder and Spray Treatment Methods

Although it’s important to physically remove bed bugs and exterminate them with heat or cold treatments, those methods aren’t enough to completely get rid of bed bugs for good.

Let’s look at some of the best natural insecticides and pesticides you can make at home for bed bug control.

Diatomaceous earth to treat bed bugs

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic way to treat large areas of a bed bug infestation. DE destroys bed bugs naturally by destroying their exoskeletons and causing them to dehydrate. By sprinkling the bed bug powder in areas where bed bugs are living, you will eventually get rid of the bugs completely as they die off and no longer produce eggs.

Many scientific studies have confirmed the effectiveness of diatomaceous earth in treating and controlling bed bug populations. The journal Clinical Microbiology Reviews published material on natural ways of eradicating bed bugs. It was reported that diatomaceous earth powder breaks down the outer skin of bed bugs. Studies have shown that between a week and two weeks is enough to kill off 100% of the bed bugs. What’s more, the powder is effective for as long as it is dry.6

To treat areas where bed bugs are living, you should dust diatomaceous earth around all joints on the bed frame, corners of carpets, and behind baseboards. Reapply the DE powder every 3 days and continue until there are no signs of bed bugs.

When using DE to treat bed bugs, you should use the type classed as food grade (here is one example). This is safe to use around the home and won’t be harmful to pets if they come into contact with it.

Tea tree oil for bed bug treatment

You can use tea tree oil as a natural insecticide spray to help in your battle against bed bugs. Tea tree oil contains compounds that are lethal to insects and also help to disinfect germs. A homemade tea tree oil spray for bedbugs can also be used to spray into furniture crevices, cracks, and other hard to reach places.

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Studies into the properties of tea tree oil have found it to have an insecticidal effect. For example, the journal BMC Dermatology reported that the insect-killing properties of tea tree oil were more effective than pyrethrins. Pyrethrins are chemicals used in commercial bug sprays, however, many bed bug populations have developed resistance to pyrethrin-based products.8

Other research has shown that products containing tea tree oil are deadly to many insects and their larvae.9

To make a DIY bed bug spray with tea tree oil, you just need some water, tea tree oil, and a small spray bottle. Put 20-30 drops tea tree oil in a small spray bottle and fill with water. Shake well and spray liberally into all areas where you suspect bed bugs are lurking. Treat the areas until there are no more signs of bed bug activity.

If you have bed bug bites, then you can dab on a tiny amount of tea tree oil to the red itchy bumps as a spot treatment. This will help to reduce inflammation and itching and prevent any skin infection making the bites worse.

Natural essential oil pesticide spray

Many essential oils have bug-killing properties and you can use them to treat surface, fabrics, and crevices that have signs of bed bugs. One of the great advantages of using essential oils as a weapon against bed bugs is that they help to treat odors that bed bug infestations cause.

Studies published in the journal Insects found that essential oils like cinnamon oil, cedar oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and tea tree oil have both an insecticidal effect and repellent effect on bed bugs. Researchers found that insecticidal sprays that contain these essential oils can help kill off bed bugs without exposing humans to harmful chemicals.10

To make your own home remedy for bed bugs, you can use a combination of essential oils in a spray bottle. Fill a small spray bottle with water and add 10 drops of cedar oil, 10 drops of cinnamon oil, and 10 drops of peppermint oil. Spray 2 times a day around areas where you’ve noticed bed bugs being active. Repeat the treatment daily until there is no longer any evidence of bed bugs.

How to Prevent Infestation of Bed Bugs

Preventing bed bugs becoming a problem in your home is much easier than treating a large infestation.

It’s important to know how bed bugs get into the home. The EPA says that bed bugs are basically hitchhikers and they can get into the home in luggage if you have been traveling, in used furniture, clothing, and even from public transport. They recommend the following ways to prevent bed bug infestations:11

  • Vacuum regularly in your home and keep your home as clutter-free as possible.
  • Regularly check your bed for signs of bed bugs and take immediate action if you see blood spots, shed skins, or eggs.
  • Encase mattresses and box springs.
  • Inspect hotel rooms you will be staying for signs of bed bug activity (just remember that bed bugs aren’t a sign of dirtiness).
  • After arriving home from vacation, unpack clothes directly into the washing machine and use the hot washing and drying cycle to kill any hitchhiking bed bugs.
  • Vacuum luggage when you arrive home from vacation.
  • Thoroughly check the joints and screw holes in second-hand furniture for bed bug signs.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. EPA. Introduction to bed bugs.
  2. WebMD. Bed bugs.
  3. NHS. Bed bugs.
  4. UMM. Bed bug control in residences.
  5. EPA. How to find bed bugs.
  6. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2012 Jan; 25(1): 164–192.
  7. NPIC. Bed bug control methods.
  8. BMC Dermatol. 2010 Aug 20;10:6.
  9. Vet Parasitol. 2012 Mar 23;184(2-4):271-8.
  10. Insects. 2014 Dec; 5(4): 849–859.
  11. EPA. Protecting your home from bed bugs.
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