Have bed bugs invaded your home?
Have you called pest control companies only to find that the cost is well out of your price range or you are sure you caught it early and want to try remediation yourself?
Killing bed bugs with DIY methods at home is not recommended, especially in higher levels of infestations, but sometimes is can be the only option. If you choose this method, much care needs to be taken to maximize effectiveness and ensure you don’t unintentionally make the problem worse.
Follow our 11 Step Guide to eradicating bed bugs yourself!
1. Stay calm.
If bed bugs have invaded your home, it is no pleasant thing. There is a definite feeling of violation, dirtiness, panic and hopelessness that comes with them. This is normal. You may read that bed bugs are impossible to get rid of. That they are microscopic. All of this is FALSE.
Bed bugs are a nuisance for sure, but they are also more common that you would like to think, and they can be eradicated. Some cases are harder than others, but I’ve been in the industry for a decade and I HAVE NOT seen one bed bug infestation that was not able to be eliminated.
2. Make sure they are in fact bed bugs
If you have a couple welts on your arm, it does not necessary mean that what gave them to you were bed bugs.
Misdiagnosis is common and potentially costly.
If you are unsure. Call a professional. Many pest control companies will offer bed bug inspections for free or a nominal fee. You are not required to then accept their service.
If you are inspecting yourself, here is a link to our blog post detailing how to identify bed bugs. All you need is a flashlight and a keen eye.
Sometimes the bugs are very hard to find, so if you are convinced they are bed bugs, you can proceed with treatment.
3. Don’t Sleep Around
Often I see people who had bed bugs in one room, so in response they start sleeping in the bedroom across the hall, hoping that this would give time for the bed bugs to die without a food source. This DOES NOT WORK, and it will only make the problem worse.
In a matter of days, the bed bugs will find discover that their food source is gone and go looking for you. They are attracted to the body heat and carbon dioxide that human emit, and they can travel over 40 feet a day. Soon, two rooms will be infested instead of one.
It’s best to stay put. It can be psychologically hard to do so. If you can’t sleep in the same room, try to move as far away as possible from the affected room and take care of the problem as quickly as possible. A couple days won’t make a difference. But a couple of weeks very well may.
4. Don’t Use Bed Bug Bombs
This is perhaps the most important tip!
Don’t. Use. Bed. Bug. Bombs.
This is THE WORST thing you can do.
Bed bugs are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides. Even the high-powered pesticides that a technician needs a license to spray are not doing the job. An over-the-counter bomb that shoots a lower-grade pesticide everywhere definitely isn’t going to work. If it did, there wouldn’t be bed bug removal companies.
Bed bug bombs will instead SPREAD BED BUGS. The chemicals contained in the bombs will kill a few of the bugs, but in reality it will act mainly as a repellant and will cause the bed bugs to run away from the chemicals and into safer zones like the closets, walls, and other room. This makes effective remediation in the future much harder.
5. Try to Determine the Source
Where do bed bugs come from?
The answer is: pretty much anywhere.
Bed bugs are hitch-hikers. Someone carrying bed bugs can sit at the booth of a restaurant, get up, and when you sit down, their problem is now your problem.
It’s just that easy.
That situation is possible, but don’t get freaked out. Often there is a relatively obvious source. Did you recently go travelling and bring them back in your suitcase? Did a friend stay over for a week? Have you checked your work chair?
It’s not always possible to determine the source, but it’s worth trying. You can spend hundreds of dollars and hours of time, all which could be wasted if you pick up bed bugs again in the same place you got them the first time.
6. Renting? Let People Know!
This is not an ideal topic of conversation. Nobody wants to admit they have bedbugs. Renters are often afraid of being blamed or ostracized.
However. Letting the landlord know is VERY IMPORTANT. Owners do not want bed bugs in their unit as much as you (ok, maybe not quite as much, but they don’t like it either). They have also probably dealt with, or knows someone who has dealt with, this problem before.
Many times THEY WILL PAY FOR IT, or at least share the cost. If you recently moved in and found bugs greeting you, it is possible that the bugs were in the unit already and it may be the landlord’s responsibility.
Often times, the landlord already has a pest control professional they have had success with before and will be angry if they find that a tenant did not disclose a bed bug infestation to them. This is a legitimate concern of owners, because many DIY methods can cause bed bugs to spread to other units, making the infestation much more difficult and expensive to get rid of.
SIDENOTE: There are no laws governing who is responsible for bed bug infestations. The only thing that will hold up in court is a signed lease that specifies the terms of dealing with this problem.
7. Don’t throw everything away.
I cannot count the number of times a customer found bed bugs, threw away a thousand dollar mattress, and bought a new one only to find in just a couple days time bed bugs have infested the new mattress.
Sometimes, throwing away a piece of furniture is a good idea. A highly infested box spring is very difficult to treat. A pullout couch has so many nooks and crannies for the bed bugs to hide that complete eradication is extremely difficult, and may make junking it is a good option.
If you are throwing items away, treat them first so you don’t drag an infested item through the house, possibly dropping bed bugs along the way.
Most jobs, however, especially if you hire a company, can be done without throwing away any furniture.
8. Don’t get in over your head
If you got bit, inspected your mattress thoroughly and only found a couple bugs, then you can try treating yourself.
However, if you inspected your mattress and saw hundreds of bugs, or if there are bugs in three or four rooms of the home, do not try to do it yourself. This is a difficult job even for professionals. It is highly likely you will spend time and money trying to do it yourself, only to have to pay someone more money later to do it again.
9. Don’t treat without properly Preparing the Room(s)
No matter if you do it yourself or hire a company, proper preparation is the main KEY TO SUCCESS.
If you hire a bed bug remediation company, they will offer a specific preparation list tailored to their own method. You can find the bed bug prepartion list for Bite Back Bed Bug Removal here.
If you don’t hire a company, you can still use their preparation list as a guide to what you should do.
It is always a good idea to TREAT ALL LIVING AREAS.
Just because you have only seen bed bugs in one room doesn’t mean they haven’t affected more areas. Near a third of the population doesn’t react to bites, so a seemingly unaffected person in the next room may have a problem they are not aware of.
Couches are often the original source and need to be treated. You may wake up with welts and blame the bed, but it’s possible that the bites you are seeing originated in the couch.
Places like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and offices often aren’t a problem and can usually be ignored, but there is never harm in treating (or at least inspecting) all of these areas as well.
10. Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a great supplement, but not the final solution
At Bite Back Bed Bug Removal, we always integrate the use of diatomaceous earth into our process. It’s a great product.
DE is made of finely crushed sea shells, which, when walked across by bed bugs, will attach to their exoskeleton, dry it out, and essentially suffocate them and kill them. The best part: it is not only effective but it is cheap and does not contain harmful chemicals. Many people will even eat diatomaceous earth as a dietary supplement!
That being said, DE is not the end-all fix.
Many people spread this product on top of their bed. Under their bed. Across the floor. In the couch. In their purse. This is NOT HEALTHY. Diatmoceaous Earth is harmless if ingested, but it is not good to breathe in large quantities. If you are sleeping and walking directly on it, the powder will float into the air and can cause allergies and other health problems.
It is best used to create a barrier. Put DE around the legs of the bedframe (half an inch thick and an inch wide) to ensure that any bedbug that tries to get on the bed from another area of the room first has to hit the powder. Put it along the edges of the wall (same thickness and width) between the baseboard and floors to ensure they any bug that got into the walls will hit the powder and die.
HINT: If you are in an apartment, do this to any wall that is shared with a neighbor. Neighboring units of apartments are often the cause of infestations.
11. Don’t Get Lazy
Treating bed bugs is a long, labor intensive process. Just preparing for the service may take a couple days!
If you are attempting to kill bedbugs yourself, be VERY THOROUGH. Every crack, every crevice, nightstands, inside the dresser drawers, every nook of the couch; it all needs to be treated.
We say often in the industry that as bed bug professionals we have no bed bug killing superpowers other than patience and attention to details.
Using chemicals? Do it twice, maybe three times. Chemicals won’t kill eggs. This means that when the eggs hatch (6-12 days after being laid), there will be new bed bugs that need to be dealt with. Treat once. Wait 10-14 days, then treat again. To be on the safe side, do it a third or even fourth time.
Using steam? Use a good steamer. A tiny, cheap clothes steamer WILL NOT WORK. They do not get hot enough and they do not stay hot enough. If you are using steam you will have to buy a high-grade commercial steamer and proceed with that.
Killing bed bugs on your own, without using a professional, is not recommended. Sometimes, however, there is no other option. Follow this guide to have better success with your DIY bed bug extermination.