Bedbugs don't seem like they should be much of a problem — they're a few millimeters long and difficult to see even during the day. However, these tiny creatures are a huge nuisance that's nearly impossible to eradicate. Their itchy bites interrupt sleep and can leave uncomfortable red spots all over your body. While getting rid of bed bugs isn't easy, some proven strategies can help you permanently evict your unwanted guests.
Bedbugs can lay hundreds of eggs and spread quickly through your home, so it's important to act fast if you suspect you have an infestation. Check every piece of furniture in your home for them, as well as under baseboards, along carpets, and in curtains. Pay particular attention to the seams in your furniture and linens, as bedbugs like to hide in small, dark places. Also look for tiny dark spots or smears of blood. If you're not sure, call a professional to do an inspection for you.
Once you're sure you've identified all the infested areas, it's important to keep the bugs from spreading. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to vacuum your entire house to catch any escapees trying to set up a new colony. And that doesn't just mean the floors. Run your vacuum over every piece of furniture, being sure to get down into the seams, as well as openings in your electronics and other possible hiding places. Once you've finished, seal the contents of the vacuum in a plastic bag and throw it in an outside trash can, then clean your vacuum.
For sheets, blankets, clothing and other affected cloth items, your washing machine is the best option. Seal everything in plastic bags immediately to prevent spread, then run the items through your washer and dryer on the highest heat setting. Heat is critical to killing any bedbugs hiding inside. If washing isn't an option, put it in a fully sealed plastic bag and plan to do without it for a few months while you wait for the bedbugs to die.
Before you start actually treating your home for bedbugs, it's important to make sure there's nowhere for them to hide. Remove books, decorations, and other clutter, though be sure to take it outside rather than moving it to an unaffected area of your house. If there are gaps in the baseboard, loose wallpaper corners or similar hiding spots, fix them before you start.
The easiest and safest way to kill bedbugs is often heat. A steam cleaner is the most convenient for carpets and larger pieces of furniture. For small items, seal them in plastic bags and set them out in the sun or in your car with the windows up on a hot day. Just be sure the air temperature is at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also go the opposite route by bagging them up and putting them in a freezer that is 0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, then leave them for at least four days.
If the heat treatment doesn't work, you may want to look at other natural options. Desiccants, such as diatomaceous earth, can break down the bugs' protective outer shell and eventually kill them. However, these methods tend to take a few months to work. There are also several plant oils that are toxic to bedbugs but fairly safe for humans, such as a formula called EcoRaider.
If nothing else works, you may need to bring out the chemicals. Numerous products are effective against bedbugs, including formulas that contain pyrethrins, pyrroles and neonicotinoids. Be sure that whatever formula you buy is registered with the EPA and specifically designed to kill bedbugs, as the critters are resistant to many otherwise-effective pesticides. Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals, and be extra careful if you have pets or young children.
Once it seems like you've killed all the bedbugs in your home, it can be easy to breathe a sigh of relief and stop paying attention. Don't fall into that trap! It only takes one or two survivors to create a brand new infestation. Keep monitoring the affected areas for any signs of a resurgence, and act quickly if you find them. It often takes a few treatments to fully get rid of bedbugs.
If this all seems too intimidating or you have a persistent infection you can't seem to get rid of, it may be time to call in the professionals. In addition to their training and experience in getting rid of bedbugs, professional pest control companies have licenses that allow them access to special chemicals that aren't available to the public. They may also offer guarantees of success.
Bedbugs are so common in some areas that it can be difficult to avoid bringing them home with you. However, there are a few ways to minimize the odds of another infestation. Start by taking away their favorite hiding places, such as by cleaning up clutter and using a bedbug-proof cover on your mattress. Frequently vacuuming and steam cleaning your carpets and furniture can catch any stray bugs before an infestation starts. When you travel, check for bedbugs when you get your hotel room, and don't put your luggage on the bed or other upholstered furniture.