If you’re like most people, the very first thought you have after finding one of these bloodsuckers is, “What kills bed bugs?”
Don’t worry, the homicidal rage you feel toward these parasites is normal – they are feasting on you and your loved ones, after all. It’s only natural you want to know exactly what to use to kill bed bugs – and their babies – for good.
Well, roll up your sleeves and get read to unleash your fury because we’ve got a list of everything that really kills bed bugs.
Used together, they make an effective bed bug killing dream team that will wipe out bed bugs from everything you own.
And yes, you do want to use them together. It’s almost never enough to employ just one bed bug killing strategy. These crafty bloodsuckers are brilliant at hiding and possibly even better at breeding.
To give yourself the best chance at killing them all off, it is smart to use a combination of the bed bug killers below to purge every item in your house of bed bugs.
What Doesn’t Kill Bed Bugs?
Ready to start a bed bug massacre? We’re going to show you exactly how. But first, let’s briefly cover what doesn’t work to kill bed bugs so you can avoid wasting your time and money.
Does boric acid kill bed bugs?
It’s cheap and you probably already have some laying around your house. And sure, this stuff works great for getting rid of roaches and ants, but bed bugs are not its forte.
The problem with using boric acid for bed bugs is that it has to be ingested in order to kill bed bugs, which bed bugs are unlikely to do. Remember that you and your blood are a bed bug’s favorite meal – it’s not drawn to feast on boric acid.
Overall, an ineffective way to try and kill bed bugs. Skip it.
Do bed bug bombs kill bed bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny and very, very good at hiding – which is what ultimately makes these “bug bombs” mostly ineffective for killing bed bugs.
Fumigators only target the bed bugs that are out of their hiding places and exposed – which is only a small minority of the bed bug infestation. They won’t be able to reach the majority of the bed bugs that hiding out out in cracks and crevices of the bed and furniture, under the carpet or behind walls and baseboards.
Plus, bed bug foggers can make the infestation worse by causing the bed bugs to spread out into nearby rooms to escape the attempted massacre. At which point, you now have a much wider-range of infestation to deal with.
Not a good idea – skip this.
What Kills Bed Bugs?
Now that we’ve covered the most ineffective ways to kill bed bugs, let’s dive into the best bed bug killers you have access to.
Each method of killing bed bugs has its own advantages and disadvantages so the smartest thing to do is to combine the bed bug killers below to craft your own bed bug killing battle plan.
Let’s get started.
Heat Kills Bed Bugs
Heat is hands down one of the best ways to kill bed bugs – it’s effective for killing all stages of bed bug life while being totally safe, non-toxic and sanitizing at the same time. Win, win, win.
Wondering what temperature kills bed bugs? It depends how long the heat is sustained.
Bed bugs will die at 113 degrees Fahrenheit if it’s sustained for 90 minutes or more. But they’ll die in just 20 minutes at 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Bed bug eggs are a little more resilient – to get rid of them, you need to expose them to 118 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality.
Ready to start killing bed bugs with heat? You have some very good options to heat bed bugs to death…
You already have a very effective bed bug killer in your very home – your dryer. Run it at the highest setting to kill bed bugs and their eggs.
A steam cleaner costs a fraction of a professional treatment and produces a very hot steam – above 200°F, to kill bed bugs and their eggs.
Bed bug heaters heat up to around 160°F, which is more than enough to kill bed bugs in all life stages. They can be pricey but also convenient.
A dryer is your go to solution for any fabrics that can be put through the dryer at the hottest setting. Washing will only kill some of the bed bugs, but the high dryer heat will kill off remaining bed bugs. If you’re not sure how hot your dryer gets, get some Thermal Dot Stickers so you can measure how long you need to leave your clothes in there for.
Otherwise, leave the clothes in the dryer for 90 minutes, just to be safe you’ve killed all the adults and the eggs as well.
What about everything you can’t stick in the dryer – i.e. your mattress and carpet? A steam cleaner is one of the best bed bug killers there is. It’s safe, natural, non-toxic and very, very effective.
Last but not least, an effective and convenient way to heat treat everything for bed bugs is a bed bug heater. These will save you a lot of time since all you have to do is stick your furniture in there and turn it on.
Large heaters like the ZappBug Room are huge enough to fit in furniture like mattresses and couches, as well as entire shelving units so you get rid of bed bugs from pretty much everything you own in a couple of hours.
The only downside is that these units are pricey – around $1,500. If that’s out of your price range, you’ll want to go with steam, which is a great way to kill bed bugs fast.
Cold Kills Bed Bugs
Got some stuff lying around that can’t be heat-treated – and you can live without for the next couple of days?
Well, get ready to clear out your freezer and set the temperature as low as possible because mere chills won’t do it for bed bugs. Researchers have found that bed bugs have a pretty high cold tolerance – these little buggers can survive in cold environments by lowering the freezing point of their bodily fluids (yea, they can do that, among other freeze-intolerant strategies).
The good news is that are not “freeze-proof” – if you make it cold enough, for long enough, they will eventually die.
So how cold does it have to be to kill bed bugs once and for all? Keeping them exposed to a temperature of minus 16 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) for 80 hours can kill 100% of bed bugs – eggs and all.
Want your stuff back sooner than 3.5 days? Drop the temperature even lower – temperatures below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit) can destroy bed bugs in just 48 hours.
So use this as an excuse to eat up all your ice cream, set your freezer temperature as low as it can go, place your bed bug infested items in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer!
Keep in mind that the length of time you need to leave your infested items in the freezer depends on how cold it gets and the crucial temperature must be reached in the center of the items that you’re freezing – get a remote thermometer so you can monitor the temperature and when the center of the item has reached 0°F, leave it in the freezer for another 4 to 5 days.
You can do this for clothes you can’t wash or will shrink in the dryer, books, shoes, jewelry, pictures and picture frames, toys, as well as electronics without an LCD screen.
Don’t stick any electronics with LCD screens, items that contain liquids inside and anything else that can be damaged from condensation.
Bed Bug Powders
The one good thing about bed bugs is that they can only get around by crawling. They can’t fly and they can’t even jump.
Which means wherever they’re going, they’ve got to walk to get there.
That’s precisely what makes bed bug powders so effective. You cleverly apply these powders in areas that bed bugs roam and they’ll have to walk through it. Result? Dead bed bugs. Here are the best bed bug powders.
Here’s a little more detail about these bed bug powders.
So hard to spell, so easy to use. Meet Diatomaceous Earth (DE, as we’ll be referring to it as it takes too long to type) – one of the best ways to kill bed bugs.
This dust-like powder is made from the fossilized remains of sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies were mostly composed of silicon dioxide. It’s non-toxic, pesticide-free, odorless and safe for humans and pets while being lethal for bed bugs.
You should know, though, that it doesn’t work immediately. Once bed bugs make contact with it, the DE absorbs the oils and fats from within the bed bug, essentially drying it to death from the inside out. Since bed bugs first have to make contact with it, it can take much longer to kill off a bed bug infestation using just DE alone.
It works best when combined with a heat treatment – the heat kills off adult bed bugs and eggs immediately while you use the DE as a barricade against new bed bugs moving in and spreading as well as to gradually kill off the bed bug infestation in your home.
To get rid of bed bugs in the fastest, most efficient way possible – heat treat as often as you can while simultaneously using DE to effectively manage the bed bug infestation.
This bed bug powder is synthetically made but there are still no toxic chemicals or poisons here. That being said, this is not the same as using food grade diatomaceous earth and you should be cautious that you and your loved ones do not ingest it.
Being a silica-based powder, CimeXa works very similarly to Diatomaceous Earth – it basically sticks to the bed bug and dehydrates them to death in about 24 to 36 hours.
It’s one of the most effective bed bug powders on the market.
Bed Bug Sprays
Bed bug sprays are a bit of a controversial topic around here. That’s because while they can be very effective, they do present a few challenges:
- You must be very thorough
- You need to use them safely
- Bed bugs can be resistant to pesticides
One of the scariest things about bed bugs is that many of them are resistant to over-the-counter pesticides while you and your family are not.
Even pesticides registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for bed bug use have been linked to everything from acute poisoning, asthma, and hormone disruption to cancer, neurotoxicity and organ damage.
That means a bed bug spray may not be really worth it especially when you consider that pesticides may be only moderately effective at controlling bed bugs.
If you do decide to go the pesticide route, take all the safety precautions and make sure you apply the pesticides thoroughly as simply spraying for bed bugs can cause the bed bug infestation to scatter and hide in other areas of your home, making the infestation spread.
Be methodical and conscientious, making sure you get every nook and cranny, crack and crevice where bed bugs and their eggs could be hiding. As for the best bed bug sprays to use, make sure to opt for one that kills both bed bugs and their eggs. Double points if it provides residual protection.
Kills both bed bugs and their eggs – even some resistant strains of bed bugs won’t be immune. Provides up to two weeks of residual killing after application.
HARRIS Bed Bug Killer
Deemed safe by the EPA for use in homes, this spray kills bed bugs and their eggs and continues to do so for up to 16 weeks after application.
If you decide DIY bed bug spraying is not for you, call a pest control professional who knows what he or she is doing. That way, you can leave the pesticides to the professionals and get busy using a combination of the other ways to kill bed bugs listed here – they’re effective and pose no health risks to you and your family.
Natural Bed Bug Sprays
A great, natural alternative to pesticides is a natural bed bug spray called Proof 100% Effective Bed Bug Spray. It’s derived from the neem tree – so yes, it will be very stinky.
But what it lacks in aroma, it makes up for in efficacy. In an experiment featured in Wired Magazine testing the effect of Proof on 10 bed bug nymphs, 10 bed bug adults, and over 90 bed bug eggs, Proof showed a 100% mortality rate after 7 days for all stages of bed bug life.
It also has a residual effect and continues killing adult bed bugs for up to 2 weeks and bed bug eggs for up to 3 weeks after initial application.
The only downside is that again, it is truly smelly. Which is why the best way to use it may be to get rid of bed bugs in specific items rather than spraying it around your home.
For example, you can saturate a washcloth with around 40 milliliters (3 tbsp) of Proof and place it in a sealed plastic bag along with the items you want to de-bug. Leave it for a week. This will works with items you can’t easily wash, i.e. electronics, tapestries, etc.
Keep in mind that one exception to Proof’s perfect record is hard-cover books. The bindings of these books provide a good enough hiding space for bed bugs to escape the lethal fumes of Proof so only 70% of bed bug adults lurking in the bindings were killed after one week. If you’ve got a lot of hard-cover books, use heat treatment for those.
What about other natural bed bug sprays? Other natural bed bugs sprays – namely Eco Defense Organic Formula and Eco Raider Bed Bug Killer – can be very effective for killing bed bugs, but you have to spray them directly on the bed bugs, which, considering how adept these little buggers are at hiding, is no easy task. Proof is so far the only bed bug spray that can kill bed bugs without direct contact.
The worst thing about a bed bug infestation – apart from the fact that you’re living with bed bugs – is that bed bugs can hide pretty much anywhere. They’re tiny and flat so they can fit in spaces as small as the edge of a credit card.
As such, bed bugs have been found in alarm clocks, coffee machines, keyboards, and even in your laptop.
So how do you kill bed bugs in your laptop or computer? It’s not like you can throw it in the dryer or steam treat it.
You can get rid of them with some Nuvan ProStrips – these handy little strips use a controlled release technology to slowly diffuse a vapor chemical called dichlorvos which kills bed bugs. They leave no residue and you don’t have to wash the items afterwards, which makes these strips great to use on hard-to-treat, un-washable items like electronics.
To kill bed bugs in your laptop or other electronics, simply place the strips inside an airtight plastic bag along with your laptop, seal it up and then leave it for a week to kill all the bed bugs – both adult and eggs.
Also keep in mind that although effective, dichlorvos is not safe for people or pets so use gloves when handling the strips and place the bags in a separate room so you and your family will not be in frequent contact with the chemical.
How to Kill Bed Bugs on Everything You Own
By now, you know what kills bed bugs and even how to best use them. But where should you start the killing?
Despite what their name suggests, bed bugs don’t just live in your bed – they can live anywhere, including your clothes, furniture, your alarm clock, your picture frames and even your laptop.
So if you really want to eliminate bed bugs once and for all – you’ll want to treat everything that’s in a bed bug infested area.
Don’t worry – it’s not as hard as it sounds, especially when you’ve got a handy little guide. Here’s how to kill bed bugs on everything you own!
Kill Bed Bugs in Bed
Bed bugs can live anywhere, but their favorite spot?
Treating your bed is one of the biggest steps you can take toward eliminating bed bugs since it’s likely to be home to the majority of the bed bug infestation in your home. Gross, yes, but also convenient because killing bed bugs in your mattress is not that difficult.
Kill Bed Bugs in Upholstered Furniture
The best way to kill bed bugs in your upholstered furniture is to heat them up.
Since furniture is too big to toss in the dryer – which is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs in fabrics – you’ll need to use a bed bug heater or a steamer.
Kill Bed Bugs in Solid Furniture
Bed bugs generally prefer soft fabrics over wood or metal, but because they like to live close to where you sleep – they can hide out in solid furniture like your bed frame, headboards, nightstands, and dressers. Pay particular attention to wooden furniture since bed bugs find it easier to climb wood than they do metal.
If you have a large heater, you can kill bed bugs on your solid furniture simply by sticking it all in the heater and turning it on.
If not, start by thoroughly vacuuming the furniture, concentrating on any nooks, crannies, and crevices that bed bugs can be hiding out in. Follow it up by steaming so the heat can kill bed bugs and their eggs. Remember that bed bugs can hide out in places as small as screw holes and vacuum/steam everywhere.
Afterwards, sprinkle a bed bug powder into all of the nooks and crannies. Use a paintbrush to make sure you spread it evenly around. This will prevent bed bugs moving back in as well as kill the bed bugs the vacuum might’ve missed.
Kill Bed Bugs in Your Clothes
Getting rid of bed bugs in your clothes is the easiest. Pretty much all you have to do is wash and dry all your clothes on the hottest allowable setting.
After you wash and dry your clothes, you want to make sure they don’t get re-infested by following a simple system.
Seal the clean clothes in clear bags marked “Clean.” Ziploc’s double-zipper big bags are perfect for this. After you wear clothes, place the dirty clothes in clear bags marked “Dirty” until they’re washed. And so on.
Stick to this system until the bed bug infestation is eliminated.
Kill Bed Bugs in Other Fabrics
Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs (and keep them off) on all your other fabrics…
- Towels, blankets, and sheets: Same as your clothes, but you’ll need something bigger. Both Ziploc’s Flexible Totes and storage bins with tight-sealing lids are great for this. Again, you’ll want one marked “Clean” and one marked “Dirty.”
- Pillows, comforters, stuffed animals and other bulky items: Wash and dry these at the local laundromat – the commercial dryers there reach very high temperatures and are perfect for penetrating into the bulkier fabrics. Encase the clean pillow in a bed bug-proof pillow protector. Same thing with the comforter – into a bed bug-proof duvet cover it goes.
- Fabrics you don’t currently use: For all your fabrics in storage – summer/winter clothes, extra sheets and comforters, etc. – wash and dry them all on the hottest setting and then pack them in bags. Vacuum-sealed storage bags are ideal since they’re air-tight and bed bugs won’t be able to get in.
You can also use the Nuvan ProStrips or a washcloth saturated with Proof Bed Bug Spray to kill bed bugs and their eggs on larger fabrics that are difficult to wash.
Kill Bed Bugs on Travel Gear
Backpacks can easily be treated in the dryer, but carry-ons are a little too bulky for that.
The best way to kill bed bugs on suitcases – which is one of the most common ways bed bugs spread – is to get a portable heater, like the ThermalStrike Ranger.
It’s big enough to sit a carry-on inside and it’ll also fold up to fit easily inside a carry-on so you can take it with you when traveling to avoid bringing back souvenir bed bugs from your vacations.
Kill Bed Bugs in Electronics and Appliances
Now that we’ve got the bed bugs out of all your furniture and fabrics – let’s get to saving the rest of your stuff from bed bugs and eliminating the blood suckers from your life once and for all.
Simply stick the strips along with the bed bug infested items inside an airtight plastic bag and keep it sealed up for at least a week. Make sure you leave this bag in a part of your house you and your family don’t use since the active ingredient, dichlorvos, can be harmful to humans.
If you’re using Proof Bed Bug Spray, saturate a washcloth with around 40 milliliters (3 tbsp) of the spray place it in a sealed plastic bag along with the items you want to de-bug. Leave it for a week. You’ll also want to place it somewhere you can’t smell it – it’s not known to be toxic but it is really stinky.