What Kills Bed Bugs: What Works and What Doesn’t

If you’re like most people, the very first thought you have after finding one or two of these bloodsuckers in your house 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.

Ready to start a bed bug massacre? Here’s how…

Heat Kills Bed Bugs

Heat is probably the best way 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.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress

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? Here are your options for heating them to death!

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).

what kills bed bugs

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.

Diatomaceous Earth Kills Bed Bugs

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.

what kills 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.

Nuvan Strips Kill Bed Bugs

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.

what kills bed bugs

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.

Natural Bed Bug Sprays Kill Bed Bugs

A great, natural alternative to Nuvan ProStrips 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 – and 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.

what kills bed bugs

To use it, 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.

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.

Pesticides Kill Bed Bugs, But…

One of the scariest things about bed bugs is that many of them are resistant to most over-the-counter pesticides while you and your family are not.

what kills bed bugs

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.

Not really worth it especially when you consider that these pesticides are at best only moderately effective at controlling bed bugs.

If you do decide to go the pesticide route, don’t attempt to DIY it and call a pest control professional who know what he or she is doing. Otherwise, skip the pesticides and use a combination of the ways to kill bed bugs listed above – they’re effective and pose no health risks to you and your family.

Now that we’ve covered the most effects ways to kill bed bugs, let’s take a look at some ineffective ways you’ll want to skip…

Boric Acid Does NOT Kill Bed Bugs

This stuff works great for getting rid of roaches, 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.

Bed Bug Foggers Do NOT 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.

Leave a Comment:

Putt putt says July 24, 2019

If I put my mattress and box springs outside in the back yard can the bed bugs find their way back into the house?

    Kat says August 21, 2019

    Yes they can unfortunately, they are able to crawl to the nearest source of food up to a 3 mile radius if not farther. Tried it before that’s how the problem got worse.

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