Logically thinking through a list of what to do if you have bed bugs is the furthest thing from most people’s head when confronted with a bed bug infestation.
A bed bug problem can drive even the sanest, sweetest person to the brink of insanity. You’re itchy and covered in embarrassing red welts.
You’re scared of falling asleep at night and wake up constantly from nightmares.
You keep mistaking every little speck on your office desk, car seat and anywhere else for a bed bug. You haven’t felt totally safe and comfortable in your home for a long, long time.
When you’ve hit this point, you’re so desperate to get rid of bed bugs, you’re willing to try anything. Really, anything – as long as there’s a chance it just might work.
What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs
You can get rid of bed bugs but it takes time, patience and a cool head. Since the cool head bit might be eluding you right now, here’s a handy list of what to do if you have bed bugs.
I just found a bed bug!
As gross as it is, this is actually a good thing – find an actual bed bug is the “gold standard” of bed bug identification. The other signs of bed bugs are strong indicators but an actual bed bug will 100% confirm the infestation.
And the sooner you have confirmation, the sooner you can start getting rid of them.
What to do: Got some Scotch tape? Cool. Capture the little bugger with the tape and stick it on a white piece of paper. Show it to a professional to identify it and to your landlord as evidence of a bed bug infestation.
Should I spray everything with pesticides?
You see a bug, you spray it to death, right? It’s almost a natural instinct.
But if you’re thinking of spraying everything with insecticides – put the bottle down. Sure, it might kill the few bed bugs you manage to hit directly, but these crafty buggers are hidden between the sheets and mattress and even throughout your room.
Yes, it’s satisfying to see the little bloodsuckers die, but to actually get rid of them? Bed bug spray can only go so far.
Also, bed bug pesticides come with health risks. So it goes without saying that you should not spray yourself with them – this could make you very sick and even be lethal – and you should also avoid using pesticides in your room unless under the guidance of professional pest control.
What to do: If you want to protect yourself from bed bugs and spray the ones you see to instantaneous death – use non-toxic natural bed bug sprays. At least until you gather yourself enough to start really declaring war on the entire infestation. That starts with a solid battle plan, of which sprays are just one part.
Can I use home remedies for bed bugs?
It depends. There are some effective home remedies for bed bugs but others either don’t work, can make the bed bug problem worse or be flat out dangerous.
Avoid any and all suggestions to kill bed bugs by using things like rubbing alcohol, kerosene or gasoline – not only are they not very effective, they’re a fire hazard.
Also resist the temptation to soak your mattress with bleach – it may work but your mattress will also stink of bleach.
What to do: Stick to proven effective, safe ways to kill bed bugs.
Should I go stay at a friend’s house?
No, unless you secretly hate that friend.
Leaving your house for a few weeks won’t get rid of bed bugs since they can survive up to twelve months without a blood meal and you’ll run the risk of transporting the bed bug infestation to your friend’s home.
What to do: Hate to break it to you, but you’re going to have to call a bed bug exterminator or find out how to get rid of bed bugs on your own.
Should I sleep on the couch?
Most bed bug infestations will be most severe on the bed, which makes it tempting to escape to the sofa for some relief. Don’t do this.
If you move sleeping quarters without first treating for bed bugs, you’ll only cause the buggers to migrate with you. The result? A more wide-spread bed bug infestation.
It may feel like a good idea at first, but remember that the bed bugs will eventually follow and then you’ll be dealing with bed bugs in multiple rooms.
What to do: Deal with the bed bug mattress by killing the bed bugs living in your bed. Also, don’t move anything out of your room and into another room – pillows, blankets, stuffed animals – without first running them through the dryer at the hottest setting.
The only thing you should be moving is any stuff that you keep stored under your bed. Storing stuff under the bed provides bed bugs with a great place to hide out, making it harder for you to eliminate them.
Should I put all my stuff out in the sun?
Wrapping your stuff in plastic bags and putting it out in the hot sun won’t do any good.
Sure, heat kills bed bugs but only when it’s high temperatures that are sustained for a certain amount of time.
Specifically, 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 harder to kill. To get rid of them, you need to expose them to 118 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality.
Needless to say, a little sun exposure in the backyard is not hot enough to get the job done.
What to do: Properly heat treat your stuff to really kill bed bugs – here’s a list of handy ways to use heat to kill bed bugs.
Should I throw my bed away?
Bed bugs have a misleading name and thanks to this misnomer, many people think that bed bug infestations are limited to the bed. Which results in a lot of beds being tossed out and a lot of fingers being crossed in hopes that this will be the end of the matter.
The thing is – getting rid of the bed rarely solves the problem. Bed bugs are tiny and can live anywhere – furniture, behind the wallpaper, in clothes, and even in alarm clocks. So simply tossing out the old bed and getting a new one means that the bed bugs still present in your house will just have a new bed to call home.
And really, how many new beds do you want to keep on buying?
What to do: It depends. You can get rid of bed bugs in the mattress fairly easily so throwing away an expensive mattress is not at all necessary.
Should I get a new mattress?
On the other hand, if the bed is severely infested, old and/or in need of replacement anyway – it makes sense to just get rid of it.
Throwing your bed away may not completely solve the problem. But beds are usually ground zero for bed bug populations so tossing out the bed can be an easy way to instantly get rid of a large percentage of the bed bug population.
If you choose to throw the bed away – here’s how to do it without making the bed bug infestation worse:
- Thoroughly and completely wrap the bed in shrink wrap or plastic before you remove it from your home. The last thing you want is to drag the infested mattress through your house. That can risk allowing bed bugs and eggs to fall off and scatter around your home.
- Clearly mark the mattress as un-useable. People like free things so make sure one of your neighbors isn’t going to scoop up your discarded mattress by clearly writing or spray painting “BED BUGS” on it. You can also coordinate your bed dumping to match the trash collection schedule so you can minimize the chance of it being picked up by someone else.
Once you get a new bed, it’s crucial to take preventative steps to make sure it doesn’t fall victim to bed bugs and go the way of its predecessor.
For starters, encase it in a mattress cover immediately. Then, isolate it from bed bugs by moving it away from the walls and any furniture that can provide a pathway for new bed bugs to move in to the mattress. Check out the best bed bug proof mattress covers.
Do I have to throw all my stuff away?
It’s the same thing as the bed situation – when you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, it can be tempting to drag everything you own to the curb and burn it all so you can start a new life free of blood-sucking parasites.
Resist the urge.
Not only is tossing all your stuff expensive, but it doesn’t fix the problem – bed bugs can still hide out in other places in your house and re-infest your new stuff. It’s much better to continue using what you have until you get rid of bed bugs and then buy new stuff if you want to.
What to do: It’s fairly simple to rid your stuff of bed bugs. You just need to stick to an easy-to-follow system until all the bed bugs are killed.
Should I just move?
Especially if you’re renting, this is such a tempting option. Just pick up and leave what’s become a cesspool of disgusting bugs and their even more disgusting feces and move onto better, brighter, bed-bug-free pastures.
Except it likely won’t work.
Even if you left with just the clothes on your back and a few personal items, bed bugs can still follow you to your new home. Remember – all it takes is one pregnant bed bug or a few eggs coming along for the ride to re-infest your new home and all your new belongings.
Moving can actually be an effective way to spread bed bugs – not get rid of them. Not a good way to make friends with your new neighbors.
What to do: Living with bed bugs is bad enough in and of itself but add the emotional trauma of the experience and you might be dying to distance yourself from a home that no longer feels like home.
If you’re set on moving – the best way to ensure you don’t carry bed bugs with you is to actually decontaminate your current house and then wait for around two months before moving to your new place. Yes, it takes patience and grit – but this is the best chance against re-infestation.
Can’t stand to live there anymore? If you absolutely need to move right now, follow this plan to make sure you don’t take the bed bugs with you.
Should I bomb these buggers?
By bomb, you’re probably referring to bed bug foggers, aka bed bug bombs.
These foggers sound like a promising way to eliminate bed bugs, but they’re actually one of the most ineffective treatments. Because bed bugs are great at hiding in places that foggers cannot reach, the majority of the bed bug infestation stay out of reach.
Not to mention the potential health risks of using foggers – not worth it for such an ineffective bed bug treatment.
What to do: Stick to the most effective ways to kill bed bugs.