How to get rid of bed bugs yourself!
Non-Chemical Treatment Techniques
(Heat, Steam, Cold, Encasements & Diatomaceous Earth)
Heat. Heat is one of the best non-chemical methods on how to get rid of bed bugs yourself. Since the early 1900s, bed bugs have been controlled by
heating infested rooms or whole buildings to a temperature above 113 ºF (45 ºC) which is the thermal death point for the bed bugs. That is why it is important to wash with detergent and dry your bedding and clothing with a high temperature setting. For the heat treatment to be effective it is critical that the temperature above 113 ºF (45 ºC) be maintained for a minimum of 1 hour.
Important notes & caution: It is important to consider that furniture, their contents as well as structures could potentially be physically distorted or worse catch on fire with some heat sources. Heat treatment, although extremely effective, has no residual effect and bed bugs can re-infest the location or items immediately after temperatures return to “normal” levels.
Steam. Since the bed bugs thermal death is any temperature above 113 ºF (45 ºC) a common method of killing them with heat is by using a professional quality steamer. The steamers are used to kill bed bugs on mattresses, couches, and other locations where chemicals or insecticide applications are unwanted. It is an effective way of killing an infestation quickly; but steam alone will not eliminate an infestation.
Two important notes are that 1) Steaming bed bugs is a slow process that requires patience and should not be rushed. You must move slowly enough that the heat concentration is consistently maintained over every inch of surface. 2) It’s important to use a steamer nozzle (head) attachment that is large to avoid having the steam pressure come out at such a high velocity that it blows the bed bugs and their eggs about the room.
Cold. Cold treatments are just as effective at killing bed bugs as the heat treatments. Exposure to low temperatures below 0 ºF (-19 ºC) can kill bed bugs; if they are kept cold long enough (generally 4 days). This treatment option isn’t the most practical method on how to get rid of bed bugs yourself because of the low temperatures and length of time needed to kill the bed bugs (opening the windows in the winter and letting the cold air in will NOT work). There are commercial applications available which use CO2 that are discussed in the Professional Pest Management Technique.
Encasements. Mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements aren’t really treatments to get rid of bed bugs, but they are a standard part of a good quality bed bug management program. Encasements are more than bed covers, they are intended to seal your mattress, box spring, and pillow so that no bed bugs can infest them and any bed bugs currently infesting them can never bite through or escape from the encasement.
When using encasements it is extremely important that the encasement be placed on both the mattress and the box springs for maximum effectiveness. If you cannot afford to encase both, make sure that at least the box springs are put into the encasement as they are very difficult to treat and a favorite bed bug refuge.
Not all encasement covers are effective at keeping bed bugs inside; make sure that the zipper has a protector that will prevent bed bugs from escaping even if the zipper isn’t fully closed. Since the zipper is the number one escape route used by bed bugs it is important that the teeth be tight enough to keep newly hatched bed bugs from escaping in between the teeth. When investigating encasements read the label to see how it has been tested for containing bed bugs. This is one of the best preventative methods used on how to get rid of bed bugs yourself applications.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is a desiccant dust made from the silica-based skeletons of microorganisms called diatoms. The fine powdered dust kills bed bugs by sticking to the outside of their exoskeletons (bodies) when they walk through it and absorbing lipids (the layer of wax) that keeps them from losing their body moisture causing them to dehydrate. DE is slow to work because the bed bugs are dehydrating, but it does have a very high success rate because it is a mineral and will not biodegrade or dissipate over time. Death of susceptible and resistant bed bugs occurs within four days and the total infestation should be gone after approximately 10 days.
There are some Diatomaceous Earth (DE) CAUTIONS that must be addressed: There are multiple types of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) available. Be sure to use the Fresh-water Food Grade variety to control small to medium bed bug infestations. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) DE is an inhalation hazard and it can cause silicosis, so use a qualified respirator when applying it. However, it can be quite safe when used properly, so read the label and follow correct application procedures.
When considering how to get rid of bed bugs yourself using DE, remember that you cannot force bed bugs to walk through the dust and until they walk across it, they will not be killed by DE. So knowing that DE can kill bed bugs in days does not mean it will kill your bed bugs within any specified period of time. Even pest management professionals will tell you that no matter what they do, the bugs might return.
Chemical Treatment Techniques
(EPA Alert, Pesticides, Insect Growth Regulators (IGR), Cryonite)
- Never use a pesticide indoors that is intended for outdoor use. It is very dangerous and won’t solve your bed bug problem.
- Using the wrong pesticide or using it incorrectly to treat for bed bugs can make you sick, may not solve the problem, and could even make it worse by causing the bed bugs to hide where the pesticide won’t reach them.
- Check if the product is effective against bedbugs — if a pest isn’t listed on the product label, the pesticide has not been tested on that pest and it may not be effective. Don’t use a product or allow a pest control operator to treat your home unless bed bugs are named on the product label.
- Before using any pesticide product, READ THE LABEL FIRST, then follow the directions for use.
- Keep in mind that any pesticide product without an EPA registration number has not been reviewed by EPA, so we haven’t determined how well the product works.
Pesticides. Pesticides are one component of a comprehensive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan for controlling bed bugs. Currently, there are over 300 registered bed bug specific pesticides by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) – the vast majority of which can be used by consumers. Each product utilizes several “classes” of chemicals which share similar methods that affect the biological functions of a bed bug.
Since the goal is to eliminate bed bugs it is important that the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan control strategy be done properly for the treatment to work. Read all the labels carefully and find a product that has been specifically developed for bed bugs. Fortunately the EPA has developed a Bed Bug Product Search tool to help you find a product that meets your needs. This search tool can help you choose an EPA-registered bed bug product that meets your needs on how to get rid of bed bugs yourself.
Because of the potential for resistance, it is important for anyone trying to control bed bug infestations to use pesticides appropriately and to follow the directions according to the label. Be sure to choose a product that has been proven effective in published research, from your own experiences or from other pest management professionals.
Insect Growth Regulators (IGR). Insect growth regulators are chemicals that mimic juvenile growth hormones in insects. They work by either changing the production of chitin (the compound used to make insects exoskeleton) or by altering an insect’s development into adulthood. Because these bio-pesticides work on the insects hormone pathways, they can have a significant impact on bed bug fertility and egg hatching success with little to no effect on people.
The primary active ingredients in IGR products are S-Hydroprene, S-Kinoprene, Methoprene, S-Methoprene. Some of these chemicals force the insect to develop too rapidly, while others stop development all together. Pest management professionals will use IGRs in conjunction with other chemicals when treating bed bugs because the risks are low and companies want to try every option to combat and control bed bugs.
Cryonite. Cryonite (CO2 “Snow”) is a new commercial technology process where CO2 is sprayed as a non-penetrating snow that kills bed bugs and a variety of pests by rapid or instant freezing.
Pest Management Professional Treatment Techniques
If the infestation is more than you can handle or if a quick resolution is needed hiring a pest management professional (PMP) as soon as possible is the most effective and fastest method to get rid of bedbugs. They can be costly but it is the most effective way to eliminate bed bug infestations completely. The PMP’s have tools such as bed bug detecting K9’s and access to treatment methods and chemicals that the general public does not.
When looking for a pest management professional make sure that they are certified, licensed, well trained and/or experienced with the treatment of bed bugs. The best resources to find a qualified PMP is through local directories, professional pest management associations and referrals. Ask potential PMP’s about their bed bug specific training and the tactics that they would use to get rid of, or control, the bed bug infestation. A reputable professional should educate you on prevention and do an initial assessment/inspection before giving you a price quote and provide you with basic instructions on how to prepare your residence for the treatment.
Before you hire your PMP agree on a service plan and on what follow-up inspections and treatments will be included. There should be at least one follow-up inspection within a suitable interval (usually 10-21 days) after the initial treatment based on the process and chemicals used to detect typical signs of continued infestations and reapply the treatment if necessary.
In order to successfully declare that a bed bug infestation has been eradicated a final verification that the bed bugs and their eggs have been eliminated should be conducted and no new evidence of bed bugs should be found. The PMP should document all of the actions and steps that they have taken and highlight any problems encountered such as lack of tenant cooperation, structural problems encountered, bed bug habitat conditions that have not been corrected, etc.
If you decide to hire a pest management professional to eliminate the bed bug infestation, success will depend on your cooperation. Be sure to allow the PMP access to all locations that could harbor bed bugs, including closets and clothing dressers. Follow their recommendations—especially concerning eliminating clutter, vacuuming and cleaning.
As a final suggestion the EPA’s Citizen’s Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety (PDF) offers more tips on how to choose a pest management company.
How to get rid of bed bugs yourself! Final thoughts.
A bed bug free residence makes for a happy and healthy home; and every person deserves to have a happy and healthy home!
Bed bug infestations are a challenge that most people can take on themselves with some diligence and a good integrated pest management (IPM) plan. When choosing a removal treatment technique that best fits your situation and budget, it is important to remember that there is no “silver bullet” treatment to eliminate a bed bug infestation. Long-term control requires an integrated bed bug management program that includes a combination of the chemical, non-chemical or pest management professional techniques outlined.
Remember the best-case scenario on how to get rid of bed bugs yourself and for dealing with a bed bug infestation effectively and efficiently (complete elimination using minimum time and money) is early detection combined with prompt action is the best policy.