You read about bed bugs every week in your local newspaper, or see public bed bug cases mentioned on evening news. Every report sounds similar: bed bugs were found here, bed bugs look like this, and here are some tips on how to avoid getting bed bugs. However, they also mention that bed bugs can’t be eliminated with DIY methods, and that you have to call an exterminator. Of course, this is nonsense – you absolutely can kill bed bugs yourself, as long as you know what to expect in a bed bug treatment:
What to do in a DIY bed bug treatment
First, you need to know what steps to take in a bed bug treatment. The most common reason that DIY treatment efforts fail is because steps were skipped, or were not done thoroughly enough. Cutting corners to save time or money only increases the risk that the treatment will fail, which will cost you more time and more money to redo. Do it right the first time and rest easy with these simple steps:
1. Treat and encase your bed
The first step to take is to stop bed bugs from biting you in your bed. To do this, we’ll start by killing bed bugs that are hiding on the mattress, box spring, and bed frame, then apply bed bug proof mattress covers. Strip your bedding from your mattress and seal them in garbage bags to prevent bed bugs from escaping and infesting other parts of your home. Take the bedding directly to your washing machine and wash using the hot water setting. When that’s done, dry the bedding on the high heat setting, if possible. The heat from these laundry cycles will kill bed bugs and eggs hiding in your bedding.
While your bedding is in the laundry, remove your mattress and box spring from your bed frame, and go over them with a vacuum cleaner to collect any bed bugs, shells, fecal droppings, or eggs that might be present along seams and folds. Don’t forget to vacuum the cracks and crevices in your frame, headboard, and footboard. While most regular vacuums would work, you may want to use a HEPA PCO vacuum, since their sealed HEPA filters prevent collected bed bugs from escaping.
After vacuuming your bed, follow up with a steamer. A high-pressure steamer can effectively penetrate deep inside mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, and footboards to kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact. When steaming, move the nozzle very slowly (about one inch per second) to ensure that the hot steam is applied evenly.
Once the bed has been fully vacuumed and steamed, spray the joints of the bed frame, headboard, and footboard with a contact spray and residual spray that are labelled for use on furniture. This will cut down on any bed bugs that you may have missed before, and will set up a protective residue to kill any bed bugs or eggs over the next couple of weeks. Remember to follow the sprays’ product labels and MSDS for safe and effective usage, including wearing any protective clothing that is recommended.
Now that the mattress and box spring are vacuumed, steamed, and completely dry, you can install the sealed bed bug proof mattress encasements and box spring encasements. Encasements are important because they prevent any surviving bed bugs from entering or escaping the mattress and box spring, limiting hiding places and stopping any bed bugs on the mattress from biting you through the cover.
2. Isolate and intercept your bed
Now that you have killed (or trapped) any bed bugs that were hiding in your bed, it’s time to isolate your bed and protect it from any bed bugs hiding elsewhere in your room. Bed bugs could be in your furniture, along baseboards, and inside walls, cracks and crevices – anywhere close enough for them to detect the body heat and carbon dioxide that you emit while sleeping. By blocking these bugs from climbing back onto the bed, we prevent them from being able to bite you, feed on you, and reproduce.
Begin by ensuring that the bed is properly isolated. Make sure that your bed is elevated by a frame with legs or castors; if you don’t use a frame, or your frame sits flat on the ground, you should purchase a temporary bed frame in the meantime. Only the legs or castors of your bed should be in contact with the floor, so tuck in or remove any hanging covers or bed skirts, and remove any storage below the mattress.
Next, place ClimbUp Interceptors under your bed legs to prevent bed bugs from being able to climb up the legs. To install the interceptors, simply lift each bed leg and place the trap underneath so that the leg rests in the center of the bowl. As bed bugs try to get to you, they will climb up the edge of the interceptor and fall into the perimeter pitfall, where they won’t be able to escape.
3. Vacuum and steam the room
We’ve now treated and isolated the bed, and it’s time to start treating the common hiding places in the rest of the room. Bed bugs are likely hiding along the edges of carpet, inside wood cracks, behind picture frames, and inside books, magazines, furniture, and other similar hiding places.
Let’s start by picking up any loose items in the room, like clothes, books, and other personal belongings. Decluttering the area reduces the places that bed bugs can hide, and makes treatment easier. Seal these items in garbage bags and store them outside of the infested room, if possible. Remove clothing in dresser drawers and treat them in a dryer for at least 45 minutes, only filling the dryer halfway to ensure an even heating. Once treated, clothing that you don’t normally wear should be bagged and stored along with your other collected items.
Go over deep cracks and crevices along windowsills, baseboards, floorboards, door frames, and the edges of the carpet with a vacuum, then again with a high pressure steamer. When applying steam, remember to move no faster than about one inch per second to ensure that all bed bugs and eggs are killed on contact. You should also replace the bag or canister in the vacuum cleaner once you’re done using it, to limit exposure of bed bugs to other parts of your home.
4. Spray and powder cracks and crevices
By now, you’ve covered most of the room with various treatment methods. All that is left is to hit the bed bugs that have survived, and set up a long-lasting defense to ensure that the infestation is finished off. For the final step, you are going to use a combination of contact and residual sprays, as well as a residual powder.
First up are the contact sprays, which kill bed bugs quickly and evaporate shortly after. With that in mind, you want to make sure that you hit bed bugs where they’re hiding, so spray along baseboards, below drawers, behind night stands, and on the cushions of upholstered furniture like sofas and chairs. Resist the temptation to spray all over the place, as this likely won’t do you any good since bed bugs don’t tend to hang around in open areas. Instead, focus your spray on tight spaces throughout your room that bed bugs are likely to be hiding in.
Follow up your contact treatment with residual sprays. Residuals won’t kill as quickly as the contact sprays did, but they will be effective for much longer. Spray into cracks and crevices throughout the room, like in the corners of upholstered furniture, along baseboards, and along the edges of the carpet.
Lastly, you want to use a residual powder for places that you couldn’t use sprays. With a professional powder applicator, you can apply powder deep into cracks and crevices, like under appliances, in door frames, and along cracks where the wall meets the floor. You can also puff some powder behind the faceplates of electrical outlets and light switches.
To prevent any surviving bed bugs or eggs from repopulation the area, you’ll want to reapply your contact and residual sprays twice – two weeks after the initial treatment, then two weeks after that, for a total of three applications.
If you followed all four steps completely, including the follow-up treatments at the end, you’ll be bed bug free! While you’re going through these steps, there are a couple of things to keep in mind regarding what to expect during the treatment:
Don’t cut corners. By skipping steps or taking shortcuts, you run the risk of the treatment failing to eliminate the infestation. This could end up costing you more time and money to redo the treatment. Be thorough and complete the first time you do the steps, and you’re much less likely to have to redo them later.
Don’t throw away your furniture. Everything that has bed bugs can be treated. Beds and upholstered furniture can be steamed and sprayed, wooden furniture can be treated with the right sprays, and more sensitive items can still be treated in a portable bed bug heater. There is always a way, and it will cost less to treat your furniture than to replace it.
Don’t sleep in another room. With encasements and interceptors in place, your bed should be bed bug free, and bed bugs will not be able to re-enter your bed to feed on you. With this in mind, there is no reason to sleep somewhere else, and that increases the risk of spreading bed bugs to other parts of your home (since they will still be looking for the food source that left the room).
Use active monitors for unoccupied rooms. If you are treating a room that no one is sleeping in (like a recently vacated hotel room or apartment unit), then you need a way to draw bed bugs out of their hiding places so that they come in contact with the sprays and powders that you have applied. You can lure bed bugs out with an active monitor, like a NightWatch or Verifi. These emit small amounts of carbon dioxide along with other luring methods to imitate a sleeping person and draw out hungry bed bugs.