Bed bug sprays are as popular for bed bug treatments as they are misunderstood. News articles and online discussions have tried to assert that chemical sprays don’t work on bed bugs, that they are harmful to humans, or that there are more effective alternatives for do-it-yourself treatments.
The current bed bug epidemic has driven an almost hysteric narrative around dealing with infestations, and these false notions likely stemmed from that collective mindset. You absolutely can get rid of bed bugs using the right bed bug sprays as part of your treatment solution. Let’s talk about how you can go about doing that.
There are three form factors that bed bug sprays can come in. You have liquid sprays, aerosol sprays, and liquid concentrates, which are meant to be diluted with water in a pump sprayer. Regardless of the type of bottle or can it comes in, any insecticide that is registered with the EPA will come with a product label and MSDS. It’s very important that you read over these documents before you use any type of insecticide.
It’s against federal law to use a spray in a way that goes against what’s instructed on the product label, since misuse of insecticides is an easy way to get sick or injured. I know you’re in a hurry to move forward with your bed bug treatment, but do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to study the label before you start spraying.
Liquid Bed Bug Sprays
Liquid sprays, such as STERI-FAB or JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs, are usually for killing bed bugs quickly on contact and evaporating shortly after. This style of spray is operated much like a spray bottle you might use to water your plants or to stop your cat from scratching your couch. You’ll get a little squirt of chemical spray with each pull of the trigger.
The most efficient way to apply a liquid spray along cracks and crevices, like baseboards and floorboards, would be to move the spray nozzle as you pull the trigger in even intervals. That way, each squirt is spaced out across the spray area instead of being concentrated in one spot.
Contact sprays tend to have a fairly broad label, allowing for application on cracks, crevices, joints and corners throughout your home. Since they don’t leave behind any residual activity, contact sprays can more often be used on the surfaces of mattresses, sofas, and other upholstered furniture. Generally, the label will advise that you spray each surface until it is lightly and evenly damp, then allow the surface to dry before coming in contact with it.
Bed Bug Aerosol Sprays
Aerosol cans are often used for residual sprays, like Bedlam Plus or JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus. Residual formulas may not kill bed bugs as quickly as contact sprays, but they will continue to kill for weeks (or even months) after they’ve been applied. To use an aerosol spray, shake up the can to mix the chemical and build pressure with the propellant, and hold down the spray nozzle to release an even propulsion of chemical.
Unlike liquid spray bottles, you won’t need to worry about the pace between trigger pulls. Instead, just keep the can upright to avoid clogging and move the nozzle along the treatment surface at an even pace. One advantage of aerosol insecticides is that they tend to foam up when they’re applied, so you’ll have a good visual indicator of how evenly you’re spraying.
Aerosol sprays can be used nearly everywhere that contact sprays can, though residual sprays tend to have slightly more restrictive labeling. Depending on the ingredients used, you can use aerosols on soft, upholstered surfaces like the tufts and folds of your mattress, box spring, sofa, or other furniture. You can use other compounds on wooden surfaces like baseboards, floorboards, and the joints and corners of your bed frame or nightstand.
Last but not least are the concentrated bed bug sprays, such as Onslaught or Temprid SC. These can be contact killers, residual compounds, or even a dual-action formula that fills both roles. Insecticide concentrates take a little bit more preparation than bottled sprays or aerosol cans, since they need to be diluted with water before use.
Concentrates will come with mixing guides on the label that recommend a certain amount of liquid per gallon, depending on what you’re treating for and where. For example, to use a half gallon mixture of Temprid SC to treat a bedroom for bed bugs, you would measure out four milliliters, since the label recommends eight milliliters per gallon. To put the mixture together, fill a spray tank with half of the water you want to mix, add the measured concentrate, shake the tank thoroughly to mix and agitate the chemicals, then add the other half of the water.
The steps to using a tank sprayer will vary a bit depending on the model of sprayer you’re using, so read the instruction manual for safety and usage instructions. We recommend Chapin SureSpray 1-gallon sprayers with a hand pump for killing bed bugs at home. To build pressure, you would need to give the Chapin’s handle a few pumps until you feel resistance. That resistance means that the tank has built up an ideal pressure, so you’re ready to spray.
If your tank sprayer has an adjustable spray nozzle, you’ll usually want to stick to a narrow spray pattern so you can focus your application on the cracks and crevices you are trying to treat. Once everything is set up, simply hold down the trigger and start applying a steady, even coat of chemical mixture across the target surface, taking care not to skip any spots or spray too heavily on one area.
This overview covers the basics on how to use bed bug sprays in a DIY treatment. Remember that this does not represent a complete treatment solution, as bed bug sprays will not eliminate an infestation on their own. You need to treat the spray as part of a combined treatment process that involves a number of other tools. Also, keep in mind that this overview does not replace the need to study the product label and MSDS that comes with your sprays.