Comprehensive DIY Bed Bug Treatment Guide (2021 Edition)
You’ve either woken up to unbearably itchy red welts, found tiny black fecal spots on your sheets, or found a bed bug (live or dead) in or around your home. Perhaps you’ve had an exterminator come into your home to verify but you’re debating on whether or not you can afford the cost of professional treatment options vs. DIY bed bug treatment. You’re panicking because bed bugs are now in your home and you just want them gone. Well, here are a few things to consider before determining which option is right for you.
Professional vs. DIY Bed Bug Treatment
Treating bed bugs is a complex process that we cannot recommend as a DIY project. It’s not something to undertake yourself unless you have a bunch of free time and a whole lot of patience. When it comes to DIY bed bug treatment, your individual likelihood of success in your efforts depends on a variety of factors, including:
- How many bed bugs are actually in your home (the extent of your infestation)
- How much clutter and stuff is in your home (allowing for hiding places for the bed bugs)
- Whether your neighbors also have bed bugs (if you live in an apartment complex)
- Whether or not all members of your home or building will cooperate in your efforts
It’s important to remember that getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months. It is not a one-and-done kind of process. To be successful, you need to be patient and consistent.
But first… Some facts to know about bed bugs
- Bed bugs can’t fly or jump (but they do crawl at a relatively fast speed)
- Despite popular belief, bed bugs don’t reproduce at an absurd rate. Adult females produce only about one to five eggs per day (to compare, a common housefly lays 500 eggs over three to four days). Each egg takes 10 days to hatch and another 5 to 6 weeks for the offspring to develop into adults.
- There’s a common misconception about the lifespan of bed bugs. Many people assume that bed bugs can live a year without food. At about 73 degrees Fahrenheit, bed bugs can only survive 2 to 5 months without a blood meal. That being said, they are cold-blooded. In colder climates, their metabolisms slow down and they are capable of living up to a year without feeding.
- Bed bugs don’t just bite at night. While they are nocturnal and most likely to appear and bite in the middle of the night, they are opportunistic feeders. Like humans, if they’re hungry they will get up and get something to eat, even in the daytime.
- Despite their name, bed bugs don’t just reside in your bed. They’re likely to be seen crawling around couches, chairs, railings, kitchen floors, and even ceilings. This means that your bedroom shouldn’t be your only target when partaking in your DIY extermination endeavors.
- You’re not a dirty person for having bed bugs. Bed bugs aren’t attracted to dirt or grime, they’re just looking for a blood meal anywhere they can get it. While homes that have more clutter offer more places for bed bugs to hide and thrive, even minimalists can get these nasty critters.
- Bed bugs don’t transmit diseases to humans. While bites can be painful and lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, and secondary infections (don’t scratch!), there have been no reported cases of bed bugs transmitting diseases to people. If you’re dealing with discomfort, use an anti-itch cream, calamine lotion, aloe vera, witch hazel, an antihistamine, and/or a baking soda + water paste to alleviate the itching and burning sensations.
Can you only have 1 bed bug?
Only found one lone bed bug? Although it’s possible that you may only have one bed bug, it’s highly (highly) unlikely.
Unfortunately, more often than not, finding a bed bug (even just one) is a clear sign that you have an infestation.
Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re one of the lucky few that only get one bug. Act now to avoid seeing more!
DIY Bed Bug Treatment
Your primary goal in bed bug treatment should be to stop the bed bugs from biting you. If bed bugs can’t feed, they can’t breed. If they can’t breed, the infestation won’t be able to grow.
You also need to understand now that there is no easy 1-step solution to DIY bed bug treatment. Bed bugs are tough and smart creatures. You have to go to war with them and be one-step ahead or you will lose the fight.
1. Create a safe space to sleep
- Carefully strip your bed of all sheets, pillowcases, and bedding and seal everything in plastic garbage bags to keep bed bugs from escaping and infesting other parts of your home. Wash your bedding in hot water and dry for at least 30 minutes (ideally 60) on high heat.
- Vacuum on and around the bed thoroughly. When you’re finished vacuuming, immediately take the vacuum cleaner outside, remove and discard the contents.
- Purchase a set of bed bug-proof encasements for your mattresses and box springs. These encasements have zippers that are specifically designed to be tight enough to keep even the smallest stages of bed bugs from escaping and biting you through the encasement. Any big name box store or Amazon will have these, just search for “bed bug mattress protectors”.
- Consider purchasing a set of white or very light colored sheets to use while you control your problem in order to make it easier to identify fecal stains, blood spots, and other signs of bed bugs.
2. Isolate your bed (Don’t just throw it away!)
- Isolate your mattress from the rest of the room and away from nightstands and other furniture that bed bugs can climb on to get to you. About 85% of all bed bugs in a typical infestation can be found on the mattress, box spring, and bed frame so maintaining your bed space is critical. (The other 15% can often be found in upholstered furniture, bedroom drawers, along baseboards, under wallpaper and wall hangings, in carpet, and other similar hiding spaces)
- If you don’t already have a bed frame, invest in an inexpensive plain metal or plastic frame (no cloth or wood) to keep your bed off the floor. Remove bed skirting and anything else that hangs down to the floor, including oversized blankets.
- Place all legs of the bed frame into bed bug interceptors. Interceptors allow bugs to climb to the outer pitfall area but the slick plastic keeps them from climbing out or reaching the center well and climbing up the legs of your bed frame.
3. Killing the bed bugs
Now’s the time to try and kill all the bugs on your bed frame and headboard. Normally this step is done by a pest control professional because it’s incredibly difficult, costly, dangerous, and time-consuming.
After encasing your mattress and box spring, you’re going to need insecticide sprays and dusts to treat every crevice, nook, and cranny around your bedroom.
Follow the labels on every single bottle of product that you find to avoid harming yourself, your family, or pets from misuse. Be sure to use masks, goggles, and gloves as directed to avoid coming into direct contact with whatever spray or dust you use (many are very harmful to your respiratory system!).
Remember: there is no single option that will work immediately when doing this yourself. In order to tackle bed bugs, you will need to use a consistent combination of things over the next coming weeks (possibly months).
Some things that have been thought to work for some people include:
- Steaming (using a carpet steamer to create heat that will draw bed bugs out of ground level nooks and crannies)
- Chemical sprays
- Pyrethrins and pyrethroids: The most common chemicals used to kill bedbugs, many of which bedbugs have become resistant to
- Pyrroles: Kill bedbugs by disrupting their cells
- Neonicotinoids: Man-made versions of nicotine that damage bedbugs’ nervous systems, an alternative to other chemicals that bed bugs have become resistant to
- Diatomaceous earth and other pesticide dusts, like silica aerogel
- Many of these products are classified as dessicants, which are substances that destroy the bugs’ protective outer coating. Without their outer coating, bed bugs will dry out and eventually die. An advantage to these products is that they are safer to use (read the label, though!) and the bedbugs won’t become resistant to them. A disadvantage is that they work slowly, sometimes taking months to effectively kill off bugs.
- Consistent vacuuming and reapplication of products every week
What typically doesn’t work:
- Using a product just once (effective on the bugs that come into contact with the product, but not for the bed bugs that may be hiding and likely to emerge later)
- Misusing an effective product (not only ineffective at killing bed bugs but also incredibly dangerous to you and your household members)
- Foggers or “bug bombs” (while these will kill bed bugs on contact, they’re highly ineffective since they can’t penetrate the cracks and crevices where bugs are likely hiding)
- Ultrasonic devices (ineffective)
- Baking soda (ineffective)
- Moth Balls (ineffective)
- Talcum Powder (ineffective)
- Rubbing alcohol (only mildly effective and only if sprayed onto the bugs directly, can take up to 4 days to take effect)
- Tea tree oil (like alcohol, needs to be applied undiluted directly onto the bug)
- Dryer sheets (ineffective)
4. Keep it tidy
- Make sure to wash and dry any clothing you have within proximity of your bed or the infected area on high heat.
- Store anything that you don’t regularly use in tightly sealed plastic bags or bins.
- Avoid storing things under or near your bed (don’t give bed bugs a place to hide).
- Continue to regularly wash and dry your bedding on high heat at the very least once a week (ideally 2-3x).
If DIY bed bug treatment options aren’t working…
If you’ve tried to rid your home of bed bugs and find your efforts are ineffective or making the problem worse, it’s time to call in an expert. We understand that extermination can be an incredibly costly investment. That’s why we have competitive pricing, experienced & extensively trained bed bug technicians, and effective treatment options.
Contact our team today for a free quote and inspection.