I don’t like to bring it up — I really don’t. There are some things you’d just rather not know.
But have you ever said that
cute rhyme creepy saying “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite” to your kids? And then wondered why?
Are bed bugs a real thing to fear in this modern day and age, or just a thing of the past?
Unfortunately, bed bugs are real critters. And not only do they exist, but since the 90s they’re enjoying a major resurgence in the US and around the world.
And they may in fact share your bed with you at night!
Here’s what to do about it!
Bed Bugs: Know Your Enemy
First, a few fun facts about bed bugs:
- Adult bed bugs are about 1/5th of an inch long, wingless, oval in shape, rusty-brown in color, and resemble a tick.
- They’ve been around for thousands of years all across the world.
- They do in fact bite and can consume up to 6 times their bodyweight in blood (human or animal).
- Their bite marks can easily be confused with mosquito bites.
- They come out only at night and hide during the day.
- They do not live only in “dirty” places but can thrive even in a clean, well-kept home.
- Many people with bedbugs in their homes are entirely unaware.
- Bedbugs may hitchhike home with you if you travel, stay in hotels, live in an apartment building, or buy used furniture.
But wait — before you run upstairs and throw out your mattress, take heart!
- Bed bugs and their bites do not carry or spread disease and according to the CDC are generally not a threat to human health.
- A few simple preventative measures can greatly reduce the risk of bedbugs in your home.
Steps to a Bed Bug-Proof Home
Bed bugs are extremely difficult to get rid of once they get established in your home. These hardy bugs thrive under most conditions, reproduce quickly, and can live without food for up to 400 days.
Chemical extermination options are available, but how many people want chemicals sprayed in the places they sleep? In fact, over time bed bugs have become resistant to the chemicals that are allowed in extermination. It’s a problem all around.
Ready to jump in? Here’s how to tackle bed bugs head-on.
1. Inspect. Then Inspect Again
Prevention and early detection are your best resources against a bed bug infestation, so don’t delay! To start you’ll need a flashlight and a mirror.
Remember these critters are small, and their eggs invisible to the human eye. Most bed bugs are found on and around mattresses and bed frames, so start there.
- Carefully inspect the mattress and the boxspring for each bed in your home. Don’t forget to lift the mattress and the boxspring, checking underneath and in all seams and cracks.
- Look for bed bug feces–rusty brown smudges or spots that look like dried blood.
- Check all crevices and cracks in your bed frame. Even better, take the bed frame apart for a thorough inspection.
- Inspect the headboard and behind it.
If you find signs of bed bugs, try the following natural ways to combat them.
(If you don’t find evidence of bed bugs, skip to the all-important step 9.)
2. Physically Remove the Ones You Can See
Wage war. Flick them out of crevices with a business card, crush them in a paper towel, vacuum them up, or catch them on sticky tape. Do whatever you have to do to get rid of them.
3. Launder all Bedding
Gather up everything that is near the sleeping area and can be washed, including stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, and sheets. Launder and dry on a hot cycle. High heat will kill the bed bugs and any eggs.
4. If You Can’t Wash it, Freeze it
Certain items that can’t be washed can be bagged and put into the freezer. Extremely low temperatures also will kill the bed bugs and their eggs.
5. Vacuum Thoroughly
Vacuum the mattress top and bottom, bed frame, carpet, both sides of the headboard, and especially any crevices. Do this daily if you’re treating for bed bugs with the most powerful suction attachment you have. Make sure to seal and throw away the vacuum bag immediately (outside of your home).
6. Try essential oils.
Tea tree oil, cedar oil, and orange oil are harmful to bed bugs on contact. Mix with water in a spray bottle and lightly mist the areas you are treating daily.
7. Use Diatomaceous Earth
I’ve sung the praises of diatomaceous earth before, and it’s no exception when it comes to bed bugs. Professional exterminators even use it. Sprinkle mattresses, bed frames, and carpet with DE (wear a dust mask for this step). Vacuum up the excess before sleeping. I explain more about how DE works and cautions for using it in this post.
8. Remove Clutter Around Beds
Bed bugs don’t discriminate as they like both messy and clean houses. But eliminating clutter under and around beds helps cut down on their hiding places. Be sure to treat these items (using one of the above methods) if you have found signs of dust mites.
9. An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Bed bugs or not, don’t skip this step!
Treating a bed bug infestation costs time and money (not to mention stress!). Prevent them from happening by following these best practices before they become a problem.
- Purchase bed bug-proof mattress encasements for all mattresses and boxsprings in your home. These can reduce dust mites too and are a worthwhile investment for healthy sleep and the life of your mattress.
- Fill all cracks and joints in headboards and bed frames with caulk or sealant, cutting off bed bug hiding places.
- Install bed bug traps under the legs of each bed. This solution is cheap, easy, and one of the most effective ways to detect and stop bed bugs before they are a problem! Routinely inspect traps and return to step 1 often!
If you’ve fought the good fight against bed bugs, share how you did it below. What other methods worked for you?
Discussion (70 Comments)
Any suggestions for fleas? Both outdoors and indoors??
The Diatomaceous Earth she recommends? Also effective against fleas.
As someone who has experienced a bed bug infestation, I’m going to add my two cents. We tried all of the above remedies and just couldn’t get rid of them. We finally turned to a heat solution. Basically the house is sealed, heated to 130°, and kept hot all day. The heat eradicates the bugs and is chemical free. It must be done by a professional so it’s not cheap but if nothing else works, it’s a great solution.
How much did that cost you and was it a pest control company that did it? I can’t seem to find someone in my area who does it, but I may not be looking in the right place.
Us too. I was diagnosed with PTSD afterward. Still too scared to buy used furniture or toys or stay in hotels. For Mary’s question, it cost us about $2500 for our 2,000 sq ft home. Not including cost of eating out the entire day for our family of four.
any non toxic tips for getting rid of MICE and rats??? Thank you always!
I diffuse YoungLiving’s Thieves essential oils. It costs less than the pest control company I was using and is more effective. No sight or sign of these pests in over 3 years. My new neighbors are complaining about them so I do know that these guys are still terrorizing the rest of neighborhood : )
We used Say Bye Bugs which killed them. Also put diotematious earth around the bed legs and the edge of the room. Put mattress in a casing and it’s a year later and haven’t seen them again.
What was the ratio of essential oils to water? Need something affordable that won’t hurt my animals or make us sick. Can’t stand using the chemicals – they make us ill & give us migraines (plus…they didn’t work very well).
Put out coke cola in a small lid or dish the carbonation cannot be digested in the rodents stomach. Inadvertently they die. Con they stink once they die.
Voice of experience here. My house is flanked by a large wooded area connected to a nature preserve, so we have mice. They are inevitable! My #1 suggestion is to get a few cats. Cats hunt is groups, so if you just get one, you’re likely to end up with a charming, lazy love sponge instead of a good mouser. Keep all food including pet food refrigerated or in glass, metal, or hard plastic containers with tight lids. Don;t snack here and there in your house–keep food in kitchen and dining areas. Keep any food waste in the freezer until it goes to the compost pile or out for trash pick-up. Regularly pull appliances out to clean and check for holes and gaps. Check all around your house for gaps and stuff them full of steel wool. Clean droppings with wet paper towels and discard outside in plastic bags–DO NOT SWEEP OR VACUUM DRIED DROPPINGS!! Mice carry disease and this can spread pathogens into the air! Regularly check stored linens and clothing for nests. They eat things like soap and beeswax, so store them the same as food. If you have any trees or shrubs around your house that produce fruit, rake up and compost stuff that falls to the ground. Keep compost, leaf and brush piles well away from your house. And finally, old-fashioned snap traps, put places where the cats won’t get caught. A small crust of bread with peanut butter or bacon grease is effective bait. Be vigilant, natural pest control is a marathon, not a sprint!
My cat experience is a bit different from Sydney’s. Every cat I’ve had has been a hunter whether they were the only four-footed member of the family or one of up to three at a time. My cats didn’t hunt in groups. Each hunted on his/her own. One recently departed, elderly feline and my youngest cat both love hunting down cellar (old house with stone foundation, so one or two critters invariably find their way in). Nearly all of the cats who’ve graced my household were born feral, so perhaps the hunting drive is stronger.
Mice don’t need a big hole to get in; they can fit through a hole the size of a dime, so plugging every hole as Sydney suggested will be helpful as will keeping foodstuffs as unavailable to them as possible.
If they’ve already made their way in, I’d suggest a multi-step plan where you first do what you can to remove the ones inside, plug up all holes, stash food so it’s safe, and then make the place uninviting. There are several brands of sachets that are filled with mint that deter mice. Fresh Cab® is one brand that I used successfully (I put them in the boat when she’s dry docked for winter, and then in an under-the-eave crawl space after my newest kitty killed a mouse at the entry.) You can also make your own sachets using cotton balls and peppermint or spearmint essential oil. I use a good grade of EO, and that has worked well, too.
If you have a pet snake, that would be another way to deter them easily. At my last location, a lot of farmers were glad to see black racers because they kept the rodent population down.
This is a great article and I appreciate the experience everyone is posting! I am super serious about bed bug prevention. I learned/am learning as much as I can about these very teeny monsters. My goal is to learn how they think, then do what is necessary to stop their evil little plans. I am not panicked anymore, believe me I was!
I had not considered sprinkling DE on the bed or on myself. Hopefully, I am never in that situation, but I will keep that idea in my pocket. Another thing think about regarding DE. These critters climb walls and live behind the wall. So they don’t necessarily crawl across the floor. Pillows and blankets often touch the wall through a person’s night of rest. Unless we placed our beds and furniture several feet away from the wall, I believe they will find a way to climb onto the bed. I am considering adding a sealer of some kind around the outlet, but I am still thinking about this.
Most schools have no measures of prevention. The bugs cross hosts similarly to headlice. My suspicion is that they are fast when they want to be. Although similar to headlice in some ways, these critters cost thousands of dollars to treat and the treatment is not guaranteed. In our house: No bookbags from school come indoors; they go in a plastic bin outside. According to our Health Department (yes, I went there just for training on bed bug prevention), backpacks are a preferred hiding place for headlice and bed bugs. Jackets through the dryer for 40 minutes when we come home from school.
Everything from sleepovers and traveling come home in large garbage bags and go from outside to the dryer. We keep as much as possible in the car, we do not even bring it into the hotel if possible. And if we do, it stays in the bathroom.
Freezing has no data to support killing bed bugs. Internet rumor says 4 days will kill them. Sorry, I take no chances with rumors and bed bugs.
Heat: 120 degrees kills all stages of life within 13 minutes, a standard dryer cycle should do that.
If you have a professional service that goes from house-to-house (cleaning, health care, tutor, home group), ask them about their bed bug prevention. There is training available, they should be totally up on this situation. If not, there are other service providers who take the safety of your home (and theirs) more seriously.
I’m not sure freezing actually works. My boyfriend and I had bedbugs a few years ago and as an experiment we put one that we found alive in a plastic container outside for a few days (in below 0 northern new england temperatures) and once we brought it in to see if it was still alive after it warmed up it started wiggling and crawling again. So if you are going to try the freezing method don’t expect it to actually work unless you leave your items in a deep freezer for a few months or even longer… Steaming is another good way to get rid of them, also rubbing alcohol although probably not %100 natural and extremely flammable.
It finally occurred to me to try to kill the bugs at their food source (me). My bedtime routine was: wear socks, long johns and a long sleeved t-shirt. I powdered myself down (under the bed clothes) with the food grade DE. It killed the critters, and no more problem.
How long did you do this? I’m trying something similar and I am moving this weekend. Terrified to take them with me!
We had bed bugs the first year my husband and I lived in our apartment. A few more things to consider should be are:
Just because you can’t see them on your boxspring or mattress, doesn’t mean you don’t have them. They typically stow away inside, coming out at night to eat.
You can find a pest company that uses natural ways to kill them. Our pest control company used frozen nitrogen to spray down our mattress.
If you suspect that you do have them, don’t sleep in another room. You can inadvertently move them with you without knowing it.
Washing and drying washable items on high heat will work fo combat them, but turning up the heat or turing down the ac will do nothing.
Be careful before sealing your mattress or bedding. I would only recommend getting bed bug proof mattress covers if you know you don’t have them. If you have them, you’ll just seal them in where they can survive for a very long time. Also, dont put loose plastic over bedding. Thats where my husband and I got our problem in the first place. We stayed in a rental, where they had placed sheets of plastic over the beds, sealing them in where they can still survive.
If you rent an apartment or house, your landlord probably wont do anything. They spray for bedbugs before you move in, and they view it as your fault that the bugs are there, even if they came over from a neighboring apartment.
And if you do live in an apartment, and decide to call a traditional pest company, dont. They will tell you they have to tent the whole building (which for us was about 40 apartments) to the tune of $100,000 out of your own pocket.
Hope this helps as many people as possible!
None of these, or even all in combination, are likely to solve the problem if you already have bedbugs, and the longer you go without solving the problem completely, the more likely you are to inadvertently spread bedbugs to someone else. Please, PLEASE hire a bedbug competent exterminator. The best way to treat bedbugs — which is also completely nontoxic — is for an exterminator to use a heating unit to heat the affected rooms. Opinions on exact temperature vary, but generally you need to remove heat sensitive items (eg, artwork) for separate hand cleaning, then heat everything in the room to an internal temperature of about 125 degrees F. A bedbug competent exterminator has specific heating units for this purpose. It can be costly but is fully effective and you’re done in a couple hours. No toxins.
Also, don’t count on a hot wash and dryer to kill them. You need to run items in the dryer when they’re already dry, for about 40 minutes to ensure the bugs are dead. If you run the items wet in the dryer, you stand a strong chance of bug/egg survival.
Source: former VP of a Condo homeowners association in the DC area. We had a unit with a bedbug problem, worked with an exterminator, and I did a lot of research.
I got pest control in for an assessment visit. They told me of an occasion in England where the heat treatment didn’t kill the bedbugs as they left the flat and went to the neighbour. Then the neighbour had a bedbug problem.
Geranium oil kills on contact. This has been tested by me and works great for those hiding spots in bedframes if you don’t mind the scent.
Our building was infested and landlord hired an exterminator which caused me lung. problems. My doctor stopped the spray. I have used powdered lemongrass which kills both egg and bug. Used Dawn dish soap to clean furniture, vacuumed, used clothes dryer on clothing and used floor steam cleaner and hand steam cleaner to get heat into cracks.
Where does one find powdered Lemongrass?
Cheemtrails disseminate bed bugs. I live in Toronto in an apartment building, lose to the intersection of Lawrence Ave and Kingston street (WestHill) there are a bike way, and river, were I go to walk,and noted in my clothes appear some of them, and clase to the bridge the city ,in charge of maintenance of the area put a sign alerting in there were reported these bugs. recommend not sleep in the area Companies tat extermine bed bugs and transnationals that provide equipment and chemicals for these exterminators can be involved. Fauna in this area is very low and can not support bugs.