9 Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs (& Avoid Them)

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Home » 9 Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs (& Avoid Them)

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.

how-to-get-rid-of-bed-bugs

  1. 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.
  2. Look for bed bug feces–rusty brown smudges or spots that look like dried blood.
  3. Check all crevices and cracks in your bed frame. Even better, take the bed frame apart for a thorough inspection.
  4. 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?

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Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

71 responses to “9 Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs (& Avoid Them)”

  1. AliceinW Avatar

    I’m very intrigued by the post with the broom /cinnamon oil treatment. I did read that bed bugs do not like strong scents. In my battle with them I would recommend using steam and the mattress, box spring covers. Also, you have to go at least 30 days or more without seeing them to start feeling secure. Before that steam treat every 1-2 weeks until you hit a 30 day period free of them.

  2. Barbara Avatar

    I was at my local Trader Joe’s the other day and saw a woman with a straw broom like you would decorate a wall with. When I ask her about it she proceeded to tell me it is treated with cinnamon oil and she buys it to put under her bed to repel spiders. She said she needs to replace it every 6 months for it to work best but she swears it repels all spider and bed bugs. Because a transitional house I lived in previously ended up with a massive case of bed bugs throughout both stories, I decided that what ever natural based things I can do to repel all pests, I will do including using natural ingredients in my cleaning that also do the job. The lady said she does not remove the plastic bag when placing it under her bed. She stated that you only need to start by removing 6-8 inches of the bag at the handle end to start with and then as time goes by, you can remove a little more each time. This not only prolongs the life of the broom but also controls the strength of the fragrance so it is not overpowering to humans. I went back in the store and bought one for myself to try because I was so sold on the idea. We do not have bugs where I live yet because it is a new building but I want to make sure I do not get any in my apartment to start with.

  3. Carol L Avatar

    Hi. Great post and I hope to never have to use these great ideas and information!I don’t know if I have ever had bedbugs…have had a few ‘bites’ on my lower legs that I assumed were spider bites…not very often, though.
    I made my own bedding spray, just to freshen my sheets when I put them back on after washing (my home has a musty mildewy smell because it’s old and not well sealed). I spray this on EVERY layer : the mattress, the mattress cover, the bottom sheet, the top sheet, and each blanket layer as well. I let it rest between sprayings because I don’t want a ‘wet’ bed. Here is my recipe: ( I think it smells great, but you could make your own to your preference)
    in no particular order and in whatever ratios you want:
    Clove E.O; Eucalyptus E.O.; Rosemary E.O.; Lemon E.O.; Cinnamon E.O.; Oregano E.O.; Geranium E.O. & Grapefruit E.O.
    I used Essential Oils that are mainly for fungus and for antibacterial purposes.
    I add a bit of water to help with the dispersal of the oils onto the bedding. So far, I don’t believe I have ever had bedbugs. My guess is that you could also add these or similar E.O.’s to dryer balls or a homemade dryer sheet and use in the dryer which would also help with keeping them at bay.
    (Or, as someone mentioned in these comments, use DE on top of your mattress and then put the sheets on normally.)

  4. Suzzy Avatar

    I tried all of the above and nothing worked. The best non toxic way to treat bed bugs is heat treatment. Unfortunately it’s also the most expensive way

  5. Kathie Ann Avatar
    Kathie Ann

    I don’t think freezing kills bed bugs. There are companies that will come in and bring special heaters. If you heat the room to 100 they will die and its not toxic. It has to be very hot.

  6. Michelle Avatar

    Heat treatment is one hundred percent effective. We used on one chemical with that. The exterminator heated our condo to 135 degrees, and we have not had a problem since (and the other adjoining condos were also hear treated, since they were also infested and where we got them.) They hide EVERYWHERE! In the seams of curtains, knots in wood frames, just everywhere.

  7. Jenni Avatar

    I used a lot of the suggestions above but also took a hairdryer to all the crevices in the bedframe and all the seams on the mattress and it worked.

  8. JoAnne Avatar

    My husband does pest control for a living and several of these suggestions are great. One thing you missed which is where most people get bed bugs is from traveling!! As well as checking YOUR beds and surroundings you need to check all beds and headboards in hotels, cabins, etc! We even inspect our kids’ pillows and such when they come home from a sleepover. Also, you have to be sure to kill what you CAN’T see, their eggs! So while some of the above may work initially, they may come back if you haven’t killed the eggs. And the eggs can live for months!! We even encountered a species of bed bugs at our local YMCA in the swimming pool area! So they can be anywhere. One of the best ways to prevent bringing them home us to inspect where you are staying and then, when you come home leave all of your items in a garage when you first get home. DO NOT bring your suitcases inside or your clothing. Wait until all items have been washed and dried on high heat before putting your stuff away. Keep your suitcases in a garage or somewhere else for at least a week or more before storing them inside. MANY companies are going to heat treatments versus chemical which are safe and natural. So if you have them, find a company who uses this treatment rather than a chemical treatment. And if you find bed bugs, let anyone who has recently stayed in your home know immediately. Getting rid of bed bugs, can be expensive and the longer you wait the more expensive it will get as the problem gets worse. Also, they can hide in many other places, even inside of walls and underneath wall paper and all manner of places you’d never even think of. So just because you can’t see them may not mean they’re gone for good. Thanks wellness mama for addressing this icky yet so important topic!

  9. Jill Avatar

    Years ago, we got them after having our furniture shipped from Hawaii. My poor mom also got them (she tented and it didn’t work). For our small place, we were able to seal and hear treat and steam the mattress. My mom ended up wearing a breather, and filling a weed sprayed with water, rubbing alcohol, & EO. That took a lot of time though.

  10. Kate Avatar

    Currently dealing with this problem- bought a fixer upper and the squatters who were in it had them. I’m steaming the house with a steamer called Vapamore MR-100. You can get it from Bed Bath and Beyond (they also do free delivery and you can always find coupons from there for 20% off)
    We have friends in our area who did an all natural attempt and didn’t rid themselves of the critters.
    LUCKY for us we are emptying the house completely and taking off the wood paneling and baseboards. They can hide in the cracks of your floor- so sealing with wood sealer isn’t a bad idea. It is seariously a war with an invisible enemy sometimes. We are going to hire someone to spray the chemicals probably because it would be the worst to move our stuff in and then they get into that. I bought some that you spray on your bed- BedLam- we are very anti-chemical but these critters do not play. Just wear a mask (an intense one you can buy from Home Depot) and long sleeves and pants and heavy duty gloves when you spray. Keep all windows open, get fans, ventilate ventilate. And pray to God every last one is killed.
    Bed bugs cannot reproduce if they cannot feed. So if you can get any source of food away from your house for them (pets and humans) then that is a good beginning to keeping them from multiplying. Also move your bed away from walls, make sure your sheets and blankets don’t touch the floor and don’t even let your phone chord reach your bed because anything that acts as a bridge besides your legs of the bed will keep the bed traps from working.

    Okay that’s all. Death to bed bugs ??

    1. Isaac Rabinovitch Avatar
      Isaac Rabinovitch

      The Diatomaceous Earth she recommends? Also effective against fleas.

  11. Abbie Avatar

    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.

    1. Mary Avatar

      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.

    2. Shawna Avatar

      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.

    1. connie Avatar

      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 : )

      1. Rachel Avatar

        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.

      2. Kareema Avatar
        Kareema

        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).

    2. Sylvia Leggett Avatar
      Sylvia Leggett

      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.

    3. Sydney Avatar

      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!

      1. megan Avatar

        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.

  12. Rhonda Avatar

    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.

  13. Ashley Avatar

    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.

  14. Susan Avatar

    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.

    1. Karina Nistal Avatar
      Karina Nistal

      How long did you do this? I’m trying something similar and I am moving this weekend. Terrified to take them with me!

  15. Deanna Avatar

    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!

  16. Neelynne Avatar

    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.

    1. Susi Avatar

      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.

  17. Sheila burgin Avatar
    Sheila burgin

    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.

  18. Helen Avatar

    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.

    1. Osmal Avatar

      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.

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