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.


  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?


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.


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

  1. Markus Avatar

    Hi Katie, I wanted to add something we are noticing with mattress encasements it may be helpful. During our Green Bean Buddy 11 month case study, entomological scientists found that some “very tiny” nymphs can sneak thru these encasements zippers at times. So lots of times people treat the encasement only… not the mattress bare.

    So its best to remove the encasement when using any type of bed bug treatment and simply treat the mattress bare without the encasement. Then seal the mattress with the encasement.

  2. Jason Avatar

    They only come out at night and hide during the day…not necessarily. I’ve seen one crawl across the sheet while I was laying in bed watching TV in the afternoon. I’ve washed,bagged up or treated just about every article of bedlinen in my room and they still keep coming back.

    1. Melissa Hanna Avatar
      Melissa Hanna

      Yes that is true! I have battled them off and on for years. I know for a fact they will try to feed on a napping person any time of day. My kids learned to silently look for them every time a backpack was opened at school. You never know where or when you will find one!

  3. Jack Avatar

    I’m glad these methods are safe and don’t involve toxins. Thank you so much for helping me with the pest-control!

  4. Renny Avatar

    I only used diatomaceous earth, but I put it EVERYWHERE. They are and have been long gone. I also prayed.

  5. Cory Zotti Avatar
    Cory Zotti

    Hey to all saying to use rubbing alcohol /isopropyl alcohol , PLEASE don’t, if you saturated a piece of furniture it would take hours and hours to dry and give out incredibly flammable fumes the whole time, any small spark from any appliances or anything, or a candle, light a cigarette in a neighbors apartment and the fire would be intense, fast moving and hard to put out. You don’t want your family to burn in their beds because the mattresses were still damp with accelerant on the bottoms or between the box spring and mattress and you assumed they were dry and some random spark or heater kicks on!

  6. Johnna Avatar

    Family member used 91% alcohol. Stopped them in their tracks! It is such a popular remedy now that it is being packaged in spray bottles now so as to make it even more convenient. Inexpensive and easy to get.

  7. Osmal Avatar

    Normally when you pickup some BEDBUGS from anywhere, after they sucked you, the bug have the instinct to hide ,,waiting next opportunity to suck you. and from your clothes or your Bags emigrate were you are seated more time or sleep, so your bed ,your chair were you seat to manipulate your laptop or your TV sofa, need frequently ve revised, because they go there attracted for your biological exhalations: the CO2 you expire, your smell ,your etheric aura etc,.and, from their initial hiding place, stablish his nest under your resting places, in the bottom, no matter if you have a complete coverings, they manage to adhere in the zipper, intersections ,etc. If you catch one or more, take with your fingers, and immediately kill against the floor and clean, before scape. If you find a nest with many o them, don’t touch them, first take a sponge and small container with some water with baking soda ,borax or detergent, and small knife and remove mechanically all of them and clean well. .Don’t be afraid to touch them, you can maintain him until you go to your washroom and kill inside your lavabo, if splash blood, means he sucked you, not in your fingers but before..They suck you when you are quiet, resting, sleeping, seated, because first insert a narcotic and after take his time to fill his bigger stomach. In danger they don’t make that, and if perceive you see him, go quiet simulating is dead. They run very fast when scape. The cockroach are more smart, dance in circles to confuse you, but borax in the places you see them are very effective. Bedbugs are more resistive.

  8. Livi Avatar

    I just wanted to say thank you for having this post, I was just wondering what is the best and most natural way to repel bed bugs. I also have a high concentration of melanin in my skin so I am going to test some remedies to help, also deal with repelling.

    I found this thing on my clothing, some reddish looking bug. I killed it and there was some kind of red stuff in it. I will test it to see what it is. I like the idea of using strong smelling essential oils. When I began to also read the comments, I thought to test strong oils like eucalyptus and pine oil, I like the idea to use clove oil. I am also going to put some orange, lemon and grapefruit peels around my bed and launder my bed sheets in some kind of laundry soap with lavender and eucalyptus.

    As well, just wanted to share that it is a good idea to lubricate the skin with something. For me, I will try a solution of olive oil, eucalyptus oil, and mix a bit of pine oil in there for the time being. As well I am going to try spreading baking powder around the bed I actually like to sleep close to the floor. I don’t have a high budget I live on a couple hundred dollars a month, so I have to scrape by and be frugal and even learn how to make orange oil from using orange peels.

    As for cleaning, I have hardwood floors, so I will try a solution of hot water, table salt, vinegar, lemon juice and put some strong smelling essential oils with lavender to kill them. I also have lots of paper-clutter, so I will clean that up. Thank you, I will test my potions and share as a person with high melanin in their skin.

    Thank you.

  9. Gerty Avatar

    Two years ago my four kids were been eating alive by bedbugs. My best treatment for those critters was alcohol 91% . I would get up at night between 12 and 3 am, that’s when they would come out crawling on the mattress heading for their meal and, I would spray them with the alcohol that killed them in contact. I used this method for four weeks, sprayed the mattresses? ,the beds and other areas of the rooms during the day for what I could not see,and I would have direct contact with them at night. I kept the kids from sleeping in their rooms during that time due to the alcohol fume, I also refrain them from putting their school bags and their coats in their rooms. I had a strong belief that those critters came from their school. It? was hard work fighting? this battle but when I look back It was worth it, I had to wash the blinds in the tub with hot water and soap, washed everything that could be washed?, vacuum every day repaired? few little cracks and repainted all three rooms I didn’t have to get rid of any furnitures either. In other to win this battle you really need to be persistent in your dedication to be free of those unwanted visitors.

  10. Lori Avatar

    I just had to comment here, as my dealings with bedbugs seven years ago was one of the worst nightmares of my life. In my experience, they are the most hellish and difficult house pest you will ever deal with.

    My husband and I were living in an apartment at the time, and we had a friend from NYC who occasionally visited for a couple days at a time. He didn’t inform us before that his apt in NYC was infested with bedbugs, so I was perplexed when I started waking up with strange, terribly itchy bites all over. Further, I discovered that I had a very bad, almost allergic reaction to them. It made me very stuffed up, with watery eyes and painfully itchy. When we figured out what they were and where they came from, we went on the warpath and tried to learn everything we could. I always kept the apt very clean, so it was very distressing. I don’t like using a lot of chemicals, so we tried essential oils, like tea tree and neem oil. We took the mattress apart daily and steamed every inch with a clothing steamer. Nothing worked. When they bit me in the night, it would wake me up from a deep sleep. I was very anxious to go to sleep at night and was getting sick from lack of sleep. We couldn’t afford to hire an exterminator and were really nervous to inform the landlord (I know that’s bad, but it was a very stressful situation). Finally, we discovered this bedbug kit online. I’m sorry, I can’t remember the brand or website, but we might still have one of the spray bottles somewhere. It had diatomaceous earth, a spray that killed them on contact, a spray that caused them to molt spontaneously when they touched it, caulking to fill cracks, and plastic covers for mattresses. We sprayed the mattress and box spring with both sprays, covered both with the plastic (which were basically giant clear bags), filled them with the diatomaceous earth, and sealed them. Then we used the caulking on every crack in the room, sprinkled the diatomaceous earth along every edge and around the feet of the bed frame, and pulled the bed away from the wall. They can’t jump, but they climb really well. I know this sounds like overkill, but it’s the only thing that worked. Even so, it took a few days. We lived there for a few more months and no more bedbugs. Thank God we have never dealt with them again! But I still have nightmares about it.

    We are no longer friends with the guy from NYC.

  11. titus Avatar

    aur house help came with these tiny monsters but we didt know it until she left.after visiting her room we found them full every part.our work was simple.i bought diazinone that kills ticks i dipped everything that was on that room exempt the matress.i also dismantled the bed and sprayed it all over including the walls.i rewashed the clothes in clean water i put the on the sun to dry.that was the end of them.

  12. Sydney Avatar

    Karin has it right! I worked in a residential treatment and detox center for years. We had patients with mystery rashes for a very long time before someone reported seeing a bed bug, then it was a solid year of work to get them under control (partly aided by a corporate office that refused to pay to have the entire building treated at once) It is an old building with old furniture. We removed, washed and dried 60 minutes on high heat in a commercial dryer everything we could ($500 at the laundromat every time we did this!) and disassembled much of the furniture for treatment. They initially had a pest control company spray, but the cost was prohibitive and it didn’t really solve the problem. As for the building, the only thing Karin didn’t mention was to remove baseboards, switch plates and artwork while cleaning and treating. The company finally sprung for a mobile heating-treating unit and everything goes in there periodically. Heat works! Diligence and prevention are the essential. Keeping them out is not a one time thing, but requires changing habits in the long run!

  13. Kara Avatar

    I second using dryer first! They won’t be killed in the wash and will just crawl out. A hand steamer helps, DE. And yes THEY WILL come out when you are awake and even day if hungry enough. I had trouble with them after an infested hotel stay where they feasted on my son while he was awake and testing against the headboard of a bed. The travelers we brought home I imagibe crawled out of the washing machine as I washed clothes first. The first couple molts they are clear-cut looking and I found on on my leg, while standing next the washing machine, it was turning red with my blood from feeding, while awake, and during the day. Be careful everyone!

  14. Karin Avatar

    We found that our home was infested with bedbugs when we returned from a 6 week camping trip 1 1/2 years ago. They apparently originated from our oldest son’s room and had spread throughout the house when we were gone in the search for food. This was one of the most difficult battles of my life, but I did finally get rid of them. Sadly, it may have also cost me my sense of smell, so please be careful with what and how you spray. I used a multipronged approach: vauum, launder, dry, steam (you’ll need a very powerful steamer, mine is from McCullough), create barriers: encase matresses and box springs, diatomaceous earth along baseboards, in closets etc. And spray. I used something called Odoban, but now I would definitely go with Eo’s. You have to have a plan. First remove all bedding etc and place it in a large bag to carry it to your washer/dryer to minimize the risk of spreading through the house. Discard the bag outside immediately. Your mattress covers have to be the bed bug kind. Others will not work. I vacuumed, then steamed and sprayed each mattress before encasing to make sure as many bugs as possible were dead. We wound up burning almost every piece of furniture in my son’s room. Much of it was particle board and you really cannot get them out of that. We got rid of all box springs and replaced our bed frames/box springs with metal platforms. No wood! Every time there was evidence of a bug, the entire room had to be torn apart and re-cleaned. I also put white sheets on all of the beds to see if there were any blood spots. My son and I were bitten without reactions. My poor husband, who had recently undergone cancer treatment had been battling a horrible mystery rash that none of his docs could explain. One night was so bad that he drove himself to the ER! The bugs are gone now, his “rash” has disappeared completely. We now know they were bb bites. He is our indicator, should, Heaven forbid, a re-infestation occur. Now everything that does not need to be left out is stored in sealed smooth plastic containers. Anything I bring home used does not enter the house before a thorough inspection. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I continue to get rid of anything we no longer need. It took me nearly 8 months, but it’s been 10 months since the last time we had evidence of any bugs. If you are battling this you have to be diligent and employ precision. One room at a time. It is possible to do it on your own, but it isn’t easy.

  15. Esther Avatar

    I got rid of bed bugs in two older apartments by taking cayenne capsules every day. I swear by this for mosquito bites as well. They will not bite you with this running through your blood. The cayenne capsule will also cleanse you and keep you in pristine condition. And I sprayed my bed bug mattress cover and surrounding carpet with white vinegar. You can also steam with white vinegar any wood or furniture you have.

  16. Ana Avatar

    I think we have bed bugs… often times, I go to sleep and then wake up with a bite that looks like a mosquito bite.. on my face! It doesn’t itch… still gross to think it was on my face.

  17. Karen .scribner Avatar
    Karen .scribner

    Read Bugbusters by Bernice Lifton. She has all these ideas plus: bedbugs live in house sparrow nests. Do not let these birds nest in your house. Also her rule for most pests is :Block them out. Seal and caulk all cracks; mice, rats, insects come into any building in cracks. Keep the chemicals away from your house. If you have ants and termites, order beneficial nematodes online so they will be fresher than from a store.

  18. adithya Avatar

    You may use the sprays for eliminating croches when you find the colonies. Individually spay any alcohol based deo or pain killer spray over the bugs for froze them

  19. Angela Avatar

    Hi, I was reading your post on the Intellibed earlier, and could not figure out how to reply to that post. I recently bought one of their mattresses but am having a difficult time finding a foundation that meets their standards. What kind of base do you have your mattress on? Thank you!

  20. Megan Avatar

    A friend stayed over and brought me fleas. I didn’t realize it until into the third week when i noticed my cat, who usually slept in the guest room, was scratching more than normal. I hadn’t washed the sheets immediately after my guest had left, and when i mentioned fleas (because she and her sister had cats), she told me they were battling them for close to two months. I wish she had told me that BEFORE she stayed at my house that one night.

    I had someone else stay around the same time, and while i can’t be 100% sure, i think that guest brought bedbugs. In the bed where i usually sleep :0(

    I ended up ultimately using chemicals on the fleas because i wasn’t getting all of them no matter what i did. I put food grade diatomaceous earth (DE) in the cats food, rubbed DE on them and me, and i drank some with water just in case.

    For the bedbugs, i was already doing the daily vacuuming after spreading around DE for the fleas, so did in my room as well. I took away anything from aroundthe bed, washed it all down with ammonia and found a book by my bed was a hiding spot, so that went the way of all things. I washed the bedding in flea and tick shampoo (as i had done for the guest room bedding), and took apart my bed. Used straight ammonia in every hole, crack, and crevice. I saturated cotton swabs with ammonia and stuck them in every screw hole in my bed. Let them sit in there for 10 minutes or so. Let dry, did it a second time, let dry, and reassembled the bed. Did the ammonia, dry, repeat on every crevice around the windowsill and along the baseboards. Also put it on the mattress and box springs. Continued with the assiduous vacuuming sessions for about three weeks after that. For two of those three weeks, also spread around DE. I didn’t have a problem after that.

    In both cases, these people are very clean, their homes are clean. Now if anyone stays at my house, i wash the sheets and towels pretty much as soon as i’m done waving good-bye to them. If i stay someplace and wonder if i’ve brought home any insect hitchhikers, i wipe down the outsides of any of my luggage with ammonia, and if it’s a sunny day, let the bags hang in the sun.

    As already mentioned, i usually only take in what i need to use, so if i have a bag of “just in case” stuff, i leave that in my vehicle.

    I suppose some will argue that ammonia isn’t as natural as they’d wish. I know my one cat was looking at me funny when she smelled the ammonia, and it took me awhile to work out that of course urine can have an ammonia smell. She was wondering why i was spreading pee all over!

    1. SamieJo Avatar

      Dawn dish soap kills fleas. Ive used it with success as pet shampoo as well as putting soap water in a bowl and dipping the flea comb into the bowl when one was caught.

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