What are bed bugs and just how dangerous are these little critters? First of, don’t confuse them for dust mites; while dust mites are microscopic and invisible to the naked eye, bed bugs are actually visible if you know how to look for them. Adult bed bugs are usually around just 5mm in length, making it easy for them to hide. They’re also reddish brown and tend to leave brown smudges of feces wherever they may hide.
Bed bugs are terrible, annoying pests but thankfully, according to the CDC, there’s never been any instance of a disease being transferred from bed bugs to humans. So, even though experts have found over 28 disease pathogens inside bed bugs, they’re not considered a lethal threat.
But they are legitimate pests; their small bites can cause inflammation and welts, leading to unsightly marks on the skin and wounds that could make existing skin conditions (like eczema) worse. The good news is that they’re mostly vulnerable to three things: vacuuming, extreme heat, and poison. You just need to know how to take advantage of these weaknesses.
Step 1: Quarantine all Contaminated Bed Items
Strip your mattress bare naked, but do it slowly and carefully. If there’s any possibility that your bed sheets, pillows, soft toys, and comforters are already contaminated, you might just spread the bed bugs around if you don’t handle beddings with care. After carefully stripping your mattress, put all possibly contaminated items inside sealable plastic bags.
Immediately transport these contaminated items to your washing machine, and make sure the plastic bags are sealed so there’s no risk of spreading the bugs around your home. Likewise, be careful when you unload these items into the wash. Make sure to use the hot water setting on your machine to ensure that the little buggers actually die (using the warm setting will just give them a comfy bath).
Step 2: Vacuum Your Entire Bed
Now that the sheets and other beddings are taken care of, turn your attention to your mattress, boxspring, and bed frame. For this step, you’ll need a powerful vacuum that’s going to be dedicated to handling bed bug infestations. This is because using this vacuum for anything else runs the risk of spreading eggs and live bugs throughout your home.
Alternatively, you can thoroughly clean the vacuum cleaner afterwards to reduce the risk of further infestation when you use it elsewhere. You can also try using a vacuum cleaner that’s designed specifically for sucking up bed bugs; they’re a bit pricey but are totally worth it if you have a recurring bed bug problem.
Bed bugs are really, really good at hiding, so turn over any seams, labels, and any other places where they can hide on the surface of your mattress. Just like when you were removing the beddings, work slow and carefully so you don’t just shake the bed bugs off and spread them throughout the room. As much as possible, don’t allow the mattress, boxspring, or bed frame to touch your body while you work; use your arms to keep your distance.
Use a slow back-and-forth motion to get every nook and cranny that the vacuum can reach. Do the same with the box spring and bed frame, make sure to get every square inch to capture and kill as many bugs as possible.
Step 3: Steam-Clean Your Bed
While effective, vacuuming only gets the bed bugs that are on the surface. You need something that can go deeper, so it’s time to do some steam-cleaning. Do this in the same way as you vacuum-cleaned your bed: slowly, very thoroughly, and being careful not to miss seams, corners, nooks, and crannies.
After being steam-cleaned, make sure to set your mattress in a place where it can thoroughly dry. You may have gotten rid of bed bugs, but if moisture is allowed to linger on your mattress, you could be looking at a potential mold problem. Avoid this by exposing your mattress to natural sunlight and lots of wind. Likewise, wipe down the box spring and bed frame to get rid of moisture and prevent damage; throw the rag you used inside the plastic bags you used for the contaminated beddings.
Step 4: Spray Bug Poison on Your Bed
Use an organic bed bug killer formula to spray all parts of your bed frame and boxspring. If possible, get a non-staining and non-toxic (to humans) bed bug contact spray so you can spray your mattress as well. Allow this spray to evaporate and use a brush to remove any bed bugs that it killed.
Contact sprays kill on contact but have no residual effect, so you’ll need to follow up by spraying with a residual poison. Do this only for your bed frame. Allow the poison residue to remain on your bed frame to prevent further contamination; don’t worry, as with contact spray, there are residual sprays that are natural as well as child and pet-friendly.
Step 5: Encase Your Mattress With a Bed Bug Protector
Especially designed mattress encasements can cover your entire mattress and protect you from future bed bug infestations. Once your mattress is fully dry from the steaming, cover it with an encasement and put your clean bed sheets back on the mattress.
Step 6: Put Your Bedroom on Infestation Treatment Mode
It’s more than likely that you didn’t get rid of the entire bed bug population on or near your bed. Remember that these little buggers are very, very good at hiding, so the fight’s not over yet. It’s time to put your bed on bed bug treatment mode.
Remove any unnecessary pillows, toys, and comforters from your bed to reduce the hiding places for the remaining bed bugs that may still be in your bedroom. Make sure that no parts of your beddings reaches the floor, because they can use those to climb onto your bed. With only the four legs of your bed making direct contact with the floor, put bed bug traps on each leg; this serves the double purpose of preventing them from reaching you as well as allowing you to monitor their current population.
Use your vacuum cleaner all over your bedroom, working from top to bottom. Make sure to get every nook and cranny, especially in spaces near your bed. While bed bugs can hide anywhere, they prefer places where they can be near you while you’re asleep and immobile, allowing them to easily feed and then immediately return to the safety of their hiding places.
Follow all these steps so you can fully rid your home of the nasty little buggers. But if you’ve followed all steps and the bug population in your home is still uncontrollable, it may be time to call in the experts.