How to get rid of bed bugs



Treating bed bugs is one of the most challenging activities. Some have the unfortunate luck of finding out that they have an infestation inhabiting under their roof. Most people will not realize they have an infestation right away. It could be months before someone notices signs of bed bugs.

How can bed bugs be treated?

There are multiple ways to get rid of bed bugs.

Some methods include home remedies, others include using more toxic products, or even large tools and devices to eliminate an infestation for good. But do DIY methods work? Below are treatments that you can try at home. Although you may be inclined to try some of the following methods, it is always recommended to find a pest professional to first investigate your home to suggest the proper treatment, depending on the severity.

What kills bed bugs?

Bed bugs may appear to have super-powers, but as it turns out, it’s not difficult to kill a bed bug. What is difficult, however, is finding the intrusive night-time nibblers to exact our revenge on. Bed bugs are the best at hide-and-seek; so the most difficult part of eradicating bed bugs is often finding where they live, or aggregate. But, once found, they are easily terminated. Heat, temperatures above 50C/122F, will kill them. Pesticides, available at home stores, like Wal-Mart can kill them. Eco-friendly options: diatomaceous earth and NEEM oil, are commonly used options as well. Before arm-swiping every cream, spray, and fairy dust into your cart guaranteed to rid your home of bed bugs, review your treatment options and determine which is the right one for you. And, while deciding which “who killed it best” option is for you, prepare your home for treatment. That will improve the likelihood your chosen method of bed bug killer will be effective.

Everyday Products for Treating Bed Bugs

Boric Acid is one of the most commonly used home remedy to fight bed bugs.

We have all been there. Rummaging through our cupboards and pulling up “how to kill bed bugs with my spice cabinet.” Many people have tried to mix different liquids they have available at home to see if it can be used as a bug killer. Some work, and some do not. Here are some every day home remedies for killing bed bugs, or at least, ridding them of your sanctuary for awhile:

  1. Vinegar. Vinegar is similar to alcohol in that it can come from various plants and grapes. It can also be made with different ingredients. Is vinegar really effective at killing bed bugs?  To use vinegar on bed bugs to its full advantage, you must use it in a spray bottle. Careful that you do not get vinegar in your eyes and wear a mask to cover your nose and mouth as it can be quite potent to some. As bed bugs are much smaller creatures, the vinegar will have strong effect on them. The only time the vinegar will be successful is if it is sprayed directly in contact with the bed bugs. Spraying it carelessly around the assumed area of the infestation will do little to no good as it will not be effective enough. Vinegar cannot kill bed bugs unfortunately, so it is better to stick with the steaming option.
  2. Baking Soda. Although there is no solid evidence supporting the success rate of using baking soda to kill bed bugs, it can still get rid of them by melting into their shell that causes dehydration. The baking soda granules causes internal bleeding when sliced into their shell. Those who assume they have an infestation will sprinkle the baking soda around the infected area and proceed to vacuum everything the following day. In essence, killing bed bugs with baking soda may not be the most effective option for DIY treatment.
  3. Boric Acid
    According to entomology today, boric acid dust is the most common treatment for bed bugs. The article states that Prof. Coby Schal, Ph.D, looked at two methods for using boric: 1) By contact with dust and 2) By ingestion. In the study by the Journal of Economic Entomology, Prof. Schal and his colleagues said boric acid can actually kill a majority of bed bugs, but there is a catch: it can only kill the bug if it is ingested. Although it is more effective if digested, it can also have a strong impact on external contact but overall doe not guarantee that it will kill the bed bugs.
  4. Permethrin. Permethrin is found within the pyrethroid family that are categorized as synthetic chemicals that mimic effects of a flower called the Chrysanthemum. As hey are safe to use, they are also useful for killing bed bugs. The permethrin is said to not be a recommended choice as bed bugs are unfortunately becoming more susceptible to pesticides and the effects are not as harsh as in previous decades. This chemical is also very unsafe to use if you have any pets.
  5. Rubbing Alcohol. Will rubbing alcohol kill bed bugs? It is unlikely it will rid the infestation forever. Individually, it can kill bed bugs and eggs, but if the problem is bigger than just a few of the pests, you will not get very far with using this solution. Alcohol will dissolve their cells, dry and kill their eggs. It may only eliminate a part of the infestation but not all. Rubbing alcohol is not recommended to use when attempting to get rid of bed bugs.

Bed Bug Removal Methods

Some bed bug removal methods are harsher than others. If you are one who is comfortable using bed bug bombs or traps, you can consider the following:

Bed Bug Bombs

Bed bug bombs, or insecticide foggers, are used to rid bed bugs of your home. Many people attempt DIY bed bug bombs and while some may be effective, others may not. Variables for effectiveness include: Infestation size, environmental conditions, and treatment application.

Essential Oils

Essential oils could potentially kill bed bugs depending on its application. If it is directed to the bed bug, it will absorb the oil through its body. If the oil is used not in contact with the bed bugs and blindly being used on beds and couches, it could slowly cause harm to humans and pets if inhaled for far too long. Essential oils may only be effective if used in direct contact with the bed bug but not for general use if you cannot see them.


Foggers can be found in store. Over time, people have attempted to use bed bug foggers but fail because they do not infiltrate their hiding spots. The fogger will essentially encourage the bugs to spread into other areas that were not affected and create a new nest where they will not feel threatened.

Bed Bug Traps

Bed bug traps were designed to trap and kill on contact.

In the past centuries, people would place a dish pan under the bed’s legs so the bed bug would avoid finding its host and biting them as told by Michael F. Potter in The History of Bed Bug Management. He also notes that these dishes would contain oil or kerosene liquids to ensure the bed bugs would drown before getting to their blood feed.

Today, bed bug traps are called interceptor cups. Since our creepy crawler enemies have the most difficulty travelling across smoother surfaces and easily crawl on bumpier and rougher textures, a cup was designed to trap the bugs by its form. It looks like a small container sitting inside of a larger one. The bed bug would enter the unknown trap from wherever they are coming from, and once they find their way inside, they will be unable to escape.

Bed bugs traps work and sometimes they do not. It is hard to say they are 100% effective because bed bugs are one of the hardest bugs to capture. There is no harm in trying and maybe it might be effective for some. If you would like to learn how to build your own bed bug trap, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has an instructional video to show anyone how to build it.

Another choice is a mattress encasement system. This mattress cover is made of a fabric called vinyl or polyurethane. In the case bed bugs are currently living in your mattress or box spring, the encasement is designed to create a blockade between them and you. It is also easier to spot them with this system. The cost of one of these encasement systems vary between $20 to $600. Ensure you are purchasing the correct one for your mattress and consult with a specialist.

Passive traps are traps that are relatively close to the host and in between where the bed bugs are and where you are. Some people have put petroleum jelly on the legs of their beds to avoid the bugs from climbing up onto their mattress. Any sticky substance will do as it will make it extremely difficult for them to travel upwards.

Active traps are ones that will trap the bed bugs by actively attracting them by emitting small amounts of carbon dioxide to resemble that of their prey. Since humans release a certain amount of carbon dioxide into the air as they sleep, it attracts the bed bugs even more. This trap makes the bugs crawl up an inclined surface. As soon as the bug is trapped inside, it will tumble into the smooth sides where the bug will have a challenge climbing.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Your Bed

There are some necessary steps to take when getting rid of bed bugs on your bed. The first step is to reduce the amount of clutter, as bed bugs love to hide and nest in cluttered spaces. Remove any items such as blankets, soft plush toys, pillows, etc. from your bed and keep in mind that bed bugs can still hitch hike from room to room. Place all of the items into a plastic bag and tie it tightly with a strip in case they have been affected.

Next, take all of your garments and your linens and place them in the washing machine on the highest temperature (Around 120 degrees Fahrenheit) and leave them to wash for 20 minutes. After you have taken care of the clothing and linens, you can then begin to disassemble the head board and bed frame. Bed bugs love these hiding spots so it is important to check the box springs especially. Remove any fabric and now you can prepare for treatment. First, consider using the mattress encasement previously discussed before doing anything else. Once the encasement is on, no bed bugs can get in or out and it is a good idea to remove the mattress from your home.

By using a stiff brush, scrub any infested surfaces. Look behind furniture and clear all places that make great hiding spots. Ensure you thoroughly clean the area. Vacuum the entire room and do not avoid any spaces.

Can I Get Rid of Bed Bugs Without an Exterminator?

Getting rid of bed bugs through DIY methods can only take you so far.

As we discussed some options earlier, they are not quite harsh enough to completely take care of your infestation problem. Finding professional help from Pest Management is the fastest and safest option. Not only do they now how to do it safely, they will only use products registered under the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Exterminators know what to do and how to do it properly. Do NOT attempt at killing bed bugs yourself especially with chemicals as there is a health risk.

There is no harm is vacuuming them up properly, or washing and drying your clothing the right way. But this will only tackle a small percentage of the bigger problem. You can get rid of bed bugs without an exterminator but it is not recommended.

Why You SHOULD Hire an Exterminator     

Yes, there are some treatments that you can pursue on your own, but it is always best to hire a professional exterminator. Reasons being that:

  • They put in the time and effort into taking care and treating your bed bug infestation with diligence and attention to detail as they know what to look for and how to best solve the problem
  • They know the signs and understand the intensity of the situation
  • There is a right way and a wrong way to kill bed bugs, and exterminators know exactly who to and what not to do. Exterminators were properly trained and have experience dealing with all kinds of pests
  • They will show you how to take preventative measures to avoid bringing back an infestation
  • It may be costly, but it is worth it
  • Self treatment can only take you so far, so you are better off calling in the professionals to finish the job

Keep in mind that a clean, well-kept home DOES NOT mean you will never find bed bugs in your home as they will target any environment.

Treating bed bugs can be difficult on your own. It is recommended to consult with your local pest control professional about getting rid of bed bugs. Before use, read the labels carefully. Ensure they are registered and have a PCP registration number on it as it is illegal in Canada to use an unregistered pesticide product if Health Canada has not reviewed it.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM): Your Strategy for Success

Integrated Pest Management is the most highly recommended system of attack when it comes to gaining control over bed bugs. Yes, system; the reality when combating bed bugs is it requires a multi-level plan of attack. That’s where IPM comes in. IPM combines physical and chemical methods of treatment to achieve victory over, and eradication of, the common bed bug in your home. Both Health Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) solicits the use of IPM when combating bed bugs:

Bed bug control is most effective when an IPM approach is implemented with diligent participation by the residents.

Individuals who develop a plan integrating multiple bed bug treatments will have the most effective results when dealing with bed bugs. Physical methods, chemical solutions, and advice from professionals, all used together, are a person’s best defense when warring against bed bugs.

How to get rid of bed bugs