Bed bugs are often called “hitchhikers” because they attach themselves to luggage, clothes and linens and travel to wherever these items are taken. This is why they can spread so easily, and they’re often found in hotels, schools, homes, stores, public transportation and offices.
While infestations are difficult to detect, there are things you can do to get rid of them.
What are signs that you have bed bugs?
Bed bugs cause painless, itchy bites that resemble bites from other insects. This is why they are easy to overlook, and they can continue infesting areas unchecked if you aren’t careful.
While you may be able to detect adult bugs by eye, younger bed bugs are smaller and paler and therefore easily overlooked. One of the easiest ways to tell if you have bed bugs is if you see the following on your mattresses, sheets or upholstery:
- Blood stains
- Small reddish-brown fecal spots
- Eggs, molted skins
How to remove bed bugs in 4 steps
1. Identify infested areas
- Search for bed bugs yourself or hire a local pest control agency to do an inspection and confirm which sites have become infested.
- Thoroughly inspect nearby areas to check for the extent of the infestation: in the tags of your mattress, the cracks between your bed frame and headboard, baseboards etc.
2. Contain the infestation
- Vacuum over possible hiding places, seal up the vacuumed contents into a bag, throw away the bag outdoors and thoroughly clean the vacuum.
- Place the infested items in a sealed plastic bag and treat them with high heat in your washer and dryer.
- If items like electronics cannot be washed in high heat, you can leave them in a sealed bag for a few months to a year to ensure that the bed bugs die.
- If you can’t clean certain furniture items, throw them away and make sure no one else uses them. Spray paint a warning sign on the discarded furniture to make people aware that they have been infested with bed bugs.
3. Kill the bed bugs
- Heat treatment: Wash affected items in hot water for at least 30 minutes, then dry them on the highest heat setting or use a heat chamber.
- Cold treatment: Place sealed items in the freezer setting at 0 F for 3-4 days.
- Steam clean: Use a temperature of at least 113 F to steam your mattress, pillow covers, curtains and bedsheets. Avoid using forced airflow to prevent bed bugs from scattering.
- Chemical treatments: If you decide to try insecticides, use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered chemicals such as pyrethrins and pyrethroids that are specifically made for bed bugs.
4. Keep the bed bugs out
Even after your house or other spaces are free of bed bugs, regularly check them for any repeated infestation. Once you’ve gotten rid of bed bugs, make sure they’re gone for good:
- Regularly clean and vacuum your bedding, furniture, carpets and curtains.
- Avoid cluttering your spaces.
- Seal cracks around your home.
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