Oh no. You have bed bugs.
Let me start by saying how sorry I am and also reassuring you that you’re not alone. Bed bug infestations are becoming more and more common throughout the United States and, like the common cold, bed bugs are easy to get, tough to get rid of, and incredibly annoying.
How to get rid of bed bugs? Is it possible?
Yes, it’s possible. I myself have conquered two bouts of bed bugs in my lifetime and have come out on top.
But just how do you get rid of bed bugs? I’ll be honest – working on how to get rid of bed bugs is a process, and the first step of that process is identifying that you do, in fact, have bed bugs.
Identifying A Bedbug Infestation
Once you know what to look for, bedbugs are easy to identify.
So, you think you saw a bedbug. Now what?
First of all, relax. I know you’ve already panic-searched “how to get rid of bed bugs” because you’re here, but before you alert the masses and call in the National Guard, take a deep breath and do your research. Make sure you do, infact, have bedbugs before you go looking for how to get rid of bedbugs.
When I first moved to Atlanta I thought I saw a bed bug in my bedroom and lost it. I alerted my apartment complex and looked up how to get rid of bed bugs on my own while they hired an exterminator. We got everyone all in a tiff over some kind of flower beetle. It was very embarrassing.
In my defense, this was before I had any experience with bedbugs, and if I had calmed down and looked a little closer, it would have been easy for me to tell that what I was seeing was not actually one of these horrid little insects.
Why? Because bedbugs are pretty easy to identify when you know what to look for.
What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs range in size from 1/4th to 3/16th of an inch once they reach maturity.
When discussing how to get rid of bed bugs you must first know what a bedbug looks like.
Bed bugs are small but not so small that you cannot see them with the naked eye, so it’s easy to figure out how to get rid of bedbugs once you see them. They are especially easy to spot when they are in their adult state or directly after they’ve fed and have become engorged with blood. (So gross).
For a size comparison, an adult bedbug can be as large as an apple seed and about the same shape and color. A juvenile bedbug, on the other hand, can be as small as the speck left by the tip of a sharpie.
Bedbug eggs are small and white and difficult to see, but once bed bugs hatch and start feeding they are usually dark in the center (with blood) and an amber brown color on their shell.
They do not have wings, they do not have any obvious mouth sucker like a mosquito, and they cannot jump or fly.
They do climb, however, and they are fast. They have six legs and tend to look very beetle-like. On average, they are around 2.5mm – 2.5mm in length, although if fully engorged their bodies can expand even more. I know. It’s horrifying.
I know by now you’re itching to know how to get rid of bed bugs, but that depends on how far along the infestation is.
Here’s the thing. Chances are if you’ve seen a bedbug, your bedbug infestation is already kind of serious. Bed bugs are most active at night, and they only come out every so often to feed. They spend most of their time hidden away in cracks and crevices digesting their latest meal or mating.
Yes, I said mating. Bed bugs are ravenous maters and one female bed bug can lay as many as five eggs a day and up to 500 eggs in her lifetime.
That’s why the sighting of one bedbug is usually indicative of an entire nest. By then, it’s game on and you’ve got to get your battle boots ready.
So, do you know how to get rid of bed bugs when you can’t see them? Don’t worry. Bed bugs leave clues as to their existence from the moment they move in, and if you’re especially vigilant you may be able to catch them early.
Tell-Tale Signs Of Bedbugs
Wondering how to get rid of bed bugs quickly? Try catching the infestation as early as possible. The less bed bugs you have to battle, the better.
You may have bed bugs if you:
- Find small spots of blood on your sheets or pillowcase. This is usually the first sign of bedbugs and is a result of them biting you in the night.
- Find unexplained rust-colored spots on your mattress, clothing, bedding or walls. This is bed bug excrement and a sign they have been feeding.
- Wake up with an unexplained rash or several clusters of red bumps
- Smell something strong and musty in a certain area of the home (the result of an odor released from bedbug’s scent glands)
Understanding A Bedbug’s Lifecycle Is Key To Understanding How To Get Rid Of Bed bugs
Bed bugs go through five life stages and can live up to a year
Understanding how to get rid of bed bugs goes hand-in-hand with understanding a bed bug’s life cycle.
Bed bugs are insects known as nymphs. They go through five stages after hatching:
- First Stage Nymph (1.5 mm)
- Second Stage Nymph (2 mm)
- Third Stage Nymph (2.5 mm)
- Fourth Stage Nymph (3.5 mm)
- Fifth Stage Nymph (4.5 mm)
It takes some bed bugs as long as 37 days to reach maturity after hatching, however they are able and eager to feed the moment they do. Getting the bedbug eggs before they hatch is how to get rid of bedbugs most effectively as it keeps them from breeding and multiplying. However, that’s easier said than done.
Typically, bed bugs come out to feed every five to ten days. Then they go back to their nest and molt or breed. And while they like to feed around once a week, bed bugs can survive for up to a year in the right conditions without feeding at all.
That, and the fact that one female bed bug can be responsible for up to 500 eggs in her lifetime, is one of the reasons bed bugs can be so difficult to get rid of. It is also why following the treatment regimes carefully and repetitively is exactly how to get rid of bedbugs effectively.
Now, I know you’re feeling totally creeped out, so let’s get to remedying this really disgusting situation, shall we?
Start By Doing A Thorough Inspection And Look For The Source
You’ll need to put on your detective’s cap and do a thorough investigation of your whole home to find these sneaky bedbugs.
Once you know you do indeed have a bed bug infestation, the first thing you’ll want to do is a thorough inspection. Finding bedbugs is your first step.
You can kill every bed bug you see on your wall or in your bed and there will always be more until you get to the source, and that source is the nest. Finding the nest is how to get rid of bedbugs for good. However, If your bed bug problem is really severe, there can be more than one nest in different areas of the house, so be vigilant and scour everything.
Most bed bug infestations take place within five feet of a bed or of an area where someone is sleeping often, so be extra vigilant around bedrooms and couches and look for all the signs of bedbugs we mentioned above.
Do A Careful Inspection Of The Following:
- All Mattresses And Boxsprings
- Bed Headboards And Footboards
- Cribs And Strollers (If applicable)
- All Other Furniture, (i.e. Desks, Tables, Nightstands, etc)
- Along All Baseboards
- Behind Picture Frames
- Book Shelves
- Under Beds
- Couches, Chairs, Sitting Areas
- In Closets
- All Electronics
- All Appliances
Pre-treatment Steps For Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs
Strip your beds and wash all bedding, linens and clothing immediately.
Pretreating your home is an important first step once you’ve identified you have a bed bug problem:
- Remove Bedding And Linens
- Empty Drawers and Closets
- Wash Everything You Can And Store Treated Items In Plastic Trash Bags Outside Of The Infested Area
- Heat Treat What You Can In A Dryer
- Declutter ASAP
- Pull Out The Drawers And Dismantle The Bed Frames
- Clean, Sweep and Vacuum
- Don’t Forget To Wipe Down The Nooks and Crannies
- Caulk And Seal As Needed
Once you’ve done the above, you will now be ready for the next step.
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Bedbugs
Some people improvise with using powder and insecticides, like this person who made a homemade bedbug trap with duct tape adhesive and dust insecticide.
When I first realized I had a bedbug problem, I didn’t think it was that serious and assumed I could handle it myself. I looked up how to get rid of bedbugs at home and found a few good home remedies that did prove effective in the beginning. That said, there are some home remedies that didn’t work well like vinegar and cinnamon, so don’t waste your time on those.
Some home remedies that do get rid of bedbugs include:
If you use Borax as a natural home cleaner then you may already have a way to get rid of bedbugs if you catch them early enough. Dust Borax over your stripped mattress and other infested areas and leave it on for 24 hours to kill the bugs.
- 90% Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol that is 90% or higher can kill bedbugs. I put rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and kept it by my bed. I also went around the house as if I was doing a blessing and sprayed every inch as if I was banishing a demon with holy water. I mean, it’s basically the same thing.
- Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Oil and Peppermint Oil
For those of you with kids and pets in the home, I’d recommend using one of the natural oils above as opposed to rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is highly flammable and can be toxic, while tea tree oil is healthier and more gentle. However, it does not kill bed bugs on contact like rubbing alcohol, but it does help keep them away by covering scents they are attracted to like human sweat.
- Baking Soda
While baking soda can’t really kill the bedbugs, it does make their environment less hospitable. Bed Bugs like moisture and baking soda dries their environment, thus tending to drive them away.
I’m listing bleach because it does kill bed bugs on contact, however, I don’t recommend it. It is bleach, afterall, so it’s going to stain anything it comes into contact with. More importantly, it’s highly toxic and should not be used around children and pets.
Need more ideas on how to get rid of bedbugs with home remedies? The below video shows seven effective ways to get rid of bedbugs at home
Powders Or Insecticides? How To Get Rid Of Bedbugs Most Effectively
Powders work well for carpeted areas and last longer than aerosols do.
I know you’re looking at how to get rid of bedbugs as quickly as possible, so keep in mind that both aerosols and powders work well. They each also have their benefits when looking at how to get rid of bedbugs, depending on your situation.
For example, powders are longer lasting than insecticides, but insecticides allow you to reach areas you may not be able to reach with powders. I was personally desperate when looking up how to get rid of bedbugs so I used a little of everything.
Here are some of my favorite products.
HARRIS Bed Bug Powder Killer
This was my go-to when I was trying to figure out how to get rid of bedbugs. I had read up on it, liked the reviews, and decided to try it. It was simple to find and affordable, and I liked the easy-pour spout.
I used this powder like a salt ring of protection, sprinkling it around my bed, around my baseboards, and even around my doorway. Honestly, you can really use this anywhere you can reach.
The only problem is that my little dog kept getting it on her nose and paw pads and I’d have to watch her constantly and keep bathing her, so that was tough. That said, this product does say it’s safe to use in homes with people and pets. Still, if you do have kiddos or pets, I would recommend reading the safety warnings very carefully before using so you know how to keep them safe.
Hot Shot Bedbug Fogger
I haven’t used Hot Shot for bedbugs but I do know this is a tried and tested formula that has proven successful for others. What I like about this fogger is that it not only works on bedbugs but it is also effective on other pests like ticks, fleas and even lice.
Plus, it can last for up to seven months and reduce the chances for another infestation during that time period
Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Powder
Ortho is another name I know and trust, although I haven’t tried their bedbug powder. However, when I was speaking to some friends who had gone through a bedbug infestation before me and was asking them how to get rid of bedbugs, this is the product they recommended.
It works on fleas and ticks as well and is also odorless. Unlike some of the other powders I came across, Ortho bedbug powder kills on contact, which I like, and can last for up to eight months once applied.
HARRIS Bed Bug Spray and Powder Kit
If you’re really in a pickle and just can’t seem to figure out how to get rid of bedbugs, you can try this HARRIS Bed Bug kit. It comes with both a powder and a spray, but also includes special formulas for resistant bed bugs.
I hope to God you’re not in the situation I was in, but I ended up going all out and purchasing all of these. If you’re in the beginning phases of a bedbug infestation, you may not need to go this extreme, but if you’ve seen a few already, I’d seriously consider going for this kit.
I Don’t Want To Use Chemicals – Get Rid Of Bed bugs Naturally
Baking soda is a great and natural way to help keep bedbugs at bay.
Not everyone wants to use chemicals or even can use chemicals in their home to get rid of bedbugs. If you’re worried home remedies like baking soda (pictured above) won’t work effectively enough, there are some natural options you can purchase to help you get rid of bedbugs.
First, I recommend you try heat machines. Bedbugs and heat don’t mesh, and using heaters and steamers can be an alternate and very effective way to kill bedbugs without saturating your home with insecticides.
Along with heat, you can also use some of the following natural bed bug killers.
EcoRaider Natural & Non-Toxic Bed Bug Killer
I am all for bed bug killers that are natural and non-toxic, especially when there are kiddos or pets running around the house. EcoRaider’s natural, non-toxic bed bug killer uses natural ingredients and promises to take out bed bugs with equal force to chemicals.
This product actually came in handy for me when I was trying to figure out how to get rid of bedbugs. I was living with my brother and his one year old son at the time. I also have a little dog I was intent on protecting. I did use chemical products and bed bug powders as well, mostly because I went a little overboard and dropped about a billion bucks on bedbug killers out of panic, but I will say the little nephew is great, the dog is thriving, and the bedbugs are long gone.
Proof Plant Based Bed Bug Nest Killer
No products found.
Another natural product I like is made by Proof, and it’s a plant-based bed bug nest killer. And while this is natural and plant-based it should, of course, still be kept out of reach of children and pets.
That said, this is a vapor treatment that can help you hold on to upholstered furniture. Follow the directions carefully to treat mattresses, linens, furniture, chairs, couches and more. Now, I haven’t personally used this product, which is unfortunate because I ended up throwing out my mattress and it has great reviews.
Mdxconcepts Natural & Organic Bed Bug Killer
No products found.
An organic bed bug killer? It doesn’t get more natural than that. I haven’t tried this so I can’t say for certain how effective it will be for your bed bug problem, but if you are looking at how to get rid of bedbugs naturally, you may want to give this a shot.
It is odorless, stainless, and totally natural and organic. One of the active ingredients is peppermint oil, which I did find was an effective home remedy when looking at how to get rid of bedbugs in my home.
Best of all, and not surprisingly considering the natural ingredients, this bedbug killer is pet and kid friendly.
You Have Your Weapon Of Choice – Now Let’s Talk About Bedbug Treatment
You may have to get more than one aerosol can or box of powder, depending on the severity of the infestation.
Once you’re armed and ready for treatment, this is exactly how to get rid of bedbugs effectively and efficiently:
- Treat All Furniture – Especially Around Your Bed
There is a reason they are called bedbugs. 95% of bedbug infestations take place within five feet of your bed.
- Cover All Mattresses With Bed bug Proof Covers
Once your mattress is treated, cover it in a bed bug mattress cover. This will not only help keep bedbugs off of your mattress in the future, but it will keep any bedbugs or larva you may have missed from getting out.
- Treat Around Baseboards And Headboards
Don’t make the rookie mistake I did once you have decided how to get rid of bedbugs and forget your headboards and baseboards. Spray, powder and repeat to keep those bedbugs away for good.
- Make A Border Around Each Room With The Powder
This obviously only applies if you are using powders. Since I wasn’t initially sure where the bed bugs were coming from, I made a good barrier around all door frames of all the bedrooms. I was like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
- Don’t Forget Under The Bed, In The Drawers, Under Furniture, The Walls and Even In The Closets
When thinking about how to get rid of bedbugs you have to think about everything. Every detail counts. Empty all your drawers, clean out your closets, and treat every surface with our treatment of choice.
Follow The Bedbug Treatment Regime Carefully
Make a list of places to treat and check and treat those places repeatedly. Remember, bedbugs don’t come out every single night.
Remember, you’re looking at how to get rid of bedbugs forever, not just for a few weeks.
Bedbugs don’t come out every single night. They feed and then lay dormant like tiny, highly unattractive vampires for days until they are hungry again. That’s why you need to repeat your treatment regime at least three separate times every ten days to ensure you get the bedbugs once and for all.
If you just did the math, you’re right. That means your bedbug situation will last you a good, solid month. Sorry, friend. Hang in there.
Once The Treatment Period Is Over, Is It Really Over?
This image shows where some bedbug traps can be placed underneath furniture, however checking them could be difficult.
Bedbugs are, unfortunately, very much like cockroaches in their incredible ability to survive. Worse, they’re like hideous, bloodthirsty rabbits who breed insatiably. While a proper treatment and most proper insecticides can work, it is possible to miss bedbug eggs or even one pregnant female.
One pregnant female or a batch of unnoticed eggs can lead to an infestation all over again.
When talking about how to get rid of bedbugs, you have to talk about the possibility of going through the treatment process for a while.
For peace of mind and efficiency’s sake, I recommend investing in some bedbug traps. These traps can be placed in and around the area the bedbugs were most prevalent, and you can check them frequently for bedbugs.
If you do find a bedbug in one of your traps, it’s best to start the treatment regime over again and repeat it as many times as necessary until you go at least six to eight weeks without seeing a sign of bedbugs.
EcoPest Labs Bed Bug Interceptors
This bedbug trap can be used to not only get rid of bedbugs but help monitor and trap them. I wish I would have known about this product when I was going through my personal bedbug infestation because it’s completely natural, uses absolutely zero chemicals or pesticides, and is easy to use.
Best of all it allows you to keep track of your bedbug problem after treatment so you can tell if your treatment efforts are working. I would highly recommend this product for sure.
HARRIS Bed Bug Glue Traps
These are the bedbug traps I personally used for my little situation, and I found them quite effective in letting me know when the problem was over.
They are super simple to use and trap bed bugs by essentially glueing them in place. I would slip these traps under my bed and underneath dressers and furniture. The only thing I would warn you of is pets.
My dog did get into one of these traps when she was crawling under the bed and I had to trim her hair to get the trap off of her. That said, there are no chemicals used on this trap so it’s safe, even if it is handled by pets or children.
Ortho Defense Max Bed Bug Detection and Trap
If I had to do it all over again (please, God, no) I would definitely give this bedbug trap a try. Not only does it have fabulous reviews but I like that it works without glue and without chemicals.
Plus, you can use it the same way you would use the glue bedbug traps, meaning it is super discrete, but you can use them at the beginning of the infestation to see just what you’re dealing with and then again at the end to see how well your treatment regime is going.
Frequently Asked Questions During A Bedbug Infestation:
Bedbugs don’t carry disease, but they can cause annoying and itchy bites.
Do Bed Bugs Carry Disease?
No, bed bugs do not carry disease and, outside of emotional turmoil, cannot harm you. This is perhaps the one silver lining in a bed bug infestation. That, and the interesting fact that bed bugs produce a type of numbing agent in their saliva so their bites don’t hurt. How kind of them.
What Do Bedbug Bites Look Like?
It took me a while to figure out I had bed bugs because I didn’t have any bites. Neither did my brother. However, other family members had clusters of red, itchy rashes and bumps. Still, recognizing a bed bug bite isn’t difficult. They look similar to other insect bites in the way they become red, inflamed and itchy, however, they often appear in clusters on the body and show up in the morning.
Do Bed Bugs Only Bite Humans?
While humans are a bed bug’s favorite meal, they aren’t picky eaters and enjoy dining on anything with blood like dogs, cats, and basically any other animal that bleeds.
Do I Need To Throw Out Mattresses And Other Furniture During A Bed Bug Infestation?
This is a tricky one. If you have a relatively new mattress and treat it with quality bed bug repellent, chances are you won’t need to throw it out. However, torn or ripped upholstered furniture, mattresses, pillows and even stuffed animals can make easy hiding places for bedbugs and bedbug eggs.
Regarding your mattress, try covering it with a bedbug proof covering to help ensure bugs don’t get in or out.
But if you’ve treated the problem repeatedly and can’t get rid of the bugs after several months, you may end up having to discard certain items.
Now, don’t go tossing all your belongings out just yet. You can also hire professional exterminators to get rid of bedbugs or have your home heat-treated.
I Keep My Home Clean – How Did I Get Bedbugs In The First Place?
Despite a common misconception, bed bugs are not a sign of uncleanliness or poor hygiene. While cluttered environments are more habitable for bed bugs, they can really live just about anywhere, regardless of how well kept our homes are.
Bed bugs can be picked up from movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, bars and even friends’ homes or apartments. They are stage-five clingers and can hitch rides on clothing, purses, backpacks, shoes and sometimes even in hair.
But since they are so easy to pick up, what can you do to keep an infestation from happening again?
Tips On Preventing Future Bedbug Infestations
Put bed bugs to bed for good by implementing some careful habits around your home.
You can reduce your chances of having another bedbug infestation by following these tips:
- Immediately wash all clothing after returning from a trip or staying in a hotel room
- Keep curtains, bedskirts, throws, etc from hanging on the floor as this allows bedbugs
- Keep your surroundings free of clutter
- Vacuum and sweep often
- Refrain from bringing used or discarded furniture like bedding, mattresses, headboards, chairs, etc into your home
- If you buy furniture from a second hand, inspect it thoroughly before bringing it into your home
By following the above steps, you’ll hopefully never again have to worry about how to get rid of bedbugs. But if you do, just remember, don’t blame yourself and don’t be ashamed. They are much more common than most people think, and you can and will get through this.
Godspeed, dear friend. Godspeed.
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.