How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs Naturally

​​Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Following the old adage, “don’t let the bed bugs bite,” is easier said than done. If you’re unfortunate enough to be facing these pests, then you know keeping their bites away is no simple feat. You’re probably not the only person, either, who wants to find ways of getting rid of bed bugs naturally rather than using chemicals and pesticides.

Picture for a moment what it would be like if bed bugs weren’t a problem anymore. Imagine how you’d feel if you safely eradicated bed bugs in your home. Just think about how much more relaxed you could feel!

Fortunately for you that’s not an impossible wish. There actually are ways to kill bed bugs naturally, without dangerous pesticides in your home. All you have to do is follow the steps described here.

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When Do Bed Bugs Come Out

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

What Are The Main Signs Of A Bed Bug Infestation?

The first thing to do in any pest control situation is to pinpoint the type of infestation you’re having. You probably know that you have some kind of pest problem going on if you’ve experienced bite marks or seen small insects around your home.

The thing is that you may not know whether they are bed bugs or something else, so here are the main signs that what you are seeing is, in fact, a bed bug infestation.

The bugs you spot are about the size of a flat apple seed. These are adult bed bugs that haven’t fed recently.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

Transparent, molted insect skins are around the bed or other furniture. These come from growing bed bug nymphs. Of course, other bugs can also shed their exoskeleton, so make sure you see other signs as well.

Bed Bug Shells

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Waste is left behind on bedding or other surfaces after feeding. Sometimes small blood stains are also seen.

CC Image courtesy of AFPMB

With large infestations, you may notice a musty smell like decaying fruit.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

Don’t assume that if you are getting bitten you have bed bugs. Many other bugs discreetly leave itchy bites. After noticing signs of potential bed bugs, you may want to have a pest control professional confirm that’s what they are.

​​Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

What Are The Advantages Of Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs Naturally?

Bed bugs cannot be gotten rid of with the same methods as some other pests. That’s why the identification of them is so important. Once you know for sure, you can start finding natural ways to get rid of bed bugs that will work for your situation.

Why should you use natural treatment methods? For one thing, even if you wanted to use chemical pesticides to get rid of bed bugs, they wouldn’t be very effective. Bed bugs have become resistant to pretty much all of the pesticides that were previously used to treat them. That means even professional pest management services have to use other methods for beating bed bugs.

Another advantage of using natural bed bug treatments is that natural treatments tend to be safer than pesticides. Of course, some of the treatments have risks involved, but you do not have the risk of long-term health effects from pesticide usage. Exposure to these chemicals can be especially harmful to fetuses and young children, as well as pets.

Natural Ways To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Now that you know why pesticides aren’t the best option, here are some natural ways to get rid of bed bugs.

Vacuuming

Vacuuming is not a standalone bed bug treatment, but it works great as a secondary treatment to go along with other natural bed bug eradication strategies. Basically, you suck up any insects you spot. The clear drawback to this method is that it only takes care of bed bugs that are active and in sight, and it’s pretty difficult to catch these bugs in their active state. They spend most of the time hiding.

That being said, you can also vacuum regularly to get up bugs you may not see in the carpet, as well as eggs. If you find a bed bug hideout, you can use a flashlight to spot the eggs and vacuum those up as well.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

You should know that getting sucked into the vacuum cleaner does not kill bed bugs. It only removes them from the surface. You’ll need to carefully dispose of the picked up bugs by sealing them in two bags to ensure none escape. You should also clean out the vacuum afterward to make sure none were left inside.

Vacuuming can be used on carpets, furniture, mattresses, curtains, and other areas.

Steaming

It’s well documented that high temperatures kill bed bugs and their eggs. In fact, heat is one of the most effective treatments. You can use a commercial steam cleaner to heat up targeted areas where you suspect bed bugs are living. Since renting a large industrial steam cleaning machine can be expensive, you may want to look for a cheaper, but high commercial one.

Using weaker alternatives like clothing steamers or carpet shampooers will not work because they can’t get hot enough. The surface temperature of the spot you are treating needs to get up to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy bed bugs and their eggs.

This method works well for cracks and crevices in furniture and baseboards. You can use it on mattresses and box springs. It’s also good for treating carpets after vacuuming. Steam does kill bed bugs on contact, but you’ll need several treatments to get most of the pests.

Washing/Tumble Drying

For bedding and clothes, simply washing and drying the items can help reduce the number of bed bugs in your home. Of course, this method is limited to items that can fit in your washer and dryer and won’t get torn up (unless you want to kill the bed bugs and throw away the item). You can also use a public laundromat to accommodate larger items.

Do Washing Machines Kill Bed Bugs

Whether you’re washing and drying things at home or a laundromat, you’ll want to seal the affected items in two plastic bags prior to transporting them to the laundry room. Seal them up in the place where the affected items are so that you don’t potentially spread the bugs around the house or other places.

Wash on the highest temperature possible. The movement in the washing machine will drown the bugs and get most of them off the clothes. Any bugs that remain on the clothes can be killed in the dryer. Dry clothes at the highest possible heat for at least 30 minutes for this to be effective. Prolonged high heat destroys both bed bugs and their eggs.

Bed bug eggs - CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

You can also use this method on other items like stuffed animals. If you have dry clean only fabrics, you can still kill the bed bugs in the dryer, but you will need to send the items to the dry cleaner to remove the dead bugs and get the clothing clean. You should seal the clothes and warn the dry cleaner ahead of time that you are bringing in clothes that had bed bugs on them. This way, they can prepare their facility to prevent the spread of bed bugs.

Using Heat

Both steam and tumble drying are methods that employ heat to kill bed bugs, but anything that gets an infested area hot enough will destroy them. Some people kill bed bugs by putting a double sealed bag in the sun on a hot day. If you use this method, you’ll want to leave the bag in the sun for several hours to ensure high enough temperatures are maintained for destroying the pests.

Pest control companies even use heat as an effective bed bug treatment. They use a device that heats up an entire house to temperatures that bed bugs cannot survive in. Of course, this can be expensive, and you may need to remove items that would be damaged by high heat conditions. It is, however, one of the most effective ways to get rid of a big bed bug infestation, especially one with multiple colonies.

Professional Bed Bug Heat Treatment

Another heat method that is becoming more popular but is a bit expensive is the use of portable heat chambers. You can purchase a portable heat chamber and use it to kill bed bugs on various items. They make chambers large enough to encompass and treat a full sized couch, for instance.

A special-purpose bed bug hotbox/heater

If you have the money available, these chambers can make treatment much easier and faster because you can put affected clothing, bedding, furniture, shoes, and many other things in the chamber. If you live in an apartment, you may want to consider pooling your money with a couple of neighbors if you are sharing the horrid experience of bed bug infestation. This can help you to reduce bites while your landlord gets the pests under control.

Using Cold

Although it’s used less often, you can also freeze bed bugs to death. The most common way to do this is to put them in the freezer you use for food. However, bed bugs and their eggs need to be frozen at temperatures below about 0 degrees Fahrenheit for up to two weeks in order for this to work and to ensure every single bug and egg is killed. 

Freezing Bed Bugs

You can kill bed bugs and eggs by freezing them for many days

Generally, trying to freeze bed bugs outside in cold weather does not work. You would need to make sure that the temperature inside the bag you seal them in remains below 0 degrees. Most areas don’t have weather like this for long periods of time, and even the shift of an area from shade to sun could raise the temperature enough to leave living bugs in the bag.

Mattress Encasements

Mattress encasements are a smart move against bed bugs, but they’re certainly not a strategy that should be used alone. It’s true that many infestations center around the bed because it’s an easy place for bed bugs to find a meal, but these pests will also take up residence in many of the areas surrounding the bed, like baseboards, nightstands, and chairs.

Bed Bug Mattress Cover

Encasing the mattress and pillows for at least a year can trap existing bed bugs and cause them to die from lack of food and air. It also prevents further infestation of the mattress and can prevent bed bugs from taking up residence in your mattress in the first place.

Removing Clutter

Bed bugs are extremely shy. That’s their survival mechanism. They can increase to huge colonies while remaining mostly out of site, and thus out of the way of being smashed or sprayed. What that means for your bed bug prevention and treatment strategies is that reducing the number of potential hiding places can help you in finding and getting rid of the pests.

Don’t keep piles of clothing, magazines, or knick-knacks on your floors or tables. These all create additional hiding spots, especially if the items stay in one place for long periods of time.

This is NOT how your room should look during an infestation. Keep the area tidy to minimize potential hiding places.

You shouldn’t, however, take this to mean that bed bugs prefer unkempt or dirty homes. Bed bugs don’t care how dirty or clean your home is. They only care if they can find a human host to feed from. Having bed bugs does not mean your home is especially dirty.

Reducing hiding spots for bed bugs will make other treatments much easier because you will reduce the number of areas you need to treat. Other ways to get rid of bed bug hiding spots is to fill in cracks and crevices in your walls, floors, and furniture.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is another secondary treatment for bed bugs. It won’t get rid of them on its own, but it can help in controlling them. Food grade diatomaceous earth is also completely natural and safe to use around kids and pets. Pour it into the cracks and crevices where you suspect bed bug activity. Diatomaceous earth is slow acting, but studies have shown that over time it reduces bed bug population.

What If Natural Remedies Aren’t Working?

Natural bed bug remedies are a part of any bed bug control plan. The truth is that pesticides alone cannot get rid of these pests, but there are times when pesticides become a necessary part of your bed bug treatment. If natural remedies alone aren’t resolving the problem, then you should talk to a pest control professional. They will know which pesticides are the most effective for bed bugs, as well as how to use them as safely as possible.

If you have to resort to using chemical pesticides to fully exterminate the bed bugs, remember to continue using natural remedies, as well. Things like vacuuming, clearing clutter, sealing cracks and crevices, and washing and drying infested clothing on high heat will help the pesticide treatments to be more effective. The natural treatments ensure that you’re more likely to hit all the bugs with the pesticide by reducing their hideouts.

CC Image courtesy of louento.pix

There are a couple of important tips when it comes to using pesticides. If you’re going to be treating the bugs yourself, make sure you read the label and apply the pesticide at the recommend rate. If you use too little, rather than killing the bugs, it will increase their resistance to that particular chemical, making them even harder to get rid of.

Another tip is to treat adjoining areas and rooms. If you know one area has an infestation, apply treatment to nearby areas as well. Bed bugs may have migrated there.

If you have to use chemical pesticide treatments more than once, it’s a good idea to change out which chemical you are using after a while. These substances kill the insects most susceptible to them, leaving less susceptible individuals behind to breed. That makes the treatment less effective over time. By using a different substance after a few treatments, you can decrease the risk of this happening.

A comprehensive approach that combines natural bed bug treatments is still the most effective way to get rid of these pests, even if pesticide must also be used.

How To Prevent Bed Bug Infestations In The Future

If you get bed bugs, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t mean you have a dirty house or that you did anything wrong. There are, however, steps you can take to prevent bed bugs from coming back in the future.

Probably the most important part of bed bug prevention is being careful about what you bring into your home. Bed bugs like to hitch rides on and in things.

Furniture

When you bring new furniture into your home, you should always check it thoroughly for signs of bed bugs. Check under the cushions and in any crevices. You’re looking for bugs, eggs, molted exoskeletons, or fecal matter. It’s especially important to check secondhand furniture that has been in another home.

Bed bugs in old furniture

Be careful with secondhand furniture - especially if it's been dumped on the street. It may have been thrown out due to harboring an infestation.

Luggage

When you travel, your luggage can end up with bed bugs in it from hotel rooms or vehicles you transported it in. One way to prevent bed bug infestation of luggage is to keep your luggage sealed in a plastic bag. Alternately, you can seal the items inside the luggage in plastic bags and be sure to inspect the luggage before bringing back into your home.

While you’re at a hotel, take care to open your luggage in areas less likely to harbor bed bugs. Do not open your luggage and pull out its contents onto the bed. In fact, the bathroom is one of the safest places for hotel luggage because bed bugs don’t tend to infest bathrooms, where it’s difficult for them to find a meal.

Secondhand bedding and clothing

As with furniture, any clothing or bedding items you bring from someone else’s house or a thrift store have the potential to harbor bed bugs. Just inspect the items thoroughly before taking them inside your home. In fact, inspect them before putting them in your car. Bed bugs can infest vehicles and travel into your home with you from there.

Boxes of items

People don’t generally think about it, but bed bugs aren’t found only in houses and apartments. If you’re bringing in any boxes of used items, you should inspect for pests. For instance, books from libraries could easily contain insect stowaways. A quiet library where people sit and read for hours is definitely a meal opportunity for bed bugs. They don’t only come out at night. They come out when a sedentary host presents itself.

Laundry

If you use a shared laundry facility, such as a laundromat or a shared apartment laundry room, you should take precautions in case another person who uses the facility has picked up bed bugs in their clothing or other items being washed. Do this by transporting your clothing in a sealed plastic bag so that nothing gets into them.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live In A Plastic Bag

Then, put them directly into a sealed plastic bag from the dryer. Do not fold your clothing at the laundry facility if you suspect bed bugs.

Other prevention

You can also use mattress covers, discussed above in treatments, as a prevention technique. This helps to keep bed bugs from getting into the mattress in the first place, though they can still find hideouts in other spots near the bed. In fact, several of the natural treatments work for prevention too, like reducing clutter and vacuuming frequently.

Living in multi-family buildings can be an additional challenge because you have no control over what other people bring into the building, and infestations can spread throughout multiple rooms. You can reduce risk of bed bug infestation in your apartment, duplex, or other multi-family home by sealing cracks and crevices around doors, windows, light sockets, and baseboards.

Deep cracks make perfect hiding places for bed bugs

This creates a challenge for bed bug entry, and it makes it likely that they will look for an easier area to infiltrate instead.

Summary

Natural treatments are a staple of bed bug eradication and prevention. Getting rid of bed bugs naturally is an option, and you can combine techniques like vacuuming, steaming or heating, and spreading diatomaceous earth for best results.

Additionally, just because you may need pesticides in certain situation doesn’t mean you should not also be aware of the natural methods that can make pesticide use more effective. Bed bugs are tricky pests, but you can get rid of them.

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Roger Morales

Very informative post!

    Dan Edwards

    Thanks Rodger.

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