How to Permanently Get Rid of Bed Bugs Yourself
Written by: Anthony O’Neill, Licensed Pest Management Professional
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How to Permanently Get Rid of Bed Bugs (Cimex lectularius)
If you’re living with bed bugs, you no doubt feel like you’re in a nightmare as these pests can be hard to eliminate. But you can get rid of bed bugs permanently with the right knowledge and tools.
Here is the step-by-step guide on how to do just that.
You’ll find out what infestation signs to look for and how you can treat bed bugs without an exterminator.
How Do You Know It’s Bed Bugs?
Before you do anything, make sure it is bed bugs and not a similar-looking insect because they are often confused with cockroaches and fleas and vice versa.
What do bed bugs look like? Below is a close-up of a bed bug crawling on a mattress. To help you correctly identify them, check out my pictures of bed bugs page.
- Tiny, wingless, reddish-brown insects with two antennae, six legs, and protruding eyes.
- Their bodies are apple seed shaped and flat when unfed.
- The adult grows to 5-7mm in length and up to 10mm after feeding on blood.
Bed bugs are skilled at hiding, which means you are unlikely to notice them at the beginning of an infestation, but one possible indication is the sudden appearance of red itchy marks on areas of your body that are not covered when in bed.
However, it is important to bear in mind that not everyone reacts to the bites, so you might spot other early signs of bed bugs instead, including:
- Small dark brown or black fecal spots or stains on your sheets, pillowcases, and mattress.
- As mentioned above, red, itchy bites
- Tiny white eggs that are the size of a pinhead
- Your PJs and sheets have small blood stains or spots on them
- Cast/shed bed bug skins and shells
- Live or dead bed bugs
It’s important to make sure it is bed bugs you’ve seen, as different bugs require different treatments.
Are bed bugs really that hard to get rid of?
Yes, they can be! If an infestation is not found early enough, it will continue to grow. Even one single pregnant female can lead to an active infestation.
These blood-sucking insects are nocturnal, staying hidden during the day in cracks and crevices on and close to your bed (or anywhere someone sleeps, such as a couch).
They are commonly found on beds as they frequently feed on your blood while sleeping. This means your bed will be the main focus when getting rid of bedbugs.
One reason they are hard to get rid of and the cause of their resurgence is because of their resistance to pyrethroid insecticides. Although it can be hard to eradicate them, it does not mean it is impossible to get rid of them for good.
Don’t panic! Here’s what to do if you have bed bugs
The sooner you start treating them, the easier it will be to eliminate them from your home.
It is always best to use a professional exterminator who specializes in treating bed bugs as they are trained in pesticide use and carry out the most effective treatment methods.
But hiring a pest control company can be costly, and not everyone has the money for expensive treatments, so if you’re on a tight budget, this step-by-step DIY bed bug extermination guide shows you how to treat them yourself.
How to get rid of bed bugs without an exterminator – Step-by-step instructions
Careful attention is needed to carry out the following steps of this bed bug control guide thoroughly. If not, a minor bed bug infestation will soon become a severe one. Now, let’s get started and get rid of these pests.
It’s time to get rid of these pests.
Step 1: Get your bed bug treatment tool kit together
Bed bugs are resilient creatures, and they do not die off quickly. Before attempting anything, read this guide all the way through so you know EXACTLY what to do and what not to do, such as using bug bombs, saving you time and money, but more importantly, your sanity!
You will need the following to check for bed bugs and the removal process.
Flashlight – to inspect cracks, crevices, and harborages.
Roll of clear tape – to seal bags and vacuum nozzles.
Plastic garbage bags – for clothing, bedding, stuffed soft toys, and other things to prevent bed
bugs from spreading to other rooms.
Cloth and hot soapy water – for wiping off bed bugs and their eggs on surfaces.
Stiff-handled brush – to scrub mattress seams.
Containerized heat treatment container – (AKA a hot box) is OPTIONAL as it’s expensive. A heat chamber exterminates bugs in all life stages within a few hours and is used for non-washable items such as shoes, suitcases, electronics, books, and files. Check the instructions for exposure times if using.
Steam cleaner – an integral part of effectively killing bed bugs with heat to steam the mattress, etc.
Bed Bug Proof Mattress encasement, box spring, and pillow encasements – you MUST have these whether you keep the mattress and box spring (which I recommend unless the infestation is severe) or buy new ones.
Bed bug interceptors – you need one of these ready-made traps under each leg of the bed and other furniture items.
Gloves and mask – rubber, latex, or nitrile chemical-resistant gloves, so your skin doesn’t come into contact with the bed bugs and the infestation area. A mask must be worn, especially when applying desiccant dust.
Desiccant dust such as CimeXa silica gel – is used to dehydrate and kill bed bugs.
Latex or silicone sealant – a sealant is needed to repair, seal, and caulk the room to close any breeding and hiding areas.
When you’ve got all of the above, it’s time to declutter the infested room(s).
Step 2: Bed bugs like clutter—clear your room to get rid of them.
Although they are not attracted to clutter, it helps them remain undetected for longer. So remove all items, clutter, and drawers from under the bed. Do not take them to another room, as bed bugs will spread to these areas. And try not to lean over the bed; you don’t want them to get on your clothes and transported to other rooms.
- Place items into plastic garbage bags and completely seal until you can inspect them. Put them all together in a separate area of the room.
- If you see bed bugs on the items, depending on what they are, you can either place them in the containerized heat chamber (if using), freezer, or steam clean or rack dry in the dryer, which is covered below.
- If you cannot use any of these, leave the items in a sealed plastic bag for up to 1 year because adult females can (unlikely) live this long, and nymphs can live up to 4 months if they haven’t had their first blood meal.
- Dispose of unwanted items in a plastic garbage bag, seal it and label “Infested with Bed Bugs” before disposing of them immediately in the outside garbage.
After you’ve finished the bed area, repeat for the rest of the room. Start at one end and slowly work your way around until all clutter is removed.
Step 3: Remove, wash and heat dry all bedding, curtains, and clothes to kill all life stages
Put all bedding, curtains, and clothes (yes, bed bugs hide in clothes) in plastic garbage bags, seal tightly and take them to the washer.
Wash on a hot wash and then transfer into the dryer, loosely fill, and dry on a MINIMUM temperature setting of 125ºF (51ºC). Adults die at 119ºF (48ºC), and bed bug eggs die at 125ºF (51ºC) – consider temperature recommendations on labels.
Dry for a MINIMUM of 30 minutes to ensure the bed bugs and eggs are dead.
If any clean clothes are in a pile in the infested room, they will also need heat treatment in the dryer.
The top rack of the dishwasher can be used to wash hard toys and breakable items. Put them into a laundry or lingerie bag and run on a ‘heat dry’ hot cycle.
Alternatively, hand wash any breakable items in hot soapy water or place them in the heat treatment chamber (if using). However, a cheaper option is a removable drying rack in your dryer, which you can use for items that can’t be tumbled, like handbags, books, and shoes.
When finished, put all items into NEW garbage bags and seal them. Check the lint catcher in the dryer, remove any bed bugs on it, and put them down the toilet.
Leave the items in the bags until you no longer have an infestation. Inspect them in your yard or garage. If you want to be extra cautious, place the sealed bags into plastic bins with lids.
DO NOT USE CARDBOARD BOXES for storage, as bed bugs can and will hide inside cardboard.
Freeze bed bugs to get rid of them
Does the cold kill bed bugs? If you cannot use the methods above, then another option is to freeze them. Your home freezer has a temperature of around -18 – -20°C (-0.4 – -4ºF), so you can place small items into sealed plastic bags and put them in the freezer.
How long do you have to freeze bed bugs?
NO LESS than four days.
0°F (-15°C) must be reached in the center of the items for bed bugs to die. The 4-day freezing time starts when the center is at 0°F. Don’t allow the temperature to go above 0°F (-15°C) during this time, as the eggs and nymphs can survive.
Step 4: Inspect and treat the bed – How to get rid of bed bugs on a mattress
- Stand the mattress and box spring upright. Hold your flashlight parallel to cast a shadow on any bed bugs and eggs and slowly look over the material for them.
- Carefully inspect all corners and creases thoroughly, and use the stiff brush along the seams, tufts, and edging to remove any bugs and eggs.
- If you have a bed frame and headboard, dismantle them if possible and vacuum the corners and crevices, in between and underneath slats, and in screw heads to remove bed bugs and eggs.
- Using the cloth and hot soapy water, clean the frame and headboard, removing any remaining bugs. Wipe again, checking the area after as heat brings bed bugs out.
- Using the crevice tool at a 45-degree angle, vacuum along the seams, tufts, and edging of the mattress and box spring to dislodge and crush any remaining bugs and eggs.
Step 5: Vacuum everywhere thoroughly to remove these pests
- Thoroughly vacuum the floor/carpet area where your bed is and where they might have dropped into the carpet, then vacuum the rest of the room and other furniture items. This needs to be done regularly to remove any remaining bugs.
- Again, use the crevice tool to scrape cracks and crevices on walls, along all furniture seams, baseboards, heating vents, beneath tack strips, in and behind picture frames, and where the carpet meets the wall.
- Bed bugs can hide in cracks the same width as a credit card, so inspect carefully!
Ideally, a separate vacuum cleaner should be used as it helps reduce the risk of spreading bed bugs to other areas. The vacuum should have a HEPA filter system to prevent bed bug allergens from becoming airborne.
How to clean the vacuum after bed bugs
The vacuum bag or contents from a bagless vacuum must be placed into a plastic bag, sealed, and put out for garbage immediately.
Wash the removable canister and, if possible, wash the filters with hot soapy water and dry them before re-inserting. If not, buy new ones. To prevent bed bugs from crawling out, seal off the nozzle and attachment with tape. DO NOT use water on any of the electrical components.
The next step to getting rid of bed bugs completely is to use heat and steam clean the bed and other upholstered furniture.
Step 6: Kill bed bugs instantly – steam clean the bed and upholstered furniture and apply silica gel
When the steamer is ready to use, place a towel or cloth over the nozzle. There are two reasons for this:
- Steam blows the bed bugs around, so a towel over the nozzle prevents this.
2. A towel absorbs some of the moisture, so your bed won’t get as wet.
- Move the steamer slowly along the seams and edges, in the joints of the bed frame, and on upholstered furniture. The closer the nozzle is to the fabric, the hotter the steam. Heat steamers can cause instant burns, so use with care.
- Take at least 20 seconds per 12 inches so the steam can reach 3/4″ down into the material.
- Steam underneath the furniture to kill any bugs that fall to the floor. Keep in mind that the high temperature of the steam might cause damage to some surfaces.
The items need to be aired after the steam treatment to prevent mold growth, so using fans and dehumidifiers to help dry them is a good idea.
DO NOT put the encasements on until completely dry.
A word of caution—if you have a memory foam mattress steam is not recommended as the heat and moisture will likely damage the material.
This video demonstrates how to vacuum and steam clean the room in areas where bed bugs hide.
Will steam cleaning really get rid of bed bugs?
Yes, steam is an effective way to get rid of bed bugs naturally without using chemicals. It’s fast and permanent as it kills all stages of the bed bug life cycle on contact at 170ºF (76ºC) or higher.
However, steam will only kill the bugs it actually reaches, so it is particularly effective when the bugs are on the surface. Steam also kills them hidden in cracks and crevices up to 41 mm.
Apply silica gel when the mattress and furniture are completely dry.
Use a silica gel such as CimeXa, a natural desiccant insecticide dust that is safe to use around animals when applied according to the instructions.
Read why it’s a better alternative to diatomaceous earth for a bed bug infestation.
- Apply with a soft paintbrush or cosmetic brush along the mattress and box spring seams and edges and in all creases and corners of the bed frame.
- The silica gel should also be applied to the rest of the room as a crack and crevice treatment behind and along the edges of baseboards, light sockets, and electrical outlets before you seal and caulk (Step 8).
If your mattress and box spring are heavily infested, no amount of steam treatment will help, and you might want to consider buying new ones if you’re not comfortable with the idea of bed bugs trapped inside the encasements.
If so, read how to get rid of a mattress with bed bugs for proper disposal instructions.
Step 7: Install bed bug-proof mattress, box spring, and pillow encasements and interceptor traps
Keep your bed away from the wall, so it now becomes an island with NOTHING touching it. And no bed linen touching the floor.
Frequent vacuuming ensures no hair, dust, or other particles create a bridge for bed bugs to crawl onto your bed and is a part of bed bug control. The bed bug-proof encasements for the mattress and box spring can be bought on Amazon or other retail stores.
You can read why I recommend the SafeRest encasements, but whichever brand you choose, ensure it is certified bedbug-proof, and do not remove it once installed.
An IMPORTANT feature to look for is the zipper and zipper lock. The zipper should be a micro-zipper to keep bed bugs from entering or exiting your mattress.
As a word of caution, if you buy a new mattress, don’t be fooled into thinking the problem will now go away. This will not stop the infestation, so bug-proof it with an encasement.
When the encasements are on, put an interceptor trap (also known as pitfall traps) under each bed and furniture leg.
- Check the traps every couple of days to monitor the number of bed bugs caught. You should start to see less and less until you get to zero.
Another reason to monitor the interceptors is to prevent debris build-up, like dust and hair, which would provide a bridge to climb up to your bed.
- Clean the traps in soapy water in the sink, and fully immerse any trapped bed bugs before draining. Wipe the inside and outer wells with a tissue and dispose of it in the toilet.
- Re-apply talc if the interceptor was lined with it (most no longer require it) and place it back under each leg of furniture. Whatever brand you buy, follow their instructions on how to clean them.
If you’re treating an unoccupied room, these traps are ineffective as there won’t be any carbon dioxide attracting the bed bugs. In this instance, you’ll need an active monitor designed to attract them without a person.
Step 8: Apply sealant to repair, seal, and caulk any cracks
This last part requires some simple home repairs to limit their hiding spaces.
Use a silicone or latex sealant (silicone is usually not paintable) to caulk and seal:
- Joints, moldings, baseboards, minuscule cracks and crevices on walls, and gaps between wall outlets.
- Seal gaps in shelving and cabinets.
- Fill in screw holes in wooden furniture.
- Turn furniture upside down and seal the gaps.
- Seal gaps between switch plates and walls so bed bugs cannot spread to other rooms.
- Remove or repair wallpaper, paint, or plastered wall covering that is cracked or peeled, as a bed bug can hide behind the smallest speck of peeling paint.
- Seal around areas where pipes or cables come through walls, ceilings, or floors, especially if you live in an apartment building.
The actual size of bed bugs is extremely small so they can hide anywhere!
Well done! You’ve now completed this last step, so put your gloves and mask into a plastic bag, seal with tape, and put it in the outside trash.
Related: How to move without taking bed bugs with you
How Long Does It Take To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs? -Timeline After Treatment
You’ve carried out all of the above steps, now what? No matter what DIY extermination methods you use, it is highly likely some adults or eggs have survived, or you just haven’t found them. So eliminating and monitoring will be ongoing for several more weeks.
How do you know when the bed bugs are gone?
The majority of bed bugs are now dead, but any dying females may still lay eggs for up to 5 days after and will hatch within 7-10 days.
How can you tell if the eggs are dead or alive? If the eggs are viable (able to hatch), they are plump, white, and with the cap attached. If they are dead, they have a shriveled appearance.
Vacuum every couple of days to remove any remaining dead bugs and remove any live ones.
Any surviving eggs now start to hatch, and the nymphs will need a blood meal.
However, they will not become adults and reproduce if unable to feed, and the interceptor traps and encasements help prevent this.
Check and clean the traps every couple of days, removing any bed bugs and dust particles.
Inspect all corners of the bed, baseboards, furniture, and anywhere else you heat-treated again.
If you see live bed bugs, viable eggs, or nymphs, repeat the steam cleaning process, remembering to wash the nozzle thoroughly after.
You do not need to treat the mattress or box spring as they have encasements.
The encasements must be inspected regularly to check they are not torn or frayed (they will need replacing immediately if so) and make sure the zip is still fully closed.
Keep the room clutter-free, so any remaining bed bugs have fewer harborages.
Repeat the same process for WEEKS 3–7. Keep a record of how many bed bugs you find. By WEEK 8, you should be bed bug-free!
Keeping your home bedbug-free
Almost no bed bug treatment is 100% successful at first, but regular inspections and repeating the extermination process above gives you a better chance of winning the battle.
Although you now know how to get rid of bed bugs permanently yourself, I recommend you read how you get bed bugs in the first place and how to prevent them from returning.
If you live in an apartment complex and you’re still finding evidence of these pests, contact the property manager immediately, as they may be coming in from an adjacent apartment.
If, after week 8, you still see evidence of bed bugs or have found they have spread to other areas in your home, a more severe infestation is developing, and it is time to contact a pest management professional to exterminate them.
Fill in the form below for a free bed bug removal quote from a local pest control company. Whichever company you choose, make sure it is reputable and read reviews on them.
Read choosing the right pest control company so you know what questions to ask about the company and their bed bug treatment options, which usually include chemical treatments.
Remember, permanently getting rid of bed bugs takes a lot of commitment and patience, but with the help of this guide, you will succeed and have a bed bug-free home for good!