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How to Find and Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Home

Dorothy is a master gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape and nature photographer.

The group of photos shows all of the reasons you need to learn to identify bed bugs and find ways to get rid of them.

The group of photos shows all of the reasons you need to learn to identify bed bugs and find ways to get rid of them.

So, Bed Bugs Really Do Exist?

How many times have you told your children, "Good night, sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite?" I'll bet you never really expected them to be a problem and probably doubted they even existed. However, I recently read a report on CNN saying that bed bugs are making a comeback. Won't that be fun?

Here's how you can get rid of those nasty little critters should you find that they have invaded your home.

What a Bed Bug Looks Like

An adult bed bug up close.   (Photo by dermrounds at

An adult bed bug up close. (Photo by dermrounds at

I know I've seen this guy before.

I know I've seen this guy before.

Where Bed Bugs Can Be Found

The first thing you have to do is find the bedbugs. The photographs used within this article make them look about the size of an ugly roach, but they are actually quite small in size, so although they can be seen by the naked eye, it's probably best to go on your hunt using a magnifying glass. Check every place in your home where people sit for long periods of time or sleep.

Also, you will need a good flashlight or you stand to miss them entirely. A grown bed bug is brown to reddish-brown, oval-shaped, flattened, and about a quarter to a half-inch in length. You won't find these little devils with just a casual prepared to do some serious inspection because their flat body allows them to excel in the game of “hide and seek.”

Run...Don't Walk, and Buy a Steam Cleaner!

  • The next step might require you to spend a little bit of money, but it is well worth the expense. Get yourself a steam cleaner! I believe in the power of steam and use it to clean almost everything. The steam will kill the bugs and you won't be smelling insecticides while you are dreaming of exotic beaches. You can't steam clean a bed too much, so steam it until your arm is simply too tired to continue.
  • Turn the mattress and box springs over and steam clean beneath it, over it, around it, and through it if possible. The more you steam, the cleaner your bed will be, so don't be shy. The very thought of one of these bed bugs continuing to live in my home just makes me crazy!
Great close-up photo of a bed bug colony.

Great close-up photo of a bed bug colony.

Keep Those Dreadful Critters Away!

Repeat the above steps every week or so, then every month or so to keep the bed bugs away for good. If you kill all the bed bugs in your home, don't think that more won't come to visit because they travel on clothes, bedding, and even stuffed animals (which you should also steam clean). They are just waiting to hitch a ride to your clean house. So, continue to keep it clean for your family.


Know the Symptoms of Bed Bug Bites

Yes, they do bite, but if you’re not sure if they’ve bitten you or someone else in your family, you would be wise to learn some of the most likely symptoms of the bite of a bed bug.

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Read More From Dengarden

Bed bugs, after they have bitten you, will leave behind small, red, itchy bumps. Treating those bites is every bit as important as the treatment for ridding your home of these dreadful pests, and I suggest some home remedies, such as essential oils for treating these common symptoms.

You may have itchy skin in the area of the red bumps, which usually occur in lines or in a zigzag pattern on the legs or arms. Unlike some flea bites, they don’t have a red ring around the center.

You may also have areas of skin eruptions, which are likely to ooze pus prior to healing.

When the bites are healing, you can expect to see dryness of the skin in the area of the bite and even some changes in the pigment in the skin.

There are also psychological symptoms associated with bed bugs, such as insomnia due to the anxiety over the stigma associated with bed bugs.

Use Essential Oils in Your Bathwater or Mixed With a Carrier Oil

If you have been bitten by bed bugs, you might try adding essential oils, such as thyme and lemon, to your wash. Thyme is also great to use on bed bug-bitten skin but you need to mix a few drops of thyme with some kind of carrier oil (such as almond oil or olive oil) if your skin is sensitive. You can also add a few drops of thyme oil to your laundry and use it to wipe down surfaces. If you are already suffering bed bug bites, add a few drops of thyme to your bathwater.

More Natural Remedies

  • Patchouli oil can soothe inflammation and speed up healing. Put some drops (depending on the size of the area infected) of the oil in the palm of your hands and massage into the areas where there are bites. Let the oil soak in—don’t wash it off! You could also, if you prefer, add several drops to a warm bath and soak in it.
  • A cool compress may help to keep any swelling down and soothe your irritated skin.
  • Oatmeal baths are also effective at reducing itching and dryness.
  • Try a mixture of tea tree essential and coconut oil and apply it to the affected area a few times each day to keep the redness and inflammation down.
  • Other essential oils that are great for itchy skin are witch hazel, rose, lavender, and geranium.

Great Video on Bedbugs by National Geographic

Bed Bug Extermination Checklist

The Life Cycle of a Bed Bug

The Life Cycle of a Bed Bug

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where do bed bugs come from?

Answer: Bedbugs are usually brought into homes in luggage. I think people who are less than clean create a good home for them and then transfer them unknowingly onto furniture they might sell, like beds or couches. Although they originate in filth, you may still have them in a clean home, which is why you should steam clean everything if you see signs of them.

© 2009 Mike and Dorothy McKenney


Arnisha on February 09, 2012:

Eeeww what if I spray cleaning spray all over the mattrise I've never bad a bedbug problem but I fear those things my house is clean so can they still come?

pauline martinez on January 20, 2012:

i think there is a way bed bugs should come from dirty people should we let thoes people in our house i think not

Bob B on July 18, 2011:

Thank you very much for this very informative and helpful site. This is the web at its best. The steam-cleaner manufacturers owe you a big thanks too!!

Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on May 26, 2011:

Writing about bed's a dirty job but somebody's gotta do it. Thanks for taking the time to read. Sorry about the skin crawling thing...

peanutroaster from New England on May 26, 2011:

This makes my skin crawl.

John Collins on February 08, 2011:

Nice Hub. Good content and Great pictures

darkscream on May 22, 2010:

I've only found two of the critters, both on me (YUCK!), but after reading up on it, I broke out my handy steamer and I've been dousing the couch, the bed, the carpets, corners, et al. I use a touch of bleach in the water. My cat's collar has a chemical in it that is [apparently] used by exterminators. That may be why I haven't found more bugs. But the key word is diligence. I've been steaming my place day after day just to be sure.

Mary on September 10, 2009:

after a friend visited from California...i found some of the terrible bugs in the bed....I have been looking for info on steamers and came to your hubpage. What kind of steamer do you have? I found one on amazon that has lots of good reports for under $100. I need to get one soon. Also ordered some Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade that many have recommended.

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