How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: A Low-Cost DIY Extermination Without Toxic Poisons

Updated on January 15, 2018

Don't Panic!

I know the panic, the dread, the embarrassment. This was a horrible experience for me! After trying others' advice and spending months battling these horrible little critters, I FINALLY got my house back! I want to share with you how I did it so that you can do it too! This article describes how to get rid of bed bugs yourself, without using toxic pesticides or paying thousands of dollars on exterminators! Do not give into the exterminator hype. If I can do it alone, you can too!

Identify

Learn to identify. I don't mean just knowing what they look like. I mean, learn male from female and the life cycle stages. Learn this first hand as you are doing the extermination. Later on, if you find a single bug, you will know if it is a recent hatch (could be a loner) or a female adult (that would require extermination of new eggs). Your battle against the bed bug will be much shorter if you can identify them well so that you know how to react. This can also relieve some of the anxiety and stress that comes from seeing a single bug after extermination. Knowing if a new bug is a male or female can let you know if you need to repeat processes or wait to see if he is just a loner that was missed or hatched after extermination. Also important to know is that females do not reproduce until they are adults.

Bed Bug Life Cycle

Bed Bug Habits

  • Bed bugs are nocturnal. They will be most active after the house is dark and quiet.
  • They prefer humans over animals. But if humans are not available, they will feed on your pet.
  • They like to travel. They will hang out on your shoes, clothing, and suitcases.
  • You will usually find them living within a 5 ft perimeter of your bed.
  • They can hide in small tight spaces.
  • If you can fit the corner of a credit card in a crevice, a bed bug can hide there.

The DO NOT DO List

-Do not throw out furniture and bedding.

-Do not order professional extermination

(unless you are very wealthy of course)!

-Do not use poisons around children or pets!

-Do not move items from room to room in your home.

(This includes laundry at the beginning.)

The Basics

You are going to kill the bed bugs with heat using your dryer and a hand held steamer. Using steam to kill these bugs is almost instant! They cannot tolerate heat. Your dryer can kill the bugs and eggs if on the highest setting for about 30-45 minutes.

Freezing temps will also kill them. If you have a deep freezer, you can put items in the freezer for 3 days to ensure everything has been killed.

Your Weapons

  • Handheld Steamer
  • Vacuum Cleaner
  • Clothes Washer and Dryer
  • Deep Freezer

Eggs and Newly Hatched Bed Bugs

Eggs and newly hatched bed bugs found under the box springs of the bed.
Eggs and newly hatched bed bugs found under the box springs of the bed.

Is It Worth It?

I say above to not throw away any furniture you want to keep. "Want" is the key word. You must decide if it is worth it. Only you can decide. During my extermination I did toss out an old recliner because it was just too much of a risk. It had a decent infestation inside the chair. With all of the inside parts, nooks, and crannies, I decided that I would probably not be able to get every single one. So I tossed the chair.

Another example of when to toss is a torn mattress. If your mattress has a tear in it, then your protection of bed bugs being inside the mattress has been jeopardized. It most cases it can be salvaged. But, is it worth it? If you choose to keep the torn mattress you can steam the mattress inside and out. If you are not confident after steaming, you can add a mattress cover. (I do not recommend the cover unless your infestation was severe and you have a tear in the mattress cover.)

The Plan: Choose a Room

  1. Bag up any items that are cloth but cannot be put into the dryer; dolls, stuffed animals, throw pillows, purses, bags, etc. Put these bags into a deep freezer for 3+ days. No freezer - no problem. Keep them bagged and in this room until you are done with the rest of the room, then you can steam them and put them back.
  2. Choose your battle for laundry. A: Take 1 load at a time directly to washer/dryer. B: Bag it up to wash over the next few days but leave in room. C: Bag it up to wash 3+ days later and put it into a deep freezer. D: Clean but laying out? - Run it through the dryer for 30-45 minutes on the highest heat setting the clothing can take.
  3. De-clutter the perimeter - 5 ft from bed. (can double to 10 ft if you are a worrier like me!) The perimeter includes walls, baseboards, wall hangings, carpets, lamps, under bed, dressers, closets, curtains, etc. Inspect each item thoroughly, steam or wash as needed then bag or remove from perimeter.
  4. Travel items - If you have recently traveled, make sure to steam or freeze your suitcases and any travel bags.
  5. Strip the Bed - Bag or wash and dry immediately.
  6. Vaccum. Vaccum. Vaccum. Bag vacuum contents immediately, or add Seven Dust to your vacuum canister. Steam the vacuum cleaner after each use. Do not move your vacuum cleaner to another room without steaming the entire machine.
  7. Steam all furniture that is left very thoroughly. Steam entire mattress, box springs, metal pieces, etc of the bed. Hit every part of all the furniture with the steam to ensure any eggs have been killed.
  8. Steam the edges of the floors, baseboards, wall hangings, etc. any item in the perimeter needs to be steamed to ensure there are no eggs sticking to the items.
  9. Don't forget receptacles, light switches, light covers, lamps, ceiling fans, floor vents, etc. Remember, any space you can fit the corner of a credit card into, is big enough to harbor a bug.
  10. Put everything back in its place, and move to the next room!

Evidence

Bed bug eggs (white/tan) and fecal matter (black) in the seam of the mattress.
Bed bug eggs (white/tan) and fecal matter (black) in the seam of the mattress.

Tips for Success

  • Steam inside holes and around any hardware on your furniture such as screws, bolts and door handles.
  • I read "bed bugs do not live in books". This is not true! Bed bugs can and will live in books. Check the covers, spines, and use the steamer.
  • Steam your mattress and box springs very thoroughly on both sides, all edges, and down into their core. Do not forget under the mattress tags that are sewn onto the top end of your mattress.
  • Put your pillows in the dryer for at least 1 hour.
  • Steam the edges of the carpet where it meets the baseboards.
  • Don't forget under your bedposts.
  • Steam clean hardwood floors.
  • Make sure to get the windows and trim. They like to hide in the folds of the curtain near the curtain rods.
  • Bed bugs like to lay eggs in small places such as the staple imprints on the back of your headboard and nightstands.
  • Also steam the joints of furniture legs and corners of drawers.

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