How to get rid of bedbugs

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Getting rid of bedbugs demands a blend of knowledge, patience and strategic action. While professional exterminators may use insecticides or heat treatments for large or pervasive infestations, it’s possible to treat smaller ones with do-it-yourself methods.

Key insights:

  • While DIY methods can be effective for small infestations, professional extermination is often necessary for larger or persistent infestations.
  • Professional exterminators use a variety of treatments, including heat treatment, insecticides and encasements.
  • DIY extermination involves a multistep process, including thorough cleaning, heat treatment and the use of bedbug sprays.

Can I get rid of bedbugs on my own?

The decision to tackle a bedbug infestation on your own or hire a professional depends on several factors. These include the size of the infestation, your budget and your comfort with DIY methods.

“Bedbug infestations can be challenging to deal with on your own, often requiring persistence and thoroughness,” said Jordan Foster, a pest control expert at Fantastic Pest Control in London.

Small infestations can often be handled with DIY methods, but larger or more persistent infestations typically require professional treatment. It's important to remember that bedbugs are resilient pests, and even a few remaining bugs can lead to a resurgence of the infestation.

Professional bedbug extermination

Professional exterminators have the knowledge, tools and experience to effectively handle bedbug infestations. When hiring an exterminator, look for a licensed professional with experience in bedbug extermination. They should conduct a thorough inspection of your home and provide a detailed treatment plan.

Exterminators use a variety of methods to eliminate bedbugs. The most common are:

  • Heat treatment: This method involves raising the temperature in your home or the infested area to a level that kills bedbugs at all stages of their life cycle. Heat treatment can be highly effective because bedbugs cannot survive at extreme temperatures, but you must remove heat-sensitive items and electronics from treated areas.
  • Insecticides: Exterminators often use chemical treatments to eliminate bedbugs. These can include pyrethrins, pyrethroids, desiccants, biochemicals and other types of insecticides. Each type works differently, and an exterminator may use a combination to increase effectiveness.
  • Steam treatment: Similar to heat treatment, steam treatment uses high-temperature steam to kill bedbugs. This method is often used for items that can't be treated with heat or insecticides, such as mattresses and furniture.
  • Fumigation: Exterminators may use fumigation for severe infestations. This involves filling the infested space with pesticidal gases or fumigants. This method is highly effective, but it can be more costly and requires occupants to leave the home for a period of time.
  • Freezing: Some exterminators may use a device that produces a cold mist to freeze the pests. This method is chemical-free and can be used on a variety of surfaces.
  • Encasements: Mattress and box spring encasements can trap bedbugs inside and prevent them from feeding, eventually causing them to die. This method is often used in conjunction with other treatments.

The exterminator may use one or a combination of these treatments. They may also recommend follow-up treatments to ensure all bedbugs have been eliminated.

» DISCOVER: What do bedbug bites look like?

DIY bedbug extermination

If you've decided to tackle the bedbug problem on your own, be thorough and patient. Bedbugs are resilient, and their eradication requires a multifaceted approach.

1. Identify and contain the infestation

The first step is to confirm that you have bedbugs and identify all infested areas. Look for signs such as live bedbugs, dark spots (droppings), reddish stains on your mattress (crushed bugs) and small, pale yellow eggs or skins that young bedbugs shed. If you find a bedbug, put it in a sealed jar with rubbing alcohol for identification.

» LEARN: How to check for bedbugs

2. Clean and declutter

Bedbugs thrive in cluttered conditions that have many hiding places. Clean your surroundings, and then wash your bedding, curtains and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Put items that can't be washed in the dryer for 30 minutes at the highest heat setting. Vacuum your bed and surrounding areas daily, including windows and molding.

3. Seal and isolate

Seal up all your linens and affected clothes in plastic bags until you can wash them. Also seal cracks in furniture and around baseboards, tape up open electrical outlets, and glue down loose wallpaper to eliminate hiding places. Put bedbug-proof covers on your mattress and box spring to trap any remaining bugs inside.

4. Heat and cold treatments

Bedbugs can be killed with high heat (usually around 115 degrees Fahrenheit) or intense cold. You can wash bedding and clothes in hot water for 30 minutes and then put them in a dryer on the highest heat setting. Alternatively, you can pack up infested items in black bags and leave them outside on a hot day or in a closed car. For cold treatment, put bedbug-infested items in sealed bags, and then keep them in the freezer for at least four days.

5. Insecticides

If the infestation persists, you may need to use insecticides. Look for products registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are specifically marked for use on bedbugs. There are several types of insecticides you can try, including pyrethrins, pyrethroids, pyrroles, neonicotinoids and desiccants. Always follow the instructions on the label, and never apply an insecticide to your body.

6. Monitor and repeat

After the treatment, monitor the infested areas for signs of continued activity. Bedbugs are resilient, and it may take multiple treatments to completely eradicate them. If you still see signs of bedbugs after several treatments, it might be time to call in a professional.

Remember, DIY bedbug extermination requires time and patience. If the infestation is large or if the bugs persist despite your efforts, don't hesitate to seek professional help.

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    How long does it take to get rid of bedbugs?

    The length of time it takes to completely eliminate a bedbug infestation can vary depending on the size of the infestation and the treatment method used.

    Can I get rid of bedbugs on my own?

    Yes, it's possible to get rid of bedbugs on your own, especially if the infestation is small. However, for larger or more persistent infestations, professional extermination is often necessary.

    What are the most effective treatments for bedbugs?

    Both heat treatment and insecticides are highly effective at killing bedbugs. However, the best treatment can depend on the specifics of the infestation.

    How can I prevent a future bedbug infestation?

    Prevention methods include regularly inspecting your home, especially after travel; washing and drying your clothes and bedding at high temperatures; and sealing off any potential entry points in your home.

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