12 Things To Do If You Find Bed Bugs In Your House

Close up cimex hemipterus on corrugated recycle paper

Bedbugs, the mere thought of these things cuddling up with you and a martini or a cup of hot chocolate and a book, is almost too much to bear. They are rather distasteful, but there is hope if you should find them.

If you find bedbugs in your house, you should consult a professional pest control company. When you first spot bed bugs in your home, stay calm and assess the entire situation to make sure that you in-fact, have bed bugs. Bed bugs often bite multiple times in a straight line or zig-zag formation.

Ultimately, there are a number of things you should do if you find bed bugs in your home. While this situation quite frankly, stinks, read on to find out just what to do!

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Stay Calm If You Find Bed Bugs In Your House

Stay calm. No one likes bugs, but bedbugs are not the end of the world. If you panic, you may end up making a treatment decision in haste, costing you more money and possibly losing more possessions than you need to. 

Some solutions are more dramatic than others, and now that you are level-headed, we can get to what to do from the most dramatic to the least so you can make an educated decision. 

In addition, make sure you speak to everyone in the house and assess what their experience has been. This will give you a clearer idea of how severe the issue is.

Sometimes, it is the entire house, and sometimes they are just confined to one room. Who has been in what room and when will also give you a clue. Just remember, most people get acquainted with bed bugs when they hitch a ride from a hotel.

Make Sure You Identify Them As Bed Bugs

Do not assume you have bed bugs just because you are waking up with bites. They are a likely cause, but there are other bugs you could be exposed to. 

Make sure they are not fleas, ticks, or chigger bugs brought in from the outside. Gnats can even leave a welt on people allergic to them.

bedbug illustration

You can read our guide here on identifying bed bugs.

Bedbugs are a flat badge sort of shape. Thick and squared off by the head and remain wide until the nearer the hind legs where they taper off into a subtle point. They can appear to have ridges or stripes on the back. They have 6 legs and range from 5mm-7mm long and below depending on what instar (phase of growth) they are in. 

Identify this by looking in the areas they are most commonly found. The first place to look is in the bed. Strip all the bedding down and look with a magnifying glass if possible. 

Scour the bed and especially the seams. They like to lay eggs there and will walk along the perimeter of the bed inside the seams. 

The next step is to grab one if you can, or take a picture of it and call a pest control company. If you want to deal with it yourself first, compare a Google image to the kidnapped bug. 

Once you have positively identified the bug as an actual bed bug, you can now move on to the next step. 

Research Bed Bug Treatment Options

Now, please keep in mind that that we’re going to suggest some solutions below but again, we HIGHLY recommend contacting a local pest control pro to figure out your best move for your specific situation.

Ok, let’s get to it.

Go online and call pest control companies to find out what bed bugs respond to. 

Then, decide what chemicals you want to put in your home and on your furniture. You may not want to expose yourself to pesticides that can be harmful long term.

Look for natural solutions as well. There are scents or tastes that bed bugs don’t like – not just because of the smell, but some of them will dry the bug out and also discourage egg-laying. 

Potential solutions for bed bugs are:

  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lavender
  • Rubbing Alcohol or Witch Hazel
  • Fossilized Algae {DME}
  • Pepper in a powder form
  • Blood Orange Oil
  • Lemon Balm
  • Peppermint 
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Neem {Caution, this one stinks!}

The reason most of these are in oil form is it is more potent and the staying power is also present. The oil form is less messy as well. However if you do in-fact have bed bugs, you really should consult a professional on potential solutions. Please make sure to take the disclaimer seriously.

Bed bugs aren’t something to mess around with.

In the mean time to identify bed bugs, you can read our guide on how to use glue traps for bed bugs to actually make sure that you have them in the first place.

Clean And Declutter The House To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs

Close up adult cimex hemipterus on corrugated recycled paper, bedbug.

You need to uncover and take away their hiding spots. They love clutter because it gives them a place to hide out and multiply. That is what you want to prevent, multiplication into an infestation. 

Do it systematically. Set a plan in motion. Begin with the part of the house where you experienced contact with the bug.

If you take it one step at a time with some cooperation from whoever lives with you, if anyone, you should be able to get a handle on it enough to minimize contact with the bug. 

  • Sweep all areas from the corners to the middle of the room: A dust-free and clutter-free room with the corners and moulding free of stuff will send them out of hiding. You may discover where the majority are.
  • Check your furniture and mattress: The most common spots for bed bugs to hide are generally on your box spring, the corners of your sheets and bed frame, inside the lining of your furniture and on the edge of carpets. Clean these areas as best as possible and wash them with hot water and high heat to kill the bed bugs and their eggs.
  • Empty all trash receptacles of paper and garbage: We all have trash cans in various rooms of the house. That makes things convenient, yet it also provides a hiding space for them 
  • Clear out clothes hampers: Clothes hampers are one of those places that can collect bed bugs. They love warm and soft spaces, hence your bed. Your clothes also have the same sort of food source they like–your dead skin–ew yeah, we said it, but it is a fact. That is why they are in your bed. 

Finally, take inventory of the house and make sure you do not have damp clothing or anything piled up on the floor, bed, or countertops. 

Make sure you have all luggage you have used on trips put away in a garage or attic. Do not ever just bring them back into your house and put them back in the closet.

Again, call an exterminator here if you do not have experience or if you doubt your methods.

Use Steam Heat To Eliminate Bed Bugs

The best way to kill bed bugs, at least the ones that are in the area in the first place, is to use extreme heat and hot water. So, strip all your bed linens and wash them in the hottest temp and dry them completely in the hottest dryer setting.

Now, here’s the thing that kind of stinks. If you have Egyptian cotton, silk, satin, or any other expensive linen, you may need to spend more and take them to a dry cleaner. That costs money, yes, but so does replacing your possessions.

Use A Hand Or Industrial Steamer For Bed Bugs

Once you’ve gotten the linens out to be washed, you still have a fundamental issue. Eggs and non-washable habitat for the hatched ones. 

Remember, you still have the mattress and box springs to deal with. Any place with seams and cloth that cannot get thrown in a washer is your challenge. You can rent hand steamers and professional steamers, which are easy to operate.

They also cost a lot less, even if you rent them for the week, typically that is what it would cost you to replace your bed and the linens. 

Steam All The Areas Of Your Home

The suggestion here is to take a weekend and get the kids out of the house to the relatives if that’s your home dynamic and address the whole situation.

Rent the steamer, offer lunch to a friend or get your partner to help you, or be adventurous and DIY it all by yourself. Hey, some folks get things done faster and better that way. 

Start with a plan. What room to tackle first. Always do the beds and any furniture that have cloth and/or seams in them first then do the floor. They will drop off the bed or couch, so this is the most effective order. 

Remember to note what rooms you did not see bugs in or the areas of the house you believe to be unaffected. This is so you do not strip linens or move furniture and place an affected piece in a clean room. They spread easily and you could cause an infestation. 

As always, if this seems all too overwhelming, then call a pest control company. Research them and read reviews. The typical bug guy may not specialize in bedbugs, so they may not be the company for you. Call and speak to a human you can ask.

Starting with a clean space that has been heat treated with most of the bedbugs gone is a good place for any next step. It will also make you feel better. 

Also, remember you will have to do this nearly constantly if you are still being bombarded by them after the steam heat fails to eradicate them all. 

You can use pesticides afterward, or even a bug bombing can do the trick if you want to back up the steam heat solution.

Take careful note in the coming days and weeks to gauge how each treatment worked. Then, you’ll be able to better determine what to do next. 

With that, let’s go on to the other possible solutions. 

For an alternative solution, read our guide on using diatomaceous earth for bed bugs here.

Close up adult cimex lectularius on corrugated recycled paper, bedbug.

Freeze Bed Bugs Out Of Your Home

The freezing method is not the most reliable. It has to be done at specific temperatures which can vary in efficacy depending on how hardy the bugs are. 

Placing some items in a deep freezer may destroy them, or out in the snow or below that. However, keep in mind that even if one egg lives to re-enter the home, it starts all over again. 

Face it, they are made for survival, most things that small are. Ever try to smack a flea to death? It takes a thumbnail and pressure on the exoskeleton to crack and kill it. Good luck with that one. 

They become a project and then another project for prevention. With hardy creatures, just like fleas, ticks, and termites, we still suggest a pest control company.

Why not get it tented if you can afford it and get rid of all creatures living in the walls and other hidden places.

Vacuum And Steam The Carpets To Help Eliminate Bed Bugs 

Do not underestimate the power of the vacuum. We suggest cylinder and not bag vacuums. This keeps eggs and bugs that may survive the suction from reentering the atmosphere. 

When you empty the cylinder, make sure it is in your outdoor trash can and in a bag. Never forget the bag and tie it securely. 

Do not just dump it in the house even if you take out the trash immediately. Eggs are microscopic and will fly directly back into the house to hatch. 

Steam cleaning the carpet differs from shampooing. Remember to ask for a steamer, not a rug shampooer. If you only shampoo the rug, you may suck them up, but if you miss any, you will have left a moist environment to help them survive. 

Destroy Your Mattresses If You Throw It Away

A popular opinion is to keep your mattress until you’re able to figure out a solution for the bed bugs so you can avoid tossing your mattress and spreading the infestation. Ultimately, this is up to you, but if you do throw out your mattress, make sure to destroy it in the process.

If you decide to throw your mattress out, there will be people that take them for personal use. Cut into them or stain them or something to make certain people do not use them again. 

Overall, this is just good practice to stop bed bugs from spreading.

Don’t Bring Home Bed Bugs In Used Furniture

Used furniture or even luggage could have bed bugs or eggs in them. When you go to the thrift stores and pick up clothing, linens, furniture, and luggage to save money, you could end up costing yourself more in the long run.

There is no guarantee that they have cleaned or steamed or fumigated anything. Typically, they ask people to wash the clothing and they look for any stains or signs of dirt or unsanitary things. This is not a guarantee you aren’t bringing something home or making an existing issue worse. 

Fumigation And Professional Bed Bug Pest Control

All bug bombs are not created equal. They are made for specific bugs or general fumigation, however not always for bed bugs. The fog has to reach those crazy areas that they hide. 

Research the best bug bombs for bed bugs. Read scholarly articles about the subject and know the chemicals that do kill the bed bug.

When you choose this type of solution, understand the risk involved as well as the efficacy and the expense. Is it worth trying or executing ten things to do if you find bed bugs in your house? 

Maybe not. If it costs just as much or less in the long-term to just get a professional solution rather than a temporary one, and have to live the experience again and again. Get it done right–the first time. 

That’s A Wrap!

Bedbugs will never be a fun experience, but now you are better equipped to handle the situation. Always be sure to contact a professional when necessary. Keep you and your loved ones safe!

References

Biology of the Bed Bugs (Cimicidae) Reinhardt, K., & Siva-Jothy, M. T. (2007). Biology of the bed bugs (Cimicidae). Annual Review of Entomology, 52, 351–374. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ento.52.040306.133913

The Resurgence of Bed Bugs in Australia: With Notes on Their Ecology and Control Doggett, S. L., Geary, M. J., & Russell, R. C. (2004). The Resurgence of Bed Bugs in Australia: With Notes on Their Ecology and Control. Environmental Health, 4(2), 30–38. https://search.informit.org/doi/10.3316/informit.202875198272447

Bedbugs and Infectious Diseases. Delaunay, P., Blanc, V., Del Giudice, P., Levy-Bencheton, A., Chosidow, O., Marty, P., & Brouqui, P. (2010). Bedbugs and Infectious Diseases. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 52(2), 200–210. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciq102

Zha, C., Wang, C., & Li, A. (2018). Toxicities of selected essential oils, silicone oils, and paraffin oil against the common bed bug (Hemiptera: Cimicidae). Journal of economic entomology, 111(1), 170-177.

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