Nobody wants to have to deal with bed bugs. While they don’t carry disease, they cause discomfort and they are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Keeping bed bugs out of your home is a lot easier than cleaning up an infestation.
So, how do you prevent bed bugs from showing up?
Take Precautions When Travelling
The most common way to acquire a bed bug infestation is travel. It’s hard for hotels to control bed bugs and sometimes you will come home with “passengers” on your luggage. Here are some precautions:
- Read reviews and avoid staying at a hotel with recent reports of bed bugs. Look at the dates. If it was three years ago, not a concern. If it was last week…
- Try not to unpack luggage on the hotel bed.
- When returning home, transfer your clothes directly to the washing machine. Launder them and then dry in the tumble dryer on high heat.
- Clothes that cannot be tumble-dried should be air-dried in direct sunlight for several hours. Direct sunlight kills bed bug eggs. Clothes that cannot be laundered can also be left out but should be cleaned as soon as possible.
- Run a hand steamer over your luggage, if you have one. Otherwise, leave it out in direct sunlight.
- You should also treat your child’s (or your) stuffies, backpacks and other bags, laptop or tablet sleeves, etc. Bed bugs can and will lay their eggs on anything made of cloth.
If you travel a lot then you might want to buy a portable heating chamber which you can use to treat items you think might be infested.
Make Your Home Less Appealing to Bed Bugs
Outside of travel, you want to make your home less appealing to bed bugs. You should:
- Avoid storing items under the bed. If you have to, store items that are not made of cloth.
- Reduce clutter in general. Clutter creates hiding spaces for bed bugs and for other pests.
- If you use shared laundry facilities, transport your clothing in plastic bags. Fold at home.
- If you live in a flat, isolate your unit by installing door sweeps and sealing all cracks.
- Use a mattress encasement. This is a plastic cover that goes over your mattress and prevents bed bugs from getting access. You should also cover your box sheet.
- Vacuum regularly, especially around and under your bed.
- Regularly launder and tumble dry your bedsheets, blankets, pillowcases, etc.
Taking these steps reduces the chance of a few passengers turning into an active infestation.
How to Look For Bed Bugs
Regularly checking your home for bed bugs allows you to spot them early, which makes them easier to get rid of. Knowing the signs also helps you work out if your hotel room has bed bugs (if so, move).
- Rust-coloured stains on bedsheets or mattresses. These happen when you crush a bed bug (full of your blood) overnight.
- Dark spots the size of a bullet point on the bed or bedding.
- Small pale yellow objects on the bed or bedding.
If inspecting a room for bed bugs, they tend to hide in drawer joints, electrical sockets, under wallpaper, and in curtains and cushions. If your clothes have been in a room with bed bugs, it is particularly important to treat. Heat and sunlight kill bed bugs.
What to Do If You Have an Infestation?
Do not use cold to kill bed bugs. It works if done right, but your home freezer does not get cold enough. Call the professionals for an inspection to confirm bed bugs. Note that if you are waking up itchy it may be bed bugs or it may be fleas. While it’s possible to treat bed bugs yourself, professionals have better equipment and skills. If you are renting, your landlord may be responsible for treatment.
If you do want to treat it yourself, you should:
- Seal as many cracks as you can find. Bed bugs you seal in will die.
- Collect up all infested items and put them in sealed plastic bags. The best treatment is a clothes dryer on high heat. Do not try to turn your heat up to kill the bed bugs. Professionals can do a whole house heat treatment, but if you try to do it yourself, it will not be safe or effective.
- Items that cannot be treated should be sealed in air tight plastic bags and left there for up to a year. Yes, a year. It can take that long for bed bug eggs to die.
- Seal your mattress and box spring in a protective cover that properly seals. Do not unseal it for a year. The bed bugs will be trapped inside and die.
- Rent a steam cleaner and steam clean your carpets, baseboards, bed frames and any infested furniture at least 55 degrees Celsius.
- Destroy furniture that can’t be treated. Make sure it is in no state to be used before getting rid of it so that somebody doesn’t pick it up and get an infestation.
- Do not use chemical pesticides unless it specifically says they will kill bed bugs. Avoid bug bombs, which tend not to catch hiding bed bugs. Use desiccants or diatomaceous earth (not food grade).
- Put bed bug interceptor traps under the legs of furniture. These keep the bugs from climbing onto the furniture.
For most people, though, it is better to call a professional. One of the most effective ways to get rid of bed bugs is a whole house heat treatment. Any items that could be damaged by the heat should be placed in sealed plastic bags and removed. The professional may recommend the use of pesticides as well, but you may be able to get away with the heat treatment alone. Everyone, including pets, needs to vacate the home during the treatment.
Professional cleaning can also help prevent bed bug infestation. If you don’t have time to vacuum regularly, hiring somebody to come in and do it saves time and avoids the major hassle of a bed bug infestation.