Bed Bugs have been frustrating humans since before the rise of civilization. Originally a cave-dwelling insect, their insatiable appetite for blood led them to feast upon our cavemen ancestors.
When humans evolved and transitioned out of caves and began building their own homes, bed bugs followed along to stay close to their meal ticket. So it goes without saying that our love-hate relationship with bed bugs (we hate them; they love us) has a long history.
There was a point in time where Americans looked to have succeeded in eliminating bed bugs. In the early 1940s, the pesticide known as DDT was created and was very effective in killing bed bug populations. It worked so well that it nearly wiped out the entire bed bug infestation.
However, bed bugs have experienced a resurgence of sorts in recent years, largely due to the rise in international travel where tourists and immigrants would be coming to the states or when we would be vacationing overseas. Bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers and made a comeback with a vengeance.
The big cities are suffering the most from bed bug infestations but it really has become a nationwide issue. Hotels, motels, theatres, bus stations, airports have been where bed bugs could be accidentally picked up and brought to the home. Apartment building where people live in close proximity to one another or share walls are how bed bugs could transfer and create all sorts of trouble.
While bed bug exterminators may be the first instinct of most upon discovering bed bugs in their home, not everyone can afford a professional treatment. This is when people turn to remedies online. The things about the internet though is that not everything on the interwebs is true and not every remedy is effective.
In this article we will cover some of the more common methods of DIY bed control and share with you the methods that are proven to work and should be tried, and which bed bug treatment methods you shouldn’t even bother wasting your time, money and energy on.
Doesn’t Work – Bed Bug Bombs
Bed Bug Bombs, also known as total release foggers, have been popular to average consumers and DIY novices because they are looking for a solution that is low to no effort. That’s the main selling point of bed bug bombs and pest control bombs in general. You essentially are supposed to set it in your home where the bugs have been active or infesting, leave the home for a period of time, return back and let your home air out for a bit and boom, no more bed bugs. That’s the best case scenario and more often than not, bed bug bombs flop and flop hard.
This is because bed bug bombs do not penetrate as good as they claim to do. Bed bugs have flat tiny bodies that allow them to squeeze through the tightest spaces, about as thing as a credit card. Some of the areas where bed bugs are known to gather are between the tufts and folds of a mattress, deep in the crevices of a box spring, in picture frames and even in voids behind electrical outlets.
When a bed bug bomb is set off, the pesticide may never even reach bed bugs and even if they do somewhat, the bed bugs would just retreat deeper into their hiding places to avoid the poison, only to return once the poison wears off and dissipates.
What you are left with is a very temporary postponement of bed bug activity, only for them to return and keep you up at night with more bites when you have returned and the fumes of the bed bug bomb are no more. It’s a total waste of money and time.
Works – Your Washer and Dryer
While bed bug bombs may not do the trick to eliminate bed bugs, your laundry machines may be bed bug kryptonite. This is because bed bugs will die when they are exposed to temperatures above 120 degrees fahrenheit. Your washer and dryer, when placed on the highest heat setting can easily get above that temperature.
Strip away your bedding materials off your mattress and pillow cases and also take any clothing that you suspect to be infested by bed bugs and put them into the washing machine and turn it up to the hottest temperature. Once the cycle is complete, immediately put the items into the dryer for the longest period of time and at the highest heat setting and you will for sure kill a significant number of bed bugs.
It’s important that after you have washed and dried those infested items, to keep them quarantined in your closet in a tightly sealed plastic bag. You can safely return them back where they are meant to be after you are sure bed bugs have been totally eliminated and you have treated your entire home with other efficient methods of bed bug control.
Doesn’t Work – Alcohol
Another popular method that is touted online is the use of rubbing alcohol to kill bed bug infestations. Often people have rubbing alcohol in their household for first aid, and it’s generally a “green” form of pest control. This is because scientific studies have shown that bed bugs can die from alcohol when the substance is sprayed directly on them.
But while alcohol does technically work, it is not effective when used practically. Again, you have to spray a bed bug directly with the alcohol to kill them. Most times, bed bugs will not be found as they are in hiding. If you were to spray your bed with alcohol and a bed bug walks over a sprayed area later, the chances of the alcohol killing the bed bug drop significantly.
Another con of using rubbing alcohol is that it will only kill about half the present population. Bed bugs reproduce quickly and lay many eggs so even if alcohol does kill some, the bed bug infestation will likely rebound. With alcohol having a tendency to evaporate quickly, you would have to do repeat treatments often if you select this as your go-to method of bed bug control.
Finally, using alcohol is risky and not recommended because of its flammability. If you were to go around dousing your home with rubbing alcohol in efforts to get rid of bed bugs, you could accidentally start a fire and put yourself in danger and damage your home.
With all this said, it’s not really worth it to try to use alcohol as your answer for a bed bug problem.
Works – Steam Cleaning
This method is closely related to the washer and dryer method in that it is a form of using heat to treat bed bugs. If you have a steam cleaner, rent one or hiring out a steam cleaning service to perform a full steam cleaning of your home, you could make a significant dent to the bed bug population.
Steam can get hot enough to kill bed bugs and it would be best to be thorough in your steam cleaning if you really want to make an impact. Treat your carpets and rugs and then steam treat your mattress and box springs and your couch and other upholstery. It’s especially helpful if your steam cleaner has crevices attachment and accessories that can penetrate those folds and tufts and other tight spaces bed bugs like to hide.
The only con is that steam treating will not be able to treat bed bugs that are hiding within wall voids.
Works – Bed Bug Traps
Bed bug traps can either be a commercially available trap (often called bed bug interceptors) or a DIY make shift trap that usually contains some sort of lure (such as carbon dioxide chemical that attracts bed bugs) and an adhesive that will get the bed bugs stuck (glue, double sided tape, etc.) when they come close enough. They work well for monitoring bed bug populations after a treatment.
Bed bug traps are often place around the bed, such as the legs of the bed or other areas where bed bugs may need to crawl across to get to you. Bed bug traps can help to stop immediate biting when you are trying to go to sleep.
While bed bugs do catch an impressive amount of bed bugs, they should not be used as a sole method of bed bug control. This is cause the traps only trap bugs that decide to climb up the mattress or climb off the mattress, they don’t address other bed bugs in the home. Also if you have a significant infestation, you would need to replace them often.
Traps work best as a supplementary part of a bed bug treatment program as a monitor of bed bug activity. We recommend not relying on it alone if you want bed bugs gone completely.
Works – Bed Bug Encasements
If you really want to make it difficult or next to impossible for bed bugs to infest your mattress and box spring and torture you with irritatingly itchy bites, you should use bed bug encasements. These are essentially wrap-around covers for mattress that will render it inhabitable by the bed bugs.
Simply wrap the encasement around your mattress and zip it up. Any bed bugs that are hiding in your mattress when encased will be trapped inside and will eventually starve to death. New bed bugs will be unable to hide away in the tufts and folds due to the encasement and since it is colored white, they will be easily seen crawling on it if found.
Bed Bug encasements essentially become the new “skin” for your mattress and shouldn’t ever be removed. There are evenly some that are coated with bed bug repellent or pesticide. There are also encasements available specifically for box springs, chairs and sofas.
This method of bed bug control is best used after bed bugs have been eliminated from your home to reduce the likelihood of reinfestation.
Doesn’t Work – Essential Oils
Essential oils have become all the rage recently as an environmentally-friendly and safe method of insect repellent and control but using it for bed bugs doesn’t seem to be a good idea. Research has shown that bed bugs survive treatments of essential oils and that for heavy infestations, the method is largely ineffective.
Essential oils also have the same cons of the rubbing alcohol method above in that for it to do any significant damage, you would have to reapply it often because it breaks down easily and has little to no residual effect.
Works – The Right Pesticides
While there are a lot of different pesticides out there that are labeled to kill bed bugs, not all of them are effective in doing the job. Make sure if you do go the pesticide route that you use chemicals that are both safe to apply in the hot spots (mattress, box springs etc.) and carry a long residual effect.
Residual pesticides means that the bed bug doesn’t have to be killed directly by the product but can also be killed by crawling over an area treated with the chemical days or even weeks after it has been applied.
Your best bet is to apply more than one method of bed bug pesticide rather than relying on just one. That way if one pesticide doesnt kill the bed bug, the other pesticide will. Our recommendation is a combination of bed bug aerosol spray or insecticide concentrate (for treating mattresses, boxsprings, carpeting and cracks and crevices) and an insecticidal dust or powder that can be puffed in hard to reach areas where bed bugs like to hide such as wall voids, along baseboards, behind wall outlets etc.
Pesticides may also need to be applied more than once to deal with the entire lifecycle. Depending on the severity, you may need to perform pesticide applications every two weeks for a couple of months until the bed bugs are gone.
Recommended Read: What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
Bed bugs can be troubling to encounter in the home. If you are willing to tackle the problem yourself, make sure you steer clear of the ineffective methods we’ve listed above and apply the methods that actually work to save yourself time, money and energy.