Disclaimer: This post contains no magic bed bugs home remedy that you can pay $5 for and which will kill any bed bug in your home within 24 hours. Sorry.
What I will give you is a frank and honest assessment of a few different bed bugs home remedies and whether they work or not. I like to put the humorous disclaimer at the top to make my most important point, however: getting rid of bed bugs is not easy, and no matter what treatment solution(s) you use, you’re going to need to work at it. All I can tell you is that the effort is worth it in the end. So…
What’s the absolute best bed bugs home remedy?
This is really what you came to my website for right? The answer is that you need a combination of 2-3 home remedies to ensure that you’re able to get rid of all of the bed bugs in your home. If I didn’t care, I could pick any one of the treatment methods below and tell you that it’s the best, but the fact of the matter is that no one solution will be 100% effective. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t know what they’re talking about or else is trying to sell you their magical bed bug solution.
Here are the things that work:
- Dry Steamer: You need a dry steamer. I’m not saying that no one has ever treated a bed bug infestation without a dry steamer, but there really is no better tool to kill bed bugs and their eggs around your home. In particular, you’ll need to use the dry steamer on your bed, your furniture, your carpet, and anything else that is upholstered. Doing so will make sure that no eggs survive the treatment and then hatch weeks later. Be careful when you’re using this instrument, as it gets very hot (hence why it can kill bed bugs and their eggs). Also, you’ll see that the typical price tag on a dry steamer is about $300 (they can actually be much more expensive, but a $300 one is just fine – check out the Vapamore). This may seem like a lot to spend, but it’s a lot less than you’ll end up spending on extermination, so look at it as an investment.
- Diatomaceous Earth: Most people have never heard of this stuff, but it’s both cheap and effective. It has a variety of uses outside of killing bed bugs, but kill bed bugs it will. The best part is that diatomaceous earth does not need to be applied directly to bed bugs like most bed bug sprays. Rather, this is a dirt-like substance – which is why it’s called "earth" – and it will stay around for bed bugs to walk across. When they do, the bed bugs will die. The most important reason that you need this is because no matter how thorough you are with the dry steamer, you’ll never get ALL of the bed bugs, so you need something that will keep killing bed bugs in the weeks and months to come.
- Laundry and Vacuuming: These are obviously not items that you will need to buy, but the point is, while you’re going through bed bug treatment, you’ll need to continually do laundry and vacuum every day. Neither of these actions serve as treatment methods on their own, since they’ll only kill a few bed bugs here and there, but they’re important actions in terms of keeping bed bugs from spreading and recurring.
Here are the things that DON’T work:
- Bed Bug Spray: Listen – bed bug sprays actually DO work, in that they will kill some bed bugs. I don’t want to make you think that all sprays simply don’t kill bed bugs, since they do. The reason I don’t recommend bed bug sprays is because people tend to be very over-reliant on them, and also because the items mentioned above (a dry steamer and diatomaceous earth) work better than bed bug sprays. If you want to use a bed bug spray in conjunction with the above tactics, then by all means, do so. Just don’t think that a bed bug spray alone is going to be enough.
- Any rudimentary heat or cold treatment: You’ll read a lot of people argue that you can freeze items, place them in the sun, or else heat or cool things in such a way as to kill bed bugs. There’s obviously some truth to this, since that’s the way that both dry steamers and laundry work to kill bed bugs. However, these tactics are extremely limited, they only allow you to treat a few items at a time, and they don’t even guarantee that all the bed bugs in the particular item will be killed. Ignore this sort of advice and go for things that have been proven to work.
As I noted above, there’s no bed bugs home remedy that will guaranty 100% success, and you’re really going to need to put a lot of effort into it if you have a major bed bug infestation. I wholly recommend getting started as early as possible, since the longer you wait, the harder it is to get rid of all of the bed bugs.
If you’ve read many of the posts on this site, then you know I’m pretty devoted to helping people figure out what kills bed bugs and their eggs. To that end, I not only actively help people I know, but I also go out and read what other people are finding that works, and what other people are recommending. And you know what?…
There is a HUGE disconnect between what kills bed bugs and their eggs and what people are recommending, particularly on internet sites.
Now, don’t get me completely wrong. There are some very good sites out there that offer some truthful and accurate information (and I like to think that KillAllBedBugs is one of those sites). If you search hard enough, you’ll definitely come across some sites that will recommend solutions and treatment methods that actually work. In the process, however, you’ll also find many hundreds of sites that are simply trying to sell you the latest bed bug spray.
I’ve done so in other posts, but what I thought I’d do today is to give you the most up-to-date information that we have on what you can use to kill bed bugs and their eggs. (Note that I’m assuming you’re not hiring a professional exterminator – not because you shouldn’t – but rather because these tips are simply geared for people who want to treat the problem on their own and perhaps save a bit of money in the process.)
So How Can One Effectively Kill Bed Bugs and Their Eggs?
- First of all, you must focus on the eggs. I know this seems counter-intuitive, since you are probably dying to kill the LIVE bed bugs that are biting you every night, but in terms of treatment, if you can’t destroy the eggs, then you’re never going to succeed in your extermination battle. With that in mind, it’s almost impossible to use a spray to destroy the eggs. Even you find one strong enough that it will neutralize the eggs on contact, you will never be able to be thorough enough to actually spray it directly onto all of the eggs, since they’re often hidden behind wallpaper, under the carpet, in light fixtures, etc. In addition, sprays generally do nothing to eggs in any case.
This means that, above all else, you MUST get a dry steamer. One of the only effective ways to destroy bed bug eggs is to heat them up to a hot enough temperature (and no, turning the heat up in your home won’t come close). I would get a dry steamer before I’d get anything else, and I’d use it extensively on my bed, furniture, floors, carpet, and even my walls (although be careful about getting wallpaper too damp, as it will loosen the adhesive). I don’t personally think that any one tool is enough to effectively eliminate bed bugs in every instance, but a dry steamer is one of the two tools that I wouldn’t do without.
- Secondly, focus on residual bed bugs. Hopefully, with a dry steamer (and any spray that you may use), you’ll kill most all of the bed bugs and eggs. However, there is never any guarantee that your efforts will be 100% successful, so you’ll need something that will kill any bed bugs that emerge from hiding after you treat your home a few times.
That tool should be diatomaceous earth. Why diatomaceous earth? Mostly because it lasts. As opposed to most sprays, you can put it down, and it will still kill bed bugs that walk across it 2 weeks later. That doesn’t mean that you should re-apply every week or 2 for a couple months, but it does mean that you can hopefully kill live bed bugs before they’re able to bite you or, more importantly, lay more eggs. As an added benefit, diatomaceous earth is pretty cheap, which makes a difference, because you’ve probably already spent a fair amount on a good dry steamer (although not near as much as you’d spend on a good exterminator).
- Finally, treat, treat, treat. The point I want to make here is that whatever treatment method you choose (even if you don’t go with a dry steamer and diatomaceous earth as I’ve suggested), you need to treat multiple times, even after you think that you’ve killed all the bed bugs. Bed bugs live for quite a while without feeding, so they could easily be hiding in places that you didn’t treat. Unless you keep treating and re-treating, you’ll just keep getting recurring infestations. Being thorough the first time makes sure that you don’t allow the stragglers to repopulate in your home.
These are just the basics, and we really recommend that you put together a much more comprehensive step-by-step attack plan. I find that most people who have a strategy for how to deal with bed bugs and how to keep them from coming back are by far the most successful. People who act haphazardly and just buy every new product that they come across tend to kill some of the bed bugs and their eggs, but they miss some and generally experience many recurrences. Please don’t let that be you!
There are various bed bug symptoms. Some of them are obvious, like bites or seeing bed bugs in your home. Others are less obviously, such as the odor and stains that bed bugs can leave. We’ve described some of these common symptoms of bed bugs below to help you identify whether you have bed bugs or not:
photo credit: Richard ThomasBites – Many people who are bitten by bed bugs see evidence of those bites, although some lucky people are not affected by the bites and therefore don’t see any bites. If you do see bites, the bites usually manifest itself as small bumps (sometimes flat and sometimes raised), and many people experience redness, swelling and itchiness on the affected areas. Common areas to find these bites are on your face, neck, arms and hands, although bites on other body parts are also normal. Bed bug bites are similar to many other insect bites or skin allergies so it’s often difficult to distinguish between them. There are 2 signs that may indicate a bite is from a bed bug rather than another insect (although these are definitely not fail-proof!): (1) three bites in a straight line (often known as breakfast, dinner, and lunch) and (2) two puncture marks on the skin (one puncture to inject the numbing agent and one puncture to suck up your blood). To find out more about bed bug bites, read our Bed Bug Bites page, and if you’re interested in how to treat the bites, read the Bed Bug Bites Treatment page.
- Seeing Bed Bugs – Of course, if you see bed bugs, you probably have a large infestation as it’s rare to be able to spot them crawling around. There are monitors that you can purchase to help catch bed bugs. These monitors mimic human breathing to draw bed bugs to them. Other methods of catching bed bugs are also available, and these include spreading Vaseline or attaching double-sided tape to the bottom of your furniture.
- Stains – Bed bugs leave excrement and exoskeletons, which you can find in the creases of your bed sheets or mattresses/box springs. You can usually see their excrement as reddish or brownish stains on your mattress or bedroom furniture. But note that these stains may be difficult to spot if you don’t have a large infestation. The exoskeletons that they shed may be even harder to spot as they’re very small and will usually disintegrate if you crush it.
- Sweet Odor – Bed bugs emit a sweet musty smell that you might be able to detect in your room if you have bed bugs. However, you’re unlikely to notice the smell unless you have a large infestation.
Unfortunately, although there are many possible symptoms of having a bed bug infestation, no particular symptom will tell you if you definitely have bed bugs except for actually seeing the bed bugs. I strongly encourage you to make sure that you have bed bugs before you undertake a thorough treatment regime, because you can’t tell what kind of treatment is successful unless you can accurately determine whether or not you still have bed bugs. I’ve put up a whole post on bed bugs signs, but if you really want to know, consider hiring a sniffer dog or getting a device such as the Climbup Detector.
Should you buy a bed bug mattress cover?
To be honest with you, we just bought our first real mattress about a year ago. Now we love it, but I still shiver at the thought of how much it cost us (way more than any other piece of furniture we have). So why should you care about any of this? Because if you’re thinking about getting a bed bug mattress cover, you should first realize that this simple product can save you a lot of money and pain down the road. Please note that everything in this article relating to mattresses, also applies to your box springs.
Mattresses often cost a small fortune, and you always want to buy a comfortable one because it’s where you spend so much of your time! But when bed bugs set up home in your mattress, do you really want to keep enduring bite-filled sleepless nights just for the sake of keeping that mattress? However, there is a way to prevent getting bed bugs into your mattress or from keeping your existing mattress even if they have bed bugs!
What you need to know before buying a bed bug mattress cover
Mattress covers (which are sometimes called encasements) are plastic covers that prevent bed bugs from entering or exiting your mattress. They are way cheaper than a new mattress and last for a long time. You just slip them onto your mattress and then zip it up. Any bed bugs in your mattress are sealed in as long as you don’t open that zip, and any bed bugs that you might get later can’t get into your mattress. Make sure when you buy a cover that it has a layer of “breathable” material on top of the plastic because otherwise it can make your bed really hot.
Mattress covers cost around $50-150, and you can buy them from a variety of stores including Bed, Bath and Beyond and on-line at Amazon.com. There are several things to look out for when purchasing a mattress cover:
Make sure the plastic material feels more like fabric and not like the material cheap shower curtains are made of.
Make sure there are no rips in the material as this would make it useless.
Make sure the mattress cover specifically prevents bed bugs as some mattress covers are just designed to prevent allergies.
Don’t forget to check your mattress cover monthly to make sure there are no tears or rips as that can prevent it from protecting your mattress properly. You might be able to use tape to patch up any tears or rips that you find. Some mattress covers are washing machine washable. If you wash it in the washing machine, make sure to check carefully as material might have ripped in the wash. Lastly, if you’re using the mattress cover to prevent bed bugs in your mattress from getting out, then don’t open that zip for at least a year.