It truly is hard to sleep tight when the bed bugs bite, since these insidious creatures are very real, and very nasty. You’ll have to be persistent to get rid of them.
Step 1: Know your enemy Know your bed bugs. They’re flat, oval-shaped, wingless, brownish--but will swell and be a bit reddish after feeding--and grow to be about the size of an apple seed. They prefer human blood, but will feed on some animals--and can live for up to 18 months without feeding.
TIP: Though some people can have severe allergic reactions to bed bug bites, bed bugs are not known to carry any diseases.
Step 2: Spot the signs Spot the signs. One is being bitten, usually in the night and in rows, but some people don’t wake up. Look for other clues--rusty spots on sheets or mattresses (from crushed bugs) or dark spots (from their droppings, eggs, and shed skins).
TIP: Many people get bed bugs from hotel rooms. When checking in, examine the headboard, mattress, box spring, closet, and luggage racks for signs of the bugs. If you see any, ask for another room--or check out.
Step 3: Look for bugs With a flashlight, look for bugs in: the folds of mattresses, box springs, furniture, curtains; cracks in bed frames & headboards; under chairs, couches, beds; in dresser drawers; behind baseboards; under rugs & around carpet edges; crevices near doors & windows; behind loose wallpaper or wall hangings; in cracks in your plaster; & in electronics.
TIP: Never take discarded mattresses or furniture off the streets. This is one way bed bugs get into your home.
Step 4: Confirm your findings Verify that you’ve found bed bugs by getting a pest control expert to visit your home, or sending a dead bug to a university lab, which will let you know if it is in fact a bed bug.
Step 5: Clean up Clean up. The less clutter you have on your floor, under your bed, and throughout your home, the fewer hiding places for the bugs.
Step 6: Vacuum daily Vacuum up dirt, bugs, and eggs. Vacuum your mattress, box spring, and furniture thoroughly every day until you’re sure the bugs are gone. After each vacuuming, remove the bag, wrap it carefully in plastic, and dispose of it immediately.
TIP: You can also use a steam cleaner, making sure that the temperature of the steam is over 120 degrees.
Step 7: Cover your mattress Purchase a plastic or plastic and cloth encasement for your mattress. Cover the zipper with duct tape and leave the cover on for 18 months.
Step 8: Clean clothes Clean all clothes, linens, blankets, pillows, and drapes. You need either to have them dry cleaned or wash them in water that is at least 120 degrees and dry them on high heat (at least 140 degrees) for at least half an hour.
TIP: You can also place items in dark garbage bags and let them sit out in direct sunlight on hot days.
Step 9: Isolate your bed Make your bed an island. Pull it away from walls, make sure none of the bedding drapes onto the floor, and place the legs of your bed in bowls of soapy water or boric acid. Placing sticky tape around the legs might also work.
TIP: Beware--using soapy water, boric acid, or sticky tape could damage your bed’s legs.
Step 10: Hire a pro The most reliable way to get rid of bed bugs is to hire a pest control expert. He will find and destroy their hiding places, and, if he must, treat your home with insecticides. He should be willing to make return visits.
TIP: Make sure that your exterminator has experience with getting rid of bed bugs; otherwise, he could just make matters worse.
Step 11: Seal your home Make sure that bed bugs can’t invade your home again by sealing all crevices, including cracks in paint and plaster and spaces where any pipes enter your home.
TIP: If you have bats or birds living in your attic or basement, you might be getting the bugs from them, so remove them and seal any entrances.
Step 12: Repeat Bed bug eggs aren’t always killed, even with pesticides. They take four to 12 days to hatch, so be prepared to employ your bug-fighting methods and/or have the exterminator treat your house again. Have faith--with perseverance and patience, you can defeat these little suckers.
FACT: Some sources say that travelers in medieval times took pigs to bed so the bugs would feast on the swine instead of them.