The first thing I want to suggest is that you don’t assume you can’t afford professional treatment. Keep an open mind and don’t make any assumptions. Have three pest companies come out to see your place, inspect and give you a bid. Be sure in advance they won’t charge you for an inspection. If you believe you have a bed bug specimen, show it to them. Maybe it’s not a bed bug?
You may find that the cost of professional help is affordable compared to the DIY approach. That’s because there is no way you’re getting rid of your bed bug problem without buying some helpful tools. So you are going to spend some money to solve this, or your landlord is. If that’s the case spend your time and money worrying about treating your stuff and the protocols and behaviors described in Pesticide Treatment.
If you intend to do it yourself, you will need tools and supplies, including steamers, bed bug heaters, some chemicals, and total discipline and determination. The key, I was told by a successful New Jersey bed bug pest operator, “Killer Queen” was to understand bed bugs, and then you can win. It took a while to understand bed bugs but ultimately there is only one thing to understand about them and that is that they will attempt to get to you until they either do or they die. You can use that against them, plus all your other weapons like steam, heat, DE and never putting anything on your isolated bed.
I realize that sounds like a lot, but trust me, I’ve been there and I started at “What? Bed Bugs are real?” If I can shorten your infestation by giving you real and accurate information plus a dose of tips only someone who’s been there can, then that’s in all our best interests.
I’ve listed the tools you will need to help you win. I used almost all of them and they helped solve all kinds of problems. Just spraying an alcohol/cedar based spray around your bed and doing laundry isn’t going to be enough. Never spray or sprinkle anything directly on your bed or mattress. That’s not going to do anything except harm you. You can get entire kits for DIY TREATMENT KITS HERE.
Steps you can take right now!
- Get rid of clutter. Clear your shelves, act like your packing to move. (see Pesticide treatment for bed bugs)
- Never attempt to treat anything in the Microwave. Only put food in a microwave.
- Do not saturate your bed or clothes with rubbing alcohol or any other substance or oils. Fumes can harm you, start fires and this will NOT discourage bed bugs from seeking you out and biting you. The only thing that will discourage them is killing them or catching them. We prefer the former.
- When you declutter, don’t move things around, bring the bags, box to your stuff so you don’t spread bed bugs around by accident. Bring the bag to your stuff, not your stuff to your bag.
- Vacuum at least every three days, every day at first is better. Yes, the conventional advice is to use a new vacuum bag every time. If you can afford to do that, do it!! Also, when you change your bag, you can put a little DE in the new bag and a little sprinkle in the old bag. That will kill (in about 10 days) any bugs in the bag. You can clean your vacuum with a little spray bottle of 91% percent or better rubbing alcohol (unplug vacuum first). I took an extra precaution of running hot water (in the tub) through the hose after each vacuuming. You are doing everything you can to reduce their numbers, eventually to zero.
- Order heavy trash bags or/or clear ZIPLOC BIG BAG XXL 3 Bags.
- Order Bed Bug Proof Mattress Encasements – cheap encasements will not stop bed bugs from going in or out. Encasements will NOT STOP bed bugs from getting on your bed. I’ve read that on other sites and I cringe. They do one thing and that is prevent bed bugs inside your mattress from getting out and keep bed bugs from getting inside. if there are bed bugs in your mattress and boxspring and you encase them, they are trapped in there and consider them forever or at least for the next 18 months. I’ve never taken mine off and don’t notice them because they are the high-quality encasements we promote on the site. Isolating your bed and being disciplined will stop bed bugs from getting on your bed.
- Follow the protocols for laundry in Pesticide Treatment. Launder, or at least dry your bedding every day or every three days at a minimum. Once your bed is isolated you won’t have to do this as often unless you get more bites. ** down comforters may be damaged by dryer heat or excessive laundering. My advice is to either toss your comforter or launder it, or bag it and throw in a no-pest strip (follow directions on package). If you throw it away, double seal it and tag the bag “bed bugs” so no one brings it home.
- Empty every drawer in the infested room and decide what you can bag and store and what you need. You can bag stuff to be cleaned later and keep it sealed. You can bag stuff to launder and then seal in bags marked “clean”. Either way, you’re bagging stuff. Don’t use plastic tubs for any items because bed bugs can get in and out of them. Double-sealed heavy duty trash bags or the ZIPLOC BIG BAG XXL 3 Bags. (my favorite, and you can heat them right in the bed bug oven and reuse)
- You can steam your drawers and furniture but know the steamers are so hot they can loosen glue in some furniture, damage paint, etc. Sometimes it becomes a choice of what you want more, pretty things or no bed bugs. If you’re going DIY you will ask yourself this question.
- Wash everything you can’t in a laundry in the dishwasher if it’s washable. You don’t have to use detergent. If your dishwasher has a heated dry feature, you might be able to just use that. Some painted ceramics could be damaged by dishwashers so decide what things or paint is worth to you. You can always bag something up for a year if you can’t treat it. Steam or moist heat will damage paper, books, etc.
- I would order a bed bug oven now for your shoes, belts, papers, cushions, pillows that can’t go in a dryer, anything that can be safely heated to 125F. Not records or tapes, or liquids, no batteries, but most items. Follow the directions. Once those items are treated you can bag them and mark CLEAN ON the double sealed bags. Do not use plastic tubs, bed bugs can get into them even if they appear to seal.
- Keep your purse, checkbook, credit cards or wallet in the Fridge in a zip lock bag, then just throw that in your purse when you leave the house and throw it back in when you get home.
- Select your wardrobe for the next six months. Put that in an easy to access sealed bag and keep it in the tub or shower, far away from bed bugs.
- Now that you have literally emptied your house or room, if you haven’t already, isolate your bed right away.
- Never put anything on your bed besides you. Your bed will go from being the most dreaded place in your home to your safe island haven of sleep.
- If you have a steamer now is the time to put it to use around every inch of your walls, floor and ceiling. Every inch and you will do this again and again at least to the baseboards, your furniture, every drawer, door frames. This is your new part-time job. Steaming your home to kill not only the bugs but the eggs they lay that will hatch 7-10 days later.
- Every night before you get into bed shower or bathe and ideally wear nothing to bed. Wash your hair every night or at least get it wet enough just in case something has wandered into your hair. I warned you I was going to get real about this. Check your ears.
- If your sofa is infested or furniture you might be able to rent a pod (or moving truck) and use the NUVAN strip for a two to three of weeks. Do not do this in a storage unit facility. This suggestion is for stand alone storage only. You could potentially have all your possessions and furniture treated at once this way but you must then leave the clean furniture out of your house until you are certain your infestation is over or those items could become harborages again, or cover it with bed bug proof zippered covers.
- I also suggest marking your bites with sharpies so you can identify any new bites you might get.
- You are still steaming your floors and wood trim every day or at least every day or two. This is an endurance test and you must keep at it to get ahead of their egg laying and hatching cycle. Once their population is reduced you can move into phase two. Once pesticides are applied steaming in those areas stops.
- Pesticides. You will apply the kit items as directed but especially around baseboards, cracks in the floor, wood trim. Once applied you cannot steam any more.
- DE is used under baseboards which can then be caulked trapping them under the walls exposed to silica dust. Follow the directions and wear a mask and gloves when handling. This is also frequently applied to wall outlets where bed bugs can enter and exit. Seal cracks and crevices with caulk, even if you don’t have bed bugs. This will help prevent bed bugs and other pests from coming in if you live in a condo or apartment.
- What is happening is you are both starving them and killing them over a period of time where they are still breeding and hatching eggs. However knowing they will come for you and get trapped in your bed bug traps where your bed legs are, means they will never reach you as long as you keep your blankets up and your bed isolated. *disclaimer, it is possible they can walk on the ceiling and drop onto your bed but this would be less likely than them trying to get to you from the floor. They can just get lost and end up on a wall or ceiling though, so that can happen. However if it does happen, do your bedding laundry thing, inspect your mattress and steam your bed frame. Then wait. There is an excellent possibility at this point that any insect that found its way onto your bed was killed in the laundry or is in your bed leg traps. Now you are winning!
- Because the pesticides that professionals use are more powerful you don’t have the advantage of a true residual pesticide which speeds up the death cycle, and slows down the number of eggs being laid, fewer eggs being hatched, less mating, fewer bed bugs, etc.
- Empty closets and shelves in rooms where bugs have been found. The bed bug exterminator will need access to these spaces. Unplug electronic devices in rooms to be exterminated. This will make the area more accessible to the bed bug technicians.
- Vacuum or steam clean rugs. For cushions and pillows, the bed bug heater is easy and you can trust the results. It will take hours for sofa pillows, or thick cushions but it gets the job done without pesticides.
- Steam clean or vacuum floors and carpets that do not have pesticides on them. Move objects away from the walls. For example, if your sofa or bed is positioned against a wall, pull it away from the wall. The exterminator will need access to the perimeter of the rooms where bugs have been found.
- Vacuum slowly along the entire perimeter of the room and all baseboards. Use the pointy crevice tool. Use a shop vac if you have that, but the crevice tool is important for baseboards where they are most likely to hide.
- Empty wooden bookshelves, desks, dressers, nightstands, etc., and remove drawers if possible and wipe them clean.
The D.Y.I. Bed Bug Strategy
Maintain all the protocols including keeping your bed isolated. Do this until you have been bed bug free for at least six months. That’s no bites for six months.
This also assumes you will treat or store your possessions before putting them back in your living space. What could be more disappointing that re-infesting your own home? It can happen by reintroducing your untreated possessions within 12 months of your infestation.
D.I.Y. treatment means you are steaming, starving them, trapping, and killing them over a period of months. While you are doing your work, they are still breeding and hatching eggs. However, knowing they will come for you and get trapped in your ClimbUp® traps means they will never reach you as long as you keep your blankets and your bed isolated.
NOTE: Cinnamon does not kill bed bugs. There is no such thing as a bed bug repellent. Bed bugs are not affected at all by cinnamon, patchouli or any other fragrance. Lavender does not repel them.
The only thing shown to repel them is the pheromones of juvenile bed bugs. You are not a juvenile bed bug. They are not repelled by rubbing alcohol, or any other alcohol. The only way to stop bed bugs is to kill them.
DISCLAIMER: None of these suggestions should be taken as professional advice. I am not a pest company, or a pest control operator. All opinions or experiences are my own. How you respond, react and deal with your infestation is beyond my control. I have no control or influence over your results in eradicating bed bugs. This is what worked for me. I did have professional pesticide treatment but still had to do most of what D.I.Y. requires. They just turned my furniture upside down and sprayed poison around.