The first thing I want to suggest is that you not 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 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 Chemical 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 very dramatic, 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.
- Get rid of clutter. Clear your shelves, act like your packing to move. (see Chemical Treatment)
- 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. So 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 Chemical 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 Packtite 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. 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.
- I would order a Packtite 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 I would isolate my 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 find a pest company that will put Vikane Gas in a storage unit or use the NUVAN strip. 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. Maybe the Vikane company will let you keep your POD or portable storage container at their place until you get rid of your bed bugs. You can even treat electronics with Vikane without any damage. Vikane is commonly used to treat entire homes for termites and is very deadly but leaves no residue. It also kills bed bugs and eggs in a few hours. You do not have to use only one pest company. Some companies don’t offer Vikane. Make sure the company you do choose understands the correct ratios and dilutions for bed bugs not just termites. It’s different for bed bugs and different again (according to a local reputable pest company) for the eggs. You would never treat anything with Vikane yourself. **(UPDATED FOR 2015 – I’m less enthusiastic about Vikane now that NUVAN is more accessible and you don’t have to “trust” that the pest company will use the correct dilutions/strengths for VIKANE.)
- 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.
- Chemicals. 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.
- 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.
- Yes, they will still try to get to you, and yes they will die trying.