Self-Treating for Bed Bugs
If you have a bed bug infestation or just want to take precautions, here are five tried and tested steps to self-treating your home. You can also find them in one printable sheet here.
To be most effective, you will need to do all of these steps in conjunction with each other and some may need to be done more than once.
1. Use the Dryer
Bed bugs are very heat sensitive. Put bedding, clothing, plush items etc. into the dryer on high for a full cycle, about 30 minutes. When done, put items in garbage bags or plastic containers until your treatment is completed.
Discard extra clothes, furniture, papers, books and other clutter. This will make it easier to find bed bugs and their traces. Be sure to mark anything you discard with “may contain bed bugs” to prevent others from finding them and taking them back to their home.
3. Deep Clean
Now that you have decluttered it is time for a cleaning. Removing any built-up dirt, dust and grime will help in the later steps of treatment, such as vacuuming and steaming.
Use a bank card thick piece of plastic such as a disposable knife to scrape along crevices under baseboards and gaps between floorboards. This will scoop out years of debris and maybe even some bugs.
Wherever you see spotting or skins, clean the area with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This kills bed bugs and their eggs on contact and is most effective if you put it into a spray bottle. The alcohol spray will smell bad at first, but as it evaporates that smell will diminish.
The sale of “rubbing alcohol”, as it is also known, is restricted in Manitoba by the Non-Potable Intoxicating Substances Regulation and not sold on store shelves. Ask your pharmacist about the availability of 99% isopropyl alcohol and let them know what you will be using it for.
Use a good quality vacuum cleaner and tackle all the surfaces you can including furniture, under skirting boards, cracks between floor boards, etc. Use the narrowest attachment or the basic hose to get maximum suction.
Try to use a bagless vacuum cleaner and wipe down the canister with 99% isopropyl alcohol when you are done. If you are using a bag vacuum be sure to buy extra bags in advance so that you that you can discard them they get full or if you are leaving the vacuum alone for extended periods.
5. Steam Treat
Heat in excess of 45° Celsius, or 113° Fahrenheit, kills bed bugs and their eggs. Use a commercial steam cleaner on your furniture and floors. With the narrowest nozzle, inject steam under baseboards, between floorboards.
Be careful when steaming delicate materials, cheap or expensive furniture, plaster walls, coloured fabric, etc.. Do a test patch to make sure that the high temperature will not damage them.
Bed Bug Prevention Supplies
There are several types of bed bug prevention supplies on the market that offer varying degrees of protection. These do not kill bed bugs, so you are not getting at the root of the problem, but if used in conjunction with a treatment program may be helpful.
Interceptor Cups: These work as a monitoring tool by allowing bed bugs climb the textured exterior, but once inside the cup they cannot crawl out of the smooth interior.
After a treatment, move your bed from the wall and place interceptor cups under your bed legs or
couch legs. Check them regularly to see if you still have bed bugs.
Interceptor cups can be expensive. You don't need them on every bed leg. Do the ones closest to the
wall or wherever you think the source of your bed bugs was. You can also make your own.
Another downside to interceptor cups is that by blocking access to their food source – which is you – the bugs may spread out further in search of a new source, which makes treatment more difficult.
Mattress and Box Spring Covers: These vinyl or polyester covers will seal your mattress and box spring to prevent bed bugs from getting in our out.
These are recommended if you have just undergone treatment or have bought a new mattress or box spring to replace an infested one. If you are in the midst of an infestation they will not provide a great deal of protection as bed bugs will continue living in your bedding or climb from a wall over your mattress to get to you mattress cover or not.
Caulking and Sealant: A good idea after a treatment is to caulk and seal cracks around your house. This will not kill bed bugs, but will cut down on the number of places you will need to check in future.
In many new build or newly renovated apartments care is taken to separate units from each other by sealing common pipes, duct work and conduit to prevent the spread bugs from room to room or unit to unit.
A note about store-bought chemical sprays: We do not recommend self-treating your home with chemicals. The “bug spray” from discount stores is too weak to effectively kill bed bugs and their perfumes and may send bed bugs deeper into the walls to escape the odour, which makes the infestation harder to treat.
The chemicals that are strong enough to be effective against bed bugs can be dangerous. Leave it to the pros. (See the Resources section for more information.)
A note about freezing: It has been found that freezing an infested item for an extended period at more than -20C will kill adults, but not their eggs. This is colder than most home freezers.
A note about internet or home remedies: Online you will find many simple, one-step treatments involving common household items like certain brands of laundry detergent, or aromatic oils that will kill bed bugs. We hear many of them here at our resource centre.
These are hard for us to recommend as there has been little, if any, scientific research done to show that they are effective in eradicating an infestation. Use them if you want, but do not let it take away from doing the above tried and true treatment methods. Waiting for even a couple of weeks to test out a home remedy can mean hundreds of new bugs have bred in your home.