As is the case with most insects, people want to know how to get rid of bed bugs fast. Whether you’ve seen one in your home, on your luggage or hiding in personal belongings, your first reaction is likely to try figuring out what kills bed bugs fast. The good news is there’s lots of information including products and tips for elimination. The bad news is that anything other than professional pest control is likely to be ineffective.
What are bed bugs? And why are they a problem?
Bed bugs are small, flat insects with an oval shape and brownish color that feed on the blood of humans and warm-blooded animals. Their flat bodies allow them to fit into tiny spaces about the width of a credit card, and they hide in cracks and crevices located close to your resting areas such as mattresses, box springs, bedside tables, bedding, bed frames and headboards. This gives them easy access to sleeping humans, thus the name "bed bugs."
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Bed bugs aren't an insect you can live with. Their bites don't carry pathogens that may cause disease, but they can cause a lot of itching and discomfort. On top of the bites, bed bugs populations can develop quickly unless they the population is removed and eliminated.
1. Reduce Hiding Spots and Cut Down on Clutter
Consider getting rid of anything unneeded such as old magazines and newspapers. It’s difficult to inspect a cluttered home, and the more items you can eliminate, the less places bed bugs can hide. If you’re wondering what bed bugs are attracted to, other than warmth, blood and carbon dioxide, dark crevices also get their attention.
Bed bugs can hide in cardboard, so if you need the storage, plastic bins are less likely to foster infestations.
Pick clothing and accessories off the floor. If possible, throw away or donate items you no longer need, taking care to ensure it’s all free of bed bugs.
2. Clean the Infested Space
How to get rid of bed bugs fast starts with how thoroughly pest control professionals can inspect your space. Clean furniture, baseboards, behind outlets, switch covers and other items to give them a head start.
Wash and dry clothing and bedding at the highest heat as allowed by the manufacturer. Place items in sealed plastic bags for transport between rooms, and then seal clean items again in new plastic bags.
If possible, remove and clean fabric window coverings and hardware. Placed in sealed plastic bags.
Wash and vacuum floors thoroughly. When finished, double-bag the vacuum bag in a trash bag and place in outdoor bin.
3. Make it Hard for Bed Bugs to Hide
Check baseboards for any cracks or crevices and caulk as needed.
Ensure wallpaper is not loose and repair any wall damage.
Check outlets and wall switches for bed bug evidence.
4. Be Mindful of Your Bed
Make your bed an island to help get rid of bed bugs fast by moving it at least six inches away from the wall.
Wash and dry all bed linens including pillow cases, sheets, comforters and mattress pads at the highest settings allowed by the manufacturer. Seal in plastic bags once clean.
Post-treatment, use encasements (bed-bug-proof covers) to cover your mattress and box spring. Ensure they have zippers and are high quality to cut down on tearing.
Check under your bed and discard anything unneeded. Items you want to keep should be stored in the same room to prevent the infestation from spreading.
5. Give the Experts Access
What kills bed bugs fast? Pest control professionals. Give them your full cooperation and make sure they have access to closets, walls and areas around furniture.
Don’t wait for the problem to get out of hand. To get rid of bed bugs fast, you need a trained professional to identify the pests and find signs of infestation quickly. Contact Terminix® for powerful, customized treatments that can help eliminate bed bugs where they live and breed.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress
If bed bugs have infested your mattress, you need to take action immediately. But don't panic. Bed bugs are treatable, as long as you use the proper methods.
It's important to first reduce the ability for bed bugs to travel around your home, as bed bugs are constantly looking for ways to travel and spread.
- Remove your pillowcases, sheets, mattress cover, etc., and wash everything in hot water (please follow the manufacturer's instructions, though) and then more importantly dry the items on high heat if the manufacturer's instructions allow it. Do not carry these items to the washing machine by hand — use a plastic bag. Then throw the plastic bag away as it may have live bed bugs in it and you do not want to reinfest clean items.
- Cover your mattress and box springs. Special encasements are made specifically for bed bug protection. These protective covers will keep the bed bugs on your mattress and box spring from traveling to other parts of your home. These casings should be top quality (to prevent tears) and have a zipper. Keep in mind, though, that this will not immediately eliminate the bed bugs. They can live for months without feeding. If you want to use this method to kill the bed bugs, the covers would have to stay on for almost a year.
- Inspect the infested area. A good way to start the inspection is to get rid of any unnecessary clutter that's near your bed. Once that's gone, closely examine your nearby furniture and clothing to make sure there's no bed bug activity.
- Wash and vacuum your bedroom floors thoroughly. When finished, double-bag the vacuum bag in a trash bag, and place it in an outdoor bin.
- Do NOT perform a DIY pesticide treatment. This could cause harm to your family and may actually make the problem worse.
- Call a professional. How to get rid of bed bugs fast starts with how thoroughly bed bug control professionals can inspect your space. Clean furniture, baseboards, behind outlets, switch covers and other items to give them a head start. But leave the actual treatment to the knowledgeable and experienced professionals.
Should I throw out my mattress if I have bed bugs?
Bed bugs can be removed from your furniture, so it's not necessary to throw it out. However, if you're absolutely sure that you don't want your infested furniture anymore, do not sell it or donate it unless it's been inspected for bed bugs. This will likely only spread bed bugs to another home.
As for your mattress, this depends on the severity of the bed bug damage. It's important to note that simply throwing away your mattress doesn't immediately get rid of your bed bug problem. You'll still need a professional to inspect your home and make sure bed bugs aren't living in another area of your home. Even though they're called bed bugs, they can live in dressers, nightstands and even floors — among other places. And moving an infested piece of furniture around the home can move bed bugs into other areas.
Related: Where Do Bed Bugs Live?
If your mattress isn't seriously damaged, it can be salvaged if you go through the above steps and schedule a professional treatment. There may be no need to throw away anything as long as you properly address the issue.
You may be squeamish about using your bedding after an infestation (which is totally understandable), but a few hot cycles in the washing machine followed by a high heat dryer cycle and some time spent sequestered in a plastic bag should kill all bed bugs in your sheets, blankets and pillowcases. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when washing and drying your bedding.
How do I permanently get rid of bed bugs?
Having bed bugs in your home doesn't mean that you're messy or lax on housekeeping. Bed bugs are adept travelers, and they're constantly looking for ways to 'hitch a ride' and gain ground. For example, they could be present in a hotel room, crawl or climb onto your suitcase and stay on the bag until you return home.
If you do have a bed bug infestation, it's important that you contact a bed bug control professional to treat and get rid of the problem. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to control, and a professional is best equipped to spot the signs, find the visible and hidden bed bugs, and provide the right service to address bed bugs.
Prevention is important as well. Here are some things you can do to help prevent these intruders:
- If you're staying away from home, inspect your surroundings for bed bug activity. When you return home, check your suitcase and clothing, and wash everything in warm-to-hot water immediately and then dry with high heat (be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions for washing and drying your clothes).
- Cover openings in your home. Inspect baseboards for any cracks or crevices, and caulk as needed. Ensure wallpaper is not loose, and repair any wall damage. These are all places bed bugs like to hide.
- Vacuum your floors regularly. Bed bugs like to hide in carpet fibers, so run the vacuum to stop them in their tracks. Every once in a while, you may want to run the vacuum over your mattress and box springs, too, for good measure.
- Store clothing in sealed bags. These are great for travel and for storing out-of-season items.
- Cut back on clutter. Bed bugs like dark hiding spots, so stacks of newspapers and magazines are right up their alley. They like cardboard, too, so consider using plastic bins instead of boxes for your storage needs. Store items in clear plastic containers so you can see inside the container to identify bed bugs or other pests in the container.
- Inspect your furniture regularly for signs of bed bugs. Especially the pieces that are antique or second-hand. This is also a good practice for any new pieces coming into your home.
Taming bed bugs isn't something you have to tackle alone. Our trained Terminix® professionals are always here to help you protect your home. Contact Terminix for powerful, customized treatments that can help eliminate bed bugs where they live and breed.