3 Practical Ways to Kill Bed Bugs

3 Surefire, practical methods to thoroughly kill bed bugs and a few warnings about how difficult the job is.

I want to tell you something up front: if you have a significant bed bug infestation on your hands–call a bed bugs exterminator and save yourself a ton of misery.

But if you really (really) want to tackle your problem and wage a war of bed bugs eradication on your own, here are the ways to kill bed bugs.

Keep in mind that bed bugs often hide in areas you can’t get to: baseboards, cracks in paint, behind peels in wallpaper, in picture frames, seams of furniture cushions, cracks and seams in furniture. If you do take on the challenge yourself, you will likely employee at least 2 of the following strategies.

1. Heat Them Up

Bed bugs cannot survive high heat.
The following table shows the death point of bed bugs in terms of heat and duration of exposure:

Life Stage(s) Temperature Duration
Bed Bug Adults, Nymphs 45ºC (113ºF) 15 Minutes
Bed Bug Eggs 45ºC (113ºF) 60 Minutes
Bed Bug All Stages 46ºC (114.8ºF) 7 Minutes

Heat is generally applied through steaming and laundering/drying.

Steaming is good because it kills on contact and it can be used in many areas. Be sure to use dry steam to keep risk of mold to a minimum. Bed bugs exterminators use steam but you can also buy a steam cleaner. Steamers have their drawbacks however. A steamer is only effective directly where the steam comes out. Otherwise the steam is not hot enough to kill bed bugs. Also, steamers can damage certain materials–especially wood and certain types of furniture finishes.

Anything that can be laundered should be washed and dried in hot, hot water and dried at the highest setting. It is best to wash everything that can be washed all at once. Don’t risk a clean item getting re-infested by a dirty item.

2. Freeze Them Out

Infested furniture and other items can be set outside during cold weather to kill bed bugs in all stages of their life cycle (eggs, nymphs and adults). Two days at 0°F is enough. At 20°F it will take longer: four to five days.

3. Use Bed Bug Insecticides

Some bed bug insecticides kill bed bugs on contact. They are good for what is called a fast knockdown.

Other insecticides make it so that bed bugs don’t grow to maturity and thus can’t reproduce. This is good for treating areas that bud bugs may hide in. If the contact killer didn’t get them but the growth inhibitor does, the bed bug population will not increase. Repeated treatments of contact killing bed bug insecticides help to wipe out the remaining population.

You will use at least 2 of the above methods

Areas of the home and items of furniture can be treated with insecticides. Mattresses too.

Things that touch the skin though such as bedding, clothing and soft items such as furniture cushions should be laundered using high temperatures to kill bed bugs.

Steamers are good for areas where the steam can penetrate directly.

People also report having good luck keeping furniture and household items in self-storage during the cold months to kill off bed bugs. Just keep in mind that the temperatures must be very cold. A maxmimum of 20°F for at least four or five days.

Other methods

We already went over the fact that bed bugs hide in places you can’t easily get to. So chances are you cannot physically lay your hands on them or collect them. Keep that in mind when you consider tactics.

Here are some other ways you might think of to kill bed bugs.

  • Starving them.
  • Burning them.
  • Cutting off their air supply.
  • Drowning them.
  • Physically crushing them.

These methods are hardly practical. Let’s investigate each in detail to see why.

Starving them

Bed bugs can survive for over a year without meals. A year! So if your strategy is to starve them our leave your house for a period of time to wait them out–think again.

Burning them

Applying any kind of seriously destructive tactic such as burning them will risk damaging your home and possessions.

Drowning them

Drowning them may work but why take the risk that it doesn’t? You could only drown the bed bugs you can collect or bed bugs on bedding or other items that can be laundered. Use high heat to wash and dry everything that can be washed and you have your bases covered.

Cutting off their air supply

Cutting off their air supply is not practical as it would entail collecting them first. And we already know this is not a realistic possibility.

Physically crushing them.

Again, it’s not realistic to collect them all. So aside from taking out your anger on the few you can find, there is little practical benefit to this method.

The Case for Bed Bugs Exterminators

Although an extermination can be invasive and somewhat expensive, a serious infestation will very likely require professional help. At the very least, have an exterminator come to your home and give you their opinion. Yes you can kill them but it can take a great deal of time and effort to get rid of bed bugs completely.