Knowing what to do when you have bed bugs can be frustrating. Not only do you need to know what to do, you need to know what you shouldn’t do during a bed bug infestation too. That may sound easy, but when you’re dealing with bed bug bites and sleepless nights, it’s easy to panic and take extreme measures — measures that can make your situation even worse or put you and your property at risk.
If you think you have bed bugs:
- Look for the signs of bed bugs (black spots on your mattress, flat bugs near your bed, and bug bites that happen while you’re sleeping).
- Contact a professional, whether that’s a pest exterminator, your landlord, or even an entomologist at your local university. They can help advise you on what you should do next.
- Take the right steps to control the infestation. (Yes, this will take some research on your part, but, the more you know about bed bugs and where they hide, the more likely you will be to get rid of them and protect yourself from getting them again in the future.)
What NOT To Do When You Have Bed Bugs in Your Home
According to Minnesota Department of Agriculture, if you have bed bugs, DO NOT:
- Panic. Yes, coping with bed bugs is hard, and they are difficult to get rid of. But, with proper inspection and control methods, they can be controlled.
- Move your furniture and belongings from room to room. People often do not realize that bed bugs don’t just hide in beds; they can hide in nearly anything. And, if bed bugs have infested a piece of furniture and you move it to another room, they’re likely to crawl off that piece of furniture to look for their next meal.
- Use the area under your bed as a storage space. Storing things under your bed may be convenient, but it also makes a convenient place for bed bugs to hide. Boxes, bags, shoes, slippers and just about anything else can make a cozy hiding spot for bed bugs, so keep the area under your bed free of clutter. If your closet is close to your bed, keep your closet as clutter-free as possible too.
- Use products that are not designed specifically to kill bed bugs. This includes garden pesticides, agricultural pesticides, and insecticides designed to be used outdoors. Also, do not use products with non-English labels — you won’t know if they’re safe to use or not. In short, only use insecticides that are specifically engineered for indoor use for killing bed bugs. (And, if you’re not sure if the pesticide you have meets those qualifications, consult a professional.)
- Create or try to use homemade products. Not only can some homemade bed bug pesticides be dangerous, they could even make your infestation issues worse.
- Use flammable chemicals like gasoline, kerosene or rubbing alcohol. Yes, rubbing alcohol may kill your bed bugs, but it could also make your mattress more likely to start on fire. The risk caused by using flammable chemicals like these is not worth it — there are other ways to get rid of bed bugs that won’t put your family and furnishings at risk of fire.
- Put pesticides on or in your body. Bed bugs are small, but they are also incredibly resilient. The chemicals used to kill them are extremely toxic and putting them on your skin can make you very sick. Never eat, touch or apply bed bug pesticides directly to your skin.
- Try to kill bed bugs by wrapping your belongings in plastic and then putting them in the sun. While it is true that you can kill bed bugs with heat, this technique will not get hot enough to kill all of the bugs.
- Throw away your furniture. Depending on the severity of your infestation, your bed and furniture can probably be treated and saved. In fact, in most instances, this is the case. If you throw your furniture away, however, you may not only help bed bugs spread in your neighborhood, you’ll unnecessarily burden yourself with the added cost of having to buy new furniture.
In addition, DO NOT:
- Move your furniture to a friend’s house to “protect” it. Doing so could just put your friend at risk for getting bed bugs. Until your infestation issue is resolved, leave your furnishings in your home.
- Stay at a friend’s house without thoroughly inspecting what you bring. While wanting to escape the infestation and get a good night’s sleep is understandable, by packing a bag and staying with a friend you could bring bed bugs into their home.
What To Do
In addition to contacting a qualified professional for help, here are some of the things that you can do to help control bed bugs in your home:
- Kill bed bugs when you see them. True, killing them by hand is not 100% effective, but every little bit helps.
- Vacuum regularly. Be sure to get into crevices and corners, and be sure to clean your vacuum thoroughly between uses.
- Launder regularly. Use the highest temperature the fabrics you’re washing and drying can withstand. And, be sure to take precautions to keep laundered materials from becoming re-infected.
- Use mattress encasements. Mattress bags for bed bugs help control and prevent infestation since they trap bed bugs inside and can easily be cleaned if a new infestation occurs. Covers should be left on for at least 18 months.
- Use insecticides. Insecticides are dangerous, but effective, and it is highly recommended that you hire or consult a professional exterminator or pest management professional to apply insecticides in your home instead of trying to use them yourself.