It's hard to get rid of bed bugs on your own. Many experts, including those at the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, recommend that you hire a professional pest control company if you can afford to do so. If that's not an option, it's possible to eradicate bed bugs yourself with diligence, time and careful attention to detail.
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Locate All the Sources
Not surprisingly, bed bugs are most often found in beds, but they can also infest other places where people sleep, such as couches. According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, they generally start in one room, and the sooner you treat the infestation, the easier it is to get rid of the bed bugs before they spread throughout your home. You can find photos online that will help you identify signs of bed bugs, such as their eggs, skins and droppings. The Michigan Department of Community Health recommends using a flashlight to search beds and couches, furniture near the bed, nearby walls and trim and beneath rugs and the edges of carpeting.
Treat Your Bed and Bedding
Assuming your bed and bedding are infested, those are the first areas to treat. Careful vacuuming of the room in which you found bed bugs is a good first step -- and the Environmental Protection Agency recommends emptying the vacuum after each use, sealing the bag and disposing of it outside your home. You can then wash all hard surfaces, such as your headboard or bedside table, with regular household cleaners. All bedding should be stripped from the bed, washed in hot water and dried in a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. The mattress and box spring should also be vacuumed, and then each should be placed in a special zippered cover. The Michigan Department of Community Health notes that appropriate covers are labled as “allergen rated” -- or they may be labeled as effective for bed bugs or dust mites. The covers trap and kill bugs inside and prevent more bugs from getting in. Finally, put bed bug "interceptors" under each leg of the bed. These are inexpensive plastic cups that prevent bugs from crawling from the ground onto your bed.
If you choose to use pesticides, pick one labeled specifically for use against bed bugs that is safe to use indoors. Follow all instructions carefully; as the Michigan Department of Community Health warns, these directions "are not merely suggestions. Failure to follow directions exactly is illegal and can result in poor control and possible harm to yourself and family."
Treating Other Areas of the Home
If you suspect that other areas of your home might be infested -- for example, a dresser full of clothing or a child's basket of stuffed animals -- treat those areas as well. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension gives specific guidelines: They note that washable items are the easiest to treat, because washing in hot water for half an hour and tumble drying for half an hour on a hot setting will kill all stages of bed bugs. Bagging and storing nonwashable items is another solution, although it can take two to five months to kill bed bugs this way. Placing the bags in the hot sun accelerates the process. According to Texas A&M, you can kill bugs on up to 7 pounds of items in one day if you place them in clear bags and leave the bags in direct sunlight on a 95 degree day.
If you're serious about removing bed bugs yourself, read detailed instructions from reliable sources, such as your local agricultural extension office or department of public health. Once the bed bugs are gone, keep your bed away from the wall, and bedding off the floor, so bed bugs have no way to climb back onto your bed.