How to get rid of bed bugs

You may be familiar with the little rhyme about bed bugs, but unfortunately, squeezing “them tight so they do not come back another night” is not a real method of getting rid of them. If you’re reading this post in a sheer panic thinking that you may have found a bed bug, then try not to. We’ll be brutally honest and admit that bed bugs are a pain and very difficult to get rid of – but by no means impossible!

With a mixture of professional products, at-home tricks and perseverance, you can soon become bed-bug free. You just need to know what steps to take and run the operation like a military general. Here, we have compiled a complete guide on everything about these persistent critters. Use this valuable information to wage your war against them – and win that war. Let battle commence…

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are a type of insect between 1 and 7 millimetres which are found in all corners of the globe. They are scientifically known as Cimex hemipterus or Cimex lectularius but get their nickname due to visiting you under the covers while you sleep. They are not known to carry any infections, but their bites can be physically painful and cause psychological stress.

What are bed bugs
Medically accurate illustration of a bed bug. Photo: Eraxion, BS

They were very common in the middle of the 20th century and this is part of the reason why they have their own bedtime rhyme that was alluded to earlier. However, over time, their presence has gradually diminished, and they are not as common as they used to be in most areas.

One of the earliest signs of finding out you have bed bugs may not be seeing them. In fact, these little guys can co-habit your bedroom for a long time before ever being seen. They are both nocturnal and exceptionally small, so it is difficult to find them even when you are looking for them. You are more likely to discover their marks.

What we mean by that includes two things. Bed bugs feast on blood meals. Unfortunately for you, that means they dine on your blood while you are fast asleep. When they take your blood, they leave a mark on your skin that can be unsightly and painful looking. Typically, these marks appear as red blotches and can sometimes be confused with mosquito bites.

Bites of bed bugs on male body
Photo: Maxop-Plus, BS

Another piece of evidence that may point to you having bed bugs can be found on your bedding or your bed frame. Look for red marks. These red marks are more often than not squashed bed bugs that you attacked in an action-packed dream or as a response to their bite. And honestly, the red you see is probably your blood they already consumed, as well as their own.

How do they spread

Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs are not a consequence of an unhygienic or dirty room. In fact, bed bugs are a bit like most humans in that they are drawn to clean spaces. They may spread to these cleaner environments in a number of ways. Most of the time they hitch a ride on suitcases, shoes and on clothing. This is why hotels have to carefully monitor their rooms as their travelling guests can easily bring them in on their luggage – even the nice ones! It also means travellers have a responsibility to look out for bed bugs.

One myth we should bust early – before we bust a bigger one next – is that they do not travel in your hair. Although the thought of bed bugs in your vicinity may have you feeling very itchy, that sudden desire to scratch your scalp is just in your head.

Extinguishing the biggest myth

Many Australians are familiar with using pesticides inside their home to reduce the chance of encountering cockroaches and other pests. These pesticides are often referred to as bug bombs and are really effective – just not with bed bugs. If your plan A was to bug bomb your home and be done with them then you need to read on. Bed bugs have built up immunisation to the chemicals in bug bombs, which is one of the reasons why they are so hard to get rid of.

So, how do you get rid of bed bugs?

Your plan of action should be to combine a number of tasks that you can carry out yourself with purpose-specific products. The more tasks and products you can use in your war against these insects the better your chance of success.

It is also important to do them together as you need to eradicate them all at once. Leaving a few stragglers may mean they will reproduce, and you’ll be back to square one. Their eggs only take ten days to hatch. Even though this is relatively slow compared to other insects, it is still quick enough that you need to go gung-ho with your tactics.

how do you get rid of bed bugs
Photo: Burst, Pexels

What to do in order to get rid of bed bugs?

There are a number of tasks that you can carry out. Most of them revolve around cleaning and sometimes you may have to throw out certain items. Here is a rundown of the most effective tasks:

  1. Wash ALL your clothes in the hottest wash possible
  2. Brush, mop and then steam mop your floors and furniture, including your bed frame
  3. Consider throwing out furniture, bedding and fabric items that you are no longer crazy about
  4. Hoover and steam mop your mattress
  5. Hoover carpets and rugs, then steam mop them at a hot temperature
  6. Hoover skirting boards and small crevices between floorboards
  7. Place your mattress in the yard under the sun for the day
  8. Inspect your suitcases and backpacks then wash them in a hot bath or consider throwing them out

You may have noticed that many of these tasks revolve around heat. This is because bed bugs will die in temperatures above 50-degrees Celsius.

You may also want to consider replacing your mattress. A mattress is a likely place for bed bugs to hide due to the short commute to their dining room – you. However, unlike many of their other hiding places around your home, your mattress is usually a thick item which hoovers and steam mops cannot penetrate deeply enough to where they may be hiding.

buying a mattress tips to help what to look for
There are many things you should consider when you are purchasing a mattress. Photo by VadimGuzhva, Bigstock

You can therefore use the opportunity to treat yourself to an exceptional mattress, here is a shop with quick dispatch of all mattresses. This mattress is perfect for us Aussies because it is designed for all four of our intense seasons, and it includes memory foam technology and ergonomic support. Just remember to replace it once you are sure that you no longer have bed bugs.

Research has suggested that bed bugs have colour preferences. In one study’s findings, the researchers found that bed bugs are drawn to blacks and reds but are repulsed by greens and yellows. Maybe consider these results when you shop for your replacement bedding.

What not to do

All these cleaning tasks sound chaotic and honestly, they are. They are very difficult to manage when you need to do them all at once on the same day. This is why when you do take a day off work to get everything done at once, you need to avoid one big potential pitfall. You must not do all these tasks without separating your cleaned and yet-to-be cleaned items. To help you with your cleaning marathon, consider some of the best tips to being efficient and effective.

The above cleaning tasks will involve a lot of moving your clothes and furniture around. To prevent the things that you have cleaned from coming into contact with things yet to be cleaned, you are going to need high-quality garbage bags. The best garbage bags will stop the spread of bed bugs around your home during the cleaning process. Bag up your yet-to-be cleaned stuff while you get on with the job at hand.

Purpose-specific products

These tasks alone are not likely to eradicate your bed bug infestation. You will also need the help of some purpose-specific products and maybe even professional services. Here are the most effective ones:

Professional extermination – you could go straight to the professionals and get them to come around and place substances which actually kill bed bugs fast. The only downside to this option is that they can be very expensive. This is because they know the difficulty in removing bed bugs without their help. Just make sure you discuss their procedure if you still find bed bugs after their visit.

Diatomaceous Earth – if the professionals aren’t on your speed dial list just yet, you may want to pick up this stuff. It is a powder that has a high success rate of killing bed bugs. You will need to put it in all of the crevices of your home and around your bed frame so the bed bugs walk over it and eventually dehydrate.

Bed Bug Mattress Protector – we already discussed how a mattress is one of the most difficult places to attach bed bugs. If we can’t get to them, we can always lock them in with a product that encloses your mattress and prevents them from coming out. This may be a weird thought to many people, but it is effective. Just be warned that some bed bugs can go almost one year without needing a blood meal, so you have to keep it on a long time to be able to starve them to death.

Protect your mattress
Photo: Tap_Sucharn, Bigstock

The final move

Once you have implemented your plan and think you may have made it to becoming bed-bug free, then you have to do some testing. There are many types of bed bug traps on the market that you can leave around your room. Most of them suggest that if you do not capture any within six weeks, you have probably won the war. Good luck!

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Executive Editor at Best in Australia. Mike has spent over a decade covering news related to business leaders and entrepreneurs around Australia and across the world. You can contact Mike here.
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