Updated on August 9, 2022
We talk a lot about certain critters on this site, some far more than others due to the number of species or difficulty in control involved. A perfect example of this is the infamous bed bug. When you hear the term, you likely immediately associate the words bites and bombs, but that’s only part of the story.
While bed bugs can end up in any part of your home, the most prevalent location is your bedroom. Of course, you should still inspect your entire home in case they’ve spread, but let’s focus for now on the bedroom itself and how to combat them there.
Bed Bugs in the Bedroom
As with any other critter (including humans), bed bugs prefer to congregate where the food is. Family arguments or a lot of Stream and Chill evenings can turn your living room into a wonderful snack bar, but the bedroom is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The good news is that an infestation caught early enough may never escape the bedroom, but you have to hit them hard and fast.
What Are the Main Causes of Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs don’t just appear in your home. They get there by hitching lifts in your clothes. However, they cant actually cling to the clothes themselves, so most often it might be in folds, pockets, between your socks and shoes, or in a briefcase or backpack.
You’ll usually get them from contact with people who have an infestation or in public places where the bed bug was hitching a ride on someone else and fell off.
Once in your home, a fertile female simply needs one good blood meal to start reproducing, laying up to seven eggs per day for a couple weeks before needing to mate again. This can result in a very quick population explosion, so the moment you see the signs or think you may have been exposed, you need to take action.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
The first sign you’ll likely have is a mysterious bite or series of bites. You’ll need to verify it was a bed bug that bit you by checking the bite area. Also, while sightings can and do happen, it’s pretty rare and you might actually be seeing another common bedroom pest.
Another common sign is the appearance of tiny black specks on the bedsheets. If you add a drop of water or put a damp paper towel on it, this spot may expand into a red spot. This is proof that you’re dealing with bed bug frass (poop).
Do Bed Bugs Ever Go Away on Their Own?
So now that we know you have bed bugs, that famous little question likely pops into the back of your mind: “If I ignore them, will they go away?”
Unfortunately, bad things NEVER go away if you ignore them, not in habits, not in politics, and certainly not with pests. Instead, ignoring any problem invariably allows it to fester and become infinitely worse.
Of all the myths surrounding bed bugs, this one’s probably the most dangerous.
Okay, so now that we’ve established there’s a problem in the bedroom (hopefully no puns intended), it’s time to deal with it. This is a multi-step process which can be broken down in the following order:
- Treat the Room (in 3-4 parts)
Step 1 – Sort It Out
While in most problems you need to get your priorities in order, it’s a little different for your bedroom. Clear some space in the middle of the floor and put some clean baskets or bins there. Now, go through your room and begin sorting everything into those bins.
- Clothes, linens, stuffed animals, and other heat-safe fabrics should go in one container. Make sure to shake each one out (aiming away from the container) before adding it. These will get a heat treatment.
- Go through all of your knick-knacks that aren’t heat-safe one by one, examining every crack and crevasse for potential bugs. Place any that pass the test into another bin.
- Larger objects that aren’t heat-safe and have multiple crevices or openings should go in a third bin, again checking for bugs when possible. Note that this bin is going to be the one most at-risk of the three, so you’ll want to keep it tightly sealed.
Step 2 – Isolate the Room
Now that you’ve gotten things sorted, it’s time to take the bins to their treatment areas. When you do so, be sure to close off the infested room and keep everyone out.
You can also keep the bed bugs in by spraying a line along the doorway and the door frame with some essential oils diluted in water.
Step 3.1 – Treat the Bins
You know those three bins you’ve filled? Here’s what to do with them.
Well, the contents of the first bin should go directly into the dryer. The bugs will die almost instantly at 140 degrees, but a dryer that can reach at least 122 degrees can kill bed bugs within minutes. Toss the clothes in on the highest setting and let the bugs and their eggs fry.
The second bin should be sealed and taken to a room where you know there are no bed bugs. This bin is full of items you’ve already checked thoroughly and will need to be checked again later, just in case you missed some eggs. Sealing it will help ensure any stowaway bed bugs don’t get out.
The best way to handle the third bin is to have several bed bug traps ready and stick them into the bin before reselling it. Try to avoid putting the traps near heat-sensitive items, however, since these traps work by producing heat to mimic human body temperatures.
Step 3.2 – Do You Need to Throw Away the Mattress?
Thankfully, you DO NOT have to chuck your mattress away if you follow some basic treatment methods. The methods we’re about to discuss not only stop bed bugs but will help control a number of other mattress pests as well.
Using a Steamer
If you don’t own a fabric steamer, you really should put it on your shopping list. Steam cleaners get your carpets, upholstery, and other fabric surfaces much cleaner than a simple vacuum and can be absolutely devastating to a wide range of pests.
On a mattress, it’s an absolute miracle worker! If you don’t want to invest in a larger model, Black+Decker makes some great handheld models that are just as effective.
Steamers create temperatures that can kill bed bugs, bed worms, dust mites, fleas, and a whole host of other mattress pests. Just take it slow to ensure the heat remains long enough to score your kills. Not only will this kill nymphs and adults, it can destroy their eggs as well.
Even better, it deep-cleans the mattress, lifting out a ton of dirt and dead skin cells while killing off bacteria and other contaminants.
But if you don’t own a steamer and aren’t able to rent one, you can always fall back on a regular clothes iron. These can be used in a similar manner to steamers, although you have to be careful not to burn the mattress by leaving the iron in one place for too long
This simple bed covering is a pure godsend. Not only does it prevent any bed bugs (or other pests) still in your mattress from getting out, it’s also waterproof, meaning you can safely clean it without ever taking it off the bed. However, you can also take it off to wash it as needed.
A decent mattress cover is quite affordable, can be steam cleaned, and (if you so choose) can remain on your mattress for the rest of its usable life.
This neat little trick can help ensure there are no bed bugs camping out in the linen closet. Simply take any fresh linens you want to put on the bed and toss them in the dryer on a high temp setting for 10 to 20 minutes. Put them on your bed immediately after.
Not only will this kill any pests, but it’s a wonderful feeling on a cold winter’s night to hop into a toasty warm, freshly made bed.
Step 3.3 – Sprays and Traps (Optional)
Note: You can do this step with 3.4, on its own, or opt to use 3.4 instead.
Surprisingly enough, there are some decent chemical sprays out there. Unfortunately, both chemical and homemade sprays tend to work best on contact, so your mileage can vary greatly here.
Overall, products such as Ortho Home Defense are effective enough to recommend, but keep in mind there are around 12 species of bed bug, only two of which bear the common label, and you will need to make sure these sprays are formulated to tackle the species you’re dealing with.
On the other hand, you can make a homemade spray. This consists of essential oils, garlic, or rubbing alcohol mixed with water. Again, remember these sprays tend to be contact killers and will generally only serve as a repellent otherwise.
Use the sprays to soak down all of the cracks and crevasses in the room, including those in the closets and any furniture. If you’re lucky, what bed bugs it doesn’t manage to kill will be chased out into the open where you can get in a direct hit.
Do Bed Bug Traps Work?
There are a number of different tricks these traps use to fool bed bugs. As always, your mileage will vary, but they’re generally helpful in controlling a bed bug population.
Step 3.4 – Using a Bug Bomb (Optional)
Note: You can do this step with 3.3, on its own, or opt to use 3.3 instead.
The dreaded bug bomb (fogger) is highly effective, but also a real nasty piece of work. However, there’s no doubt as to its effectiveness. You’ll need to seal all entrances and it’s best to cover the door in plastic on the outside with one corner left unsealed.
Set the bomb off and get out of the room ASAP, sealing the plastic the rest of the way. It will take a few hours for the bomb to do its job, so be sure to follow all instructions carefully.
When it’s time, pick someone who can hold their breath. Crack a corner of the door seal, so they can run in, open the window, and run back out. Give the room a few more hours to air out, then go in and scrub everything down top to bottom to make it safe for children and pets to enter.
Step 4 – Repeat
Eggs take 10 days to hatch, so you’ll want to repeat this whole process in about two weeks. If it fails or your problem spreads outside of the bedroom, you might need to invest in an exterminator to tackle the infestation.