What to Do If You Have Bed Bugs

So…you have bed bugs. The first thing to do is not to panic. Here’s everything else you need to know after you discover you might have a bed bug problem in your apartment.

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin
3-minute read

What to Do if You Have Bed Bugs

Paying for a Bed Bug Exterminator

Unfortunately, bed bugs are the hardest insect to get rid of without calling an exterminator. It's less about killing the bed bugs (which can be easy) as it about finding them, which is hard. They smell chemicals coming and run deep into crevices, and even sideways. Because it can take up to four visits from an exterminator before your bed bug infestation has been solved, bed bug extermination can cost into the thousands of dollars. But the good news is that if you rent your home (and since bed bug infestations happen more often in apartment buildings, this is often the case), your landlord is probably financially responsible for the cost! So contact him or her immediately if you believe you have a bed bug problem. If they refuse to pay, you may even be able to deduct the cost of the exterminator from future rent payments.

Thoroughly Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

If you have a mild infestation, you might be able to tackle bed bugs on your own. You'll need a powerful vacuum--the plug-in canister kind work well, but something battery-operated or upright usually won't do the trick. Vacuum all carpet, baseboards, switch plates, wallpaper creases, appliances, and any cracks you can find. Wash the vacuum canister with hot water to kill any eggs that may be there. Next, hit up these same areas with a substance called diatomaceous earth, which you can find in pet stores or gardening stores. It dehydrates the bed bugs and thereby kills them (but it’s safe for humans and pets), so sprinkle it or smear it everywhere you think the beg bugs may be living, including on the floor near your bed, all over your bedframe, and in any cracks in the wall near your bed.

How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Mattress

Now it's time to tackle that soft, comfy home that gives bed bugs their name: you bed. To get bed bugs our of your bed, first strip it of all bedding and wash and dry it on the highest heat setting available. Then thoroughly vacuum your mattress and box spring, focusing carefully on every crease and crevice. This means taking the fabric sheeting off of the box spring and getting inside of it. When done, seal the mattress and box spring inside bed bug–proof mattress covers. It's recommended that you leave the bags on for an entire year, simply putting the sheets and any mattress pads right on top of the bags.

How to Kill Bed Bugs in Your Clothes

Even if you don't think your clothes have been infested, it's important to wash all of them to make sure you've gotten rid of bed bugs permanently. Wash and dry clothes, bedding, blankets drapes, cushions, pet beds, and seat covers in the hottest heat settings they can stand. (110º is recommended to make sure the bed bugs die.) For fabrics that absolutely can't stand the heat, you may be able to freeze bed bugs and their eggs to death. However, the EPA advises that temperatures need to get as low at 0ºF (quite low for most home freezers), and you should keep the fabric at that temperature for at least four days to make sure to kill the bed bugs.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Car

As you've realized by now, bed bugs can get anywhere. That's why it's important to make sure you kill the bed bugs in your car. The process is similar to everywhere else in your home--first wash anything you can, including floor mats and removable seat covers. Give the car a thorough vacuuming, paying special attention to crevices and seams. Then sprinkle diatomaceous earth and leave for as long as possible before vacuuming again. If you suspect your car is infested, cover your seats in plastic for at least a month.

How to Avoid Bed Bugs in the Future

Avoiding bed bugs in your home can be difficult, since a bed bug infestation has little to do with sanitary conditions. Bed bugs can even be carried by birds and animals living outside and can enter through an open window! Apartment complexes with carpeted hallways give bed bugs an avenue to roam freely from unit to unit. However, if you’re moving, here’s how to make sure bed bugs aren’t in your new apartment building. To steer clear of bed bugs in hotels, check out this bed bug registry. And keep your fingers crossed!

For more ways to get rid of insects from all around the internet, check out our Bug and Pest Natural Remedies board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

About the Author

Bruce and Jeanne Lubin

Bruce Lubin and Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin are the proud parents of three boys and more than a dozen books. After saving thousands per year using everyday tips and simple lifehacks, they started their own business in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with others. They have been known to go into their friends' refrigerators to turn their eggs upside down so that they last longer.