Written by: A O’Neill, Licensed Pest Control Technician
Bed bugs can really cause us stress when we find them on the mattress, couch, or anywhere else in our homes. It’s natural to want to find the best, quickest, and easiest solutions so we can be free of these pests. So we start searching the internet for information, but there are so many sites telling you what you to do this and do that, and to try all sorts of home remedies that just don’t work.
Sadly, there is a lot of misinformation out there given by people who have no experience in dealing with bed bugs or pest control, so we decided to lay these myths to rest and give you the correct ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ advice on what you should and should not do if you find bed bugs in your home.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- DON’T panic! Easier said than done you might be thinking. Bed bugs are hard to eliminate but you’ve got a choice: you can do your own pest control and treat them yourself if your infestation is in the early stages, or you can get a pest control exterminator who is properly trained in pesticide usage and managing bed bug infestations.
If you think you will find the DIY option too overwhelming leave it to a professional bed bug exterminator.
- DON’T start sleeping in a different room. Bed bugs can detect the carbon dioxide you breathe out and will soon migrate to your new sleeping area to feed.
They can also live for over a year without a blood meal in an empty room, so moving to another area to sleep is only going to spread the infestation into other areas of your home, which will make treating them even harder.
- DON’T throw out infested furniture. Replacing furniture such as a mattress and box spring is expensive and won’t solve the problem as they will soon become infested by the remaining bed bugs hiding in your home.
Most items can be treated and saved. If you do leave furniture outside for collection make sure you follow these guidelines so the bed bugs are not spread into other people’s homes.
- DON’T bother with ultrasonic pest repellers. I’m often asked by clients if they should buy one, and I always tell them to save their money as they don’t work, and there is no evidence that they work.
- DON’T move items from the infested room to other rooms. This will only spread the bed bugs into other areas of your home, which you definitely don’t want.
It’s important to try and keep them as contained in one area as possible, so treatment will be quicker and easier.
- DON’T give or sell items that might have bed bugs hiding in them. The person receiving the item will soon also have a bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs and their eggs hide in the smallest of places, cracks, and crevices so you might not notice them hiding in whatever you’re selling.
- DON’T use “Bug Bombs” or foggers. Over-the-counter foggers or “bug bombs” don’t work, and scientific evidence backs this up. The insecticide mist released from the fogger isn’t able to penetrate areas where bed bugs hide, such as underneath the mattress, inside sheets, and small cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs are also resistant to many insecticides so it will have no effect on the bed bugs and will end up settling on exposed surface areas in your home.
Care also needs to be taken as the foggers are highly flammable.
These bug bombs can also make the infestation worse by actually causing the bed bugs to scatter from the area that needs treatment.
- DON’T use most retail pesticide sprays. Most of the bed bug sprays you can buy at the grocery or hardware store are ineffective in the fight against bed bugs.
These sprays either don’t have the required insecticide amount to kill bed bugs, or they contain pyrethroids which are a class of insecticides used for indoor pest control. Using pyrethroid sprays alone has proven unsuccessful in killing bed bugs as the strain of bed bugs typically found in our homes is resistant to these insecticides.
The other downside to sprays is that they are unable to penetrate deep inside fabrics where bed bugs might be hiding.
- DON’T use alcohol. Neither rubbing alcohol nor drinkable alcohol is going to kill bed bugs. Alcohol is flammable and dangerous if misused.
Rubbing alcohol will drown bed bugs if they’re submerged in it, but you won’t be able to drown a whole infestation. If rubbing alcohol is sprayed then it is ineffective as it quickly evaporates.
- DON’T use black plastic bags and leave them in the sunlight. There are lots of websites out there telling you to put your items into a black plastic bag and then leave the bag outside in the hot sunshine as a heat treatment method to kill the bed bugs.
This doesn’t work and researchers have found the bed bugs survive by moving to a cooler spot in the bag as the heat isn’t evenly distributed.
- DON’T use essential oils. Although certain essential oils are used as an active ingredient in some bed bug products, you won’t be able to create a spray that is as effective as you won’t know the exact amounts needed, or have access to the other chemicals required.
Not only do the essential oils quickly break down, but mixing essential oils and water together and spraying around your home is a bad idea because some oils will ruin furniture, cause skin irritations, and are toxic to animals.
- DON’T use mothballs. Research by Rutgers University concluded that mothballs should not be used to control bed bugs. Although they might kill a few adult bed bugs, they had no effect on eggs and nymphs.
Hazardous chemicals are also used in some mothball products so they should never be used on the bed area.
- DON’T use dryer sheets. Dryer sheets do not keep bed bugs away. This is a total myth and there is no evidence that they repel bed bugs.
Proctor and Gamble who manufacture Bounce dryer sheets have also confirmed this:
P&G has no scientific evidence that Bounce Dryer Sheets kill bed bugs and therefore don’t recommend our product for use in this purpose,
— Anne Candido, Spokeswoman, Proctor & Gamble
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
Now you know what you shouldn’t do, so what should you do if you find bed bugs?
Our detailed guide on how to get rid of bed bugs gives you all the information you need and tells you exactly what you should do, such as.
- Make sure it’s definitely a bed bug as there are other bugs that look very similar.
- Clear all clutter from the room.
- Remove and wash all bedding, curtains, and clothes.
- Vacuum everywhere.
- Heat steam the bed frame, box spring, mattress, and other areas.
- Encase the mattress and box spring.
- Use interceptors (bed bug traps) under each bed or furniture leg.
- Repair, seal, and caulk all areas where bed bugs can hide and breed.
The most important thing to know is that a bed bug infestation will spread quickly, so acting fast and knowing what you should and shouldn’t do is vital to eliminating them and being bed bug-free!