The Complete Guide to Getting Rid of Bed Bugs: Scientifically Approved Bed Bug Traps, Mattress Protectors, Sprays and Dusts

If you have found yourself reading this article, there is no point in explaining to you what kind of small brown bugs have settled in your mattress. Yes, they are indeed the bed bugs, the nasty parasites which are so hard to get rid of as they are incredibly tenacious and skillful at hiding. Today we’ll tell you how to get rid of these blood-suckers PROPERLY to defeat them once and for all! Here you'll find 8 best bed bug traps, mattress protectors, sprays and dusts. We’ll bust the myths about the ever-popular bug bombs which are utterly useless against these insects. In order to get to the truth, we have compiled the opinions of scientists from more than ten American universities.

You are about to find out why the bugs can infest any house, even a 5-star hotel, how to react to their appearance, how to behave during a vacation so as not to bring them home, and how long it takes to clean the house of these parasites. 

Table of Contents:

Who Are the Bed Bugs, Where Do They Live and How Are They Dangerous for People

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs are long (up to ¼ inch long) wingless brown beetles with an oval flat torso and three pairs of short legs. As the New York State IPM Program put it, “they are also known as: Cimex lectularius, chinches de camas, chintzes or chinches, mahogany flats, red coats, crimson ramblers, wall lice, the bug that nobody knows, lentils on legs, animated blood drops”.

As the EPA specialists have accurately mentioned, a hungry bed bug looks like an apple seed. This hallmark is easy to bear in mind to recognize this parasite easily. They feed on blood, and its body swells considerably and takes deep red color (it can even become as dark as black). If you happen to come across a whole bunch of these insects, you’ll feel an unpleasant sweet odor which is exuded by the special glands at the bottom of their body.

what do bed bugs look like

These insects are extremely human-centered as humans are perceived as the center of the universe and an infinite source of food. Eating every 5-10 days and a temperature of 80° F are considered to be perfect conditions for the bed bugs’ life and breeding. Without food or if the temperature falls below 60° F, they hibernate and their metabolic processes are slowed down. They fall asleep till better days. According to the University of California Statewide IPM Program, they can remain in such state for up to 400 days. Alternatively, they are forced to attack warm-blooded animals, but this is a much rarer scenario.

How Do You Get Bed Bugs?

As you can imagine, insects do not appear out of nowhere, there is always a reason for their infestation. Here are some of the possible causes of bed bugs:

1. Tourism

At the moment, it is this huge-scale migration of people across the globe that generates more and more hotbeds of bed bug infestations. Here’s how it works: you travel, spend the night at a new place in and they get into your things in your suitcase, and you're taking them home in it. That’s it. Then it will be like a time bomb. Having two little bugs will be enough to breed and make your sleep a living hell.

2. Neighbors

Since they are great runners and can run up to 100 feet, it won’t be difficult for them to cover the distance between points A and B. We can’t guarantee that your place won’t become point B. If your neighbors are infested by the bed bugs, you are potentially endangered as well. Certain scientists believe that they can travel via a central heating duct.

3. Large crowds, be it dry cleaning or laundry facilities, airports, schools, libraries, offices, shops, public transport, theaters, etc.

Unfortunately, you can catch a bug in any of these places, so bear in mind some basic rules: check your clothing and carry-on luggage once you return home if there is the slightest suspicion of bed bug infestation (for example, if you saw any bugs crawling in the laundry room).

BY THE WAY: your kids can catch not only bed bugs at school, but also some head lice. Find out which actions should be taken in this case from our Guide on How to Kill Lice.

4. Buying Used Furniture

Yes, the bugs can move in with you along with the used closet or dresser you purchased. They can even arrive with new furniture, in case the bed bugs inhabit the factory where it was made or the furniture store.

Where Can They Settle In Your House?

After the bugs manage to get into your house, they settle somewhere inconspicuous, such as behind the wallpaper, outlets, carpets, paintings, cracks, moldings, baseboards, etc. Their favorite spots are still the bed (mattress, frame corners, as well as bed linen) and wooden furniture. You would be, however, gravely mistaken, if you believe that they limit themselves to inhabiting a single room. As the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialists explain, “Typically, an infestation starts in one room and spreads slowly to other places where people sleep”. That’s why they recommend deciding on a single place to sleep at your house and stick to the choice. Otherwise, they will follow you as they are used to live at a distance of up to 8 feet away from human beings.

where do bed bugs live?

How Dangerous Are Bed Bugs for Human?  

We can barely call these insects lovely roommates. The first thought that comes to mind at the sight of these swarming creatures is disgust and aversion as no one wants to live in a room infested with bed bugs. Some hypersensitive people can even be stressed by the bed bugs’ presence, the quality and quantity of their sleep will deteriorate, and they can develop a "persecution mania" (the feeling that they still live in the house even after you killed them).

How really dangerous are human parasites and do their bites carry any diseases? Fortunately, the scientists agree that at the moment no clear relationship between the bed bugs’ bites and occurrence of certain diseases has been identified. Dr. Stephen A. Kells and Jeff Hahn from the University of Minnesota confirm this: “Bed bugs are not known to transmit disease to people. They have been discovered to harbor 28 different human pathogens, but fortunately, the transmission of these diseases to people has not been demonstrated”.

However, should you be hypersensitive to the substances the bed bugs emit with their saliva when biting, you can find yourself having an allergy, and such complications as the nettle-rash and others. However, as the U.S. National Library of Medicine reports, these cases rarely occur. Still, we have to warn you of the symptoms that should alert you:

  • if the small bites turned into big red spots;
  • sudden fever;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • breathing difficulty;
  • fatigue and lightheadedness.

Pay attention to any potential symptoms that are not typical of your healthy state, provided that you are not sick at the moment, and the symptoms have appeared after these blood-suckers’ bites. Consult a doctor once you experience any of them.

How to Tell If You Have Bed Bugs

Suppose, they have already infested your house, what should be done? Do not panic and do not rush to look for insecticides right away. Follow the 7 steps outlined below and you will already be on the halfway to the victory over the blood-sucking insects. But first, you need to be 100% sure that it is the bed bugs that are in front of you.

The 5 Obvious Signs of Bed Bugs

Clearly, it is much easier to identify adult bed bugs than to than to note the presence of larvae on a light-colored mattress. A larva’s body is much smaller than an adult’s one, it is transparent or whitish. Mission impossible is finding the pearly eggs which are the size of a pinhead.

We have found out that your attention is the best detector. The scientists advise conducting a regular, careful inspection of all the “potentially hazardous” zones in your bedroom, especially the bed and the mattress. It is such check that will allow you to begin getting rid of the bed bugs in time and not the use of any other devices for identifying the insects.

Furthermore, no matter how good they are at hiding, the following signs always give them away:

  • Feces in the habitat
  • If you see some black dots (which are actually digested blood) somewhere where it’s supposed to be clean, make your conclusions
  • Larvae skins
  • Larvae throw them when turning into adults.
  • Blood stains on the bed sheets
  • The actual bed bugs you’ve squashed in your sleep
  • Bite spots on the human body

In order to be full, the adult bed bugs won’t get enough of a single small bite. Usually, they leave tracks of 3-5 itchy bites located next to each other. Most often they attack hands, feet, and the neck. These insects almost always bite at night, just before dawn, but in the case of severe hunger they can pay you a visit whenever.

Know how to identify and treat bites in our "The Complete Guide to Getting Rid of Bed Bug Bites"

The Scientists’ Opinion on How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

There is no magical panacea (be it a spray or a dust) against bed bug infestation. IPM Program specialists confirm this and recommend combining chemical and nonchemical methods for best control. Here are the most effective treatments:

  • Vacuum cleaning.
  • Bed sheet washing.
  • Furniture rearrangement (the University of Illinois Springfield specialists recommend having your bed as an island in the middle of the room) .
  • Fill any cracks where the bloodsuckers could possible hide.
  • Mattress covers.
  • Killing sprays and dusts.

As the scientists claim (and real life experience attests to this), the majority of bed bugs (about 70%) settle in mattresses, box springs and bed frames. That is why you should devote most effort to treating the mattress. Cover it in a special mattress protector for 12 months. Within this period, all the adults and young bedbugs will starve inside it.

After that, you will have to destroy the remaining 30% of pests. What is the most effective way of doing this? What do entomologists have to say about various traps and bed bug insecticides: sprays, dusts and bug bombs (foggers)?

Killer Sprays and Dusts

The main aim of the insecticides is to kill bed bugs in inaccessible places. The scientists distinguish both natural and chemical insecticides as well as Diatomaceous Earth among contact treatments. The ever-popular boric acid is, unfortunately, useless in this case. As the experts explain, boric acid is useful for cockroach control because roaches groom themselves and boric acid is a slow-acting stomach poison. Bed bugs cannot ingest it.

Traps

Traps serve more as a monitoring rather than killing measure. The University of Minnesota experts consider them to be multifunctional. “Bed bug interceptors not only help to reduce the number of bed bugs that can reach the bed but also act as a monitoring tool to help determine whether bed bugs are present.” It is therefore sensible to use them during the entire process of eliminating the bloodsuckers.

Foggers (Bug Bombs)

Despite the common misconception, the scientists are positive that foggers and bug bombs are ineffective against any home pest insects. There is no effect because no poisonous fog droplets can reach the insects’ shelters and kill them there. Moreover, a reverse repelling effect is observed as the parasites hide even further down the cracks and breed there.

 How Bed Bug Control Products Work

Type

Ingredients

Action

Mattress covers

Made of dense fabric with pores narrower than bed bugs.

Isolate the insects and doesn't let them escape outside or enter inside the mattress.

Sprays

Pyrethrins, pyrethroids, neonicotinoid, chlorfenapyr.

Contact action.

Natural sprays

Geranium, clove, peppermint and other essential oils.

Contact action.

Diatomaceous Earth

100% organic insect killer.

Dehydrates parasites to death on contact.

Boric acid

100% natural insect killer.

Stomach poison.

Traps

Sticky or plastic interceptors.

Means of parasite population monitoring.

Top-3 Bed Bug Traps

If you either still hesitate whether you’ve been bitten by a bed bug or some other insect or haven’t been able to find their nest at home, try using the traps. There are two types of such devices: plastic and sticky traps.

The former are the double plastic cup-holders to be placed under the bed legs which keep the bed bugs crawling off the bed inside one circle, and the bugs crawling into the bed are kept in another one. Thus, being a 2-in-1 piece, the device allows you to track the movement of bugs and catch them. Monitoring devices such as ClimbUp® are useful for confirming the presence of bed bugs when a visual inspection cannot. When installed under bed legs, they also provide a barrier between floor and bed which can potentially reduce bites, especially when beds are pulled slightly away walls and encased, as Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky confirms.

Climbup Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap for ~$31.92 is the most popular trap of this type today. Check the current price on Amazon.com

ClimbUp Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap

The second type - Sticky cardboard traps can be placed anywhere and be used to monitor a variety of insect pests, including bed bugs. The idea of their operation is the same: when an insect touches the adhesive tape, it sticks to it and dies. Certain traps even have food bait. The following 3 products are considered to be the best sellers among top 100 traps on Amazon.com: 

sticky bed bugs traps

If you’re interested in the devices for bed bug detection, refer to our review of the best beg bugs detectors for more details.

7 Mandatory Steps of the Bed Bugs Treatment

Here are the 7 first steps to be taken as preparation if you want to get rid of bed bugs completely. No one ever said it would be easy.

All scientists agree that getting rid of the bed bugs is hard work. “Management will require employing several nonchemical methods such as vacuuming, washing bedding at a high temperature, using steam or heat treatment, and sealing up hiding places. Insecticides may be required to eliminate serious infestations. The best approach is to combine chemical and nonchemical tactics with increased sanitation and habitat modification practices” (University of California Statewide IPM Program).

  1. Ultimate cleaning. Even if the first idea that comes to your mind when you see the bed bugs is to flee, get yourself together. You still have some cleaning to do.
  2. Inspect your bed and any other potential bed bug shelter. Vacuum clean the carpets and floors, as well as all corners and crevices to remove as many adult parasites and their larvae as possible. The vacuum cleaner will not help to get rid of eggs (as they are too sticky), so use sticky tape in case you notice the eggs.
  3. Wash all of your clothes and bed sheets at 120°F so that all the adults, larvae, and eggs are killed. Try to steam clean those items you can’t wash.
  4. If possible, take all the furniture outside, into the sun, as they do not like extreme heat. If you have substantial infestation at home, and so a lot of things are to be treated, or if you travel frequently, a thermal camera for treating infected objects (such as Dr Infrared Heater, 18 cubic feet portable bedbug heater quickly reaches 120-155F in minutes and effectively kills bed bugs for ~$169.99) will be handy. Buy it on Amazon.com Dr Infrared Heater
  5. Although most often these human parasites are found in the bedrooms, sometimes they happen to migrate to other rooms, in the bathroom, for instance, so make sure you check everything.
  6. Warn your neighbors; ask them if anyone has the same problem as it is easier to kill the bed bugs together than alone. Do not be ashamed as they can settle even in the most luxurious buildings. As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention specialists claim, “Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found”.
  7. Insulate the bed, as the main source of infection. Do not dispose of it, even though getting rid of the nest seems to be the easiest solution. Your bed can be treated. First, insulate the bedroom: take away tables, chairs and other furniture which is directly adjacent to the bed. If possible, move the bed away from the window sill and walls.

Some of these steps can help you to get rid of dust mites too. Read more in our article "How to get rid of dust mites?".

What Kills Bed Bugs For Sure? Bug Bombs, Mattress Protectors, Sprays and Dusts and Their Effectiveness

Let us warn you: getting rid of the blood-sucking insects is a hard and long job to do. But if you are consistent and practice the integrated approach of combining the timely cleaning with the use protective covers for the beds and insecticidal sprays or dusts, you are guaranteed to succeed.

Experts still debate the effectiveness of various products and active ingredients, but they are unanimous that vacuuming, washing bedding at a high temperature (120° F), using steam or heat treatment give a 100% result. Therefore, do not neglect these simple and banal at a first glance ways.

A Single Bug Bomb Can Kill All Bed Bugs Immediately: True or False?

So, it’s time for some serious actions now! Many people try to use bug bombs and foggers, but the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, NY specialists, warn us: “Foggers and bug bombs are not effective against them”. This is so because the sprayed droplets of the synthetic fog cannot penetrate hidden spots inhabited by the bed bugs. The University of Kentucky scientists agree with this. They insist that the home insect foggers (“Bug Bombs”) are useless against crawling insects. When applied in this manner, very little insecticide actually penetrates into cracks, voids, and other hidden locations where cockroaches, ants, silverfish, and most other household pests congregate and spend most of their time. The main point is also that the ingredients within “bug bombs” also tend to be repellent, causing insects to scatter and move deeper into wall voids and other hard-to-reach areas, which means they are hiding a bit further!

It’s pointless to rely on any repellents either as the bed bugs’ bloodthirstiness is stronger than the smell. That’s why protective cases and insecticidal sprays remain the most effective means of dealing with the bed bugs today.

How Do You Get Rid of Bed Bugs? – With the Mattress Encasement.

According to the entomologists, 70% of the bed bugs in the house settle in the mattress, box spring and bed frame during a typical infestation. That is one of the priority tasks is to treat the infected bed and mattress and to protect the new one by using protective encasements. Modern encasements are made of firm materials (polyurethane, polyester, etc.) the pores of which are smaller than the bed bugs so that you could lock up all existing blood-suckers and their larvae inside and prevent new ones from getting into the mattress from the outside.

Remember! In order to completely get rid of the bed bugs, the encasement should cover the mattress for a year as it is this period of time that is required for the captivated bed bugs to starve. If you happen to take the encasement off and then put it back on, you might as well start everything all over again.

Here is the #1 Bestseller in the Mattress Encasements category on Amazon.com: LINENSPA Zippered Encasement Waterproof, Dust Mite Proof, And Bed Bug Proof Breathable Mattress Protector. This encasement will protect your mattress from bed bugs and dust mites, and it is also waterproof. It is really as good as it sounds, according to the customer feedback: “This is an excellent product. I purchased this to contain bed bugs that were on my mattress. I bought some diatomaceous earth and dusted my bed first then placed the cover over the mattress. I've been sleeping like a baby ever since. No more bites.”  The customers also add that it is nice to sleep on, that it doesn’t rustle or cause sweating. You can get all of that for ~$25.99. Buy on Amazon.com

linenspa bed bug mattress cover

Read our review of the 5 Best Bed Bug Mattress Protectors to find out which mattress encasement to pick, why vinyl analogues aren’t a good choice and whether your pillows require protection.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Dusts and Powders

Here is what Michael F. Potter, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky recommends to those who cannot afford a professional exterminator:

Bed bug eradication is challenging, and it’s prudent to hire a professional when resources allow. However treatment can be expensive, often costing hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those who cannot afford this often must cope with the problem themselves. A useful step that anyone can take to combat bed bugs is to install bed encasements. Covering the mattress and box spring can help eliminate a substantial portion of the bed bug population.

Bugs that are spotted can be removed with a vacuum, or killed with over-the-counter insecticides labeled for such use. Most bed bug sprays intended for householders have little remaining effect after the spray has dried. Therefore, it’s important to initially contact as many of the insects as possible with the spray droplets. Some insecticides applied as powders or dust (e.g., diatomaceous earth) will kill bed bugs although boric acid powder will not.

Let’s start with Diatomaceous Earth, which is recommended by the scientists, as the bed bugs have not yet had time to get used to it and become resistant, which is, incidentally, confirmed by the EPA.

safer diatomaceous earth

Diatomaceous Earth is the remains of diatom algae composed of silicon dioxide. It is this compound that has an abrasive effect on many insects, including the bed bugs. It dries their armor – their exoskeleton, and the insects die. That is why the bugs do not need to eat the powder to be poisoned and die, it will be just enough for them to touch it. In spite of such killing effect of its use, Diatomaceous Earth is organic and completely safe for people and pets. It only costs ~$9.47. Buy on Amazon.com

How should you use Diatomaceous Earth? You’ll need for that a special kind of sprayer duster, like Pest Pistol Mini Duster for ~$8.99. You’ll have to treat all of the bed bug infestation hotbeds, be it cracks and crevices in the floor, walls, furniture, bed frame and the space around it, etc. The scientists recommend refraining from using other pesticides along with the Diatomaceous Earth (but make sure you do apply other bed bug control ways) and being patient, as the bed bug killing can take up to 2 weeks.

The only downside of using Diatomaceous Earth is the dust which will cover your entire room. If you want to use a cleaner product, pay attention to sprays which are trusted by the Amazon.com customers.

Getting Rid Of Bed Bugs with Sprays

Ortho Home Defense Dual-Action Bed Bug Killer Aerosol Spray: the manufacturer assures that this bottle’s contents are able to kill not only regular bed bugs, their eggs, fleas, ticks, dust mites and lice but also pyrethroid-resistant insects. ~$9.35 Buy it on Amazon.com

Harris Bed Bug Killer spray with Deltamethrin as active component kills bed bugs and lice on contact; the customers, therefore, call it “instant death” and often use it simultaneously with for Diatomaceous Earth ultimate extermination of bed bugs. It is available for ~$19.98 for 1 gallon. Buy it on Amazon.com

bed bug insecticidesHowever, bear in mind that certain bed bugs species have adapted to the pyrethroid insecticides. That’s why you should make sure the manufacturer states whether the product is effective against pyrethroid insecticide-resistant insects.

If you do not want to use insecticides, there are a lot of natural sprays based on oils. Although many pest control experts doubt the high effectiveness of the oil-based bug killers as they are really very tenacious of life insects and learned to adapt to any kind of poison with time, give it a try if it is important to you to use all natural products. The manufacturers promise that their sprays will kill the bugs, larvae, and eggs by direct contact of the liquid with the parasites. The sprays are to be applied on all open and hidden spots where the bugs can settle. In fact, we’re speaking about everywhere from the floor to ceiling, including the hideaway spots, such as place behind the pictures, wallpapers, cracks in floors, walls, etc.

Among the best selling natural sprays in the Pest Control Sprayers category on Amazon.com, you can find the Bug Killer by EcoRaider for ~$19.95. According to the manufacturer, this is “The only natural product kills bed bugs with 100% efficacy according to Entomological Society of America's published study “. It is promised to kill the bed bugs at any life stage as well as to eliminate the resistant species.

natural bed bug killer sprayNB! Regardless of which spray you’ve picked, don’t apply it spot-on as the bed bugs will get used to it and will simply flee to other places. You are supposed to treat the entire premises with it.

Also, while the room treatment does not cause any concerns, you have to be careful with the treatment of the linen. Even the natural sprays contain sls, which is a synthetic sodium lauryl compound which is commonly used in household chemicals production and other products. The United States Department of Agriculture specialists has proven that the prolonged contact of the sls with skin may result in dermatitis. Therefore, if you have sensitive skin, wait for a while before falling asleep on the treated bed sheets.

You can find more helpful products in our guide to picking the best bed bugs spray

 Bed Bug Traps, Mattress Protectors, Sprays and Dusts Comparison Chart

Product

Type

How does it work?

Effectiveness

Price

Climbup Insect Interceptor Traps

ClimbUp Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap

Plastic trap

Provides a barrier between floor and bed. Talc powder is optional for best results.

slow

~$31.92

Trapper Insect Trap

trapper insect trap

Sticky trap

(90 traps)

When an insect touches the adhesive tape, it sticks to it and dies.

slow

~$18.85

Harris Traps with food lure

harris traps

Sticky trap

(2-Pack of 4)

Lures and kills insects.

slow

~$12.97 (8 traps)

Dr Infrared Heater

Dr Infrared Heater

Thermal camera for treating infected objects

Quickly reaches 120-155F in minutes and effectively kills insects in infested objects

fast

~$169.99

Hot Shot 95911-1 Fogger

hot shot fogger

Insecticide bug bomb

Manufacturer promises that the sprayed droplets of the synthetic fog can penetrate hidden spots inhabited by the pests and kill them.

Not effective

from ~$9.84

LINENSPA Zippered Mattress Protector

LINENSPA Zippered Bed Bug Proof Breathable Mattress Protector.

Mattress protector

Locks all existing insects and their larvae inside.

slow

~$25.99

Safer Brand Diatomaceous Earth

safer diatomaceous earth

Organic 100% Natural Insect Killer

Kills insects on contact

fast

~$9.47

Pest Pistol Mini Duster

pest duster

Powder duster

It helps to spray dust in cracks and crevices.

-

~$8.99

Ortho Home Defense Dual-Action Killer Aerosol Spray

ortho home defense spray

Chemical killer spray

Kills insects on contact

fast

~$9.35

Harris Killer spray

harris killer spray

Chemical killer spray

Kills insects on contact

fast

~$19.98

Bug Killer by EcoRaider

natural bed bug killer spray

Natural killer spray

Kills insects on contact

fast

~$19.95

How to Avoid Infestation?

It’s not difficult to prevent the appearance of the bed bugs if you are vigilant and follow these rules:

At home:

  • Clean the rooms more often.
  • Use protective encasements for bed and mattress, and in case, you take it off, turn the mattress more often and check the seams around the perimeter.
  • Have a spare spray in order not to waste time buying it in case you find a bed bug.
  • If necessary, make repairs, seal the cracks in the floor, firmly attach the skirting boards, etc.
  • Throw away old trash and wooden furniture that you do not use.
  • Check the second-hand wooden furniture when buying.

During & after travelling:

  • Use protective cases for the suitcases.
  • Don’t put the suitcase on the hotel bed or any other furniture, use a special luggage stand only if it is available.
  • Be cautious when buying large wooden items or furniture when travelling as they can be infested.
  • Once you get back, take ALL of your stuff (even new and clean things) to the laundry.

Summarizing!

Getting rid of the bed bugs is a long and complicated task in coping with which you will only succeed if you are consistent and if you follow our recommendations. Practice a systematic approach to this unpleasant business by combining modern means of cleaning with the protective bed encasement and using the insecticidal sprays. Such a formula will result in a bed bug-free house and your sound sleep. We wish you to get rid of these unpleasant roommates as soon as possible, as you should only live with those who are welcome at your place!:)

bed bugs
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