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You might recall going to bed as a child and hearing a parent call into your bedroom, “Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” It’s a rhyme traced through many origin theories but one gross reality.

Aptly named, bed bugs are found in warm, semi-dark areas but most commonly in mattresses and bedding. Nearly invisible to the naked eye, these pests can thrive just about anywhere there’s a frequent turnover of occupants, mainly college dormitories, hotel rooms and even in a home.

While checking for bed bugs might not be part of your nightly routine today, in 2010 there was such a resurgence of bed bugs that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a guide dedicated to protecting your home from bed bug infestations.

While this article might make your skin crawl, it’s better than your bed crawling with bugs. We’ll go over how to identify, remove and prevent bed bugs from infesting your home so you can sleep tight knowing nothing will bite.

How Do You Identify a Bed Bug?

Bed bugs can be tricky to identify. They’re small and sneaky, meaning it might make it hard to catch an infestation before it becomes an actual problem. If you do happen to get a good look at one, here’s what you should look for:

  • Size: 1/4 of an inch long (about the size of an apple seed)
  • Shape: Long, oval and flat
  • Color: Brown – reddish-brown
  • Other features: Two antennae and six legs

All the above characteristics are consistent throughout most bed bugs but note that younger bed bugs or bed bug eggs, can have a smaller size and a translucent, milky-white color.

If you’re unable to get a good look at what you think might be a bed bug, you can also identify a bed bug by the trace it leaves behind. If you think your home may be host to uninvited guests, thoroughly clean your home and change your bedding while looking for signs of:

  • Rusty or reddish stains on bed sheets or mattresses (caused by bed bugs being crushed)
  • Dark spots (commonly bed bug feces)
  • Bed bug bites on a person or pet

Although a bite might not be the best way to identify an infestation (they’re often confused for mosquito bites or rashes) know that bed bug bites can raise welts and rashes in humans, as well as cause an intense itching sensation; however, their bite does not carry infection or disease.

What Are Bed Bugs Attracted to?

Now that you know how to identify a bed bug, learning its habits, attractions and ideal breeding conditions can help you stop an infestation from spreading in your home. When it really comes down to it, bed bugs are drawn to:

  • Frequent foot traffic
  • Access to warmth
  • Carbon dioxide

It might sound gross but where there are people, there’s blood, and where there’s blood, there could be a bed bug. That’s why areas like dormitories, hotels and homes are a prime location for bed bugs since so many people go in and out.

However, they’re called “bed” bugs are a reason – their favorite hiding spots are bed frames, mattresses, box springs and beddings, combining their need of warmth, carbon dioxide and access to blood (people).

Although they’re commonly found in the bedroom, they can wedge their way into any small hiding spot in your home, so if you think you might have a bed bug infestation, don’t stop at the bed. Check these other common areas:

  • Furniture with cushions (chairs, couches, ottomans)
  • Curtains
  • Drawers
  • Electrical outlets and appliances
  • Wallpaper
  • Ceiling or floor cracks

Bed bugs can live anywhere their host can live, so this is by no means a comprehensive list. They are known to bite both humans and pets and are mostly active at night. They can also live between six months to a year, so don’t wait to act if you see signs of an early infestation.

What Causes You to Get Bed Bugs?

Some sources might claim that a messy or dirty home can cause you to get bed bugs when in reality, even the cleanest home can collect a campground of bugs. The real problem comes from previously infested furniture or people.

For example, you might have heard of hotel guests who insist on switching rooms because they found bed bugs or evidence of one. This is most likely because they know bed begs can attach themselves to clothing or luggage and travel back home with you, becoming a souvenir you don’t recall buying from your last vacation.

Unfortunately for bargain shoppers or antique collectors, they can also be found in secondhand furniture. Not to mention, people can carry bed bugs in their clothing and shoes, so there’s really no limit to how bed bugs could enter your home.

So, as you can see, the real cause of bed bugs can’t be blamed on a messy home; the real cause of bed bugs is infested furniture, bedding, luggage, boxes, clothing – really, anything that provides a source of warmth and access to people.

Obviously, while you can avoid staying in hotel rooms and buying secondhand furniture that could possibly be infested with bed bugs, you really can’t avoid people (or at least, we hope you won’t after reading this article!) The most important thing is to know how to prevent and get rid of bed bugs. We’ll talk about that next.

How Do You Prevent Bed Bugs from Getting into Your Home?

Since the number one cause of bed bug infestations in your home is previously infected furniture and people, here are a few precautions you can take to prevent bed bugs from getting into your home.

Inspect Secondhand Furniture Before Buying

Buying secondhand furniture is a great way to save money when you’re looking to furnish your home on the cheap, but it can also pose a risk of bed bugs if not examined closely.

If you go thrift shopping on the regular, make it a habit of doing a quick inspection of the furniture you’re thinking of purchasing. For furniture, check along the seams of the upholstery for any sign of bed bugs or bed bug residue. As a rule of thumb, never purchase a secondhand mattress.

Even if it looks clean enough to bring home after purchase, give the furniture a good cleaning before placing it in your home. Store it in your garage or shed, vacuuming any furniture with fabric and upholstery and thoroughly cleaning with hot, soapy water if otherwise, careful to check any crevasses like drawers or storage places.

Some sources might claim that a messy or dirty home can cause you to get bed bugs when in reality, even the cleanest home can collect a campground of bugs. The real problem comes from previously infested furniture or people.

Regularly Inspect Your Bedding for Signs of Bed Bugs

This doesn’t have to be a task you do on a nightly basis, rather, whenever you wash your bedding take this time to inspect the condition of your bed for signs of bed bugs or bed bug residue.

If you see signs of bed bugs, remove your bedding from your bed and place it in the washer on the highest heat and cycle setting your bedding will allow. The heat and water combined will kill any bed bugs that might be hiding in your bedding. For good measure, consider also washing any curtains, rugs, throw blankets and pillows that might have also been exposed in your bedroom.

As for your mattress and box spring, take them outside and using a scrub brush get into the seams and other affected areas of the mattress, brushing any bugs or eggs out. Then, take a vacuum and thoroughly clean the entire surface of both the mattress and box spring. After you’ve vacuumed your mattress, vacuum your bedroom, emptying the contents of the vacuum into a plastic bag and placing it in a garbage can outdoors.

Finally, enclose your mattress and box springs in a tight-fitting plastic covering, leaving both outside overnight. The plastic will keep any air from entering the mattress, suffocating any remaining bed bugs or eggs.

At the end of the day, you might feel more comfortable throwing away your affected mattress and box spring. If you’re worried about the chance of returning bed bugs, it’s worth the money to buy a new mattress set.

When Traveling, Always Check the Room for Bed Bugs

When traveling, check your hotel room for bed bugs before you unpack, focusing on the bedding, upholstered furniture and curtains. If you see signs of bed bugs, ask the front desk or host for another room, notifying them that you found bed bugs in your current room.

Don’t bring your luggage into the room until the coast is clear of bed bugs. Bed bugs can attach themselves to your luggage and can live up to a week, making it possible for them to find their way back into your home.

If you think your clothing may be infected, separate the infected clothes from the rest of your luggage in a sealed plastic bag. When you return home, place the infected clothes in your washing machine on the highest heat setting your clothing will allow.

Inspect your luggage outside before bringing it back into your home. Go the extra mile by vacuuming and hand washing the bag with hot, soapy water. Leave outside to dry and inspect one final time before bringing it in.

What Keeps Bed Bugs Away?

According to some sources, there are a few scents that are rumored to repel bed bugs. All-natural products, like essential oils, are said to have an effect on bed bugs, but may not kill them off completely. If you’re dealing with a heavy infestation, it’s a better idea to call an exterminator with professional heat and chemicals.

However, if you’re just looking for a preventative method that might repel bed bugs from your home, here are a few essential oils that may do the trick:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint

Use ten drops of any of the previously listed essential oils, dilute with water and place in a spray bottle, spraying around the affected areas of your home like your bed sheets, curtains, luggage and other areas where you might suspect bed bugs.

If you’re still noticing signs of bed bugs in your home, contact your local exterminator to schedule a cleaning of your home. Based on the level of infestation in your home, you might not be able to stay in your home during or after the treatment, so make sure you make arrangements to stay at a friend or family’s home during this time.

While you might not ever be able to completely prevent bed bugs from getting into your home, knowing how to properly identify, remove or call a professional to remove the bed bugs will help keep your household safe from infestations.

Have you experienced bed bugs in your home? How did you handle the infestation? Share your story in the comments below.

This Post Has 53 Comments

  1. I have bedbugs in only one area that is in my front room. Not in my bedroom or bathroom or kitchen. I had them in my bedroom N I did get rid of everything N wash everything got a Metal bed Frame a bedbug cover for the Mattress. I cleaned my place from top to bottom with Harrison Spray N there powder. They have a HUG KIT N it worked in my bedroom I check my bedroom every week. Thank God its been months N nothing in my Bedroom. It’s only in the front room Now. So I got rid of everything in there too,N only have two small recliners. Are they coming back or hide somewhere? There aren’t a lot of bedbugs on the One Recliner It’s the fact is they are just in one area the front room. I’ve tile in my whole apartment every where. O N I don’t let anyone in my place do to I know who give them to me.

    It just my brother N my mom that come here every other week.
    When they get home they take all the clothes off B4 going in there house N run to take a shower. They wash there clothes on hot I feel so bad they have to do all that after coming here.
    I won’t go over there house do to me having them. They don’t have any bedbugs in there home my brother check every week too.

    1. Hi Rita:

      I think if they’re in the recliner, you may want to get rid of the recliner. I know this is probably getting expensive but they do a hide in the smallest places. If they’re in that one area of your front room, you might look for a crack or something and see if you can determine how they’re getting in. However, if you’ve gone over the place from top to bottom, it may be time to call a professional. My worry is that if you can see some of them, there are others.

      1. Zing Admin,
        Thanks for reply so fast I appreciate it.
        I can only see them BC I look for them with a LED light by flipping the Recliner upside-down.
        I do that check every thing ever week.
        It took about 2months B4 I see one
        This is the 2nd Chair I bought it’s in the trash now. No Furniture is coming in till I do all this.
        It’s crazy they aren’t anywhere else I look a lot too.
        Just only in the Front room area
        I going to do all the baseboards wash them Vacuum,Spray them N put Caulking on the bottom/top N the ends of the baseboards.
        I just don’t know in what order to go in by sides washing down the baseboards 1st.
        But after that? Spray Vacuum them Spray again them Caulk the Baseboards? Or is that Wrong?

        1. Hi Rita:

          This is meant to be a general article that goes into some of the causes of bed bugs for the purposes of prevention. However, this article looks like it goes into great depth, and might be a better source of information on caulking if that’s the next step you need to take. Hopefully this helps somewhat!

  2. Hundred percent rubbing alcohol My house was infested with them And after I found out what the problem was what they were 100% rubbing alcohol will kill them instantly on contact It took us months of constantly spraying everywhere throughout the home had to throw the mattress away Someone brought them in my home But Several months of spraying everywhere 100% rubbing alcohol Kills them on contact Thank God got rid of them and have not had any problem since And it has been I love you even more Just hope you can still find 100% rubbing alcohol Because that’s what it takes a hundred percent But believe me it does work

  3. Can an apartment be professionally treated before you move in, just in case there are bedbugs? I’d rather be safe than sorry….

  4. I need to enter a rental house that is infested to remove a few things…papers, a curio cabinet, a huge live plant, flat screen tv, etc. How do I prevent them from getting on me while doing this? And how do I treat these specific items from possible transfer of possible bb’s??? Thank you.

    1. Hi Sharyn:

      There are repellents you can put on yourself and there’s some writing online about effective use of essential oils, but I don’t know how well either method works. I think the best thing to do would be to get one of those disposable plastic suits and just throw it out when you’re done with the treatment. As far as treatment, the bedbugs are unlikely to be in the plant because they like blood meals, but I would remove the plants before doing anything chemically. In terms of making sure bedbugs don’t get an electronics, there’s an article here that may be helpful. For everything else, heat treatment works well.Good luck!

  5. Seal all plumbing and electrical box’s. Seal your base board with chaulk. Any point of entry has to be discovered and sealed. This helps seal them out and makes killing them more effective because they have no place to escape.

  6. So I’m sitting here and noticed a bed bug crawling on me so me and my sister looked and they were all in the cracks of my couch but we looked at the love seat a ND chair and nothing but I’m worried that they are in all my furniture…is it possible for them to be in just one piece of furniture and not the others

    1. Hi Amanda:

      If you’ve found bed bugs in your couch, it’s likely that they’ve found their way to other pieces of furniture in your home. Though, there is a slight possibility that you caught them in time. I would recommend calling an exterminator to make sure that the infestation hasn’t spread. Hope this helps!

  7. no pets??? use double stick tape or reverse wrap duct or packing tape to the legs of your bed frame or the legs to your furniture.
    vacuum your mattress and inspect your home regularly. OH and i forgot the important part you will need to do the treatmenty all over again in 6 weeks. 4 weeks too early 8 weeks too late. so bag your vacuum bag contents clean out the brushes and baking soda it too.
    good luck

  8. ok so here is the treatment, the business end of getting rid of bad bed bugs.
    Pick a day when you can start and finish in one day or a free weekend.
    If in your clothes,,,,turn everything inside out be sure to shake everything outside then spray down with whatever oils or debug spray that you have and dry them on high heat before you wash. Same technique applys for cushions that you can remove and duvet covers, inside out.
    do all the shaking out from all over the house as much as you need to do this because you will need to vacuum yourself so you dont trail them back in.
    Fill your house upside down, im sorry. But that is where they live, underneath, in the cracks and crevices and folds. the places we all ignore. Spray your debug spray, them vacuum. In the corners of the rooms and the baseboards, especially the baseboards.
    under neath everything. Take the legs off the couch, spary and vacuum. you will find them there.
    Spray your house down with a combination of heavy vinegar and lite water. Spray and vacuum several times in concentrated areas. I promise you will be tired but you’re not done yet.
    Intensify your searching to level absurd then keep on spray and vacuum spray and vacuum.
    Baking soda is your friend. sprinkle in your doorway and (important) along the base boards, your mattress and box spring, furniture and chairs with cushions too.
    If you really what to prevent make a paste with baking soda and Spackle where you know is prone.
    once you have completely finished,,,i suggest bug bomb your place and go watch a movie. take your pets.

  9. I stayed in an Airbnb and came home with bed bug bites all over me. I didn’t notice until I was already home and brought my stuff inside. I have since washed everything and dried on high heat but is there any other way or precautions to take to stay ahead of the bed bug infestation in my own hone?

    1. Hi Alyssa:

      The only thing you haven’t done maybe that’s mentioned in the article is use essential oils. They don’t like the scent and it’s a repellent. But you would seem to be on track otherwise.

    2. I had a guest bring bb’s into my home. I had to have a $1,000.00 heat treatment and that did it. No more bb’s! You can do an exterminator contract but that’s poison every week to be exposed to, and the contract is because it’s ongoing–they can’t kill them because they hide so well. That’s why heat does it- they can’t hide from a long enough duration of heat at a high temp.! But it can ruin anything rubber, plastic, also candles need to be inspected and removed; smooth surfaces can be eye-checked and put elsewhere; you’d have to bag sneakers and shoes and keep them in the trunk of your car for a year– to be sure the bugs were dead. I know this article says “Don’t bring your luggage into the room until the coast is clear of bed bugs. Bed bugs can attach themselves to your luggage and can live up to a week…” That is a very conservative estimate. I have heard 6 months, 10 months and a yr so I go with the longest estimate.) The heat treatment people will give oyu a list of what to remove and how to safely remove it.

      1. Hi Cher:

        Thank you for your comment! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve struggled with bed bugs in the past. As you learned, the best way to get rid of bed bugs for good is to hire an exterminator. Hope you’ve been bed-bug-free ever since!

    1. Hi Evangeline:

      I do agree that the University of Minnesota’s article on this topic is excellent. It makes sense. There are a lot of people moving in and out of those dorm rooms.

  10. Is there anything else to use on my couches I can’t afford new ones I have bombed twice and sprayed the couches and washed everything it’s been ten days and I’m getting bites still I have replaced my bed!

  11. What about shoes and a flat screen TV. I am throwing everything elae out. Not taking chances. I have a few documents i need as well. Suggestions?

    1. Hi Ann:

      According to the academic literature I can find on this, you can probably wash and dry the shoes on high settings and get rid of anything that might be living in there. As for flat screen televisions, this article is on the older side, but it says that in the event the bugs were to stay in your flat screen, they could be heat treated because the flat screen can withstand temperatures up to 160 degrees. They aren’t likely to be in there because it wouldn’t be a source of food.

    2. I’m in the same situation. No matter how much I attack these damn bastards they keep coming back. I’m legit going to lose it on these things.

      1. Find someone to give your house a heat treatment. It’s worth the 1K to do it- peace of mind is worth it! Look online for heat treatments – exterminators don’t get rid of them as they can’t, but heat from the professionals will do it.

  12. Straight to the point my bother got them and while they spray for a few hours he needs a place to go can’t tell him no he him self is a clean person so I feel bad to just tell him go for a ride sit at a park or something …… Point being can he come to my house and not bring them with him some how

  13. My son went to camp yesterday and they didnt make it over night. While there 5 kids from the same family. Were found with bits and bugs on their persons. All the kids belongings were piled up together in the van. When i picked him up they had put his stuff in a bag. Now its on my back porch still in the bag. What do i do with his stuff. Because im not bringing it in till i know what to do with it.

    1. Hi Jillianne:

      Laundering everything you can at the highest setting the fabric can handle will help. Anything you can’t wash may have the bugs extracted if you heat or freeze it. There’s more information here from the University of Minnesota. Good luck!

    1. Hi Twila:

      Bed bugs are unlikely to stay on you when you move as this doesn’t provide them with a good hiding place. I hope this helps!

      Kevin Graham

  14. I like to ask where I live their a few apartments that been treated but still get bed bugs why do they come back?an why they don’t treat the entired building if they are bedbugs in lots of apartments

    1. That’s a great question, Rosita. It probably has to do with the other units in the building. If any bedbugs are left untreated in the vicinity, they’ll likely come back.

      And while I don’t know the specific situation, I’m guessing that they’re not spraying because of the expense. Even exterminating a two-unit home can cost over $1,000, depending on the severity of the infestation. As sad as it is, this is often the hurdle for most landlords and investors. I would recommend talking about this with your landlord. Perhaps you can come to some sort of arrangement.

  15. I live in an apartment and bedbugs are slowly making their apt by apt down the hallway. What can I do to prevent them from crawling under my door.

    1. My immediate thought is that they sell foam you can put on the bottom of the doors to go between the bottom of the door and the floor. That way, you create a physical barrier. I’m not sure if your building manager is already doing this, but you could try spraying indoor safe bug killer/repellent in the cracks and crevices to prevent them from getting in. Hope this helps!

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