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Home Care Library

Keeping Your Home Safe From Bedbugs


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Bedbugs can be very difficult to remove once they get into your home. This article explains what you can do to keep bedbugs from infesting your home, and the do's and don'ts for getting rid of them.

Steps to Follow to Keep from Getting Bed Bugs


The increase in infestations by bed bugs is due to a number of factors: the ban on DDT (a once-common insecticide); the use of less toxic pesticides; and the increase in international travel. The most common ways that bed bugs enter your home are: from infected hotels; second-hand furniture; nearby homes; birds or mice that your pet may have had contact with.

Once bed bugs infect your home, it is VERY difficult to remove them, so it is important to immediately take steps to prevent these pesky creatures from getting into your home in the first place:

WHEN TRAVELING:


  • Check bedding and mattresses in hotel rooms before unpacking. Look for bugs themselves, and also for evidence of their possible presence, such as tiny brown or red specks on sheets, and any dark spots (about this size: •) which are bed bug excrement.

  • Don’t put suitcases on the floor or beds; instead place them on tables or case stands.

  • Look behind headboards and picture frames and inspecting upholstered furniture.

  • Before you leave the hotel, double-check your luggage and its contents for infestation.

  • When returning from a trip, empty your suitcase and wash all your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat in your dryer. Intense heat will kill the bed bugs.

  • Vacuum the suitcases and once done, put the vacuum bag in your freezer for 24 hours and then throw it out. Intense cold will kill the bed bugs.

  • Dry clean or wash all clothing in hot water upon arriving home after traveling, even clothes that haven’t been worn.


AT HOME:


  • Make beds into "islands" by moving them away from walls and making sure that linens, bed skirt, and blanket don’t touch the floor.

  • Put on mattress covers, bedspring and pillow encasements that zip closed all the way around (see types, costs, and reviews of mattress covers).

  • Vacuum your home at least twice a week.

  • Never place tote bags on the floor or on upholstered cushions; instead hang them on hooks or store them on a rack.

  • Keep your home as clutter-free as possible so that bed bugs have less spaces to hide.

  • Wash and dry bedding and clothing at high temperatures to kill bed bugs.

  • Make sure that your pet does not drag any wild animals (mice, birds, etc. into your home).


How to Tell if You have Bed Bugs


Adult bedbugs have flat, reddish-brown colored, oval bodies and are about the size of an apple seed. After eating, bedbugs will leave blood spots and dark fecal stains (about the size of this dot: •). As they grow, bedbugs shed their skins and leave behind light-brown exoskeleton shells. A photograph of a bed bug is shown to the right.

To inspect your home for bed bugs, start with inspecting your bed sheets for small bloodstains, evidence that you've been bitten while sleeping. Sometimes bedbug bites go unnoticed, because people don't get an immediate reaction or blame mosquitoes for the red bumps. Next, pull back your bed sheets to inspect your mattress seams. Run your finger along all seams, and also look for any dark brown spots. Check along your bed frames and, if possible, behind the headboards. Be sure to also look inside dresser drawers, including the side facing the wall. And examine your upholstered chairs, focusing on the seams, tufts, and crevices. And finally, bed bugs are occasionally found in kitchens and bathrooms, so be sure to check there as well.

Getting Rid of Bed Bugs


The bugs are very difficult to get rid of because they can survive for up to a year without feeding. They also can hide well since they can be very thin (like a piece of paper) and can slip into cracks and places where you would never think they could get into. If you unfortunately find your home infested with bed bugs, here are some “do’s” and “don’ts”:

DO’s:


  • Save any bed bugs you find, so that you can show them to a service professional. Pick them up with clear tape, and stick them to an index card.

  • Wash your bed linens in hot water and dry them in a hot dryer for 1-2 hours.

  • Hire a trained, experience professional service who will need to do 2-3 treatments, spaced about 10-14 days apart.


DON'TS:


  • If you suspect there are bed bugs where you sleep, don’t start sleeping in another bed, sofa or stay with someone else. The bugs may follow you and infest this new place.

  • Don’t try to treat the bed bugs yourself. Bed bugs are probably the most complicated pests you’ve ever encountered at home. If you start spraying pesticides, you may disperse the bugs, and the professionals may have trouble treating them.

  • Do not try using a fogger or bug bomb, as these do not work for bed bugs, and in fact, may even spread them.


SUMMARY


So like so many things, the key to dealing with bed bugs is prevention and being diligent for watching for the early signs that you have a problem. But if you do find that you have a problem with bed bugs, be sure to follow the "do's" and "don'ts" that we described here.

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