Wednesday, September 29, 2010

General Information on Bed Bugs

This blog is for anyone who is searching for answers on how to beat bed bugs. My house has been bed bug free for 8 months now and I didn’t spend thousands of dollars on extermination. I used basic tools such as bed bug spray, trash bags, plastic sheeting, blue painter’s tape and duct tape. I also used a vacuum cleaner and a hand-held steamer.

I believe you can rid your home of bed bugs without spending thousands of dollars on expensive treatments, depending on how long you’ve had the problem and how many bugs you have.

Warning, getting rid of these pests is no easy task. It could and probably will take you 3-4 hours or more per day for several days in a row, depending on how many bugs you have. The more you put into this, the more likely you are to get rid of them. It took me several nights of working from 9 pm until 3 am to get rid of mine.

I discovered I had bed bugs in the middle of the night and searched many websites looking for answers but couldn’t find one website to walk me through what to do step by step. This blog is a compilation of what I’ve learned from other sites and from my own experience. It lists what to do to kill bugs and prevent them from spreading, step by step.

First, are you sure you have bed bugs? Do you have bug bites that are all in rows of 3 or more? Are they like mosquito bites, but there is no dot or hole in the center? Do you have lots of bites (more than one or two?) If you only have one or two, then you probably have been bitten by a spider. Click here for pictures of bed bug bites.

One bed bug can bite you hundreds of times in one night. And, each bug can lay hundreds of eggs per night, so you want to get rid of them immediately , if you think you have them.

Also, the bites itch and burn and can last a long time. Mine took about a month to go away completely. But, not everyone reacts to the bites. So, if you don’t have bites, that doesn’t mean you don’t have them.
Other signs of bed bugs are: black specks or lines on your sheets. When you crush them, they smear, or small white bed bug shells. For more information on signs of bed bugs, click here.

Next, try to figure out where you got them. What have you slept in or on recently that other people also slept in? For me, it was a small ekg machine that I had to wear taped to my chest for a month. It’s called a halter monitor. The doctor ordered one for me from a medical device company and it was supposed to be sanitized. Most likely, the person who had it before me had bed bugs that dropped eggs in between the cracks of the buttons. After wearing it for two weeks, I started getting bites. Since I had seen a TLC show on bed bugs, I knew right away that I had them.

Most people pick up bed bugs while traveling. Have you stayed in a hotel recently? Did you have any guests stay at your house recently? Or, have you picked up any clothes or furniture from a second hand store? If not, did you buy any clothes or furniture from anywhere? Try to pinpoint the most likely source of the bedbugs and start there. Assume that regardless where you got them, if you have bites, the bugs are most likely now living around your bed.

The bugs could be anywhere, but most likely they are living in or very close to your bed.

If you think you picked them up traveling, you will need to put all your clothes from your trip in plastic trash bags to be thoroughly washed and dried. If you hung anything up or put anything away, without washing it, then just bag all your clothes up and wash and dry them for at least 1hour. Put the clean clothes back in new plastic bags and throw the used plastic bags away. Put the old plastic bags into another plastic bag and take them outside. Sanitize all your toiletries, etc you took by wiping them down with Lysol wipes or rinse everything in your sink to get rid of any possible eggs. If you have a steamer, you can steam everything including your luggage. If not, take your luggage outside and hose it down really well or vacuum it. Empty the vacuum bag into a plastic trash bag and take it outside to your trash can.

If you had a purse with you, clean out its contents as above and put it in the dryer for 1 hour. Again, this will kill any bugs and eggs you may have picked up.
It is very difficult to kill bed bug eggs. The steamer will do that. But, you can collect them in a vacuum. Be sure to empty the vacuum bag or container into a plastic trash bag right away. Then, take it out to the trash.

Bedbugs have a tough time climbing on plastic, metal or glass, and they cannot jump. So they can only reach you by crawling.

Don’t throw everything away, but you will have to spend hours and hours cleaning. The sooner you start, the better.

If you picked up any furniture from a 2nd hand store, get rid of it, unless you can salvage the wood or metal parts. But get rid of any cushions or pillows by putting them in plastic bags and taking them outside your house to the trash. In that case, steam them or vacuum them then wipe them down with soap and water.
If you picked up any clothes recently, see the above paragraph about washing and drying all your clothes.

Lastly, if you had guests stay with you recently, you will need to sanitize their room as well as your bedroom, or wherever you have been sleeping.
You will have to attack one room at a time. Start with your bedroom, and your kids’ rooms, if they’ve been bitten. So, you at least have a clean environment to sleep in.
Next, you will want to follow the steps below. If none of these situations apply to you, or if you live in an apartment or townhouse or multi-unit building, go through the steps below.

Duct Tape Barrier Near Vent

This is rolled duct tape that I put outside all the vents in bedrooms in case the bed bugs crawled from another room through a vent in an attempt to get to me. You can see that the tape is coming undone.

Tape Barrier on Ceiling

Painters tape protects the ceiling, and rolled duct tape should go over that. I ran out of duct tape and just used rolled painters tape. The rolled tape prevents bugs from crawling on the ceiling and dropping down on you. Please read steps for detailed instructions.

Threshold Barrier

Rolled duct tape in a doorway.

Duct tape on a Bed Post

Rolled duct tape can be used a barrier to prevent bed bugs from crawling onto a bed.

How to Rid Your Bedroom of Bed Bugs

Follow the steps below to get rid of bedbugs in your bedroom and sleep soundly at night:

1. Take all your sheets, blankets, and pillows off your bed and put them in plastic trash bags. If it makes you feel better, you can duct tape the tops of the plastic bags shut.

2. Have your bed bug spray ready as you inspect your mattress. If you don’t have bed bug spray, keep your vacuum ready. Look under all the seams, and in any cracks. Bed bugs are very small. But, you can see them if you look carefully. If you see some, spray then vacuum them, or just vacuum them if don’t have the bug spray. If you don’t see any bugs yet, keep looking. There are many places they can hide.

3. Flip your mattress up and inspect the bottom.

4. Inspect your box spring by doing the steps above.

5. Next, if you have anything under your bed, bag it up. Anything and everything should be bagged up and duct taped to starve the bugs. Take your bags to your garage and try to leave them there for several months if you can. Otherwise, designate one room as a quarantine room and take anything that may have bugs there, and away from your bedroom.
Your quarantine room will need to be a room that you don’t use and that you can seal off for as long as possible. You will still go in there to spray everyday for a couple weeks, but you will have to be able to seal it right away again. For instructions on how to set up your quarantine room, scroll down.

6. Inspect your headboard and footboard and bed frame millimeter by millimeter. Look for more bugs, then vacuum, then spray or steam everything. Do this twice to make sure you got ever single nook and cranny. Remember, these bugs are paper thin and can hide anywhere. My bed was an antique and had lots of holes the bugs could use to hide. You can plug holes in wood with Vaseline. Don’t spray alcohol on the wood, as some websites suggest. It will strip your furniture, as I found out. If your head board and footboard are wooden, you may want to wrap them in plastic sheeting and put them in your garage or quarantine room.

7. Next, vacuum the floor under and near your bed, do this several times and steam it if possible.

8. Pull up your carpet and look for bugs. If you can’t do that, spray the bed bug spray all over the floor to kill any bugs you don’t see after you vacuum.

9. Move your bed away from any walls or furniture after you clean the floor.

10. Sanitize your night stand by vacuuming it all over then spraying it or steaming it. If you don’t have spray or steam, wipe it down. Any books are possible bed bug nesting sites, so bag those up and duct tape them shut. Put them in your garage or “safe room.”

11. Once you are sure the floor under your bed is clean, and your bed frame is clean, wrap your mattress in plastic sheeting and duct tape all the seams. This will kill any bugs that may be living in it. I would wrap it like a present and double wrap it just to be sure.
You will use a lot of duct tape.

12. Wrap your box spring the same way. When you are sure you have done this properly and duct taped all the seams, put them back on the bed frame.

13. You can also buy a bed bug cover for your mattress. I have both the plastic sheeting on my mattress and the bed bug cover on top of that.

14. Now, wash then dry your sheets for an hour. Then, put them in a clean plastic trash bag, right out of the dryer and then you can put your sheets back on the bed. If you keep clean sheets in a cupboard or closet that is no where near your bed or the original site of bugs, you can use previously cleaned sheets from your cupboard. Or, put them in the dryer for 45 minutes or 1 hour to kill any bugs and eggs to be sure.

15. You are getting closer to being able to sleep. You aren’t done yet, though. Don’t let your guard down. The next steps will be making a series of duct tape barriers to trap any bugs that try to get to you while you sleep.

16. Your bed should now be clean. So don’t touch it or put anything on it until you are clean. Next, you will want to cut long strips of duct tape and roll lengthwise, to look like straws. Put one strip around each leg of your bed frame. See the pictures below. If your bed is on a box, tape strips of duct tape around the circumference of the base of the bed. Make sure the tape is secured to the base all the way around so there are no gaps.

17. You can also put strips of tape around the circumference of the mattress.

18. Next, put a strip of rolled duct tape on the floor in the threshold or doorway(s) to your bedroom. If a bug tries to crawl in your room, it will get stuck on the tape.

19. Next, cover any cracks in your walls, windows, or outlets with painters tape. Cover any unused outlets with painters tape too. If there are bugs in another room, they will travel along electrical wires and through walls and vents to get to you in the middle of the night.

20. Now, put the rolled strips of duct tape outside any vents or other openings in your room.

The rolled duct tape creates a series of barriers so if bed bugs try to reach from elsewhere in your bedroom, or from other locations in your house, they will be caught up on one of these barriers. If you live in a dorm, or apartment or townhouse, you may want to keep these barriers up permanently.

21. If you are storing items from your bedroom in a quarantine room, you should prep your quarantine room and other bedrooms now. For other bedrooms, inspect the beds. If there are no signs of bites or bugs, you may still want to wrap the mattresses in plastic. You may want to vacuum and spray or wipe down the bed and follow steps 18-20, and step 23. I put a duct tape barrier over my son’s crib and kept it there for months even though he never showed signs of bites. Usually, the bugs will crawl to the bedroom with the largest people, and largest amount of blood. They may bypass your kids rooms but put the barriers up just in case.
Your quarantine room is a place to store items that may contain eggs or bugs. You won’t have access to these items for a while. You must be sure to cover all vents with plastic sheeting, and any use painter’s tape to cover outlets or cracks to seal any bugs in. You will also follow steps 18- 20. It is not necessary to seal any mattresses if no one has slept there in a long time, and no one will be able to sleep there for a while. Make sure the tiniest of bugs could not exit the room. Then, you should close the door and seal it with painters tape, on every seam and you will want to put an additional duct tape threshold barrier on the outside of the door.
Otherwise, you should now take a shower and wash your hair. Only put on clothes that you have put in the dryer and then into a clean plastic trash bag so that you know are completely clean.

22. Grab your painters tape and duct tape and put a towel on the floor next to your bed so you can wipe your bare feet before getting on the bed.

23. The last and most important barrier is yet to be done. You need to put painters tape on the ceiling in the shape of your bed. It will be the base for another rolled duct tape barrier. Make sure your painters tape is put directly over your bed, at least 2 inches outside where the edge of the mattress would hit the ceiling if you drew a straight line from the edge of your mattress to the ceiling. Then put the rolled duct tape over that. The reason for this is that the bugs like to climb walls and ceilings and drop on you. If they drop before touching your duct tape, you want to make sure they won’t hit you. See the pictures for a better idea. The painters tape goes on first to protect the paint on your ceiling.

24. You will need to keep any pets off your bed too. They can pick up bugs and eggs and spread them. I kept my cats in my master bathroom with a baby gate so they couldn’t get out. I also put duct tape barriers in the threshold to make sure nothing crawled in or out.

25. Now, go to sleep. Make sure that no blankets or pillows are touching the floor from your bed, or drag down alongside your mattress, just in case there bugs left in your frame that may try to hitch a ride up to you. Don’t use any pillows, just in case. If you want to be sure you don’t get bitten, set your alarm for around 3:30 am and have a flashlight next to your bed so you can search the ceiling and walls for anything crawling. Spray anything you see and vacuum it up. Take contents of the vacuum out the trash right away.

The next day, you will want to take any pillows to a laundromat and make sure they are dried for at least 1 hour. Keep them sealed in clean plastic bags and put them in a bathtub or shower or closet that you rarely use (NOT your quarantine room). Keep vacuuming your bedroom and spraying anything you think might contain bugs (the carpet, drapes, etc…) daily. Don’t put your clean clothes and pillows and towels away. Keep them in plastic bags and live out of your plastic bags for 2 weeks. Keep your pets off your bed this entire time. You may want to consider grooming and bathing your pets. The bugs may bite them too.

After a couple days, if you are still getting new bites, you may need to keep cleaning, spraying etc.. and taking more precautions. Shower and wash your hair every night before you go to bed. Make sure no pets have gotten on your bed. Don't put anything on your bed, and clean and spray your car.

After two weeks, if you have no bites, you are okay. But, keep things in the quarantine room sealed for as long as possible. Spray and vacuum the quarantine room at least every other day for two weeks.