The Lamen

How to get rid of bedbugs (and keep them away)

A bar graph for the breast cancer rates among women of different ethnicities.

Bedbugs are anxiety-inducing pests. As a result, learning how to get rid of bedbugs is not only important for your sleep, but your psychological wellness.

Illustration: The Lamen

Published on Oct 9, 2023

Bedbugs are vivacious little bloodsuckers: tough to spot, and even harder to get rid of. A parasite that has been sucking blood since the age of the dinosaurs, bedbugs are a pest of the urban world that doesn’t just leave you itchy.

Bedbugs are nightmarish for hotels and spas, they’re suspected in the transmission of various diseases, and may (rarely) cause a serious allergic reaction. These seemingly invisible biters can even incite anxiety and insomnia.

While they suffered a population crash in the mid-twentieth century with the introduction of pesticides like D.D.T., they’ve since developed resistance and adaptations to survive for one more blood meal. However, there are still ways you can get rid of them.

  Just don’t bring the bedbugs back home

Bedbugs can be unavoidable at times, especially during extensive traveling or rapidly switching hotels. Infestations typically spike during the summer, coinciding with travel and the vacation season.

  • When checking into a hotel, spend a few minutes inspecting the beds and pillows for signs of bedbugs before bringing your luggage in.
  • It is often a good idea to keep your belongings sealed in plastic bags.
  • If possible, get your clothing laundered on medium to high heat before leaving.
  • If you suspect bedbugs, unpack your bags in some location other than the bedroom — like the garage. Depending upon the item, it can be treated with heat or cold.

Once everything has been taken care of, check your suitcase and clothes — looking at every seam and corner with a flashlight. Leave them isolated for a few days, reinspect, and only then should you bring them back in.

◢  Are you sure it’s a bedbug?

A fully-grown bed bug is reddish brown in color, just 4 to 5 millimeters in length — about the size of an apple seed.

To know for sure if you have bedbugs, look out for the following:

  • Small, red, itchy bumps that appear overnight. These bite marks appear in small clusters — generally on exposed areas like arms and legs.
  • Red blood stains on your sheets, clothes, or pillows.
  • Pale yellow eggs and eggshells that are about a millimeter in size.

While faint, bedbugs also give off a distinct, musty odor — said to resemble the scent of coriander or a damp room.

  How to get rid of bedbugs: At-home and professional treatment

Begin by looking for bedbugs in the following areas:

  • under and around your mattress and pillows
  • in the cracks and joints of the bed frame and headboard
  • carpets and rugs
  • in the gaps between hardwood flooring
  • in your closet
  • clothes, books, and anything else lying around your bed

Once you find the bedbugs, contain the infestation by sealing your bed, pillows, and other articles in a plastic bag.

To treat bedbugs without the use of chemicals, use the following methods:

  • Wash your sheets, pillow covers, clothes, and curtains in hot water for about 30 minutes. Follow up by putting them in a dryer at high heat.
  • Clean your mattress, rugs, areas around the bed, and other places where bedbugs might hide with a vacuum. Dispose of the sealed plastic bag by placing it in hot water for some time.
  • Use a steamer on the mattress, couch, and rugs to kill any hiding bedbugs.

If this does not wipe out the infestation, invest in insecticides or even a professional treatment.

Commonly used insecticides include:

  • pyrroles
  • pyrethrins
  • pyrethroids
  • desiccants
  • bug bombs

A professional treatment for bedbugs can involve inspection, bedbug monitoring devices, mattress encasements, steaming, vacuuming, the use of insecticides, and post-treatment evaluations.

While some companies can offer a 30 to 60-day treatment warranty, professional treatment can cost thousands of dollars — depending upon the scale of bedbug infestation.