OK, you're here to find out how to get rid of bed bugs, so we'll get on with it, shall we?
It's time to say ciao to those little critters. To be brutally honest, there's absolutely nothing nice about bed bugs. In fact, they're the stuff of nightmares. Not only is the prospect of these household pests crawling all over you as you sleep pretty disturbing, but the bites that you may experience as a result of them are very unpleasant, too. Do not cry yourself to sleep tonight, we can help you get rid of them.
If you're not overly sure whether you have this particular critter, consult our how to identify bugs in your home article to double, triple-check.
Here's a little more on what to look out for from the experts at Rentokil (opens in new tab) : 'It isn’t always easy to identify bed bugs or know there’s a problem. They remain hidden in tiny cracks and crevices during the daytime. Often the first sign of bed bugs is bites that appear on your body after you wake up.'
Whether you've recently been backpacking and suspect you may have brought some unexpected guests home with you, you've moved into a rental property only to discover your second hand mattress is riddled with the critters, or you're concerned about what could be living in your child's uni accommodation, follow our tips to get rid of them... fast.
- To banish those bed bugs, find tips on keeping your bed clean over on our How to clean a mattress guide.
Look for the bed bug signs
Before you can start tackling bed bugs, you'll need to know, once and for all, whether you have an infestation.
As it's highly unlikely that you'll ever see your bed bugs, here are some sure-fire signs that you could be dealing with the little critters:
- If you wake up in the morning with super itchy skin that you didn't have when you went to sleep, this could be a sign that you have bed bugs. You may also notice a rash made up of small, red spots across your body.
- You may spot small bloodstains on your bedding, along with rust coloured spots of bed bug excrement. If you have dark bedding, this may be more difficult to spot.
- If you manage to find where the bed bugs are hiding, you may also spot small eggs, or evidence of them shedding their skins.
- There may be a musty smell hanging around your space, this is something that bed bugs release.
Where bed bugs hide
How do bed bugs get into your home? It might be that they have come in with luggage (have you stayed somewhere infested?), clothing or in already-used beds or furniture.
They like to hide in groups – and if they've infested your mattress you can be pretty sure they're living in the bed frame and headboard, too.
Clean your bed to get rid of bed bugs
The best solution for getting rid of bed bugs might be to replace your mattress entirely. This is a big investment, though, so your first port of call might have to be to give your bed a thorough scrub.
Here's how to do this effectively:
- Take a stiff brush to the mattress, then vacuum it thoroughly and regularly. Empty the vacuum cleaner immediately into an outdoor bin.
- Do the same for the bed frame and all around the room where you've found the bed bugs.
- Wash all your bedding, clothes, curtains and any other soft furnishings on a hot wash (minimum 60ºC) and, if you have a tumble dryer, on a hot setting.
- Anything else around the bed – toys, cushions, clothing – all need to be hot-washed, too.
- Alternatively, place your sheets and bedding in the freezer for three to four days – this will kill the bed bugs.
- Keep on top of cleaning – this means regularly cleaning and vacuuming your space. And if you have a carpet, you might think about giving that a deep clean while you're at it.
- Get a good mattress protector. This acts as a barrier between the mattress and your bedlinen. Remove it every time you wash your bedding and hot wash it too. Take advantage of the stripped bed to brush and vacuum it (as above).
- Look for places bed bugs can hide (bear in mind they're the depth of a credit card) and fill those gaps – even peeled wallpaper is a potential home for them.
- Keep the room where you discovered the bed bugs impeccably clean and clutter-free – bed bugs can survive for months without feasting.
The best products for getting rid of bed bugs
1. Tackle them with bed bug spray
One of the first steps in eliminating bed bugs, is to try and kill them in situ before they get spread around the house. You will need to wash all bedlinen or soft furnishings that they have been on but before doing so, you will want to get rid of them where they live. A spray is also good for items you can't wash like some furniture and mattresses.
If you have only spotted a few bed bugs, you can try less toxic methods like a distilled vinegar spray. It will kill those it comes into contact with and can be sprayed quite liberally as long as you can allow it to dry, but note it will not get rid of the eggs.
It also won't work on a proper infestation – for this you will need chemical pesticides such as the range of bed bug killers available on Amazon (opens in new tab).
Warning: Use these in a well ventilated area and keep away from children and pets. You will need to sleep elsewhere for a few nights after treatment.
2. Kill them with steam
A safe, clean and toxin-free way to kill bed bugs is with steam. Use a portable steam cleaner to kill them (it should also make the eggs unviable), then once dry, vacuum the remnants away.
You could use an iron, but the steam is hard to direct and will take lots of refills – you also risk burning items that should not be ironed. A steam cleaner is much more effective and you can see our top rated steam cleaners here or shop a selection below.
3. Wash them away then tumble dry to be sure
Even if you kill all the bed bugs where you found them, you will still need to wash all bedding and clothing that may have come into contact with them.
We recommend putting everything on the hottest wash the fabric can take (although the water itself will do the main job by drowning them), then follow up with a tumble dry to be extra certain they do not survive.
If you're still not convinced of their demise, here's how to clean your machine effectively.
4. Vacuum the infested space thoroughly
Once the bed bugs are killed you need to be sure you have got rid of their eggs too. Use the firm brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean away dead bugs and eggs, making sure you get into every corner or furnishings and the trim of your mattress.
We have rated the best vacuum cleaners if you need a new model that is up to the job, or shop todays vacuum cleaner deals below.
Keep them away with homemade essential oil spray
It is believed a number of essential oils will get rid of bed bugs and some can also be applied to the skin to discourage them from taking a bite. Peppermint oil is often heralded as the one they like the least.
You can apply small drops around your bed, but some people have a reaction to it on their skin so take care and consider other oils with a citrus base for use on skin. Tea tree is a great natural insect repellent and lavender oil is also a good repellent – plus if used around your bed, it will help whisk you away to the land of nod.
Here's a handy how-to on how to make a bug spray:
- Take your essential oils of choice (in this instance, lavender, tea tree and/or peppermint)
- Fill a spray bottle with water and add the essential oils to your liking (we reckon 20 drops of lavender and/or peppermint and 10 drops of tea tree should do the trick.)
- Spray until your heart's content - over your bed and surrounding area.
- If you're headed off on holiday, take the spray with you and when you get to hotel, spray your bed and around your suitcase to try to repel the little pests from hitching a ride home with you.
- You can also make a nifty spider repellent with essential oils. Check it out in our how to get rid of spiders guide.
Know when to call pest control
If all else has failed and you're still plagued by these nasty little bugs, we'd recommend getting in touch with your landlord, local council, or pest control unit who can offer professional advice.
Often you won't be able to rid yourself of bed bugs entirely, with shop-bought solutions.