Apartment buildings can be a bedbug's dream. With so many rooms and spaces to invade, building-wide infestations are not uncommon. But do not fret! There are many steps you can take to prevent infestations and get rid of bedbugs that have raided your space.
Bedbugs are hardy little pests, only about 5mm in length, that have impressive hiding abilities. Their small size, quick reproductive cycle, and ability to fit into the tiniest of cervices makes identifying and treating a bedbug infestation difficult.
Although bedbugs do not carry any diseases, these pests feed on human, dog, and cat blood making getting rid of them a necessity. Do-it-yourself extermination will require patience, time, and effort on your part, but it is not impossible!
Identifying a bedbug problem
The first step to treating bedbug infestations is to accurately identify that you have bedbugs. There are a few tell-tale signs:
- Itchy red spots all over your skin in the morning. Bites will often be in a straight line.
- Small dotted blood stains on your sheets.
- Rust-colored stains on edges of your mattress or other fabric furniture.
- Tiny white eggshell casings along your mattress, bed frame, or couch.
If you have a landlord or a building management group, make sure to contact them right away. Oftentimes, your landlord may have the responsibility to help in the extermination process, or will have protocols in place on how to deal with bedbugs.
Identify the infested area
Suitably named for their affinity to hide in bed frames and mattresses and feast on their human hosts at night, bedbugs can actually be found all over your apartment, not just the bed! They prefer fabric and wood surfaces but can be found anywhere. It is imperative to check your entire apartment for signs of bedbugs.
Using a magnifying glass and flashlight, check areas such as:
- Your mattress and box spring, including around all the seams and tags;
- Your bedframe. Taking apart your bedframe may be necessary to spot any bugs burrowed in corners;
- All fabric and wooden furniture, checking thoroughly in between cushions, armrests, and the underneath;
- All baseboard across the entire apartment;
- Electrical outlets and electrical appliances;
- All edges of your wallpaper;
- Underneath and around paintings and posters.
Once you’ve identified where your bedbug infestation is, it is time to treat it. If possible, isolate the room and minimize all movement in and out to avoid spreading the bugs or their eggs.
Wash all clothing and bedding on high heat
Remove all clothing and washable items (including all clothing, bed sheets, mattress toppers, pillows, and curtains) from the infested room and wash them on the highest heat setting of your washing machine. Dry the items on your dryer's hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.
Once washed, store the clean items in a non-infested room in sealed containers or bags. Do not return any items into the infested room until the bedbugs are completely eliminated.
Freeze items that cannot be washed
For small items that cannot be washed, place them in a sealed bag and then into a freezer. Items should be kept for at least 4 days at temperatures under -20 degrees Celsius.
Seal other items in air-tight containers or bags
Items such as books and magazines, that you do not want to throw out, should be sealed in airtight containers or bags and left for at least a few months to ensure bedbugs are dead. Do not place these items into a clean room, as you risk spreading the infestation.
Before cleaning, vacuum all fabric and wood surfaces including your mattress, bed frame, baseboards, furniture, and rugs. Use your vacuum's smallest brush attachment to get into any small crevices and corners. It is recommended to vacuum the surfaces several times to ensure all bugs and their eggs are picked up.
Once you finish vacuuming, let your vacuum run for another 1-2 minutes to ensure any bugs or eggs stuck on the hose make their way into the canister or bag. If your vacuum has a bag, carefully remove it and seal it in a plastic bag. If your vacuum has a canister, carefully empty its contents into a sealable plastic bag. Throw it in an outdoor trash container as soon as possible.
Disassemble and clean all possible parts of your vacuum, including the hose, attachments, and canister with hot water and soap. Do not use handheld vacuums or vacuums with cloth bags or hoses.
Re-vacuum every day for at least 3-4 days.
Steam clean furniture and mattresses
For all fabric furniture and items that cannot be laundered (such as your mattress), use a steam cleaner to kill off bedbugs. The steam cleaner must be set to at least 50 degrees Celsius to kill off the insects.
Anything that cannot be washed, frozen or steam cleaned must be thrown out! If throwing out any furniture, make sure to destroy it and label it as bedbug-infested so no one takes it into their home.
Chemical pesticide treatments
Consider making a trip to the store to look for pesticides for bedbugs. Only purchase products that clearly list bedbugs on the label so that you do not waste your time and money on ineffective products. Follow product labels for proper use.
Always check the method of application and the toxicity to humans and animals when selecting your chemical pesticide. Products such as bug bombs or foggers require that the room be uninhabited for a certain period of time, so make sure your treatment methods are possible in your space.
Pesticides should be used in addition to other measures (steaming, vacuuming, and washing) and should not be your primary bedbug removal method.
Re-inspect and re-treat as necessary
After your initial treatments, make sure to continue inspecting your whole apartment, paying particular attention to the infested room but also checking for signs of new outbreaks in other areas.
Check once every 2-3 days, for another couple of weeks. Bedbug eggs will hatch within 6-10 days of being laid, so you may suddenly notice a resurgence of pests if you were not able to remove or kill all of the eggs.
If the infected room can be avoided or uninhabited for a while, it might make the process easier. Not only will you be removing their source of food (you!), you will also minimize contamination to other areas as bedbugs can travel on your body, clothing, and shoes.
Avoid new infestations
To avoid new and future infestations consider:
- Placing bedbug-proof covers on your mattress and box spring.
- Using bedbug interceptors under the legs of your bed, couch, dresser, and other furniture.
- Vacuuming carpets, baseboards, and furniture often.
- Doing monthly bedbug checks.
- Removing any clutter, especially clothing, books, magazines, and other items off the floor.
- Avoiding bringing home furniture found on the street, and always thoroughly checking it for bedbugs if you do.
Hire a professional exterminator
If all else fails, or if you would rather someone else deal with the problem, hire a professional pest control or exterminator. Before hiring anyone, make sure to read their reviews and understand their process and policies.
Depending on your situation, the extermination process may not be a one-and-done deal. Repeated treatments might be necessary.
Professional cleaners will provide you with instructions on how to prepare your space for extermination, which will likely include many of the steps listed here.