Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
First, remove all affected areas such as bed linens, clothing, sheets and pillowcases and wash them in borax. For non-washable surfaces, as in drawers or cabinets, dust talcum powder on the affected area. Vacuum the area thoroughly and purchase an enzyme cleaner to clean all possible surfaces. If there are open spots or crevices in the wall, dust them with talcum powder and caulk them shut. This cleaning process should be repeated as often as possible to rid your home of the infestation.
Treat or isolate your bagged items. For washable items research shows that dry cleaning, washing in hot water for 30 minutes, or tumble drying for 30 minutes on high will kill all stages of bed bugs. Non-washables are a little trickier. Items that aren’t needed for a while can just be stored. It takes 2-5 months to kill bed bugs by isolating them in bags (the warmer the temperature, the shorter the survival time for starving bed bugs). Heating bags by placing in direct sunlight is one of the most effective methods during the warm summer months. Seven pounds of items placed in clear bags in direct sunlight on a 95 degree day will get hot enough to kill all bed bug life stages in one afternoon. Also, placing bagged items in a chest freezer (0 degrees F) for 8-10 hours is lethal for bed bugs and their eggs. Some toys may be disinfested by cleaning with hot soapy water and/or rubbing alcohol.
Conventional insect repellents, like those used to deter ticks and mosquitoes, do not appear to be as effective against bed bugs. Therefore, attempting to avoid being bitten by applying insect repellent at bedtime is not recommended. Sleeping with the lights on is also not likely to deter hungry bed bugs, as they will adjust their feeding cycle to the host’s sleeping patterns.
Bed bugs were mentioned in ancient Greece as early as 400 BC, and were later mentioned by Aristotle. Pliny's Natural History, first published circa AD 77 in Rome, claimed bed bugs had medicinal value in treating ailments such as snake bites and ear infections. (Belief in the medicinal use of bed bugs persisted until at least the 18th century, when Guettard recommended their use in the treatment of hysteria.)
Once the mattress and box spring are dry, encase them in sealed bed bug encasements. Encasements are crucial, as they prevent bed bugs from entering or escaping the mattress and box spring, cutting off key hiding places. Remember to leave the encasements on for at least 18 months to ensure that any bed bugs already inside have starved to death. Once the encasements have been applied, you can put your mattress and box springs back on your treated bed frame, and put your laundered bedding back on your bed.
The journal Insects published a study on products containing essential oils for bed bug control. It was found that essential oils like cedar oil, cinnamon oil, clove oil, peppermint oil, rosemary oil, and lemongrass oil all have insecticidal properties against bed bug populations. The study concluded that using these essential oils in a bug spray can be an effective way to reduce bed bug populations without putting humans at risk of exposure to chemicals.8