How To Prevent Bed Bugs

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Prevention is the best way to protect your home from bed bugs. If you’re already covered with itchy bites due to an infestation, there are natural ways to get relief, too.

How to prevent bed bugs - closeup of a bedbug crawling on linen bed sheet

Bed bugs aren’t able to fly and can’t jump very far. They get into your home by hitchhiking. They’ll travel on or in a purse, backpack, or suitcase. Sometimes, they’ll hitch a ride on your pet or shopping bag. Once you bring them inside, they’ll look for a warm spot where they won’t be disturbed — then they breed. One female can lay 100 eggs within a month, and within a couple of weeks, each of those will be old enough to reproduce.

Do You Have Bed Bugs?

Signs that you have a bed bug infestation include new red rashes and welts when you wake up that start to fade by bedtime. Any new bed bug bites will cause a new rash and itch in a different spot.  You may also notice squashed oval bugs the size of an apple seed on the floor near your bed or areas of dried blood on your bedding.

Ways to Keep Bugs Out of Your Home

The easiest way to protect your home from bed bugs is to keep them out of your home.

1. Don’t bring home discarded soft furnishings

Picking up a sofa or recliner you found on the side of the road can seem like a great deal at first. But soft furnishings make great hiding places for bed bugs and other household pests like mice. There’s no way of knowing whether that couch is full of pests until you open it up and look inside. If you’ve brought it indoors or even into your garage, it’s already too late: you’ve given bed bugs easy access to your home.

2. Clean Used Furniture Outdoors

Be smart about bringing things home from garage sales and thrift stores. Keep all second-hand items outside until you inspect and deep-clean them. Remove drawers and doors and clean all sides of them. Inspect crevices, and clean the underside of the item, too. 

3. Always Wash New Clothes, Bedding, and Towels

Fabrics can pick up bed bugs, lice, and scabies when people try on clothes or return purchases. Washing gets rid of these as well as skin-irritating chemicals used in manufacturing. You should always wash and dry new clothes and bed linens in the hottest setting permitted by the care label. If you can’t launder them right away, tightly seal them in a plastic bag until you can.

4. Choose Moving Boxes and Trucks With Care

If you’re moving, skip the piles of used boxes behind stores. Those are magnets for bed bugs and cockroaches, too. Either buy your own or ask bedbug-free friends if they have extras. And if you’re renting a moving truck, sweep it before loading your things to make sure it’s pest-free. 

5. Don’t Use Your Bed as a Table

Never put purses, suitcases, shopping bags, or even guests‘ coats on your bed. Even covering your bed first with a cloth won’t protect it since bed bugs are fast crawlers and will hide fast. 

6. Only Use Plastic Storage Under Beds

If you store your out-of-season clothes under the bed, use plastic containers. Cardboard boxes and fabric bags don’t protect clothes from bedbugs. Opt for hard-sided storage with tight-fitting lids to keep pests out.

7. Protect Your Bed Frame

If your area has an active infestation, put interceptors at the base of your beds’ legs. That way, if bedbugs do make it into your home, they won’t be able to crawl from the floor to your mattress. 

8. Keep Bedding Off the Floor

Bedding left on the floor is an invitation to pests. So, avoid tossing your bed’s decorative pillows or extra blankets on the floor to get them out of the way. If you need a place to put all those bed pillows, add a bench to the end of your bed or use a large basket to hold them. 

9. Keep Your Bed Clean

Disrupting bed bugs’ breeding cycles helps keep them in check. So make a point to launder your sheets and duvet covers weekly. Wash your comforter or duvet insert every three months and clean your mattress when you do. Using hypoallergenic encasements on your pillows and mattress also protects them from bedbugs.

10. Keep Your Pets’ Bed Clean, Too

Like ticks, bed bugs live on blood and aren’t picky about the source. Your pet is just as delicious to them as you are and often less bothered by their bites. So make a point to wash your pet’s bed at least once a month. Using homemade flea shampoo can also help make your pet less attractive to bed bugs, too.

11. Seal Cracks

Look for gaps between the baseboard and floor in your bedroom or near pets’ sleeping areas. These cracks are common hiding spots for bed bugs and other insects. Seal them with caulk as needed.

12. Cover Electrical Outlets

If you live in an apartment, your electric outlets provide easy access for bed bugs and other pests to travel from one unit to another. Add covers to reduce their access.

13. Keep Your Home Clean and Decluttered

The less clutter you have, the fewer hiding spots pests will find in your home. Get rid of your clutter, and you’ll find it’s easier to clean your home, too. Adopt a weekly cleaning routine for every room, so you can spot signs of pests before they become a problem.

Avoid Getting Bed Bugs When Traveling

Hotel reviews aren’t always reliable, and summer camps aren’t required to warn if they have bedbug problems. You should take additional measures to avoid bringing bedbugs home from your travels.

1. Don’t put your suitcase on the bed. 

You probably know to inspect your hotel room for signs of bed bugs the moment you enter it. While you do that, you need to protect your suitcase, too. If you can’t leave it in your car, keep it on the luggage rack or put it in the bathtub while you inspect the premises. That’s the one spot in a hotel room where bed bugs aren’t likely to survive. 

2. Do Inspect Your Room Immediately

Signs of bed bug infestations in a hotel room include dark flecks and smears or small streaks of blood. Also, look for dead bed bug carcasses — they look like watermelon seeds. Look on the mattress, especially around the edges and on top of the box spring. Also, look behind the headboard, on curtain liners, in dresser drawers, and in closets. Check around or behind hanging pictures and near the seams on wallpaper.

3. Immediately launder clothing when you get home. 

Leave your suitcase in the garage until you’ve washed everything you took on your trip. Wash clothing in the hottest settings permitted on the care label to kill adult bed bugs. Then either line dry clothing in direct sunlight or run it in your dryer for at least 20 minutes to kill any eggs.

4. Freeze what you can’t launder. 

If you can’t launder something and don’t want to take it to a dry cleaner, you can freeze it to kill bedbugs. First, seal the item in a plastic bag, so bugs don’t try to scurry away, then put it in the freezer for three days.

5. Vacuum your suitcase before you put it away

Once you’ve emptied your suitcase, vacuum it thoroughly. Use the crevice attachment around the edges and in the pockets and the dust brush on flat surfaces. Clean your vacuum immediately and seal your suitcase in a large trash bag before putting it away. 

What to Do if You’ve Found Bed Bugs

Most home remedies for bed bugs don’t eliminate the infestation because they aren’t as strong as the professionals’ EPA-approved pesticides. That said, you can take some natural steps to get rid of bed bugs. These won’t completely eradicate all of them but will reduce the adult bed bug population. Since those are the ones that bite, these steps can provide enough relief to make life bearable while you wait for the pros.

• Wash everything you can in the hottest setting permitted by the care label. This includes clothing and towels. You may also be able to wash your curtains.

Deep-clean your mattress and wash all bedding, including pillows. Then enclose your mattress and pillows in hypoallergenic covers to keep them safe.3. Pull your bed away from the wall a few inches so bed bugs can’t jump onto it. Then put bed bug interceptors on your bed’s legs to stop bugs from climbing into it from the floor. 

• Vacuum your home thoroughly. Start on the top floor of your home and vacuum one room at a time. Clean around windowsills, under beds and furniture, and around the baseboards with attachments, then clean the rest of the floor before moving on to the next room. Make sure you are vacuuming properly and deep-clean your vacuum when you are done.

• If you live in an apartment, ask your landlord to have all tenants’ residences treated on the same day so bed bugs don’t simply migrate from one unit to the next.

Once your home has been treated professionally by a pest control company, follow any instructions they give you and continue following these best practices to prevent bed bugs.

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  1. Can pets spread or bring bed bugs in your home?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Mary,
      Yes, bedbugs and other insects can always hitch a ride on pets to enter your home.