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Bed Bug Control Recommendations

A multi-targeted approach is required to eliminate all of the stages of the bed bug life cycle: eggs, nymphs (baby bed bugs) and adults. Adults and nymphs feed on blood. Their life span is approximately 10 months and they can survive over 6 months without a blood meal. Therefore, just leaving the house for a few weeks in hopes of starving them out is not effective. Eggs in particular are hard to kill. If left uncontrolloed, bed bugs can spread throughout the house including the kitchen, inside electronic equipment, outlets and wall switches.

Heat, cold or insecticides will kill bed bugs. Their habits and ability to hide make a multi-step approach necessary. Bed bugs can be difficult to eradicate, especially if they have spread throughout the residence. For severe infestations, it is strongly recommended that you seek professional help from a licensed exterminator.


1. Clean

A thorough cleaning is the first step. It is necessary to reduce all clutter, discarding unused or unwanted items. When discarding any items, make sure to enclose them in sealed bags and remove them from the area. Items should be disposed of at your landfill or placed in outside trash cans or dumpsters.

Pay special attention to cleaning areas that are hard to reach, such as the top shelves of closets as well as the closet floor. Make sure you vacuum infested areas and the items in them thoroughly. If your vacuum has a bag, make sure you dispose of it by enclosing it in a sealed container and discarding it outside. For bagless vacuums, empty and thoroughly clean the dust bin, sealing the contents in a bag and disposing of it outside.

2. Steam

There are commercial cleaning products available today that produce steam. With a steamer, you can treat the mattress, bed frame and other furniture around the house. Since some wood finishes and fabrics may be damaged by heat or steam, make sure you test it first in an inconspicuous area.

Pay special attention to seams, joints, cracks, crevices and the undersides of the furniture being treated. In order to ensure that you have the highest heat possible, make sure that you keep the steam nozzle as close as possible to the surface area being cleaned.

3. Enclose the Mattress and Box Spring

There are special covers that can be put around your mattress and box spring, completely enclosing them (encasements). Available at retail stores and online, prices will vary but be sure to invest in a sturdy and durable unit. When using the encasement, make sure you close the zipper all the way, securing it with a safety pin if necessary, and leave no gaps or openings. This will help you prevent a reinfestation.

4. Wash or Launder

All items that can be washed should be washed at the hottest water setting that is safe for the fabric. To ensure that you kill all the life stages, including the eggs, make sure you dry them at the highest heat setting for 15 to 30 minutes. Items that cannot be washed, may be heat treated in your dryer as described above.

6. Freeze

Items that would be damaged by laundering or heat treating can be treated with cold. Small items like picture frames and household knick-knacks can be sealed in zip lock bags and put in your freezer for several days to kill any bed bugs or their eggs. The length of time they will need to be in the freezer depends on the size of the item.

7. Expose to Direct Sunlight

Many items are too large or there are too many of them to freeze or steam clean. If the items will not be damaged, they can be placed outside, encased in black plastic trash bags and exposed to direct sunlight. Depending on the weather, the sunlight can increase the temperature inside the bag to a sufficient level to kill bed bugs and their eggs. Please be aware that this may take several days, even in the summer months.

This treatment is very effective for vehicles. After cleaning and vacuuming your vehicle’s passenger compartment and trunk, you can park your car in direct sunlight for a few days. Make sure that the interior temperature reaches about 130 degrees F.

8. Treat with Insecticides

Use a product labeled specifically to kill bed bugs, and follow the label instructions carefully. Products with a residual effect will be more effective. Apply the insecticide as directed, paying particular attention to baseboards, corners and all visible cracks and crevices in the walls and ceiling. NOTE: Liquid insecticides are NOT recommended for use in electrical fittings. Products designed to fill the room with an insecticidal fog (over the counter foggers) do not reach all the bed bugs hiding in cracks and crevices throughout your home.

9. Prevent Re-infestation

In order to avoid another infestation of bed bugs, be aware of the things you bring into your home that are high risk. Of special note is used or second hand furniture or clothing. Do not pick up any furniture or other items found on the curbside – they may be there for a reason! Make sure that used mattresses have been sanitized by a licensed sanitizer. If you rent furniture, thoroughly inspect it before bringing it into your home.

NCDA&CS Structural Pest Control and Pesticide Division, Sleep Products Section
Mailing Address: 1090 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1090
Physical Address: 4400 Reedy Creek Rd , Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: (919) 733-3556 ; FAX: (919) 715-9023

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