Natural, safe, and green solutions are widely popular today. However, if you are dealing with a bed bug infestation, you may feel like harsh chemical pesticides are the only way to go. This is not entirely true! We’ve researched six safe, do-it-yourself solutions for bed bugs that will help make your home both pest AND pesticide free!
So, what are these natural ways to get rid of bed bugs? Let’s review each of them in detail to find out which solution best fits your needs.
1. Using Extreme Temperatures to Get Rid of the Bed Bugs
Bed bugs and their eggs can be killed by both very hot or very cold temperatures. Which one you use should depend on where the infestation is located in your home, which appliances you have access to, and the climate in which you live.
• Washing Machine
Washing items at 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) will kill bed bugs and their eggs effectively. (If the fabric in question cannot be washed at such high temperatures, see options for using cold temperatures below).
Drying your items at the hottest dryer setting for a long cycle will also ensure that these insects do not survive. Just be mindful that not all items should be tumbled dry!
• Steam Cleaner
Steam cleaners can be especially useful in the fight against bed bugs, especially when it comes to mattresses, box springs, and carpets. They typically come with a number of attachments that will be just right for getting into the cracks and crevices where bed bugs are known to hide and lay their eggs.
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You can pick up a steam cleaner at most hardware, home improvement or electronics stores. If you want to save money, consider renting one. Many stores where steam cleaners are sold will also rent them out at a fraction of the cost. Also if you want, see our recommended picks for the best steamers to use when dealing with bed bugs.
Use a high-temperature setting, the surface temperature should reach up to 160 – 180 degrees Fahrenheit after the steamer has passed over it. (Note that using a carpet cleaner, or the type of steamer used for clothing will usually not be effective.)
• Hair Dryer
Using a hairdryer can be effective in the fight against bed bugs, but it is more time-intensive, and it’s easier to miss some bed bugs in the process. This is because you will need to aim the hairdryer directly at the insects or eggs for at least 30 seconds in order to kill them.
A temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit (negative 15 degrees Celsius) will kill bed bugs after four days. This method may be helpful for items that cannot be placed into a washing machine or dryer—either delicate fabrics, or things like toys, books, or shoes.
Keep in mind that the item itself must reach zero degrees Fahrenheit before you start counting the days. In other words, don’t place the item into the freezer and assume that it immediately has reached zero degrees. The amount of time this takes will depend on the material and density of the item. When in doubt, add another day to your freezing time.
• Placing Your Items Outside in the Freezing Cold
Of course, this method relies on your location and the time of a year. Remember, cold will only be effective in killing bed bugs if the temperature of zero degrees Fahrenheit is maintained consistently for four days. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that the items you place outside will not come into contact with sunlight or anything else that may keep them warmer than the actual temperature outside.
2. Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum cleaners can be an effective way to remove bed bugs, but you will have to be diligent! Make sure your vacuum has a nozzle attachment so that it can reach every crack and crevice effectively.
It is also a good idea to use a scrub brush to loosen any bed bugs or eggs from these areas. Female bed bugs use a sticky substance while laying their eggs to ensure they stay in place. This can make vacuuming them very difficult, which is where a hard-bristled brush can come in handy.
Thoroughly brush over surfaces and inside cracks before running over them with the nozzle. You may need to dismantle furniture to ensure you are reaching every surface where bed bugs may be hiding. Your last step will be to get rid of the vacuum bag. Bed bugs can easily find their way out of the bag and back into your home!
Alcohol can be an inexpensive and effective way to get rid of bed bugs from your home. However, it’s important to make sure that you are using the right kind of alcohol and applying it properly.
The product you choose must contain 70% to 99% alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol (commonly known as rubbing alcohol) will be your best bet, as long as it contains the appropriate level of alcohol mentioned above.
Bed bugs and their eggs will need to come into direct contact with the alcohol solution in order for it to kill them, so it’s best to use a bottle with a spray nozzle. Alcohol kills bed bugs by penetrating through their shells and drying them out from the inside.
An important safety consideration: alcohol is flammable until it has completely evaporated. Therefore, be sure to keep the alcohol and any item it comes into contact with away from any source of heat or flame until it has completely evaporated.
Another plus when it comes to using alcohol is that studies have shown that bed bugs tend to avoid places previously sprayed with an alcohol-containing product. That means it can also help deter them from coming back! Just keep in mind that alcohol can stain some fabrics or cause colors to run.
4. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth has a number of interesting uses around the home. And if you are willing to be patient and diligent, one of them also happens to be ridding your home of bed bugs! It is an all-natural product that you can find at your local home improvement or gardening store. It can also be ordered online.
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Diatomaceous earth is a powder made from fossilized aquatic organisms. As with alcohol-containing products, it kills bed bugs by drying them out. One thing to note about this method of killing bed bugs is that unlike alcohol solutions, it does not kill them immediately. It can take days for adult bed bugs to die from exposure to diatomaceous earth, and any existing eggs will first need to hatch, then come in contact with the powder in order for it to kill them.
However, on the plus side, it is a long-lasting treatment and can help deter bed bugs from returning. Before using diatomaceous earth in your home, be sure that you have a dust mask to avoid inhaling too much of the product. (Although it is an all-natural substance, it can be irritating to the lungs if it’s inhaled during the application, when a significant amount of powder is still airborne. Likewise, keep children and pets away from the area of application.)
After applying your mask, use an applicator, which is usually included with the purchase of diatomaceous earth. Sprinkle the powder on every surface you suspect bed bugs may be hiding. This includes mattresses and other upholstery, furniture, rugs, and wall to wall carpeting. If you do have wall to wall carpeting, be sure to concentrate on the cracks between your walls and the carpet.
If you have wallpaper, check any places where the paper may not be sealed tightly to the wall. Switchplate covers can also be removed and dusted with the powder. Remember, bed bugs love to hide in low-traffic areas where they are unlikely to be disturbed. Leave the powder in place for as long as possible, preferably for three weeks. (Remember, you will need to allow time for any existing eggs to hatch, and then nymphs need to come into the contact with the powder in order to be killed.)
5. Silicone Oil
Silicone oil is deadly to bed bugs, although it doesn’t kill them immediately. Silicone oil is odorless and colorless, and can easily be purchased through online retailers.
The bed bugs will need to come in direct contact with the oil in order for it to be effective. Remember to consider which of your household items will be coming into contact with the oil, as fabrics and upholstery can be damaged by oil-containing products.
6. Double-Sided Tape
The use of double-sided tape can be considered more of a preventative measure than a method to get rid of bed bugs. This step should be taken after you’ve already rid your bed of bed bugs, this includes mattress, box spring, linens and bed frame. This method ensures that they don’t find their way back.
Place double-sided tape around the circumference of the legs of your bed frame. Bed bugs cannot fly. That means that if they are elsewhere in your home, the legs of your bed will be the only way for them to find their way back up. Any bug attempting to climb up will simply get stuck on the tape. Of course, be sure to prevent any blankets or pillows from hanging down from your bed to the floor!
When it comes to getting rid of the bed bugs in your home, there are natural options available. Just keep in mind that natural methods will take more of your time and you will have to be patient and thorough when you use them.
Avoid the potential danger and high cost of pesticides, while keeping your home bed bug free! Still, if you are dealing with a huge bed bug infestation, we suggest that you call the exterminators.
List of Sources
Natural Products for Bed Bug Control, University of Minnesota
Homeowners’ Do It Yourself (DIY) Bed Bug Control Guidance, Georgia Department of Public Health