How to deal with a bed bug infestation
Killing Bed Bugs
by Dollar Stretcher Contributors
Safe and Natural Pest Control
Eliminating Bed Bugs
I'm ashamed to admit it, but we have bed bugs. Think that we got them by bringing pillows from home on a recent trip. We can't afford to throw away our mattresses and bedding. So how do we get rid of them? I hate the thought of sleeping in bug spray but don't know what to do. Can anyone suggest a frugal way to deal with this bed bug infestation?
Try Diatomaceous Earth
I've heard good things about diatomaceous earth. This is a powder made from the crushed skeletons of microscopic critters called diatoms. It can be used on fleas, roaches, and bed bugs. Basically, the powder scratches up their exoskeletons, so they dry out and die. It isn't toxic to humans or pets, but it does make quite a mess, apparently. You can get 10 pounds of the stuff for less than $20. Check out the reviews on Amazon.com and see for yourself.
Eliminating Bed Bugs with Steam
If you have a cloth steamer, steam your mattress (both sides) several times. I believe the hot sunshine will kill them also. Also, vacuum your mattress many times.
Extreme Cold Also Kills Bed Bugs
There are multiple solutions you can find on the web. Extreme heat or steam can kill them as well as extreme cold. I read online about a family who put an infested mattress in their attic during the summer. The high heat in the attic killed the bed bugs, and they were able to use the mattress. If in doubt, talk to a professional.
High Heat Kills Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are the worst! We had them seven years ago, and it was an expensive, disruptive, and psychologically damaging ordeal.
If you cannot afford to replace your mattress, you can get an airtight mattress cover that will seal the bed bugs in. Bed bugs can live months and months (over a year!) without eating, so you will have to leave the cover on permanently.
As for your other bedding, bed bugs can be killed by high heat. After you wash your bedding, put it in the dryer on high for at least 20 minutes. Make sure you do this with all of your clothing as well and then put the clothing in bags until you have the infestation controlled. Bed bugs love to travel and might be hanging out elsewhere in your house.
Finally, you will need to get an exterminator. If you rent, your landlord may pay for it. If you own, it is a cost you might just have to eat. It's better to do this right the first time than risk them coming back.
Most importantly, when you travel, there are easy ways to make sure you don't bring bed bugs back. Never put your suitcases on the floor or bed at a hotel. Check the mattress for signs of bed bugs (look in the seams for what looks like dirt or actual bugs). When you return home, put your dirty clothes in a bag and wash and dry them on high immediately.
The cheapest way to deal with bed bugs is to keep from getting them in the first place.
Also, don't be ashamed. Bed bugs are making a huge comeback in the US and getting them is no indication of your level of cleanliness.
Expose to the Elements
I've heard of two ways to rid your bedding of bed bugs. You can encase it in black plastic and put it outside during a very hot summer day (I'd leave it for several days), and the interior heat from the bag will kill the bugs. You can also encase it in plastic during a very cold winter day or days and freeze them to death.
See My Cleaning Products for green cleaning solutions.
Bed Bugs Have Become Resistant
Unfortunately I don't know a truly frugal solution, but I do have two recommendations. First, hire a bed bug sniffing dog to indicate where the bugs are in your house. This will save you having to treat non-infested areas. A non-chemical option for treatment is heat. Some exterminators offer this as an in-home treatment, and you could use your dryer for things like bedding. If you opt for a chemical treatment, find out what your exterminator uses and how long they've been using it. Bed bugs have become resistant to traditional sprays, and the effective exterminator will be using the newer chemicals.
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