Updated April 10, 2021Bed bugs are a common problem in American households. One out of five homes has had a bed bug infestation within the past year. Bed bugs are found in all 50 states, and once they enter a home it’s difficult to permanently remove them. There are a few DIY methods we share here which could help remove or at least reduce the problem, but we highly recommend disposing of your current mattress and calling in pest control services.What are Bed Bugs? Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects with a brownish hue. Bed bugs live off blood meals from animals and humans, with their flat bodies swelling and turning red after each meal. While they can’t fly, bed bugs are surprisingly agile, moving quickly across surfaces.Once hatched, bed bugs shed their skin five times before reaching adulthood— they need a full meal before each shedding and are fully developed within a month.Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?Bed bugs can travel undetected through luggage, used furniture, and clothing because their flattened bodies (about as thick as a credit card) makes it easy to hide in small spaces, like crevices in nightstands or baseboards. This is why it’s crucial to machine wash clothing after a long trip— to eliminate the pests before they become a problem.Over time, bed bugs can spread out from their hiding spots, traveling to other parts of a room, even to other parts of the house or apartment. They live in groups rather than forming nests and like to live in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards (hence their name) for easy access to their food source— us.Signs of Bed BugsIf you start to notice small and itchy red bites on your skin, you could have bed bugs. Bed bug bites are commonly mistaken for mosquito bites; however, if you notice these bite marks after sleeping on a used mattress, after a long trip, or after moving used furniture into your home, there’s a good chance you have bed bugs.Bed bugs are most active at night— while we’re sleeping in our beds. Bed bugs pierce the skin with their elongated beaks and feed until they are roughly 7 times their normal size. The bites are painless at first, but within a day they develop into itchy red welts on areas of the body left exposed at night.If you suspect a bed bug infestation, check the bedding and mattress for bloodstains, dark or reddish-brown spots, eggs (about 1mm in size), eggshells, translucent and slightly orange shed skin, and a musty odor.Getting Rid of Bed Bugs Please note: completely removing bed bugs can be a difficult task. We highly recommend disposing of the mattress. If removing the bed is not within your means, taking these steps may help remove the problem.Wash Bug-Infested Clothes and BeddingRemove bedding, including pillowcases, and any clothing on the floor and place in the washing machine to clean in hot water, before placing in the dryer on the highest possible setting. Items that can’t be washed, like shoes and stuffed animals, can be run through the dryer for 30 minutes to kill any possible bed bugs.Dry Scrub and VacuumApply a stiff brush to the mattress seams to displace bed bugs and eggs. Immediately use a vacuum cleaner on the sleep surface to remove displaced bugs and eggs, then vacuum the area around the bed. Empty vacuum contents or vacuum bag into plastic bags before sealing and tossing into outdoor trash cans. Please note: dry scrubbing and vacuuming only removes visible bed bugs and bed bug eggs on the surface of the mattress, not bed bugs that are burrowed deeper inside the bed.Steam CleanUsing dry, high heat steamers are a good DIY method to get rid of bed bugs. High temperatures exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit kill bed bugs on contact. Steaming is a good alternative to using chemicals, and it also gets rid of bacteria and allergens. As a word of caution, steam is not ideal for memory foam mattresses— heat and liquid can cause memory foam to quickly deteriorate.Diatomaceous EarthDiatomaceous earth is a natural health supplement made of tiny fossilized diatoms, or plankton that are mined and ground into a fine powder. It contains high levels of silica which helps to improve hair, skin, and nail growth in humans.For bed bugs, diatomaceous earth absorbs oils and fats inside the bed bug, drying it out. To apply, sprinkle an even coating of diatomaceous earth over the surface of your mattress. Do this only if the mattress is dry, otherwise, it will be less effective. Cover the mattress with an encasement sealed with a zipper, and keep the mattress sealed for 4 to 6 weeks to make sure all bed bugs and eggs are destroyed.Seal the MattressAfter treatment, encase the mattress and box spring in a special, tightly woven, zippered mattress protector to avoid further intrusions and prevent bed bugs from escaping. Make sure the mattress protector shields against bed bugs, since many brands only guard against liquid spills and stains. Since bed bugs can survive up to a year with no food, it’s important to keep these encased covers on for a year to make sure the bed bugs are dead.If Bed Bugs Don’t Go AwayIf the bed bugs are still present after following these steps, you have two options: 1) Contact an exterminator or 2) Dispose of the mattress.Call in the ExpertsCalling in pest management services or a pest control company is one of the most effective ways to get rid of bed bugs. Exterminators use special chemical treatments to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. It can be expensive, depending on the situation, but it might be worth it if it means saving your bed and furniture from being destroyed. Also, if the issue is severe, you may have to vacate for a few days while your home is treated and sealed.Dispose of the MattressThe best course of action to take in light of a bed bug infestation is to remove the mattress. Removing the bed can drastically reduce an infestation and save you a lot of time and discomfort. We understand that you may feel it’s not in your best interest to buy a new mattress, but if following the previous steps doesn’t help, you may be left with no choice.PrecautionsTo prevent or reduce the likelihood of a bed bug infestation, follow healthy practices like using a mattress protector and regularly switching out your bedding. These precautions could save you the headache of dealing with bed bugs.Mattress ProtectorThe best type of mattress protector is a fully encased one. Special fabric prevents bed bugs and dust mites from entering your mattress, and can also protect against stains and spills. Mattress protectors are also a great way of prolonging the life of your bed.Change Bedding RegularlyRegularly switching out and laundering your bedding can reduce the risk of bed bugs and destroy any that are present on the mattress surface. By washing bed sheets at least once a week and washing comforters, pillows, and blankets once a month, you can help reduce the risk of bed bug infestations and improve sleep health.Other Things to ConsiderHow do you check a mattress for bed bugs?Keep an eye out for reddish stains on bed sheets, tiny eggs or eggshells (about 1 mm), and, of course, live bed bugs in and around your mattress.Is there a specific scent to keep bed bugs away?Lavender is the perfect essential oil to guard against bed bugs— it repels bed bugs, keeping them away Add 20-30 drops of lavender oil to baking soda, then evenly coat the mattress surface before letting it sit for a couple of hours. Use the upholstery brush to vacuum the baking soda. Baking soda is a great way to deodorize your mattress.How do I throw my old mattress away?If your mattress has bed bugs, do not put it in the nearest dumpster. In some places, you can get fined for doing this, so check with your local waste disposal organization for ways to get rid of your mattress. And of course, do not donate it or give it away to a friend. There are some mattress disposal companies that will come pick up the mattress and dispose of it for you.How can I prevent bed bugs from getting on my mattress?As soon as you buy a new mattress, place a mattress protector encasement on it. This will cover all six sides of the mattress and it zips closed, so no bed bugs can get in. Keep your bed and the space around it as clean as possible. Dust frequently and clean the mattress regularly.What should I do with my mattress if I see bed bugs on it?If you notice bed bugs, you can use bed bug spray or call an exterminator, but sometimes the problem is too far gone and it’s time to buy a new mattress. Other furniture in your room may also be infested, so examine each surface carefully.ConclusionBed bugs can easily turn into a huge problem if not properly treated right away. The best method is to dispose of your current mattress and call in experts to remove any possible trace of bed bugs. Don’t put up with bed bug problems— take the necessary steps to get rid of the pests today.About the author Malik Karman“Professional sleeper” Malik Karman is a freelance writer for the eachnight blog. Over the years, Malik has read countless medical studies and explored hundreds of different bedding products in an effort to better understand what goes into a restorative night’s rest. Malik curates many of our “best mattress” guides to assist readers in the mattress buying process. Find more articles by Malik Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Comment Name Email I agree to the Terms and Conditions of this website.