12 Important Tips for Preventing Bed Bugs

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated April 18, 2022
A woman laying on bed
Photo: Daly and Newton / OJO Images / Getty Images

Don’t let the bed bugs bite; follow these tips to keep the pests out of your home

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The sight of a bed bug will surely make your skin crawl, but unfortunately, this is a common household pest that you may have to deal with at one point or another. Rather than wait until you’re facing an infestation, you can take a few steps to keep bed bugs away. We’ll show you how to prevent bed bugs from taking up residence in your home.

1. Inspect Beds When Traveling

One way to invite bed bugs into your home is if they hitch a ride on your belongings during travel. As soon as you step foot into your hotel or rental home, place your bags on a hard surface, like a table, then pull back the sheets and inspect the mattress. Look for tiny blood spots, bugs, or bed bug casings along the edges and corners of the mattress.

2. Check Secondhand Items

You’ve finally found the vintage sofa of your dreams for a steal, but before you haul it into your living room, give it a thorough inspection for critters. To identify a bed bug infestation, look for blood spots or bed bug poop, which may be dark or rust-colored, on second-hand furniture, linens, and clothing. Also, check for live bugs or their exoskeletons, which the bugs leave behind when they molt.

3. Use Plastic or Glass Containers for Storage

Bed bugs struggle to travel across slick surfaces, so instead of storing clothes and linens in fabric bins, opt for plastic or glass containers with lids. The bugs won’t be able to get into the bins if they have tightly secured lids.

4. Shield Your Mattress

Protective covers help minimize the risk of a bed bug infestation, with the added bonus of reducing dust mites, too. Choose a light-colored encasement for your mattress, so you can better spot the bugs if they come into your home.

5. Clean Your Linens Regularly

A bedroom in soft light colors
Photo: Daly and Newton / OJO Images / Getty Images

Bed bugs can’t withstand heat, so make sure you wash your bedding once a week on the highest temperature setting and dry the linens on high heat for about one hour. The hot water and dryer heat will kill any live bed bugs as well as their eggs.

6. Launder Clothes After Travel

It’s a relief to come home with a few spare shirts that you didn’t wear on the trip. Hooray, less laundry! But to better protect your home from a bed bug infestation, you should wash all of the clothing in your suitcase, even if it’s technically clean. A little extra laundry is much easier to handle than trying to eradicate bed bugs. For another protective measure, give your empty suitcase a vacuuming inside and out.

10 ways to prevent bed bugs, including cleaning linens weekly and decluttering your home

7. Declutter

A cluttered home isn’t just stressful to look at; it may also create hiding spaces for pesky bed bugs. Start by moving items out from under beds. If you need that storage space, use plastic or glass bins with lids. Get rid of items you no longer want or need, and keep clothes, linens, or other items off the floor as much as possible.

8. Vacuum Frequently

Vacuuming your rugs, carpets, and furnishings often will also help remove any bed bugs that find themselves in your home. If you have minimal rugs or carpeting, plan to vacuum once per week—otherwise, vacuum daily or at least every few days. Aside from soft surfaces, also run the vacuum along the perimeter of a room, where the walls and floor meet, which is a common hiding spot for bed bugs.

9. Use Shared Laundry Facilities With Care

These pests can travel from one person’s clothing basket to yours in a laundromat or shared laundry room in a multi-family complex. Carry laundry items in a plastic bag if possible or washcloth laundry bins with your clothes on high heat. Dry clothing on high heat and take the items home to fold instead of folding in the shared facility.

If you have an active bed bug infestation and rely on shared laundry facilities, the EPA recommends that you transport everything in a tightly sealed plastic bag. Wash and dry items on high heat, and carry them home in a new plastic bag.

10. Cover Outlets

It’s shocking, but bed bugs can hide in power outlets, especially if you have an active infestation. Bed bugs may even travel through the power outlets in between walls to spread further through your home. Use baby-proof outlet covers to block this common hideaway for bed bugs.

11. Inspect Furniture Often

Whether you’re hanging up clean curtains, looking for the remote between couch cushions, or swapping in fresh linens on beds, take a few extra minutes to check the crevices of your furniture and other linens for signs of bed bugs. Aside from live bugs, look for dark brown, red, or rust-colored spots and bed bug exoskeletons for signs of an infestation.

12. Hire a Pest Control Service

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, especially without help. DIY home treatments, like freezing, are often insufficient. Instead, if you notice signs of bed bugs or spot live bugs in your home, hire a local pest control service as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more the bugs can spread, so it’s important to act fast. It’s possible to treat for bedbugs without an exterminator, but it won’t always be as effective or fast-acting.

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