How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Quickly and Permanently

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated August 9, 2022
A white messy bed with pillows
Photo: Rakoton LPN / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Bite back against a bed bug infestation

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Bed bugs are one of the most notorious and cringe-inducing household intruders, and discovering them in your home can feel overwhelming. But don’t panic: There are several DIY removal methods that have proven successful against these discrete but uninvited pests. Let’s take a look at how to get rid of bed bugs for good. 

Why Do I Have Bed Bugs in My Home?

A common misconception of bed bug infestations is that they only happen in dirty, unhygienic places. The truth is that bed bugs are highly adaptable and can inhabit any space, regardless of cleanliness. They don’t seek out dirt, dampness, or filth—all they need is blood to thrive. 

Bed bugs are opportunists that seek out places where they can hide and feed on the blood of unsuspecting people. They move fast in search of food, so the main cause of bed bugs is cross-contact between infested linens, clothing, luggage, furniture, or other soft items. If you are in the midst of a bed bug infestation, here are a few common scenarios that could have caused it:

  • You brought home used furniture, clothing, handbags, backpacks, or other soft items that were hiding the bugs.

  • The bugs spread in a hotel, motel, apartment complex, or other multi-unit environments.

  • A house guest brought them in their luggage or clothing.

  • The bugs found their way into your luggage while traveling.

Identifying When You Need Bed Bug Treatment

Bed bugs aren’t easy to spot—they’re typically about 5 to 7 millimeters thick and roughly the size of an apple seed. They also tend to retreat to cracks and crevices when they’re not feeding, so you’ll rarely see the insects out of hiding. Instead, the most tell-tale signs will come from examining the area in question. These are the signs of bed bugs to look out for:

  • Blood or rust-colored stains on mattresses, fabrics, or upholstery

  • Dark spots of excrement that look like dots from a fine-tipped permanent marker

  • Tiny eggshells and yellowish shed skins

  • A musty, sweet, berry-like odor     

If you find bitemarks or welts, these alone won’t be enough to pursue bed bug treatment. Bites are small, red, itchy, and easily mistakable for other insect bites, such as those from mosquitoes or chiggers. When you find suspicious bites or welts, inspect the area before moving forward with treatment or professional extermination for bed bugs.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Once you’ve confirmed a bed bug problem in your home, there are several low-cost DIY solutions to try. Here are the top methods to try before bringing in a professional exterminator.

Heat Bed Bug Treatment

Exposure to hot water or steam cleaners may kill bed bugs, but it’s not always effective. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for DIY bed bug control recommend a steam temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off the insects. Professional exterminators have access to more powerful, honed-in methods of heat for bed bug treatment.

Freezing Bed Bug Treatments

Freezing items to kill bed bugs can be successful, but it takes time and most homes don’t have the proper means to do it. The EPA recommends leaving items in temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three days. Since most home freezers aren’t capable of reaching that low temperature, other bed bug treatments are often preferred. 

Chemicals for Bed Bug Spraying

There are over 300 EPA-approved pesticides for bed bugs that can help kill off a stubborn infestation. Keep in mind that there are several risks and benefits of using bed bug pesticides. Steer clear of rubbing alcohol and similar combustibles, as these pose a fire hazard and aren’t always effective. Opt for chemicals such as pyrethrins, pyrethroids, and desiccants. Always read labels to ensure a product will be effective at killing bed bugs.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs From Returning

Once you’ve beaten the bed bugs, prevention is key to keeping your home bug-free. These are the most important tips to prevent bed bug infestations:

  • Keep luggage away from bed linens while traveling.

  • Inspect mattresses for signs of bed bugs while traveling.

  • Launder secondhand clothing, linens, and other soft items before use.

  • Inspect secondhand furniture and non-washable used items before bringing them into your home.

  • Declutter your home to limit potential hiding places for bugs.

  • Vacuum your home frequently to suck up any stray bugs.

  • Consider adding a protective shield to your mattress.

  • Wash clothes and other soft personal belongings immediately after traveling.

DIY vs. Professional Extermination For Bed Bugs

In many cases, you can get rid of bedbugs yourself if the infestation isn’t too widespread. However, if it’s a serious infestation or you want the peace of mind that the bugs are gone, professional bed bug extermination is the way to go. The typical cost for home bed bug extermination is $1,000 to $2,500. Hire a local exterminator to kill the bed bugs in your home and stop the infestation in its tracks.


Check out these answers to common bed bug extermination questions.    

How do you kill bed bugs instantly?

If you’re wondering how to kill bed bugs fast, steam or EPA-approved pesticides are the most effective way to do it. Freezing methods can work, but it can take several days at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below to eliminate the entire infestation. It’s best to hire a professional bed bug exterminator to kill these pests instantly.

How do you draw bed bugs out of hiding?

Bed bugs are highly sensitive to heat, so a hot blast with a hairdryer can draw them out of hiding. That’s why professionals use hot steam to locate and eliminate bed bugs.

Do bed bugs go away when you wash sheets?

Yes, washing sheets, linens, or clothing in hot water will kill off any bed bugs. However, it’s not likely to eradicate an infestation, as any leftover bugs will quickly multiply.

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