6 Home Remedies for Bed Bugs
While you'll still need professional help, you can use these home remedies for bed bugs to help keep the pests at bay
You can find a lot of home remedies for bed bugs online, but no home remedy will completely clear your house of an infestation. “These are all anecdotal and there is no scientific evidence to say they work,” says Jody Green, PhD, an urban entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Bed bugs are blood feeders, so it is difficult to trick them from detecting our carbon dioxide and the need for a blood meal.” However, there are some methods that will help you keep the bugs at bay as your pest management company works to eradicate the bed bugs from your home.
The Marie Kondo bed bug remedy
This is a fine time to heed clutter-queen Marie Kondo’s advice to discard the things that don’t give you joy: Bed bugs love clutter. Although the critters can thrive just as easily in immaculate homes, they have a preference for cluttered living areas. Stacks of boxes, piles of stuffed animals, overloaded bookshelves, and electronic equipment near your bed will give them even easier access to their meal (you). You might also miss the signs of an infestation—here are 8 clues you’re about to be invaded—if you have too much clutter.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a non-toxic dust that can kill bed bugs. It clings to the outside of their body, absorbing natural oils and moisture and fatally drying out the bugs. It’s not an instant killer—DE can take a few days or weeks to desiccate a bug. It works best in areas where insecticidal dust can’t, like carpeting, cracks, crevices, and bed frames. It’s tempting to start sprinkling DE everywhere, but that can be too much of a good thing. “If DE is just scattered around the room everywhere, it will not work,” advises Green. “If it is piled high bed bugs will just walk over it,” says Green. When you shop for DE, be sure to buy “food grade” version; the industrial version can be dangerous to you, your family, and pets.
Use your dryer to kill bed bugs
Among common online home remedies for bed bugs is the myth is that you can kill them with a blow dryer. Even if your hair dryer gets hot enough (the lethal temperature is 120 degrees), you’ll end up blowing them around or scaring them into new hiding places and spreading your infestation. However, for bedding, bags, clothes, and other items that may have the bugs or eggs, you can toss them into your clothes dryer. Use the hottest setting for 30 minutes.
Steam clean bed bugs
Of the home remedies for bed bugs that actually help, steam cleaning can wipe out all stages of bed bugs from egg to adult. Consider renting or buying a steam cleaning machine to use in combination with professional pest management treatment. Just remember that contact time with the bugs is critical for steam to do its job. According to the experts behind the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs, you should move the nozzle slowly—about a pace of twenty seconds per linear foot—to maximize steam penetration and time of heat exposure.
Then suck up bed bugs with a vacuum
Once you’ve steam cleaned, you can vacuum up the molted skins, dead bugs, and eggs, according to the Michigan experts. Use crevice tools to get into tight spaces where bed bugs might be hiding, and be sure to empty the vacuum bag into a trash bin outside. If the vacuum is bagless, there’s a risk of the bugs crawling from the canister to other parts of the machine before you can empty it. Try inserting a knee-high hose inside the vacuum tube toe first, with the opening folded over the outside of the tube to hold it in place. That will trap bugs before they reach the canister, and then you can dump them in the trash outdoors. Also: Keep your vacuum securely wrapped in a garbage bag and inspect it for bed bugs between vacuum sessions. And make sure you know how to identify the pests: Here’s what bed bugs look like, from egg to nymph to adult.
Freeze bed bugs to death
Talk about home remedies for bed bugs most people would never think of: You can freeze the critters to death if you keep your freezer at 0ºF, says the EPA. Entomologists at the University of Minnesota recommend freezing electronics (remove the battery—and don’t freeze an LCD screen), jewelry, toys, shoes, and books to kill bugs. Place the items in tightly sealed plastic bags and leave them in the freezer for four days. In winter, you might be tempted to use the bitterly cold outdoors, but the fluctuation in temperature may allow the bugs to survive.
Essential oils may work—someday
One of the home remedies for bed bugs you should skip is essential oils. “They aren’t regulated as a pesticide, so there is no efficacy or safety data,” says Green. While a recent Purdue study found that carvacrol (from oregano and thyme), thymol (from thyme), citronellic acid (from lemongrass), and eugenol (from cloves) could kill bed bugs, but it took 70,000 more of these compounds to do the job compared to a synthetic insecticide. But the researchers are optimistic that these substances could lead to new bed bug solutions. In the meantime, try these 16 expert tips for getting rid of bed bugs.