The Science of Sustainability

5 DIY Tricks to Squash Bed Bugs

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Don't let the bed bugs biteDon't let the bed bugs bite.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have undoubtedly heard that the Nation, and San Francisco, in on bed bug alert. The little vampires have invaded San Francisco's homes, movie theaters, public transit and more.

And killing them is not easy task. If you suspect you have an invasion of bed bugs, it's always a good idea to call a pest control firm to help you exterminate these pests. Complete eradication is difficult and expensive, but here are a few things that you can use at home to help treat the problem.

If you suspect you have bed bugs, but can't visually identify them, try this: Set up a dry ice trap. Bed bugs are attracted to the CO2 that we emit. Use an inverted dog bowl and set atop a thermos of dry ice, with the thermos open. Place fabric along the perimeter of the bowl so that bed bugs can climb into it and baby powder in the inverted portion of the bowl which will make it too slippery to escape. As the dry ice emits CO2 you'll be able to determine in the course of one evening if you have bed bugs.

This technique comes with a number of warnings and disclaimers. CO2 can be lethal to humans in large amounts. If you plan on trying to catch bed bugs with dry ice, use the dry ice for no more than 1 hour. Dry ice can cause extensive burns and should be used with extreme caution when handling and around children and pets.

If you do have bed bugs, the last thing you want is them getting into your bed. Purchase hypoallergenic covers for your mattress, comforter and pillows to kill any infestation that may be living in them. This is also an excellent preventative measure to do prior to an infestation to prevent bugs from finding a way into your bedding.

Bed bugs are resistant to many/most chemicals, but you may want to consider Diatomaceous earth.

Wikipedia tells us:

Diatomaceous earth, also known as DE, diatomite, diahydro, kieselguhr, kieselgur and Celite) is a naturally occurring, soft, chalk-like sedimentary rock that is easily crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. This powder has an abrasive feel, similar to pumice powder, and is very light, due to its high porosity. The typical chemical composition of diatomaceous earth is 86% silica, 5% sodium, 3% magnesium and 2% iron.

DE can be distributed using a puffer (and while wearing a respirator mask) to slowly kill bed bugs. The dusting remains effective as long as it stays on your floor, so there isn't a need to reapply. DE is not an instant kill solution — it wears out their outer shell and dehydrates them to death, which takes a few days. This can be a good solution to preventing a re-infestation, but always check with your pest control provider to ensure its not interfering with their own treatment. And remember, DE should not be inhaled. It can cause silicosis, a respiratory disease brought on by inhaling silica.

Climb up insect interceptors are another good option. They can be purchased or you can try to make your own. The commercial versions work by luring the bug up into a moat that it cannot escape from (similar to the inverted dog bowl/dry ice idea). Place your bed post in the middle and watch bugs fail to get up the post searching for a meal. If you make your own, you can place your bed post in a bowl with either soapy water or oil, either of which will kill bugs by drowning.

Your best option for eradicating bed bugs is heat. They may be resistant to chemicals and sprays, but they are not resistant to being burned alive. Clothes should be washed in the hottest water your washer can provide (at least 120 degrees) and placed in a hot dryer for at least 40 minutes. Since bed bugs love hiding in couches, beds, under carpets and any tiny crevice they can find, a good dry steamer is indispensable. To kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact the steamer should reach at least 200 degrees at its tip. You can test the heat coming from your steamer using an instant read thermometer under an area you may want to steam. The thermometer must reach at least 180 degrees to kill bugs and eggs on contact.

Bedbugger.com has many more suggestions for on steamers and all of the other treatments listed above.

Exercise caution with all of the techniques listed above as some of them can cause bodily harm if administered incorrectly. And look up, you can beat a bed bug infestation, it just takes time and persistence.

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Laura Khalil

About the Author ()

Laura is a marketer by day and nerd by night. She's the Chief Nerd Herder for Dorkbyte, a blog devoted to art, technology and science. She's been named one of the most engaging women to speak about technology and has been featured on The Setup. A member of Noisebridge, she is working on two robotics challenges, leading a puzzle team that competes in a variety of puzzle challenges throughout the US and monkeys around on ham amateur radio. She loves astronomy, Making and hardware hacking. She was most recently involved in teaching hardware circuitry at Maker Faire.Laura has executed marketing strategies and campaigns for tech startups in the Bay Area. Her work with social media has been inducted into the Viral Marketing Hall of Fame.
  • Lee

    Great advice! I wish I had the money for heat! The only thing I think that will keep them off of you is to be fully clothed, and spray cedar oil or off deepwoods on yourself, and around your bed. Vaccuum as much as you can reduce clutter inside your home, and if at all possible call professionals, or your problem will only get worse!

  • Esteban

    I got rid of them: I have a completely wooden bed frame so they loved setting up shop there. I elevated the mattress from the frame with old yogurt containers. I surrounded the frame on 2 sides with walls and put towels on the other sides. I think set up a 35,000 BTU propane space heater to blow hot air into the space under the bed. I opened the windows and turned on a big fan to make sure I didn't get a CO2 or CO build up. I left that on for 2 hours, then picked up the dead bugs afterward. If you've got other wooden furniture in the vicinity of the bed, treat that the same way.

    One treatment seemed to eliminate them, but I did it again a couple of times just to make sure.

  • Charles Fowler

    Bed Bugs can't walk on smooth plastic. Encase your mattress. Place a clear plastic sheet between the mattress and box spring. Plastic is on rolls at Osh hardware. The plastic overhang should be about 4 inches all around the boxspring. The Bed Bugs cannot get to you and will starve. Your bed must be a proper bed. No covers touching the walls, etc.

  • Amanda

    You know rubbing alchohol kills bed bugs instantly. Ive been
    Thru it once and do not wish it opon any one so if you cant afford a steemer wash and dry everything in high heat and hot water and spray everything with rubbing alchohol. And they can not climb on metle or plastic surfaces its to slippery for them. And they hid in creases in your bed frames in the wood

    • Julie Richards

      I have to disagree. i have used rubbing alcohol, and i steam clean everything everyday. floors,wals, furniture,clothes etc and I still have them. I have a glass table and six chairs made out of metal. They can climb as they cimb on my chairs and my metal glass unit and my table. All made from metal. They are destroying my home and my life. I have had them for 8mths and have tried other methods also to try and remove them from my home.

      • Connie Neely

        You have to make sure if u have neighbors that they treat as well because if they have them they can travel back and forth

      • Microedit Hugo

        They reproduce every day so kill visibles with rubbing alcohol in spray bottle and lure them with co2 which is yeast (cooking) and warm h2o… they all die after a week…

  • michelle

    I have thrown away my couch my beds some wood washed everything the apt had a bug guy spray then they came and steamed everything for 6 weeks. then they said they were gone so I got new couch beds plastic on beds saw them again bought the food D.E. Now we are in for a month of the same with the apt I live in. I take a toothbrush to the woodwork all around the carpet, vacuum everyday they are not on my bed thank god but every where else they bite me on the couches which I use a crevis tool too everyday they just keep coming and the money I have spent is rediculous I look everyday to make sure they are not on the bed and the plastic works there. I am not sure why they are called bed bugs they come out all the time I know this is what it is because when I catch them in the day and squish them there is blood….

  • rubina

    I have a very bad case of bed-bug-infestation in our hostel since the last 2 months. The owner is just not ready to throw away infested mattresses even though he provided us new ones. My room mates do not bother as they don't seem to be bit often. Will be trying the DE way. Hoping it helps.

  • Infested

    At the end, you told me to look up, and I found bed bugs on my ceiling =(.

  • Kristine Evans

    Getting rid of bed bugs will help you get a good night sleep because this might cause itchiness in some parts of your body.

    Mattress Store

  • cecilia clark

    Has any used the bed bug repellent spay ? That you spray on yourself …& does it help among all other ideas?