Is there a way to control bedbugs without using dangerous pesticides?

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Answered by: William, An Expert in the How to Control Home Pests Category
You just discovered that you have bedbugs. The first reaction is one of disbelief. This can’t be happening to me! I thought that bedbugs were a thing of the past and that it only happened in homeless shelters and places like that!

Well, welcome to reality. Bedbugs have made resurgence not only nationally but world-wide as well. No one is safe from them. You might find bedbugs in the finest hotels; on buses; airplanes; trains; multi-family housing; homeless shelters and yes……even in your own home!! So…how to control bedbugs?



One way to control bedbugs would be to call a professional exterminator like myself. As a professional, I could use any one of a number of different methods such as heat; cold; chemicals; or even steam to do the job. I might even use a trained dog to locate the bedbugs in your house. If I couldn’t get rid of them in one visit, I would have to come back and do additional follow up treatments. Of course, you would be charged for all of these services. So, is there an alternative?

Common sense; a little elbow grease; some safe products and the knowledge I will give to you will help you solve your problem.



Before you start, you will want to make some small purchases. Here is a list:

1. Vacuum cleaner bags

2. Food- grade diatomaceous earth and a hand duster to apply it with.

3. Cedar oil

4. Mineral oil

5. Climb Up Insect -Interceptors

6. Quality grade mattress covers and box spring covers (This will be the most expensive item on the list)

7. A good bright flashlight (a Mag Lite or similar)

8. Plastic trash bags (the yard waste size)

Let’s go through this do step by step:

Step #1 OK! Let’s get started……The first thing to do is remove the bedding from your mattress and box spring. You will want to place these items in a large plastic bag for transportation to your laundry room or local Laundromat. The plastic bag will prevent you from dropping any bedbugs along the way. The bedding should be washed and then dried at the highest possible heat setting on the dryer. Dispose of the old plastic bag and when laundered and dried, place the items in a new plastic bag and seal it. Leave these items in the plastic bag so they do not become re-infested until you are ready to put them back on the bed.

Empty all of your dresser drawers and launder the removed items using the same system as you did for the bedding. Do the same to the clothing hanging in your closets.

I know….I know….this is pretty labor intensive. But, do you want to get rid of the bedbugs or not? Unfortunately, you have to do all of these steps or you take a chance on missing some of the bedbugs that may be hiding in these places. You might be interested in knowing that bedbugs will travel up to 20 feet or so from their hiding place to find a blood meal. So, the closet or that chest of drawers across the room is not out of bounds to the bedbug if he wants to hide there. OK…now grab your flashlight and let’s go to work.

Step #2 Inspect your mattress and box spring for bedbugs. Look in every crease, fold and tuft. Turn the mattress over and check the other side. If you see any live bugs, hit them with a quick spray of cedar oil (rubbing alcohol, although it does not kill as quickly, can be substituted for the cedar oil). This should kill the bug and you can then remove it safely with tissue or similar.

Inspect the top of the box spring. Then turn it over and carefully remove the cloth dust cover on the bottom. Inspect the inside of the box spring as thoroughly as you can. Again, if you see any bedbugs, give them the cedar oil treatment. Once you have done that, give it some time to dry and then apply a VERY LIGHT COATING (about the same amount as the dust that collects on top of your TV) of diatomaceous earth to the entire inside surface. You may then staple the dust cover back on or just leave it off and dispose of it.

Now, that you have the bed disassembled, this would be a good time to vacuum the floor of the bedroom and the closets and especially under the bed. You are going to use the vacuum later so keep it handy.

Next, we want to look at the bed frame and headboard. Inspect both items thoroughly applying cedar oil as necessary to any live bugs. You can also apply a light dusting of diatomaceous earth in and around the joints of the bed frame. Once you have finished with the inspection and treatment, place the Insect-Interceptors under each of the four bed frame legs. You can also place these under the legs of the nightstands and chair(s). (Stainless steel bowls can be substituted for the plastic interceptors.

Pour a small amount of mineral oil in each bowl. The bedbugs will have a very difficult time climbing the surfaces of the bowl but if they should, the mineral oil will trap and kill them.) You should check the interceptors periodically to see if there is any new activity. By the way, if you don’t care for either of these methods, you can also substitute some type of double sided tape. Just wrap a strip around each bed leg and check it regularly.

You may now reassemble the bed. Install the new plastic mattress cover and box spring cover prior to putting on the bedding. Two additional cautions….always make sure there is no part of the bedding touching the floor or the wall. There must be a space left so the only way the bedbugs can attempt to climb onto the bed is at the four bed legs protected by the interceptors. Make sense?

Step #3 Let’s move on. The next place to check is your dresser and nightstands. They are also great bedbug hiding places. You have already removed the clothes from your dresser and laundered them. The drawers should be empty so take them out one by one. Inspect each drawer thoroughly…top….inside…outside and bottoms. If you see any bedbugs, apply the cedar oil spray. Once you have all of the drawers out, you need to inspect the rest of the dresser paying very close attention to the inside; the back; and the bottom. Apply cedar oil spray if necessary. Now, do the same to your nightstands.

Step #4 Once you have finished with the bedroom furniture, you will need to move on to your closets. You will need to remove everything from the floor and the shelf if you have one. You are familiar with what needs to be done now. Inspect every likely area where bedbugs may hide. They especially like the small space between the shelf and the three closet walls where the edge of the shelf sits. Look underneath the shelf and check any small spaces that may be present where the shelf rests on the support brackets.

Check the floor of the closet. Look very carefully at the baseboard molding and carpet edges. If possible, pull the carpet edge back from the wall and inspect the tack strip for activity. You can apply a light coating of diatomaceous earth in this area as a preventative measure. As before, if you see any live bedbugs, give em’ the old cedar oil treatment.

Step #5 The next thing to do in the bedroom is check the baseboards around all four walls. If you can pull the carpet back from the baseboard, do so and apply a light coat of diatomaceous earth to the space between the tack strip and the wall and also behind the baseboard if you find any spaces that can hide bedbugs.

Step #6 The last thing to do in the bedroom is to inspect the chair (s) if one is present. A thorough inspection is the key again. You need to check every crack and crevice. If the chair is upholstered, turn it over and remove the dust cover on the bottom. You can apply a light coat of diatomaceous earth to the inside of the chair as a preventative measure.

Well Done! You have now finished with the bedroom.

Step #7 The living room; family room; and den will be the next place to inspect. All of these rooms, if you have them; can be addressed the same way. A thorough inspection is the key to success.

All sofas and chairs need to be looked at carefully. Remove cushions and check every seam; crack and crevice. If you find live bedbugs, use the cedar oil spray. Turn the furniture over. Remove the dust covers, use cedar oil if necessary and then coat the inside of the piece with a light dusting of diatomaceous earth. You never know where these little guys might be found. By now, you are getting the idea. You have to look everywhere and you must be thorough.

Step #8 When you are finished with the inspection, I would recommend that you vacuum all carpeted areas thoroughly. When the vacuuming is completed, remove the vacuum bag and place it in a plastic trash bag. Seal the trash bag and put it in the outside trash receptacle.

Step #9 The next thing to do is apply a light coating of diatomaceous earth behind the baseboards if there are any spaces between the molding and the wall. If you can peel the carpeting back, apply diatomaceous earth to the entire tack strip. Remember, only a very light coating is needed.

Step #10 Finally, the kitchen and the bathrooms need to be inspected. It is not unusual to find an occasional bedbug in these areas as well. You can apply a light coat of diatomaceous earth to any likely cracks and crevices as a preventative measure.

Now, sit down and take a rest. You have done a great job in taking care of your bedbug problem. While you are resting, think about how you might have gotten the bedbugs in the first place. Did you travel recently? If so, you will need to check your suitcases thoroughly for any signs of bedbugs. You should also check cosmetics cases, laptop cases, camera cases, etc...anything you brought back with you when you returned home from your trip. Did you purchase used furniture or a bed? You have already inspected and treated these. What about guests? Did anybody sleep over recently?

Yes! You are now you are thinking like a pest management professional. If you figure out where you got the bedbugs, you can prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. If it does happen again, you know how to get rid of them…safely and effectively. Just a word of caution here. NEVER use any products that are not labeled for bedbugs and ALWAYS follow the directions on the label.

At this point, once all of the above steps have been completed, you have found a safe way to control bedbugs in your home. The goal now is to be very observant and look for signs of new activity over the coming days ahead. If you find or suspect that there is new activity, utilize the techniques you have already learned to treat the problem. Just remember not to get frustrated. Bedbug infestations are the most difficult to eradicate even for a professional. Be patient and if you do what is needed and use what you have learned, you will win the battle.

Congratulations on a job “Well done”

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