Common-Sense Guide: How to Prevent Bed Bugs

If you’ve never had a bed bug infestation, then you don’t need to worry about getting rid of bed bugs in the first place. We haven’t developed ironclad ways to prevent bed bugs from biting. Bug repellents will kill bed bugs if applied directly, but the poisons themselves do not deter bed bugs from biting. On that happy note, I think you’d agree you’d rather not have to deal with such a problem. Here’s a common sense checklist of ways to prevent bed bugs from entering your home, or from re-infesting your home if you’ve had a treatment already.

  • ⊕ This is obvious, but don’t go to places where a known infestation has occurred. Hotels, dorm rooms, vacated premises are all spaces bed bugs like to hide and breed without much interference.
  • ⊕ Before you go on a trip, inspect your luggage for signs of bed bugs: fecal matter and brown or red stains are main indicators of an infestation. Inspect all your luggage and things you’ve collected on your trip before you bring them home, too. And inspect the sheets and mattress of every room you’re laying your head for a rest.
  • ⊕ Make sure anything like clothes and furniture (especially bed-related stuff) you acquire second-hand is checked over for signs of bed bugs. Wash it with hot water.
  • ⊕ For apartment dwellers — talk to your landlord to get the downlow on the bed bug status. Has your apartment been treated in the past, but not the rest of the building? Then chances are that a re-infestation could occur. Ask the landlord about their efforts to eliminate bed bugs and prevent bed bugs from moving into the building.
  • ⊕ Seal any cracks or crevices in your home with caulking, and check them or reapply the barrier at least once a year.
  • ⊕ Inspect or treat your pets for bed bugs. Pets are ideal hosts, so carefully look over them for signs of bed bug riders. Often, pets will be treated for fleas when they actually have bed bugs. Flea treatments for bed bugs are ineffective so the problem persists and worsens.

Next: Everyday Maintenance: Your Bed Bug Treatment Preparation Checklist will be its own page and linked to as pdf.

  • ⊕ Wash or change your clothes and bedding regularly. Wash them in the hottest water (according to your garment care instructions) and dry them for at least 20 minutes on medium high to high heat. This exposure to heat for a sustained time will kill bed beds if they happen to be on your clothes and bedding.
  • ⊕ Cleaning your mattress.
    Vacuum your mattress monthly; this means removing all sheets and dismantling the mattress from the frame to suck all the debris and potential bed bugs from every tiny crevice. Empty or dispose of the vacuum bag in the trash outside of your home.
  • Do not steam clean your mattress, or you may have to deal with problems like mildew and mold-induced asthma.
  • ⊕ Once you’ve properly cleaned your mattress, here’s a smart way of ensuring nothing will get in or out of your mattress — use a high quality dust mite controlling cotton covering, like the AllerZip Waterproof Bed Bug Proof Zippered Bedding Encasement or SafeRest’s Waterproof Lab Certified Bed Bug Proof Zippered Mattress Encasement (Designed For Complete Bed Bug, Dust Mite and Fluid Protection) . That way, if there ARE bed bugs or eggs in your mattress, they will die if you leave the impenetrable covering on for at least a year. The cover also serves to protect your mattress from an invasion from the outside, of course.
  • Mattress Covers: can they prevent bed bugs?   No.  Bed bugs can still crawl on top of the mattress cover or hide out in the bed frame. The main advantage of the mattress cover is that if you already have bed bugs, you can trap them inside the cover and they cannot bite through.  If you do not have bed bugs, the cover saves you from having to throw out the mattress if you ever get bed bugs.

User Comment:

“I get into a lot of motels and haven’t had a bed bug problem. I carry a spray bottle of Texas Cedarwood Oil (Juniperus mexicana) and spray it liberally on carpets & bedding. You can get it online, both oil-based for indoor, and water-based for killing bugs/diseases on outdoor plants. The great thing is, it doesn’t stain & is totally safe to use on babies/people as mosquito repellent. It smells nice, like my grandma’s old cedar chest, and it kills fleas, cockroaches, & ALL the other creepy insects as well, without harming good ones like ladybugs & butterflies. Have used it for years to deal with my cat’s fleas.”

Reminder: Oils (cedar, orange, olive, etc.) and hot water are all natural remedies for killing bed bugs. BUT. They will only work if you can get it directly on the insect.

What are Bed bugs? How do you get them?

Bed bugs are tiny insects which are hard to detect as they are almost as flat as a credit card and only come out during the quiet times which are usually at night when people are sleeping in their beds.  So how do you know if you have them?  Usually the tell-tale signs are small bites which occur on the skin or blemishes that appear and you have no idea where they came from.  With both bites and blemishes there are more than likely a group of them found together.

If you feel that your bedroom has become infested with bed bugs don’t panic.  Bed bugs do not mean that there is an issue with cleanliness, they do not spread disease and they can be got rid of.  It is important to know that if the bugs are limited to one room only for example your bedroom then they need to be contained and exterminated within that room.  It is not a good idea to go and sleep in another room because they are clever little insects and will find you wherever you sleep.    It is during the night when you are sleeping that the carbon dioxide that you breathe out is the trigger for the bugs to find where you are.  They will leave their nesting area and find you in order for them to snack on your blood.  You won’t feel a thing as the bug will administer a type of anesthetic to the area which will cause your skin to numb and the bug will then proceed to drink at least three times its bodyweight causing it to lose that flat shape it normally has to become more rounded and elongated.

Bed bugs are smart and they are looking for you their host they want one thing and one thing only your blood.  They don’t even necessarily have to live in your bed or bedding they could live somewhere else in your room say a bedside table, a picture frame or wall hanging, a night lamp even your alarm clock.  They only need a safe dark area where a number of them will be found huddled together.  The main thing is to find where that is.  As once found and both the insects and the eggs are exterminated successfully then that will be the end of them and hopefully you won’t have to ever deal with these bugs again.

Bed bugs are not the sign of an unclean house and bed bugs are not the cause of socio-economic issues they can be found in the grandest of homes and the most expensive of hotels and can even be found in establishments which have the most rigorous of cleaning regimes.  They can also be found on buses and movie theaters. Beg bugs are travellers and most of the time they will catch a lift on outer clothing, suitcases or briefcases, anyway how they can. It is important for us to remember that when staying in a hotel room even for just one night or an entire vacation in some beautiful five star accommodation rules should be adhered to.  Never put your luggage onto a bed there are luggage tables for you to use in these rooms they usually look like a fold away table with lattice straps going across them.  By using these tables for your luggage you will have less chance of any bugs hitching a ride home with you.  Always keep your outer clothing off the bed also and hang it up don’t leave it lying around on chairs or the bed.  Even if you have been looking after your luggage in hotel rooms and so on yet for some reason your home still became infested there are other ways that these pesky creatures will get into your home.  For example they can come in from the outside by finding the tiniest of entry points such as a crack or a pipework, they will even travel in following the lines of cables and it can be found that once in the house the lines of cables that run from room to room is how the bugs will travel.  If purchasing furniture from garage sales or second hand stores give them a thorough investigation before purchasing as they may travel into your home via these items.

How to prevent Bed Bugs:

The easiest way to deal with bed bugs is by preventing them in the first place. In order to prevent bed bugs from infesting your home you need to understand where bed bugs come from and how they spread.

Where do bed bugs come from?

Graffiti Marking a Bed Bug Infested Location

This is a pretty general question, but it’s actually a fairly simple answer. Bed bugs don’t just manifest in your home, they have to be brought into your home or migrate from another house or apartment. The most common ways bed bugs are brought into a home is by hitching a ride on clothing, buying used furniture, picking up bed bugs during your travels. Bed bugs can also “migrate” from one home to another. This is more of an issue for apartments, condos and duplexes but even detached houses can get bed bugs from a close neighbor.

So, in summary bed bugs can make their way into your home two ways..

  1. By hitching a ride on furniture, clothing, luggage or other items.
  2. By migrating from a nearby home, apartment, condo or source of infestation.

Preventing Bed Bugs From Entering Your Home

You know where bed bugs come from, so all you need to do now is prevent bed bugs from being able to enter your home. To prevent bed bugs you need to be proactive. This means actively seeking out any ways bed bugs can enter your home and either sealing them, setting up bed bug traps nearby or at the very least keeping a close eye on them.

You also need to be careful when traveling to make sure you don’t bring bed bugs back with you. You should always inspect any hotels you enter for bed bugs and if you find any, ask for a new room or take precautions to avoid transferring the infestation. Use bed bug proof luggage when you travel and always wash and dry your clothes on high heat when you return from a trip. You may even want to bring a zipper mattress and pillow bag with you when traveling so you can seal in any bed bugs that may be in the bed or pillow of the hotel room.

Friends and family may also bring bed bugs into your home when they visit. So if a friend or family member is complaining of waking up itchy or having a “rash” or even mentioning bed bugs outright, politely ask them not to come over until there problem is taken care of. Or at least ask them to only wear freshly washed and dried clothing and to be careful not to spread the bed bugs into your own home.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Of course, even if your careful there’s still a chance that you may end up with nasty bed bugs in your home. If you aren’t able to prevent bed bugs, read this guide on how to get rid of bed bugs.