How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs Once and For All
When I started the hoarding clean out business, part of my mission was to help those who are not in a position to help themselves. This often times results in some pretty dirty jobs. I mean real dirty, disgusting, and gross jobs. Case in point – Bed Bugs!
I used to think you couldn’t see bed bugs. I had the idea they were microscopic. Well, they aren’t. You can see them; they are a little smaller than an ant. In a bad infestation you can smell them as soon as you enter the home. It is a musty smell, similar to coriander. When it’s real bad you can hear the crunching sounds as you step on the dead skins they have shed.
I get a call from the sister of Carl. He is 40 years old and has the mentality of a 5 year old and partially blind. His mom died a year earlier and he was left on his own in a small apartment that was infested with bed bugs. His siblings lived out of town but trusted us to help Carl clean up his apartment so they could spray.
My mom and I come prepared for this job. We have rubber gloves, haz mat suits covering clothes that we plan to dispose of when this day is over. It’s 9:00am and Carl can’t be found. I hear the worry in his sister’s voice when I call after an hour goes by. In the middle of our phone call, I see a man getting off the bus crying. His eyes are sad and confused. He is in blue hospital scrubs and no shoes. No one had to tell me this was Carl, I know this is him. I don’t want to agitate or scare him any more than he already is. I immediately give him my phone so his sister can talk him down. He starts to explain how he took the bus to the hospital because the bed bug bites on his body were so bad. He is still crying. He spent the night in the hospital and the staff took everything, including his wallet because it was full of bugs. He lost his clothes, his shoes, bus pass, his id and money to pay us. Heartbreaking.
We calm him down, enter his place and start the process. My mom and I have our own eye language in these types of situations. We can read each others minds. Similar to an action movie when the SWAT team is entering a house, instructions are sent through head nods and eye contact. My mom’s eyes dart to the ceiling. I look up and can see thousands of bed bugs on the walls and ceiling. Now I picture them falling in our hair and I itch all over. I have strong desire to shake my head and scratch my body. If my friends saw me now, they wouldn’t believe the scene. We dig deep and focus to the task on hand. We remove his bed, his couch and almost everything he owned that isn’t a necessity.
At 104 degrees and no air conditioning, my mom starts to overheat. The haz mat suits do not allow ventilation. We were sweating but it’s like we’re in zip lock baggies and the air can’t get in to cool us off. Her face is turning white and she is dizzy. Her job is done. I make her sit down and drink water. As she sits in the chair next to Carl with the vacuum in her hand, together they suck up bed bugs. They turn it into a game and we are all laughing, deep belly laughs! In the midst of this madness we can still laugh.
We give him a bed, sheets and towels to get him started. Before we leave we clean his place for a fresh start. Now, he starts to cry tears of joy and gratitude at the transformation of his place. As we leave he hugs us both. Big bear hugs and I can feel how much we meant to him at that day.
When I get I asked, “How can you do what you do? My reply is, “How can I not? ” I went home feeling sweaty, disgusting, dirty and gross on the outside. On the inside, I feel happy, satisfied, full of goodness and gratitude and know Carl would sleep well that night.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bugs can hide just about anywhere. Because they have the ability to squish their little bodies into spaces about as thick as a credit card, they have thousands of potential hiding places in a typical house or apartment. But, like rats, cockroaches, snakes, and scorpions, bed bugs do have their favorite spots for staying out of sight until nightfall.
What are their preferred digs for hiding? The love bed frames, box springs, mattresses and basically any part of the bed. That gives them easy access to sleeping humans whose blood they drink. Yes, they’re exactly like tiny vampires that wait until dark to nourish themselves. Just the thought of it is enough to make you itch.
After they’ve settled into their new address, bed bugs venture away from the bed area and hide in all sorts of places. Any crevice, bookshelf, dresser or wooden piece of furniture offers the critters plenty of hiding places.
When Bed Bugs Bite
For the most part, bed bugs do their job at night while you are fast asleep. Once they bite you, they use their beaks to slurp up enough blood to last them for a while. The whole process takes somewhere between 3 and 10 minutes. They’re so sneaky and delicate about their work that you won’t feel a thing. After they get the blood they need, they pull their beaks out of your skin and sneak away to their lairs and enjoy a nice meal.
Keep in mind that even though bed bugs bite only during a limited time period, they are happy to strike anywhere they see exposed skin. That means you can be bitten on the head, legs, upper torso and virtually anywhere you are not covered up.
One of the reasons people often don’t know they have bed bugs is that the bites resemble many other things, like mosquito or flea bites. In fact, you can never really be certain that you are a “bed bug victim” until you see one in your home.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Anything you bring into your home from the outside can be a “highway” for bed bugs to get into your living area. Common conduits include used furniture, old clothes, and used rugs, the kind you pick up at second-hand stores. To get rid of bed bugs, it is better to stop bringing those kinds of things into your home without cleaning them first. But there are other parts of the “bed bug elimination” puzzle. Here are the steps for getting the tiny terrors out of your house and keeping them out:
- Wash and Dry Everything
Wash, in hot water, everything in your bedroom that fits into the machine. For items that can’t be washed, like shoes, place them in the dryer on a “high heat” setting for a few minutes. Inspect things like stuffed animals, shoes and sports equipment for bugs. When in doubt, throw it out. Remember to wash and dry linens, pillows, mattress pads, curtains, and small rugs.
- Vacuum Often
Vacuum your home at least once per week. Also, vacuum the beds but before doing so, use a brush to make sure there are no visible bugs or bug eggs on the seams of the mattresses. After vacuuming, take the dust bag from the machine, put it in a sealed plastic bag and place it in the garbage.
- Use a Mattress Zipper
Get a zippered mattress cover and make sure it completely blocks bed bugs from getting into or out of your mattress. This method only works for kill the bugs that are inside the mattress itself, not ones that reside elsewhere. In any case, you’ll need to leave the cover in place for at least a year because the little pests can survive that long without eating!
- Repair Walls
Bed bugs like to hide and enter through wall cracks, so make sure to plaster any openings you see in the walls of your home, particularly in the bedroom. Every effort counts. If you have a wallpaper that is peeling, the bugs like to hide in the area between the paper and the wall. That’s why you’ll want to re-do wallpaper in any areas where it’s coming off.
Bed bugs love junk and clutter. It gives them plenty of cover from your prying eyes and helps them stay hidden during the day. Removing any clutter from around your bed, and anywhere else in your home, is a very good start.
- Get a New Mattress
After you do everything possible to get rid of the tiny beasts, and before or after hiring a professional bed bug exterminator, consider buying a new mattress. There are two precautions to keep in mind: One, put a zippered cover on the new mattress to keep bugs from getting in. Two, realize that if any bugs are still in your home, they’ll likely head straight for the new mattress as their preferred hiding place. That’s why it’s essential that you make sure your bug problem is fully resolved before spending your hard-earned cash on a brand new mattress.
- Hire a Pro
If you do all you can to get rid of bed bugs but still want another layer of reassurance that they are gone, consider hiring a professional exterminator. Costs are reasonable and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that an experienced “bed bug detective” has done a thorough job. For most people, it’s money well spent.
Don’t Let Bedbugs Bug You
The bottom line on the whole bed bug issue isn’t their history, what they look like, where they come from or any of that. The only real challenge is how to get rid of bed bugs. That’s all that matters, right? Because if you can get rid of them, none of the other stuff matters much. So, do whatever it takes to get the pesky creatures out of your house. Then, take the necessary precautions to make sure they don’t pay you a return visit.