How to Check for Bed Bugs at Home (and What to Do If You Discover Them)

published Feb 1, 2024
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Light and airy cozy bedroom with bed, lamps, cushions and plant. No people. Home interior
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Nowadays, people are suffering from an influx of hitchhikers. But not the human kind — it’s the insect kind. Bed bugs are becoming increasingly common (especially after trips) now that people are largely back to traveling the way they were pre-2020, says Diana Ludwiczak, a certified NYC bed bug inspector and founder of Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs. It’s more important than ever to know how to spot them, and what to do after you find them. No one wants to be covered in unexpected bites! Here’s what the experts say.

How to Check for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs love to be close to humans when they sleep. So start by looking on and around the bed, says Allan Bossel, a bed bug extermination specialist and owner of Michigan Bed Bug Specialists

“Start by thoroughly inspecting the seams, folds, and tags of mattresses and box springs,” he says. “Examine surrounding furniture, paying particularly close attention to cracks and crevices in bed frames and nightstands. Also, inspect the junction where walls meet the floor, as bedbugs often also go in the seams of wallpaper or within cracks.”

From there, you’ll also want to check the seams and folds of upholstered furniture (be sure to use a flashlight). Then, inspect areas around electrical devices, baseboards, and any clutter. A magnifying glass will help you find even the smallest eggs and nymphs (juvenile bed bugs) and search common hiding spots.

“You’ll want to look for small dark ink-like stains,” says Ludwiczak. “These are bed bug droppings and one of the first signs you’ll see.”

What to Do If You Find Bed Bugs

First of all, don’t believe the myth that it’s impossible to get rid of bed bug infestations without throwing everything away. It’s difficult, but doable. 

“The first thing I do is clear out any clutter,” says Aaron Christensen, a cleaning expert with Homeaglow. “This is standard protocol for any kind of infestation or allergen issue. You need to eliminate the spots creating buildup.” Clutter is the worst for this, he says.

Once that’s done, vacuum everything and empty the vacuum into a sealed plastic bag, then throw that away outside of your home. Then, wash everything that could be infested, like clothes and bedding, in hot water; dry it all on the hottest setting. Finally, seal your mattress in a plastic bag and leave it sealed for at least a year. If you still see bed bugs around otherwise, call an exterminator to help solve the problem.

How to Prevent Bed Bugs

Preventing the return of bed bugs means an increase in hygiene. Change your clothes when you get home and don’t let laundry languish in your suitcase after a trip. Christensen’s best recommendation, though, is to get a handheld steamer. 

“With a hand steamer, you can really get into those cracks and crevices where they may have laid eggs,” he says. “And the hand steamer will give you the temperatures you need to kill these eggs.”