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The First 8 Things To Do If You Think You Might Have Bed Bugs

published Sep 24, 2019
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Credit: Laura Hoerner

If you think you might have bed bugs, don’t panic. These little critters can be sneaky and hard to get rid of, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a lifetime of things that go crunch in the night. Instead of bugging out, follow these steps to make sure your home is bug-free and prevent the little pests from spreading.

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1. Check that they are, in fact, bed bugs

Make sure your pests are what you think they are (this subreddit will help if you’re in doubt). They’re small and round and can be seen with the naked eye. If they don’t look like that, your infestation is something else, like lice or fleas. Lucky for you, those are much easier to banish from your sheets.

2. Clean everything

After you figure out you have bed bugs, “The first thing [to do] is clean and de-clutter your home,” says Kristiana Kripena, a pest-control expert from InsectCop.net. “This means removing all household clutter, which can not only help spread bed bugs but also be one of the reasons why you have them in the first place.

Your next step is to give your space a top-to-bottom detailing. Run a stiff brush over every fabric surface, pick up clutter, vacuum all the nooks and crannies, seal cracks where bed bugs might be sneaking in. Basically, leave no space untouched.

3. Be watchful

Figure out where your bed bugs are hanging out. Better yet? Be a sleuth and decipher where they came from. If you can isolate them, you can stop them from taking over the rest of your home. You might even realize they’re coming from someplace else, like your office, school, or a friend’s house.

Remember that bed bugs can pop up in some surprising places. Even professionals like Jordan Foster, a pest-control consultant, can be surprised where the little suckers hide. So they check everywhere, like “drawers, every possible hiding space between pillows, sheets and mattresses… every nook and cranny, inside every pillow, below every bed frame.” says Foster. “We once found bed bugs inside a power plug.”

4. Protect your stuff

If you discovered your pesky infestation came from somewhere else, make sure you don’t bring any more home with you. This means separating your stuff from possible sources by doing things like keeping your coat with you instead of storing it in the coatroom, which is a jungle of possible bedbug hiding places. Keep your purse or bag from touching the floor, and if you can’t do that, go the whole nine yards and bring a bin or bag to store it in away from possible contaminants.

“You can also consider tightly encasing your bed with plastic cover so that bed bugs won’t be able to creep into it again,” says Rachel Davidson, the founder of Watchdog Pest Control

5. Check yourself

Before you walk in your front door, check your clothes and belongings for bed bugs. If you find one or two, try to remove them. Leave bags that the pests have infiltrated outside your front door.

6. Roast ‘em

If beg bugs have set up camp in your clothes, pop them in the dryer. This strategy is even more effective for blankets and pillows that can take the heat. For sturdier fabrics, run them through a cycle in the dryer on hot. Problem solved. 

Bed bugs in your carpet? No problem, says Kripena. Use a commercial steamer to clean even the toughest critters out of your rug.

7. Know when to toss stuff

In the war against bed bugs, there may be some casualties, like if you just can’t seem to get all the critters to leave your box spring. In that case, it’s better to literally kick it to the curb and get rid of the bugs that have set up shop in it, rather than let them rule your life.

8. Tell your landlord

Some apartments make you sign a bed bug addendum in your lease. If you did, it might have said that you’re required to tell your landlord if you have bed bugs. Don’t worry! They won’t kick you out. What they will do is quickly squash your pest problem. It’s in their best interest to prevent the bugs from spreading.

In New York, your landlord has to fix your bed bug problem. It’s the law. “If the landlord still fails to eliminate the bed bug infestation, the tenant should bring an HPD [Housing Preservation and Development] proceeding in housing court,” says Samuel Evan Goldberg, an NYC tenant attorney. “The proceeding is predicated upon the HPD violation report and the judge will force the landlord to repair the bed bug infestation.”

If you don’t have a landlord, know when to throw in the towel. Call in the experts before your bed bug problem gets out of hand.