The Tools of Fighting Bed Bugs


One of the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal is steam. Water turns to steam at over 200 degrees fahrenheit and all stages of bed bugs die at around 120 degrees. So steam does the job and then some! Almost any steamer will effectively kill bed bugs. You don't need to use a huge thousand dollar industrial strength model. I successfully took out a large chunk of the population with a simple under $50 handheld steamer. The downside is that you have to refill it often which gets to be a pain if you're steaming large pieces of furniture or the interior of a vehicle so I'd recommend spending a little more for the larger tank.

It's important to use the right technique and the right attachment. (See this video) You don't want pressure and air blowing the bugs around the room. You want a nice even wide spread of heat. So the best attachment might be a wide piece rather than a pointed nozzle. You should also cover the end with a cloth or something to reduce the airflow and moisture and concentrate the heat. I like using a small sock.

Be sure to take your time spending a few seconds in one spot so that the heat has time to soak into the layers of material and crevices and folds. It will kill bugs that you can't even see. I've seen dead bugs that I killed from steaming that were on the underside of a double layer of fabric even though I steamed from the outside of it.

There are few things more satisfying than seeing those bugs fry under the steam. Before I discovered steam, I felt like I was shooting with a BB gun but after I had my steamer by my side, I was armed with a flamethrower!

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So this is one area where I'm going to disagree with most, which probably means I'm wrong. You will often hear that one of the best ways to attack bed bugs is to vacuum. Let me break it into two categories: first, the open floors and secondly, furniture or other cracks and crevices. You will catch some vacuuming the floor but I suspect it would be few and far between. Bed bugs by nature will usually not be wandering around the floor during the day. They will be in their hiding spots waiting to come out when things are more still and you are resting or sleeping. So by all means, vacuum, but don't expect to put a large dent in your bug population from it alone. Now in regards to furniture (bed, sofas, chairs), some will say the first thing you should do is suck out all of the bugs and eggs before taking any other steps. But then you have to worry about cleaning out your vacuum carefully so no bugs escape or eggs hatch later and come out. Some suggest covering the hose with a sock or cloth to "catch" the bugs so they don't make it into the vacuum. I suppose that could work. But if it were me, I want to STEAM and steam early. I started with my vacuum when I found the bugs and I felt like I was just moving them around. I quickly switched to my steamer and watched them sizzle. I confirmed they were dead right then and all eggs and stages of them. I let the steam get into the cracks and folds of the furniture and bed to wipe out anything that might be hiding in there. THEN, I got my vacuum and sucked out the skeletons and other remains. I still took precautions with bagging the contents of the vacuum and tossing it out right away and wiping down the parts as much as I could with alcohol but I was much less worried than if I knew I had dozens of live bugs and eggs lurking in there. So if you want to vacuum and take the precautions to clean it up after each use, it will be effective. But I'm going to save the vacuuming for the floors and frequently steam everything else.

washing machine

Clothes Dryer

During an infestation, your dryer will take on a new importance. Rather than drying out wet clothes, its primary function becomes killing bed bugs! I learned from conversations in the forums and from my own travels that many parts of the world don't even use dryers. They simply air dry clothes on racks near a window or outside on a line. Unfortunately, that does complicate the situation a bit. Hopefully, you still have access to a location where you can pay for using a dryer. As we have already talked about, heat is the best full proof way to kill all stages of bed bugs. Yes, a washing machine will kill them, especially on a hot cycle but studies have shown that eggs can survive a wash. However, drying with heat for about 30 minutes is proven to kill 100% of bugs and eggs. (Click here to see the full study) So anything that was in an infested room that can be safely dried should be and afterward, you can wear those clothes confident that they are bug free! If they aren't dirty, there's no need to wash them. Just dry them to treat to save time and expense and no more than 30 minutes is necessary unless it's a particularly thick bedspread, blanket, or coat that would take a little more time to reach temperature throughout. Let's talk for a minute now about how you get the items to the dryer. For items that need treated, I recommend transporting them in black garbage bags and double bagging. You should handle all clothing and linens as if they have bugs on them. Don't fling clothes around the room into baskets or flip a sheet off the bed. Slowly pick up items and fold them into themselves and slide them into the bag. You can have a couple of bags available to organize by color for dirty items that will need washed. Tie up the bags tightly. When you get to the dryer (or washer if they are dirty), don't bother untying them. Just put the whole bag inside or over top of the appliance and carefully rip it open to let the clothes fall out. Fold the bag up and place it inside another bag and tie it before disposing. When items have been heat treated, place them in a new fresh bag. I like to use clear bags to indicate that they are clean and so I can see what's inside because those items should stay in that bag until you use them or until you are completely bug free. Bugs will not be able to easily climb up the sides of a plastic bag nor would they be particularly attracted to them. Basic clear garbage bags are fine. I bought some simple thicker clear plastic bags like these that worked well for heavier linens.


dust cannister

Dusts provide some of the longest lasting and most effective defenses against bugs. Some of them contain pesticides but the main way that dusts kill is desiccation, or drying them out, essentially turning them into a mummy. The sharp edges of the dust molecules cut through the waxy outer layer of the bugs shell so that they can't retain moisture and when they're done, all that's left is a crystalized skeleton. The great thing about dusts is that bugs can't build a resistance to them like chemicals. And when applied correctly, they won't significantly change the bugs movement or spread them out further like other types of treatment can. Dusts can get into tiny cracks and hiding spots that chemicals can't reach. And they don't wear out! They can continue killing bugs for years until they get wiped off from cleaning or coated with a layer of good old fashioned dust around the home. There are primarily two types of dusts you will hear about. The first is diatomaceous earth also called DE for short. It's difficult to pronounce but it helps to remember that it is made from tiny diatoms, fossils of microscopic organisms that lived in our oceans. They are processed into a fine white dust that can be used for various types of pest control including bed bugs. Although studies have proven DE does kill bugs, it works very slowly. It takes over 9 days to kill younger stages and around 14 to kill adults! That's a long waiting and getting bit and reproducing before they're gone but better than nothing. The second type of dust and most awesome bed bug killer is silica gel! Whereas DE takes weeks to kill, silica gel can dry them out in a day or two! Not only does it cut their exterior to release water, it sucks it out, absorbing all moisture. That makes sense when you realize it's a dust made from the same stuff in those packets they include in product packaging to reduce moisture. I have used it myself and seen the effects almost immediately. The next day, I started seeing dried up powdery white dead bugs in my traps. I did catch a live one that day and bagged it. The following day, it was dried out and crystallized just because it had walked across the dust the day before. This stuff is amazing! The primary brand you'll see out there for this product is Cimexa and I have a link to order it here. The most common problem that prevents dusts from working as well as they could is when they are applied incorrectly, usually too heavily! People think, "Well if a little bit of this dust can kill them, imagine what the WHOLE BOTTLE OR BAG WILL DO!" In this case, less is actually more. If bugs notice the dust, they will avoid it and if they don't walk over it, it has no effect. You want to put down a VERY THIN LAYER that is barely visible on surfaces. The best way I've found to do this is with a small paint brush. Shake some dust on and spread it out thinly pushing the excess into cracks and crevices where the bugs like to hide. Some like to use a duster which puffs the dust through a nozzle evenly onto the treatment area but I think the less airborne the dust is, the more focused you can be with where it is applied and less you'll breath it in. Speaking of which, you should always wear a mask and glasses or goggles when applying dusts and gloves too because it really dries out your skin. Dusts are relatively safe to use if applied correctly. They are non-toxic but you don't want to get it into your lungs. Ventilate the room by opening windows and doors but don't make it too drafty where it will stir up the dust. Don't use it on surfaces that get moved a lot like the top of cushions or your mattress or on pillows and sheets. It works best under mattresses or on the sides in seams, under tags, the box spring, headboard, bedframe, skirts on sofas and couches and underneath arm covers. You can apply some to the baseboards of the walls, in outlet covers, and between the seam of the carpet and walls or floor boards. The best part is that the dust will be laying there waiting to kill bugs years after your infestation is over. I know of someone who started finding dead dried out bugs years after they got rid of them and we determined they were new bugs entering from their neighboring apartment but the dust left over from their original treatments was still killing them and made it much easier to get the new invasion under control

spray bottle


Chemical treatment plays an important role in eradicating an infestation. However, most of the sprays you will find on the shelves will not solve the problem. That's because although they can kill bed bugs, they require direct contact to work. Chemicals that leave a residual that keeps killing bugs weeks after application are the only effective solution. Most of these will include some form of pyrethroid or pyrethrin. The concern is that bugs are becoming more and more resistant to pyrethroids so manufacturers are blending other chemicals into the mix to increase their odds of success and for the most part, it's working. But that is a reminder of why it's so important to use an integrated approach in your fight and not depend only on chemicals. Multiple applications of chemicals about 2 weeks apart should be done to make them most effective (usually 3 or 4). That will give time for eggs to hatch and for the new generations to hit a fresh coat of treatment and die.



Heat treatment is becoming more and more popular for quickly eliminating bed bugs. It involves sealing up the rooms and forcing heat in with heaters and fans. The goal is to get the temperature of the room and all objects in it up to at least 120 or even 130 degrees for about 2 hours which should ensure that all bugs are dead. In one treatment, the entire population is gone! Sounds great doesn't it? Well there are some risks. It's hard to get a home to heat evenly depending on the materials it's made of and the layout of the room. Bugs could hide in cooler spots and survive. Heating up your entire home and contents could also do some damage to heat sensitive items so it requires some preparation to make it safe. Setup will take a few hours from the professional as well. Many companies offer a bug free guarantee for several months and come back to inspect a couple of times to make sure they got them all.


Information on products used for treatment and monitoring. Find out how they work and which ones that could actually make things worse.

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