Bedbugs are small, nocturnal insects that feed on blood and like to hide in cracks and crevices, including mattress seams, sheets and furniture, and behind baseboards, electrical outlet plates and picture frames. Females can lay 200 to 500 eggs in a lifetime, and under normal conditions individual bed bugs can live over 300 days, according to Orkin.com. Controlling a bedbug infestation can be difficult, but there are some remedies you can try before you have to throw out your furniture.
To tell if you have bedbugs, look for small, brownish-red bugs or their excrement, which leaves black stains. You may also start to wake up with tiny bites on your body. Or verify a begbug infestation by placing glue boards or sticky tape around your bed and other furniture to catch bedbugs as they move around.
You can't remove bedbugs simply by vacuuming, but it should be part of your control plan. Use caulk to seal all holes, pipes, cracks and other openings in your walls. Clean up anything on the floor, and place it in a sealed plastic bag. Scrub all surfaces, and dismantle your furniture to get to every place bedbugs could be hiding.
Vacuum every inch of every surface thoroughly by moving and scraping the end of the suction wand along the surface, concentrating on the infested areas, such as seams and fabric folds of mattresses and sofas, and the perimeter edge of wall-to-wall carpets. Dispose of the vacuum contents outside in a sealed trash bag.
Unlike vacuuming, steam cleaning is generally effective at killing all bedbugs and eggs. Any heat above 120 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bedbugs quickly, and most steamers exceed this. Wood furniture may be damaged by steam, and you should air fabrics out thoroughly after steaming to prevent mold.
A natural product to use against bedbugs is diatomaceous earth powder, found at pet stores. (Avoid the version of the product designed to be used in swimming.) Place it around the floor under and near your bed, and sprinkle some inside and underneath your mattress and on your bed frame. Also sprinkle it in all cracks and along baseboards and underneath furniture.
To kill bugs you can actually see, spray a mixture of 3 parts rubbing alcohol with 2 parts water onto the bugs.
Hot and cold treatment will also kill bedbugs. First, wash all infested cloth items in hot water above 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If the item can't be washed, place it in your clothes dryer on very high heat for at least 20 minutes.
De-infest other items by wrapping them in plastic and placing them outdoors in a hot, sunny location or in a closed vehicle for a day. Bedbugs also succumb to cold temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but the freezing temperatures must be maintained for several days.
Another weapon is mattress and pillow covers. Get the kind that zips up entirely to prevent the bugs from escaping, and cover holes left around the zipper with tape. This may take up to six months or longer, but if the bedbugs can't get out, they won't hurt you and will eventually die off. Some covers are treated with insecticides, which will also help.
The most effective bedbug insecticides are available only to commercial pesticide companies and require special equipment and expertise. Foggers can help, especially those with pyrethrum, but while they kill some of the insects, others will flee through the walls if you haven't sealed all the cracks.