Decontamination Procedures for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are the last thing you want to find in your home. They can turn your life upside down, keeping your awake at night with their biting and forcing you to take drastic measures to get rid of them. Just changing your sheets will not take care of the problem. It requires a determined effort of multiple cleanings and treatments. Because they can survive up to one year without food, you need to know what steps to take to have a home free of bed bugs.

Bed bugs can hide in mattress seams, piping and tags.

Signs of Infestation

The first line of defense in fighting bed bugs is knowing what to look for. Adult bed bugs are 1/4- to 3/8-inch long and brown, with flat oval-shaped bodies. Young bugs, or nymphs, are similar but lighter in color and smaller. The bugs and eggs are visible to the naked eye; look for tiny dark excrement spots and small red or rust-colored stains of smashed bugs. Bed bug bites are similar in appearance to mosquito bites, but they tend to show up in clusters or rows.

Where to Look

Bed bugs can live in not only mattresses, box springs and bedding, but also curtains, headboards, carpet, tears in wallpaper and even small cracks in walls. In a very bad infestation the bugs can even spread to other rooms and furniture. Check any secondhand furniture and clothing before bringing it into your home for signs of the apple seed-sized bugs.

Clean and Disinfect

If you find bed bugs, wash all bedding, clothing, towels and curtains in water that's at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and then dry, using high heat for at least 20 minutes. Store all fabric items in large plastic bins with tight lids. Remove clothing to wear it, and then wash it again before returning it to the bin. Thoroughly vacuum all mattresses, box springs, carpets, floors, bed frames, furniture, cracks and crevices daily, using brush and crevice tools. Seal all wall cracks, and tighten switch covers to eliminate hiding places.

Call a Professional

While there are chemical treatments that you can do, it is best to hire a professional pest management service to rid your home of bed bugs. Check references and confirm that the service you use is experienced in treating bed bugs. A pesticide will be used, and you will have to leave home for a while after the treatment. More than one treatment will probably be required. A more expensive but more effective option is thermal remediation. Your home is heated to a temperature that will kill the bugs.


To prevent future bed bug outbreaks, cover your mattress and box spring with a zippered cover labeled "allergen rated," "for dust mites" or "for bed bugs" for at least one full year. Periodically check the covers for any tears, and replace or seal with packing tape. When traveling, inspect the bedding and mattress before using, and place suitcases on luggage racks rather than on the bed or floor so you don't bring any bed bugs home.