Facing a bed bug infestation can be daunting, especially when you are broke, or your finances are tight.
But keep hope; my comprehensive guide on how to get rid of bed bugs on a tight budget helps you combat these pests effectively and affordably.
I’ve written this guide from my extensive study of ectoparasites like bed bugs in laboratory and domestic environments.
We’ll start from how infestations begin and hiding spots to strategic, cost-effective chemical and nonchemical methods to eliminate bed bugs.
Moreover, I have revealed invaluable prevention strategies to safeguard your space from future invasions, ensuring a bed bug-free home without hiring a professional exterminator.
How Do Bed Bug Infestations Start?
Bed bugs make their way to homes by hitchhiking from an infested place.
Infestation starts in one of the following ways –
Hotel rooms, hostels, Airbnb residencies, hospitals, and even public transport seats can have bed bugs.
Bed bugs in these places will cling onto your luggage, clothes, and other belongings to make their way to your home.
Used furniture, particularly bed mattresses, beds, couches, carpets, rugs, drapes, and dresser drawers can have bed bugs.
Spillover from adjacent apartments or residencies
Bed bugs can quickly spread from one home to another in a multi-unit apartment building.
They can quickly spread through the holes in the walls, ducts, electrical wires, and even through the exchange of items.
Where Do Bed Bugs Hide?
Before you begin the bed bug treatment, you must thoroughly inspect the infested room.
Any small aperture on the walls, floor, furniture, bed, and even floor can be a secret hideout for bed bugs.
I have found bed bugs inside any one or all of the following places –
- Cracks on the headboard
- Baseboards gaps
- In the holes and gaps in the bed frame
- Box spring
- Mattress seams
- Inside couches
- In the electrical sockets
- n Gaps in the bed’s feet
- Cracks on the wooden furniture
- Gaps on the hardwood floor
- Dresser drawer joints
- Picture frames on the walls
- Loose wallpaper
- Bookshelves (bed bugs can even be inside the books)
Bed bugs are nocturnal pests. Bed bugs love to hide in the above areas during the day because it gives them the necessary protection.
When the night falls or the room turns dark, bed bugs come out of hiding to feed.
They target their hosts, which are humans when they’re asleep. And they bite their hosts multiple times before they find a nerve to suck out the blood.
Bed bug bites itch a lot. Itching occurs when your skin reacts to their saliva.
Signs Of Bed Bug Infestation
Like most household pests, bed bugs, too, leave behind the signs of their presence.
These signs are subtle, and you’ll find them in areas where they hide. Sometimes, you’ll need a magnifying glass and flashlight to see these signs.
Bed Bug Shells
Bed bugs molt or shed their skin to grow till they reach adulthood.
You’ll find shed skins of bed bugs in the crevices and their hiding places.
Bed Bug Eggs
Bed bug eggs are tiny, pearl white, sticking to the surface.
They also develop a black dot in the middle if they’re over five days old.
If you insert an old credit card in the crevices and slowly pull it out, you’ll find white bed bug eggs and skin sticking to it.
Even a single bed bug inside the home can cause a home-wide infestation.
A female bed bug can lay up to 200-500 eggs in her lifetime. These eggs produce more bed bugs, which breed to worsen the infestation.
As the bed bug population grows, they spread to other areas of the house.
Newly Hatched Bed Bugs
Newly hatched bed bugs or bed bug nymphs are translucent white miniature bed bugs that are hard to see, especially on light-colored bed sheets.
These baby bed bugs live in the crevices that I mentioned before. And they, too, bite.
The nymphs need regular bloodmeals to molt and grow until adulthood, ready to breed and lay eggs.
Blood Stains On Bed Sheets And Pillow Covers
Bed bugs bloat after the bloodmeals. And your body weight might crush them while tossing and turning during sleep.
When you crush them, the blood they fed on splashes out. It causes blood stains on the bedsheets.
Blackish-Red Dots On The Bed Linen And Bed Frames
These dots are fecal stains. Bed bugs leave behind liquified feces.
As bed bugs feed only human blood, bed bug feces are blackish-red dots.
Rubbing the fecal spots with a wet cloth will cause the feces to dilute into reddish stains on the fabric.
Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bite marks look like red lumps on the skin in clusters. They itch a lot.
However, people who do not react to bed bug bites won’t have these itchy welts and rashes.
Live Bed Bugs
There’s no telltale sign of bed bugs in the house than the sighting of an adult bed bug.
When the bed bug infestation is wrong, you notice them in places like walls, floors, and even inside electrical outlets.
Cheap Ways To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs On A Tight Budget
Killing bed bugs by using DIY methods isn’t an easy task. Repeated efforts and continuous monitoring are vital to get rid of bed bugs on your own, cheaply.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that you can follow right now to eliminate bed bugs without creating a hole in your pocket.
Declutter The Room To Vacuum Clean
The fewer places bed bugs have for hiding, the easier it is for you to eliminate them.
So, begin with decluttering the room. Put items like soft toys, books, bed sheets, small electronics, and clothes in plastic bags.
Seal the bags with a duct tape.
Keep The Sealed Plastic Bugs In Freezer To Kill Bed Bugs
Put the plastic bags containing soft toys, books, and fabrics in the freezer. Don’t put plastic bags containing electronic items in the freezer, as the cold can damage them.
Extreme cold kills bed bugs. So, if there are any bed bugs in these items, they’ll die in the freezer.
But you need to keep them for at least 48 hours to work.
Treat The Electronic Items For Bed Bugs
Specific pesticide strips, such as Nuvan Pro Strips that contain Dichlorvos or DDVP kill bed bugs in confined spaces.
Keep these strips in bags containing electronic items. Seal the bags and let them sit for a week.
The vapors from the strips will kill any bed bugs in the infested electronic items.
Wash The Fabrics In Hot Water
Fabrics such as bed sheets, clothes, and pillow covers can all have bed bugs. So, wash them and all your clothing in hot water with detergent. And dry them in high heat.
Bed bugs can’t withstand high heat, either. The hot water and the heat in the dryer will kill bed bugs in all life stages.
Take your vacuum cleaner and clean the entire bed without skipping the bed mattress, box springs, bed frame, headboard, and footboard of the bed.
Clean all the legs of the bed and ensure that you clean the mattress seams, labels, and felt clothes of the mattress.
Bed bugs hide in these areas, and it’s vital to clean them to get rid of them.
Vacuum the upholstery and furniture such as couches, chairs, dressers, nightstands, wardrobes, and other furniture.
Please pay close attention to the seams, cracks, spaces underneath, and the undersides of the furniture.
Carpets, rugs, curtains, drapes, and baseboards can also have bed bugs. Vacuum clean them, too.
Bed bugs hide in the carpets along the edges and corners that meet the walls, so vacuum-clean those areas.
While vacuum cleaning, move slowly and methodically. Rapid movements can cause bed bugs to scatter.
Apply slight pressure to the vacuum nozzle while cleaning. It’ll dislodge any bed bugs clinging to surfaces.
Dispose Of The Vacuum Trash Bag
After vacuum cleaning:
- Remove the vacuum dust bag.
- Put it in a plastic bag.
- Seal the plastic bag with a duct tape.
- Dispose of it in an outdoor garbage bin.
If you’re using a bagless vacuum, empty the contents into a plastic bag, seal it tightly, and dispose of it outside.
Clean the vacuum’s canister and filter thoroughly, preferably outside the house. You can use hot, soapy water for the canister.
Wash all vacuum cleaner attachments in hot water with detergent.
Heat From Steam Cleaner Kills Bed Bugs Fast
High heat kills bed bugs instantly. No wonder even the Environmental Protection Agency recommends using steam cleaner to kill bed bugs if you go the DIY route.
Steam cleaners produce heat that kills bed bugs in all lifecycle stages – adults, nymphs, and eggs.
In my experiments with bed bugs in the lab, I also found out that any heat of more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit is lethal for bed bugs.
You can use heat to your advantage to kill bed bugs instantly because most steam cleaners produce heat, which is lethal for bed bugs.
Take your steam cleaner and clean your carpets, mattress, and everything you vacuum cleaned.
Spray Chemical Pesticides
The use of pesticides is also essential to solve the bed bug problem in the house—however, not just any pesticides.
Bed bugs have developed immunity to most off-the-shelf pesticide prays. So, you’ll need a pesticide that works.
I highly recommend Crossfire bed bug killer concentrate. Mix the concentrate with a gallon of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle.
Use the spray in all the crevices, mattress, bed frame, headboard, and all the other areas where you’ve vacuum cleaned and steam cleaned.
Let the spray sit for 20 minutes to do its work. Let’s move on to another offensive strategy to kill bed bugs.
Scatter Desiccant Dust In Your Room
After steam cleaning and pesticide spray, it’s time to up your game.
Bed bugs are challenging pests to kill. So, leaving anything to chance is a big mistake.
Therefore, sprinkle any EPA-approved bed bug-killing insecticide or desiccant dust like diatomaceous earth in your room.
Ensure you scatter the DE or the dust inside the crevices on the floor, wall voids, upholstered furniture, bed frame, and electrical sockets.
Let the dust sit for half an hour to do its work.
Then, take your vacuum cleaner and clean the areas where you scattered desiccant dust. You’ll remove the dust and the dead bugs.
Track Bed Bugs With Bed Bug Traps
Many bed bugs will escape the treatment. And they’ll re-emerge to get their bloodmeals.
To prevent that, you can keep traps known as bed bug interceptors.
These are plate-like things with a sticky surface. Keep them underneath each leg of the bed.
If any bed bug tries to access your skin on the bed, it’ll have to crawl on the bed’s legs.
While doing so, they’ll get stuck in the traps.
You’ll also need these traps to monitor bed bug activity till you’re sure they’re gone.
Repeat The Above Steps
Bed bug treatment isn’t a one-off activity. Bed bugs come back even after a thorough professional treatment.
You’ll need to monitor bed bug activity in the house and repeat the above steps if you find any bed bugs.
A couple of things that indicate no bed bugs in the house are no bed bug bites and no sightings of bed bugs or their signs.
Safety Precautions And Prevention Strategies
Bed bug removal is a tricky affair, and given the exposure to pesticides and desiccant dust, it’s crucial to take precautions.
Here are a few things that you must follow while eliminating bed bugs from your home –
Take your time throwing away your belongings. You can treat most items safely by putting them in the freezer or washing the fabric in high heat.
Additionally, discarding items can be costly and might spread bugs.
Identify The Pest Correctly
Ensure that you’re dealing with bed bugs and not other pests like carpet beetles, fleas, or ticks that look like bed bugs.
Proper identification is crucial to effective treatment.
Don’t Take Things Out Of The Infested Room
The infestation can spread to the entire home if one room has bed bugs. It happens when you move the infested items from the infested area to a new room.
So, don’t move things out of the infested room.
If you have to, for example, plastic bags with fabric items for washing, do it in sealed plastic bags.
Be Cautious While Using Pesticides
Please read the safety instructions on the pesticide labels and follow them. If you need more clarification, watch YouTube videos on using pesticides properly and safely.
Never use a pesticide indoors that is meant for outdoor use. It leads to toxic exposure.
Do Not Use Bug Bomb Or Foggers
I don’t recommend using bug bombs or foggers while eliminating bed bugs. They bring not only health risks, but bug bombs make the bed bug infestation worse.
Research also backs this claim, and bug bombs can even cause a fire in the house.
Purchase Protective Covers For Your Mattress
After treating your mattress and box spring, encase them in bed bug-proof covers, also known as mattress encasements.
These mattress encasements are protective covers. They entrap and kill bugs hidden in the mattress by suffocating them.
They also act as a barrier between your skin and the mattress, preventing bed bug bites.
Keep the bed frame away from the wall and any bedding from touching the floor to prevent the bed bugs from climbing onto the bed.
Vacuum Clean Daily
Frequent vacuuming helps reduce bed bug populations. So, vacuum clean the floor and upholstered furniture daily.
But remember to seal and dispose of the contents of the vacuum trash bag outside your home immediately.
Seal Cracks And Crevices
Sealing the cracks in the walls, floor, and furniture shuts the door on the bed bugs to hide.
I recommend using silicon-based sealants for the job. These sealants are sturdy, durable, and waterproof. Also, bugs can’t chew through them.
Inform The Landlord or Neighbors
In apartment complexes, bed bugs can spread from unit to unit. Informing your landlord or apartment manager can prompt building-wide measures, often necessary to eradicate bed bugs.
Be Persistent And Patient
Bed bugs are challenging pests to eliminate. A few bed bugs will always remain and show up no matter how thorough you have been.
Getting rid of bed bugs often takes time and multiple treatment efforts. Even after you think they’re gone, you should continue to monitor for signs of their presence.
And if you find any, you must treat the place for bed bugs.
Wear protective gears such as gloves, masks, shoes, and trousers while treating bed bugs in the home.
Do not get out of the room during the treatment because bed bugs can get onto your clothes and move to other rooms.
Prevent Bed Bugs From Infesting Your Home
One of the best ways to prevent an infestation is vigilance while traveling.
Check if the hotel has a history of bed bugs before booking the hotel room.
If you find bed bugs in the hotel room during your stay, inform the hotel staff immediately and change the room.
Before leaving the hotel, inspect your luggage and clothes for adult bed bugs.
If you’ve been to a friend or relative’s place with bed bugs, check your clothes before entering your home.
Inspect secondhand furniture for bed bugs before buying. And keep your place clean and decluttered.
Daily, use bed bug repellent, such as peppermint oil spray, to prevent and keep these pests away.
Rubbing alcohol also kills and repels bed bugs. But you must use it cautiously and sparingly because it can have adverse effects.
Why Bed Bug Treatment Costs Are So High?
Depending on the intensity of the bed bug infestation, the cost of bed bug treatment can go upwards of $1500.
Bed bugs treatment, followed by termite treatment, is costly, and many factors play a role.
Exterminators use various treatment methods, such as pesticides, heat treatment, and rapid freezing solutions.
All these treatment techniques, especially heat treatment, need special equipment and professional-grade chemicals that are expensive.
Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate with just one treatment. Many homes face the bed bug problem even after three treatments.
Lousy treatment methods and post-treatment negligence can even make them come back after a year.
So, follow-up treatments are necessary. These treatments escalate the cost.
Professional Monitoring of Bed Bugs
Post-treatment pest control experts place monitoring devices, such as bed bug interceptors or place traps, to ensure they’ve all exterminated them.
This ongoing service is an additional cost. These follow-up treatments and monitoring can continue for at least a year, depending on how bad the infestation was.
Many companies give a quote by adding the monitoring cost without mentioning it separately.
The severity of the bed bug infestation, home area, labor expertise, insurance, and safety and regulatory compliances all add up to the cost.
It is possible to get rid of bed bugs if you’re broke. However, there’s a catch.
You’ll have to repeat the steps and monitor the home for bed bug infestations until you see no signs.
It takes a lot of effort because these parasitic insects are tough to eliminate.
But if you’re broke and can’t afford an exterminator, following the steps in this guide is your only tool to fight against these blood-sucking pests.