How to Combat Bedbugs

Well, if you don't know about the bedbug explosion - uh, the explosion of bed bugs, you've probably been unconscious for the last year. These small, biting bugs are voracious, very hard to kill and, if you listen to the news reports, almost everywhere. This would include hotels, movie theaters, retail dressing rooms, offices, dorm rooms, airports - you name it.

Eradicated for the most part by the widespread use of DDT, they're making a big 21st century comeback and may hitch a ride to your house if you're not careful.

How to Fight Bedbugs

Here are some helpful suggestions for avoiding an infestation:

When you travel, check your hotel mattress for signs of bugs. You may see specks along the seams of mattresses or even the bugs themselves on the backs of headboards or along bed frames. Ask for a room change if you see anything suspicious, or better yet, change hotels.

If you wake up with an itchy bite, make sure to take precautions when you get home. Keep your luggage in the garage until you've had a chance to inspect and vacuum it thoroughly and wash all of your travel clothing in very hot water.

Your exposure isn't limited to places where you may sleep over. Anywhere people gather could be a potential infestation site if there are areas where hitchhiking bedbugs can hide and feed. This includes upholstered furniture, carpeting and clothing. Make it a habit to shake out your coat before you enter your home, and place your dirty clothing away from your sleeping area and in a segregated spot that isn't carpeted, like a laundry room. Wash your street clothes as soon after wearing them as possible.

If you do inadvertently bring bedbugs home, act fast. Bedbugs dislike strongly smelling herbs and heat. Wash bedding, vacuum everything thoroughly, steam clean your mattress, wash your drapes and put down any of a number of pesticide sprays or powders that deter bedbugs specifically. There are links below to a couple of good homemade herbal preparations, but there are also lots of products on the market. There is no silver bullet, so diligence is your best ally.

You should also keep some kind of protection in your luggage when you travel. A lavender scented sachet will be unappealing to your average bedbug, which may then shun your belongings in favor of something less fragrant. Keeping a sachet in your bedding, like between the sheets and under the pillow, can deter them if you think you may have nocturnal visitors but aren't quite sure, or are in the midst of a cleanup campaign. Washing your bedding with lavender essential oil will help too.

Once you have an infestation in your home, it can be notoriously hard to get rid of. The bugs like staying within a few feet of their feeding area - your bed, but when they hide, they can choose the open space behind electrical outlets, under wallpaper and behind baseboards. You can't starve them out, either. Bedbugs can go without eating for months and months, so just closing the door on an infestation won't work.

As soon as you recognize that you have a problem, start work and think CLEAN. Wash all of your textiles regularly in hot water, and use steam to clean everything else you can. A handheld steamer works great and will help you tackle your mattress and access other hard to reach spots on upholstered furniture. Stay with a treatment regimen through to the end. For more info, background and some treatment options, the links below will help:

They Crawl, They Bite, They Baffle Scientists (The New York Times)
The Bedbug Blues

Natural Bedbug Control (My blog post with homemade bedbug repellent recipes.)
4 Places Bedbugs Hide and How to Avoid Them


  1. I really enjoy reading your blog but could have gone all day without reading this entry! ;) Just ewww! But it's important to be educated about such things so thanks for helping in that endeavor.

  2. CookinsForMe:

    It's a shocker all right. You wouldn't believe the number of searches I see on this topic - scary.


  3. Anonymous12:36:00 AM

    I have encountered them in my home and I'm scared! I washed everything and still got bit just last night. Preparing for an infestation :{


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