How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Kill Bed Bugs Instantly, Bed Bug Treatments

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | March 29, 2024

Man in bed with bugs wonders how to get rid of bed bugs and how to kill bed bugs naturally as well as when to call an exterminator for bed bug infestations.

If you need to know how to get rid of bed bugs, you’re not alone.

These pesky critters made a come back in the 1990’s and can be a menace.

These blood-sucking creepy crawlers love to share sleeping space with humans, delivering itchy bites that can lead to uncomfortable sleepless nights. What’s even scarier is that they are everywhere, restaurants, hotels, airports, movie theaters, making it easy to inadvertently bring these bugs into your home.

In fact, a whopping 1 in 5 Americans has either faced a bed bug infestation or knows someone who has.1

In addition, when you understand how to get rid of bed bugs, you’ll know that it can be a time-consuming and expensive proposition, one that requires a months-long, multi-angled approach to ensure the bugs stay gone forever.

The good news is that while it’s not necessarily the easiest pest to eliminate from your home, tackling a bed bug infestation is possible, it just requires knowing how to get rid of bed bugs properly (and completely).

No matter how intimidating these irritating insects may seem, this guide explains many ways to eliminate bedbugs from your home (or other space) and explores when to call an exterminator to kill bed bugs.

How Can I Tell if I Have Bed Bugs?

While actually seeing a bed bug in your home is the easiest way to know your home is infested, it’s possible to suffer from a serious bed bug problem without ever spotting one of these tiny insects.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to tell if your home has been invaded by these blood-sucking critters.

Bed Bugs

(Cimex lectularius and C. hemipterus)

Two bed bugs with reddish-brown, oval-shaped bodies on a textured white fabric, encased within an oval outline on a green background.
  • Description: Brown, Oval, ¼-inch long
  • Natural Habitat: C. lectularius is found all around the globe, while C. hemipterus is found in the tropics
  • Locations: Found anywhere people sleep

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Once you’ve determined you have an infestation, the next step in deciding how to get rid of bed bugs is to determine whether to do it yourself or bring in the pros.

Graphic of the do's and don'ts to get rid of bed Bugs" with illustrations of recommended practices like decluttering and using heat treatments, and warnings against using flammable substances or excessive heating methods.

Here’s how to decide which of these pest control options is right for your family.

Is DIY Bed Bug Treatment Right for You?

While getting rid of bed bugs is a challenge, some homeowners can tackle this task without calling an exterminator.

While a bed bug exterminator may be able to get rid of bed bugs in one day, it often takes much longer for DIY treatment. Expect to spend several weeks to a few months getting rid of bed bugs on your own, with some aspects of eliminating an infestation taking as long as a full year.6

DIY options work best for smaller infestations where the entire family is willing to work together to eliminate bed bugs. It also works best when you are willing to be patient and don’t expect your bed bug problem to go away instantly.

Finally, DIY treatment works well for homeowners who are willing to eliminate clutter, which bed bugs love to hide in, or those who have little clutter in the home to begin with.

When To Call Exterminator for Bed Bugs

In some cases, DIY bed bug treatment isn’t the best choice, and it’s best to call an exterminator to eliminate the infestation. Calling in the pros is the best choice if someone in your family is having an allergic reaction to bed bug bites, because professional extermination is faster than DIY treatments.

It’s also best to hire a professional if you don’t have the time or inclination to declutter your home and continually work at managing the infestation over a period of weeks or months.

If you have people living in your home, such as roommates, who aren’t willing to commit to your bed bug removal plan, you are unlikely to have success with DIY treatments and will likely need bed bug heat treatment that only professional contractors can provide.

Bed Bug Treatment: DIY Cost vs Exterminator Prices

Getting rid of bed bugs on your own is a huge time investment, but doesn’t actually cost much money. You may need to spend a nominal amount on things like mattress protectors or pesticides, but the real cost comes in time and elbow grease.

Bed bug exterminator prices vary depending on where you live and the condition of your property and home. Expect the bill to start around $500 to treat a small apartment, with the cost of managing bed bugs in a single family home starting at around $2,000.7

The average homeowner in the U.S. will spend around $3,250 to hire a professional to exterminate bed bugs.8

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like?

Bed bugs are reddish-brown, flat and oval-shaped. They can range from 1-7 mm in length, that’s about the size of Lincoln’s head on the U.S. penny, and are about the shape of an apple seed.

The younger bugs, or nymphs, are smaller and may be yellow or translucent, and the eggs produced by these insects are white.

If you catch a bug you suspect might be a bed bug and you need to identify it for sure, contact your local extension office of the National Pesticide Information Center.2 This government agency works with local universities and their staff will identify bugs for free.

How Do Bed Bugs End Up in Homes?

Residents often bring bed bugs home without knowing.3

Inspect both new and used furniture and other items for signs of bed bugs before bringing them inside.

A man kneeling on the floor, putting clothes inside an open washing machine in a bright laundry room.

(Image: RDNE Stock project15)

If you stay in a hotel, keep your suitcase on a stand away from walls and furniture, and wash all the clothing from your suitcase as soon as you get home.

Before you sleep in a hotel bed, inspect the frame, mattress, box spring and linens for any signs of bed bugs.

What Are the Other Signs of Bed Bugs?

You could have a serious bed bug problem in your home without ever spotting one of these insects crawling around.

One way to tell is to look for bites that show up on your body. While they often appear one to two days after a bite, they can take as long as 14 days to develop.4

Bed bug bites can look like mosquito or tick bites, and some people don’t show any sign at all after being bitten by a bed bug.

One classic bed bug sign is a cluster of three to five bites in a zig-zag pattern.

Beyond looking for bugs or bite marks, you can identify a bed bug infestation by examining your bedding for small, rust-colored spots, that’s the bloody fecal matter produced by these bugs.

You might also spot shed exoskeletons or smell a sweet, musty odor.4 Finally, check all the small crevices around your bed, including furniture, curtains and wall hangings for any sign of bugs, eggs or fecal matter.

What Other Bugs Look Like Bed Bugs?

Maybe you’ve spotted a suspicious bug in your house and you’re worried it’s a bed bug. The good news is that some other insects are often mistaken for bed bugs, so it’s best to make sure what kind of infestation you’re dealing with before you take action.

For example, cockroaches are dark brown like bed bugs, but are 1.5 to 2 inches long with a thinner oval shape.5 Ticks have a similar brown color and shape to bed bugs, but have eight legs instead of six, making it fairly easy to tell them apart with a close look.

Carpet beetles are another bed bug look-alike, but are slightly smaller, usually around 1/5th of an inch long.5

DIY Options For Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

So you’ve decided to tackle your bed bug problem on your own instead of spending money on a professional. Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs and make sure they don’t return.

What Not To Do When Getting Rid of Bed Bugs

Before making a plan to eliminate an infestation, here are some things you definitely should not do:

  1. No rubbing alcohol, kerosene or gasoline.6 They don’t kill bed bugs and are dangerous for your family.
  2. Do not attempt to heat your house or a room in your house to eliminate bed bugs. Yes, this is what the pros do, but they have tools homeowners don’t have access to.
    You cannot safely heat up your home enough to kill bed bugs using a thermostat, space heater or fireplace.6

Home Remedies for Bed Bugs

The first step in getting rid of bed bugs is to eliminate their hiding places. That means decluttering your home, discarding items you don’t want, and bagging up items you want to keep in sealed plastic bags.

A person holding boxes while decluttering, with various stacked boxes and items in the background of a room.

(Image: Andrea Piacquadio13)

Use silicone caulk to seal any cracks or joints where bugs can hide, if these spots can fit a credit card, bed bugs can hide in them.6

Next, keep bed bugs from reaching a potential food source.

Wrap mattresses and box springs in protective plastic covers and use interceptor traps at the base of bed legs.6 Vacuum carpets and drapery and be sure to empty the vacuum canister and dispose of the contents outdoors.

Finally, use heat or cold to treat all the possessions you bagged up. You can dry clothes and linens in the dryer on high heat.

All other items can be left in the plastic bag and put into a freezer kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for at least three days to kill bugs and their eggs.6

Chemical Bed Bug Treatment

While many people want to reach for the bug spray the moment they spot an insect in their home, pesticides are only a small part of successful bed bug treatment and they are useless if you don’t first eliminate all the bed bug hiding spots in your home.5

If you spray roach spray or similar chemical pesticides directly onto a bed bug, it will likely kill that bug, but it will also drive all the other bed bugs into your home into hiding, which can cause an infestation to spread. Instead, consider dry power desiccants or pesticide-grade diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs more effectively, and with less danger to your family.6

What Problems Can Bed Bugs Cause?

Many people associate bed bugs with itchy bites and restless nights, but these annoying insects can do more than interrupt your shuteye; in fact, some infestations are so bad that people abandon their belongings or even their homes to free themselves of this problem.

How Do Bed Bugs Affect Health?

The most common health issue associated with bed bugs is their bite. For many people, these bites cause itchy bumps that go away in a week or two, but the itching, especially if you know bed bugs are the culprit, can cause insomnia and leave you tired and cranky in the morning.9

Worse yet, bed bug bites don’t always go away without much trouble.

A close-up of a bed bug on human skin.

(Image: British Pest Control Association14)

Some people can have an allergic reaction, resulting in red skin, swollen bite sites and hives.9 Others may develop infections at the bite site, leading to tenderness and discharge that may require antibiotics to cure.9

If bites are keeping you up at night while you’re working to tackle an infestation, an antihistamine or corticosteroid can help you manage your symptoms.9

How Do Bed Bugs Affect Your Home?

The impact of a bed bug infestation goes well beyond itchy bites.

People dealing with these insects often throw away significant amounts of property, including mattresses, box springs, upholstered chairs, drapery, carpet, clothing and luggage.7 Because some items like papers or books can be hard to treat for bed bugs, these items, some of which may be irreplaceable, can be lost forever.

Even worse is the knowledge that if you have bed bugs in your home, you could be transporting them everywhere you go, from the workplace to friend’s homes to the movie theater to public transit and beyond.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live?

Knowing that bed bugs can cause major headaches, you may be tempted to spring for a week in a hotel. After all, with nothing to feed on in your home, the bed bugs will die, right?

Unfortunately, bed bugs can live months without a single bite of blood, so attempting to starve them out is sure to be a losing battle.4

As long as both a male and a female bed bug get at least one meal every 14 days, they can continue to produce eggs, with each female producing 200 to 500 eggs in her 6 to 12 month lifetime.10

So leaving for vacation won’t kill the bugs off, but what about freezing them out in the winter, or killing them with heat? These resilient little insects are fully active in temperatures as in the mid-40s Fahrenheit, and continue thriving until the thermostat hits a sustained 113° Fahrenheit, not something the average person can achieve on their own.10

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Professional Bed Bug Treatment

If you’re tired of bed bug bites or you just don’t have the time or patience to deal with an infestation on your own, it’s time to hire a bed bug exterminator with the experience to kick out these unwanted house guests for good.

How To Prepare for Bed Bug Treatment

The cheapest way to hire an exterminator is to find one that allows you to do all the preparation work in your home before they come in.11

This means that you will have to declutter your home, bag your possessions and move your furniture away from the walls.

A man in a blue shirt and dark pants preparing for bed bug treatment by carefully moving a teal sofa in a room with wooden walls and a patterned floor mat.

(Image: RDNE Stock project16)

The risk of choosing this route is that you may inadvertently spread bed bugs around your home while you complete this process.

Full-service bed bug treatment costs more, but is less likely to spread the infestation further than it has already spread. In this scenario, the extermination company will bag and treat your possessions, move your furniture and handle other preparations prior to treatment.

How Do Exterminators Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

You may picture exterminators as people carrying big tanks of pesticides and industrial sprayers, but for bed bugs, exterminators typically rely on much more than just chemicals.

In fact, bed bug pros rely on a concept called integrated pest management.11 This means they use a combination of chemicals and heat, as well as barriers, encasement and other techniques, including plans for monitoring and follow-up to ensure bed bugs don’t return.

Heat treatment for bed bugs means that exterminators will use industrial heaters to heat a room or even an entire house to a temperature that bed bugs can’t survive. They may have equipment known as a heat box that can fit a mattress or other furniture, allowing them to apply heat only where they need to.

Some will use spray or powdered insecticides, while others will use physical barriers like mattress protectors to keep bed bugs contained.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs: Best Practices for Choosing a Bed Bug Exterminator

It can be overwhelming trying to choose a professional to help with your bed bug infestation. Make the most of your investment by choosing a company experienced in a facility, single family home, apartment, town home, like yours.11

Ask for references and call each one to ask what previous clients have to say about the company.

Don’t trust a company that gives you a quote without visiting your property, and make sure to ask how the exterminator plans to monitor your home after treatment to ensure the bugs don’t return.

Both are viable options, but the choice comes down to your budget and personal preference, as well as what is common practice on how to get rid of bed bugs among exterminators in your location.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Are Bed Bugs a Sign of a Dirty Home?

No, home cleanliness and hygiene has nothing to do with whether you will get bed bugs. Bed bugs don’t seek out dirt and dust; they are looking for blood, warm spaces and carbon dioxide, all of which they can conveniently find anywhere that humans live.5

Do Bed Bugs Bite Pets?

Yes. While bed bugs prefer to bite humans, they will seek out other mammals, like dogs and cats, and will even feed off of birds in a pinch.10

How Do I Prevent Bed Bug Infestations?

The best way to keep bed bugs from taking over your home is to regularly keep an eye out for signs of these bugs. Routine inspections will let you tackle a small bed bug problem before it becomes a big one, which is much cheaper and easier than waiting until the infestation gets out of control.4

Can Bed Bugs Transmit Disease?

No. There are no reported cases or studies of bed bugs transmitting diseases from human to human.

Who Is Most At Risk for Bed Bugs?

People who travel or who regularly sleep in a bed where others have previously slept are at greatest risk for bed bugs.12


1Cleveland Clinic. (2022, October 14). Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Bites. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

2Oregon State University, & U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2023). County Extension Offices. NPIC | National Pesticide Information Center. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

3New York State. (2021, May). Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them. New York State Department of Health. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

4U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2020, September 16). Bed Bugs FAQs. CDC. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

5U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, August 14). Bed Bug Myths. EPA. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

6U.S Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, May 31). Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control. EPA. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

7Gibb, T. J., Gondhalekar, A., & Gibb, T. S. (2017, August 24). Will Bed Bugs Hurt Me? [PDF]. Purdue University. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

8Wallender, L. (2023, January 10). How Much Does A Bed Bug Exterminator Cost In 2023? Forbes Home. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

9American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2023, October 24). Bed bugs: Diagnosis and treatment. AAD | American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

10U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, October 4). How to Find Bed Bugs. EPA. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

11Merchant, M., & Brown, W. (2013, June 13). How to Select a Bed Bug Control Provider. Arkansas Department of Health. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

12WebMD Editorial Contributor. (2023, July 18). Bedbugs: How to Identify and Prevent an Infestation. WebMD. Retrieved October 24, 2023, from <>

13Photo by Andrea Piacquadio. Resized and changed format. Pexels. Retrieved from <>

14Photo by British Pest Control Association. CC BY 2.0 Deed. Resized and Changed Format. Flickr. Retrieved from <>

15Photo by RDNE Stock project. Resized and changed format. Pexels. Retrieved from <>

16Photo by RDNE Stock project. Resized and changed format. Pexels. Retrieved from <>