9 Ways To Kill Bed Bugs Fast

by | Bed Bugs, Insects

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If you’re sure beyond a doubt that you have bed bugs, you’ve come to the right place to find out how to kill them.

Bed bugs are killed when exposed to high heat, freezing cold, steam, dessicant powders and insecticide sprays for bed bugs. They also drown in oil or soapy water. Each method kills bed bugs within minutes or a day, but methods need to be combined and repeated for the best results.

Bed bugs are tough little pests that breed and spread rapidly. It usually takes a few rounds to kill them all because you probably won’t get them all at once, different methods kill bed bugs in different hiding places, and sometimes bugs survive depending on where they are in their life cycle.

In this article, you’ll get 9 ways to kill bed bugs quickly and easily.

Before starting any bed bug treatment, make sure you have bed bugs and not something else:

Here are all the signs to confirm you have bed bugs

Here’s how to tell the difference between bed bugs and fleas

Kill bed bugs with heat

Bed bugs die when exposed to temperatures of 115°F (46°C) and up. It can take up to 8 hours to kill all adult bed bugs, larvae, and eggs with a heat treatment.

Heat treatments are best for killing bed bugs in furniture, beds, rooms, an entire house, walls and ceilings, and material items, such as clothing, bedding, soft toys, etc.

Photo showing bedding being washed on a hot cycle and dried to kill bed bugs
Putting bedding in for a hot wash and a 30+ minute dry kills bed bugs.

Use heat to kill bed bugs by:

  • Washing material items in the washing machine and then drying on high heat for at least 30 minutes.
  • Hanging items out in full sun between midday and 2 p.m., if you live in a hot climate.
  • Sealing items in a black plastic bag and putting them in a closed car in full sun for the day, if it’s summer and you live in an area that reaches temperatures of 95°F (35°C). If you don’t, seal the items in plastic bags and leave them out in the sun for up to 5 months to kill bed bugs inside.
  • After travel, place your suitcase and your packed belongings in a bed bug heater, like this one from Amazon, to kill all bed bugs, eggs, and larvae within 8 hours. You can use this bed bug heater for household items too, even if you haven’t traveled.
  • Use a professional bed bug sanitation heater to kill bed bugs, eggs, and nymphs in about 8 hours. This is the most effective heat treatment for bed bugs and one of the methods that professional pest controllers use. Do NOT try to make your house hot enough to kill bed bugs with a propane heater, fireplace, or by turning up the thermostat. These are all fire hazards and dangerous, and they won’t kill bed bugs.
  • Click here to read my article on where to sleep if you have bed bugs.
Pros of killing bed bugs with heatCons of killing bed bugs with heat
Kills bed bugs, eggs, and larvae (nymphs)Equipment is pricey
Works in 1 day or less 
Non-toxic 
Pet friendly 
A bed bug heater kills bed bugs hiding in furniture, ceilings, floors, and walls 
Saves your belongings (you won’t have to throw things away) 
Sunshine is free 

Kill bed bugs with cold

Bed bugs usually start living in a bed, then they move on to small items like books, clothing, toys, or shoes near the bed. Click here to find out how bed bugs spread through a house.

Bed bugs die when exposed to cold temperatures of 32°F (0°C). It can take up to 3 days to kill adult bed bugs, larvae, and eggs with a cold treatment, though a cold treatment is not usually as effective as the heat treatment I describe above.

Cold treatments are best for killing bed bugs in small items, such as books, clothing, toys, shoes, etc. To kill bed bugs using cold:

  • Set the freezer to 32°F (0°C).
  • Place infested items in a plastic bag and seal the bag tightly.
  • Put the bag into the freezer, and use a thermometer to make sure the freezer is cold enough, as many freezers can’t get this cold even when they’re set for it.
  • Close the door and don’t open it again until you want to get to the bag. If you do open the door, you’ll let out all the cold air and the treatment won’t work.
  • Leave the bag in the freezer for at least 3 days, to kill the bed bugs inside.
Pros of killing bed bugs with coldCons of killing bed bugs with cold
Kills bed bugs, eggs, and larvae (nymphs)Takes a long time (at least 3 days) to kill bed bugs, if it works
Non-toxicIt doesn’t always kill all bed bugs because domestic freezers struggle to get and stay cold enough
Pet friendlyCan only treat items that are small enough to fit in the freezer
Saves your belongings (you won’t have to throw things away) 
You probably have a freezer at home, so it’s free 

Kill bed bugs with steam

Bed bugs die instantly when exposed to steam, making steam an excellent bed bug killer when it’s done the right way with a commercial steam cleaner. This method only kills bed bugs that come into direct contact with the steam, and it does need to be repeated to get bed bugs that were missed.

Steam kills bed bugs hiding up to ¾” (19 mm) deep in fabric. It instantly kills bed bugs hiding on mattresses and box springs, in carpets, in couches, and anywhere else that isn’t damaged by hot steam.

Steam also kills bed bugs hiding up to 2-3/8” (60 mm) deep in cracks in walls, floors, and ceilings.

Here’s how to kill bed bugs with steam:

  • Get a commercial steam cleaner if you don’t have one. You can buy this one on Amazon or this one (the much better option because it gets hotter). Or you can rent one for the day or try to borrow one – try to find one with a 1 gallon tank and adjustable steam output.

Don’t try this with a carpet cleaner, clothing steamer, or regular household clean steamer – it won’t work. They don’t get hot enough to kill bed bugs and you’ll waste your time.

  • Put the nozzle on the steamer, preferably a triangular nozzle. Pretty much any nozzle will work except a pointed one that blows away bed bugs.
  • If using the steam cleaner on fabric, do a small patch test to make sure the steam won’t damage the fabric before you do the entire area.
  • Start by running the steamer in a line along the fabric or surface. As soon as you run the nozzle over an area, use an infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the fabric. The surface temperature must be between 160 and 180°F (71 and 82°C) to kill bed bugs. If it isn’t, try moving the nozzle slower (to make the surface hotter) or faster (to make it cooler) until you get the temperature right, or this treatment won’t work.
  • Keep running the nozzle across items and surfaces, making sure to cover the entire area. And keep checking the surface temperature to make sure that you are getting the temperature right.
  • Once done, put a fan on in the room to dry the dampness from the steam.
  • Repeat this process every 7 to 10 days to kill any bed bugs you missed.
Pros of killing bed bugs with steamCons of killing bed bugs with steam
Very effective bed bug treatmentOnly kills bed bugs it comes into contact with, so it needs to be repeated
Kills bed bugs, eggs, and larvae (nymphs) instantly on contactIt’s fairly labor-intensive
Non-toxicA commercial steam cleaner is pricey
Pet friendlyCan damage fabrics if not done right
Saves your belongings (you won’t have to throw things away) 

Kill bed bugs by encasing them

An encasement is a material casing that’s designed to cover something, like a mattress. It’s usually pulled on to fit snugly, and then zipped up.

Photo showing an encasement on a mattress
A mattress encasement, like the one in this photo, trap bed bugs inside and starve them to death.

Encasements make it much easier to get rid of bed bugs. They trap bed bugs, so the bugs can’t bite anyone sleeping on the bed or spread through the house. Encasements also make it easier to see any bed bugs hiding on the bed.

Trapping bed bugs in an encasement kills them, but it can take up to a year for them to die of starvation. This is perfectly fine. Once an encasement is on, it can be left there for as long as needed, or even permanently.

Encasements work best for bed bugs in a mattress, a box spring, or pillows. They save your bed and bedding, so you don’t have to throw these away. Encasements are readily available at reasonable prices.

If bed bugs are living in your bed, does that mean they’re in your hair too? Here’s my article that deals with that nagging question.

Photo showing all the areas to check for bed bugs, including the seams, under the mattress, and inside the box spring
Bed bugs love hiding in a box spring bed, like the one in this photo.

To trap bed bugs and kill them, get an encasement that’s made for bed bugs specifically. Anything that isn’t made for bed bugs isn’t likely to work, and might tear or be too thin.

Another tip when buying an encasement for a mattress is to look for one that’s made from a material that won’t make a noise as you move around in your bed.

The following links take you to encasements that are popular with customers on Amazon:

The YouTube video below shows you how to put an encasement on a mattress, so you can get an idea of how an encasement works:

Pros of killing bed bugs with encasementsCons of killing bed bugs with encasements
Very effective bed bug treatmentIt can take up to a year for the bed bugs to die inside
Kills bed bugs, eggs, and larvae (nymphs) 
Non-toxic 
Pet friendly 
Saves your belongings (you won’t have to throw things away) 
Encasements are not very expensive 
Easy to use 

Kill bed bugs by drowning them

There are some ways to get bed bugs to come out of hiding, such as setting a bait trap, scraping them out, or making them think there’s a host nearby to feed on. Click here to read my article on all the ways to draw bed bugs out of hiding.

If you can get bed bugs out in the open and catch them, kill them quickly by drowning them in soapy water or cooking oil, such as olive oil. These are much more effective than plain water, which bed bugs can survive in for up to 24 hours.

You have two options to trap bed bugs before drowning them:

  1. Buy a bed bug interceptor trap

Buy 4 bed bug interceptor traps, like these from Amazon, and place 1 trap under each leg of your bed. Leave the traps there for at least a week.

Bed bugs come out every 3 days or so to feed. If you have bed bugs, it could take 3 or more days for some to get stuck in these traps so be patient.

As you trap bed bugs, throw them into a cup of soapy water or cooking oil and leave them for at least 24 hours to make sure they’re dead.

2. Make a bed bug interceptor trap

If you don’t want to buy a trap, you can easily make one by following the instructions in the following video:

Pros of killing bed bugs by drowning themCons of killing bed bugs by drowning them
Another option to bring a bed bug infestation under controlYou can only kill the ones you trap – this method needs to be used with several other methods to have any impact
Non-toxic 
Traps are a great way to find out if you have bed bugs 
Easy to do with things you have at home 

Kill bed bugs with powders

Powders that kill bed bugs are known as “dessicants.” They’re called dessicants because they dry things out, and in this case they dry out bed bugs to the point of death.

Dessicant powders take several days to kill bed bugs once the bugs have come into contact with the powder. And dessicants must be left out for at least a week, if not more, so that as many bed bugs as possible have a chance to crawl over them.

When a bed bug crawls over a dessicant, the dessicant cuts the bug’s exoskeleton. The bed bug loses a lot of moisture and slowly dehydrates until it dies.

Many people use diatomaceous earth to kill bed bugs, but cimexa powder has been proven to be much more effective at killing bed bugs. Boric acid is another dessicant that kills bed bugs.

It’s best to only use dessicants in cracks and crevices, not spread through a room or house. It isn’t healthy to breathe in these dessicants, so use them sparingly and in places where they won’t be inhaled by adults, children, or animals.

Pros of killing bed bugs with powdersCons of killing bed bugs with powders
Effective bed bug treatmentDangerous if inhaled by people, children, or pets
Saves your belongings (you won’t have to throw things away)Should only be used in cracks and crevices, leaving large areas uncovered
Powders are not very expensivePowders can get messy

Kill bed bugs with insecticide sprays

There are sprays available that kill bed bugs on contact. If a spray doesn’t come into direct contact with bed bugs or bed bug eggs, it won’t kill any of them.

A bed bug spray stays on surfaces for up to 4 weeks – read the information on the bottle to see how long the spray you choose will last. This popular one from Amazon is a spray foam that lasts 4 weeks. It expands to fill hard-to-reach places, and it kills both bed bugs and their eggs.

Any bed bugs that crawl over a sprayed area when the spray is still active will die, but once that time is up, you’ll need to spray the surfaces again.

Bed bug sprays are good for taking care of minor bed bug infestations, when there aren’t a lot of bed bugs. Sprays also work well if you know where the bed bugs are hiding, and you’d like to kill them all very quickly.

Sprays are just another option to add to the group of things you do to get rid of bed bugs – no single method will kill all bed bugs immediately and for good.

Bed bugs reproduce quickly, and you can have multiple generations living in your house at any one time. This means that bed bugs can adapt their genes quickly too, so they can become immune to sprays.

If one bed bug spray doesn’t work or stops working, it’s time to mix things up and try another one. Or you could alternate between sprays every few weeks so the bed bugs don’t build up immunity to a spray.

Here are some bed bug sprays from Amazon to try:

Pros of killing bed bugs with spraysCons of killing bed bugs with sprays
Kills bed bugs on contact, and any that crawl over the sprayed area for several weeksBed bugs can become immune to a spray if it’s used for too long
Affordable optionNeed to respray every few weeks
Not very poisonous to people or animals if the instructions are followed and EPA registered 

Kill bed bugs with UV light

In a study carried out by The Ohio State University, it was found that at least 10 seconds of exposure to UV light kills bed bugs and their eggs. [source]

What’s interesting is that the study found that even a few seconds of exposure to UV light can kill bed bugs in another way: UV light damages a bed bug’s sensory receptors (what bed bugs use to find a host to suck blood from) and makes young nymphs sluggish, so they don’t even come out to look for a host and often die.

A UV light can also be used to find bed bugs, so if you’re traveling and want to check a hotel room or area for signs of bed bugs, try using a black light flashlight like this one.

To kill bed bugs with UV light, you can purchase a UV light sanitizer from Amazon to shine directly onto bed bugs for 10 seconds or more, place small items or clothing in a UV box like this one for 3 minutes, or place items out in direct sunlight and leave them there for several hours.

Pros of killing bed bugs with UV lightCons of killing bed bugs with UV light
Sunshine is freeBed bugs must be directly exposed to the light
No chemicalsExposure must be for at least 10 seconds, but longer is better
 Bed bugs could drop off items hanging in the sun and crawl to a new hiding place
 People and animals should not be directly exposed to the UV light

Kill bed bugs with foggers (bug bombs)

Foggers or bug bombs, like these, that are designed to kill bed bugs do kill bed bugs, but not all of them.

Foggers can’t reach bed bugs hiding in tiny cracks in furniture and walls. These bed bugs survive the fogging, and then they crawl away to other rooms in the house or to a neighbor. This spreads the infestation and makes it harder to get under control.

Foggers are also dangerous and can be toxic if not used correctly.

These are all reasons why foggers are not recommended to kill bed bugs, especially if you are doing it yourself and not using a pest control professional.

Pros of killing bed bugs with foggersCons of killing bed bugs with foggers
 Doesn’t kill bed bugs hiding in tiny cracks
 Can be dangerous
 Can be toxic
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I'm Monique. I love gardening and spending time in my backyard growing things. Here's where I share what I know about backyard pests and what to do about them, so you can enjoy your yard too.

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MONIQUE

Monique loves gardening and spending time in her backyard, where she grows flowers, succulents, herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

Monique spends a lot of time researching how to protect her backyard from harmful pests and trying to attract beneficial insects and animals.

She shares everything that she learns and tests here at Backyard Pests.

 

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