When you fall asleep, these critters come out from hiding and viciously attack you. They bite you over and over again. They’re courteous, though. The hollow tubes they use to pierce your skin and suck your blood contain a powerful but temporary painkiller, so you won’t feel their handiwork until the morning.
We’re talking about bedbugs, and these guys don’t discriminate. Fortunately, we’ve got more than two dozen effective home remedies for your bed bugs so that you can say goodbye to them (hopefully) forever.
Bed bugs can settle anywhere, and once they’ve set up shop in your mattress or on your furniture, it’s a battle of wills to get them gone.
You may be interested in taking a natural approach for these reasons:
- It’s low-cost (maybe even free).
- You can act right away instead of having to schedule an appointment with an exterminator.
- You avoid the toxic chemicals that an exterminator uses when they address the problem.
Most of our solutions utilize things you’ve already got in the house, but if you do need to go out and purchase something, it should be relatively inexpensive.
What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny insects1 that feed on the blood of humans and animals. They tend to be active at night, and they’re adept at hiding in dark, soft places and crevices. This makes the mattress an ideal spot for them to settle, hence the name “bed bug.”
They’re hard to spot with the naked eye because they’re so tiny (about the size of a grain of rice), but if you’ve got them wandering around your house and munching on you and your family members, you’ll be sure to know it. Their bites, though harmless, are itchy and uncomfortable.
Where Do Bed Bugs Come From?
Though it seems like they spontaneously appear, bed bugs come bed from outside sources2. It could mean the literal outdoors, or you may pick them up during travels to hotels, friends’ houses, or even from buying used clothes or furniture.
Another source of an infestation is if a neighbor with a shared wall sets off a bug bomb. These critters are too smart for their own good. When the noxious fumes get released, they seek out a safe haven, and that usually means a neighbor’s house.
These guys have very flattened bodies. That means that they can slip through nearly invisible cracks and crevices.
Signs of a Bed Bug Infestation
Bites on Your Skin
The most apparent sign is having bites on your skin3. Unlike a flea bite, the ones from a bed bug often show up in groups. They’ll be arranged in a straight line because these carnivorous beings like to travel up your arm or leg, taking continuous blood samples.
Those red- and rusty-looking stains are blood—your blood, to be precise. It could be blood from your bites, or it could occur from these critters getting squashed after their feast.
Everybody poops, including bed bugs. If you see black dots and stains, this is a combination of fecal matter and the skin they shed as the babies become adults. Sounds appetizing, right?
These are hard to spot because of the small size and light color, but stay on alert for tiny specks of ivory material on your bed, in your furniture, or on the carpet.
You may even see these guys roaming around from time to time. They’re really tiny, but if you look closely, you may be able to spot them occasionally. After they’ve fed, they’ll be bigger, redder, and easier to see.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
Suck those babies up with a strong vacuum cleaner and a powerful hose attachment. You should probably vacuum at least every few days while battling an infestation. Be thorough and use the vacuum on the mattress, bedding, and soft furniture, like sofas and cushy chairs.
Start on elevated surfaces and slowly make your way downward, paying special attention to the carpet, floors, and any cracks in the walls or floorboards. Check electrical appliances like fans and even your laptop for signs of an infestation.
When you’re done vacuuming, discard of the vacuum bag outside, as far away from your home as possible.
For places the vacuum can’t reach, steam cleaning is an option. The heat will kill the bedbugs and eggs, and they will die when exposed to temperatures exceeding 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow the steam cleaner’s instructions carefully to avoid damaging your furniture.
Washing All Clothes and Bedding
Check your labels to make sure the fabrics can tolerate hot water and tumble drying. Then wash everything that’s been exposed to these critters. The combination of hot water and dryer heat will help kill off the colony.
Get More Info: How Often Should You Wash Your Sheets?
The little packets4 you find in food products and shoe boxes to keep the contents dry could also help kill off insects. To use them, grind up the beads and spread the powder around the source areas. If you’ve got kids or pets, you may want to avoid this technique, as direct exposure and silica inhalation is harmful. Instead, opt for baking soda, which has a similar effect.
Pour it in a spray bottle and spritz away. The alcohol will kill bugs on contact.
Scented Dryer Sheets
The smell from the dryer sheets can repel the insects and even encourage them to seek out other spots to inhabit. However, this solution is likely best used as a temporary one, because they’ll just find a more hospitable place in your home to hang out.
If you’re in a hurry to get to sleep and you don’t have days to wait for these other solutions to take effect, blast your hair dryer over the affected areas. The heat will kill the bugs and allow you to go to sleep without having to worry about being someone’s dinner.
Run a stiff brush along the mattress seams. This will dislodge any clinging bed bugs and eggs that resist the suction of a vacuum cleaner.
Wrap this along the circumference of the bedposts along the floor. That way, as bugs try to climb up into bed with you, they’ll get stuck at base camp. Make sure you don’t sabotage your efforts by dragging blankets across the floor. If you neglect to keep blankets, pillows, and clothing off the floor, then don’t be surprised if the more enterprising bugs hitch a ride.
You may know that baking soda absorbs moisture5 in the refrigerator, but did you know that it also sucks moisture out of bed bugs’ bodies? To use this powder, spread it wherever find bugs, including cracks and crevices. Be sure to vacuum and reapply every few days.
This product is a miracle against all types of bugs, including fleas. It’s made from naturally occurring sedimentary rock that’s crumbled into a fine powder. To use it successfully, spread it all over the floor and in cracks and crevices. It can take up to 10 days to work, but the fine powder has tiny shards that kill insects.
We don’t suggest putting it on your mattress, as tempting as it may sound. The reason is that those shards, though microscopic, can get into your lungs and cause damage.
Bed Bug Herbal Remedies
Tea tree oil6 is a fresh-smelling essential oil that has antimicrobial properties, so it does double duty as a cleaning agent in your home. It kills bacteria and fungi and neutralizes viruses on contact.
It works on these insects by suffocating them as the oil works its way into their system. However, it’s most effective when used undiluted. Unfortunately, an undiluted version isn’t safe for humans. Still, you may see some benefit, or at least a pleasant-smelling home, by spraying diluted tea tree oil around the house. To make the diluted formula, place about 20 drops of oil in a spray bottle filled with water.
The smell of lavender makes a bed bug feel nauseous and can even lead to their death. Most humans, however, find the scent quite pleasant. Triple the effectiveness of this solution by washing items with lavender soap, spraying diluted essential oils and spreading leaves over affected areas.
Peppermint leaves have the same effect as lavender oil and leaves. Utilize the same strategies and don’t forget to regularly vacuum up old leaves and replace them with fresh versions until the infestation is gone.
Black Walnut Tea
This variety of tea is a natural insect repellent. To employ this strategy, simply take your used tea bags and put them in areas that are infested with the bugs. Place them around the house, in every nook, cranny, and corner you can think of.
This tall plant found mainly in wetlands is also an effective insect repellent. The herbal version comes in a packet that you can mix into a solution and spray around the house.
Bean leaves work kind of like a natural flypaper to trap insects, including bed bugs. Back in 1943, researchers discovered7 that the microscopic hairs on the leaves worked to both entangle and impale the limbs of these critters. Put these leaves on the floor of any room with unwanted inhabitants and prepare to be impressed.
The leaves of Indian Lilac have a similar effect to other plant-based, herbal remedies. You can crush the leaves and spread them about. Or alternatively, boil the leaves, strain the solution and add it to your bath water. The result is that bed bugs no longer to snack on you!
This technique can be used for closet and clothes infestations. Spray the solution in closets, on sofas, and around the home to repel these critters.
You’ve probably heard of people burning sage to rid a home of evil spirits, but have you heard of burning thyme8 to ward off bed bugs? It’ll take some time (ha-ha), and the process must be repeated every few days until they’re gone, but if you tie a stick of thyme with a cloth, and then burn it near infested areas, the bugs will look for friendlier abodes.
As always, practice fire safety. Burning your house down will also get rid of them, but that’s not recommended, obviously.
Mint leaves can be a preventive measure. If you place crushed leaves around entry points, it will dissuade them from coming into your home. They’re also safe to use in your closet and directly on your mattress.
Don’t be alarmed by the description, but Beauveria Bassiana is a parasitic fungus9 that feeds on insects. Its ruthlessly attacks bed bugs, rendering them infertile, immobile and unable to feed.
Unlike some of the other natural solutions that only repel the insects, lemongrass actually kills them. The acid levels kill the bugs and their eggs. Plus, they hate the smell, so it does also serve as a repellent.
Cloves act much in the same way as lemongrass. If you’re not a fan of how lemongrass smells, opt for cloves and clove oil instead. You can even put clove oil on mattresses and pillows to ward these critters off.
This extract is derived from chrysanthemums. The chrysanthemum, also called a mum, is a bright flower that can be found in a variety of colors. It also works as a natural killer by attacking the nervous system.
When mixed with other natural items like ginger and oregano, cayenne pepper works to kill a bed bug on contact. Here’s how to make this natural solution:
- Mix one teaspoon each of cayenne pepper, ground ginger, and oregano oil.
- Strain the ingredients and add to a spray bottle filled with water.
- Spray to your heart’s content.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do their bites look like?
The bites are red and form welts. Often there will be multiple bites in one spot that form a straight line or a show a linear progression. Unlike flea bites, which are relatively flat, bites from these insects will often be raised.
Do homemade repellents work?
Yes, though some work better than others. As you’ll see in our list of home remedies and treatments for bed bugs, some kill the insects directly on contact, while others either encourage them to go elsewhere or discourage them from entering.
How can I get rid of their eggs?
We’ve found heat to the be the most reliable solution to getting rid of the eggs. This means washing materials in hot water and drying them thoroughly on high heat. For items that can’t sustain that kind of treatment, steam them or blast them with a hairdryer.
Did you know that bedbugs were nearly eradicated back in the 1940s? But starting in 1995, they became rampant in homes and hotels. The reason is still a mystery, but researchers believe it was a combination of increased travel, pesticide resistance, and of people forgetting how icky these critters are that allowed them to come back with such a vengeance.
Fortunately, there are a variety of effective solutions you can try to rid your home of these insects for good.
Looking to upgrade your mattress? Explore our picks for the best mattresses of 2024.
Lead Product Tester
Julia is the Lead Reviewer at Sleep Advisor, specializing in testing out mattresses and sleep accessories – she’s in the right line of work, because she loves to sleep.
- Potter, Michael F. “Bed Bugs”. University of Kentucky. Last modified July 2020.
- “Bed Bugs – What They Are and How to Control Them”. New York State Department of Health. Last modified May 2021.
- “Bed Bugs FAQs”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified September 16, 2020.
- Lavon, Ophir., Bentur, Yedidia. “Silica Gel: Non-Toxic Ingestion with Epidemiologic and Economic Implications”. National Library of Medicine. 2015.
- Lindquist, Shannon. “Endless uses of baking soda”. Michigan State University. 2013.
- “Tea Tree Oil”. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Last modified October 2020.
- Nuwer, Rachel. “Bean Leaves Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite by Using Tiny, Impaling Spikes”. Smithsonian Magazine. 2013.
- Rindels, Sherry. “All We Have is Thyme”. Iowa State University. 1997.
- Ortiz-Urquiza, Almudena. “The Split Personality of Beauveria bassiana: Understanding the Molecular Basis of Fungal Parasitism and Mutualism”. ASM Journals. 2021.