How to get rid of bed bugs 2022: Tips, tricks and our pick of the best bug-removal products

Kate Hilpern Will Georgiadis
9 Jun 2021

Don’t let the bed bugs bite – find out about these creepy vermin and how to drive them from your home

If you want to know how to get rid of bed bugs, then you're most likely already dealing with an infestation. The first step is to remain calm: bed bugs aren't dangerous, nor do they carry diseases. That's the good news: the bad news is that these hugely irritating insects love nothing more than to feast on your blood while you sleep. And despite the name, you will also find them attached to your clothing, furniture and other personal effects.

More good news: Bed bugs are tiny. They're roughly the size of an apple seed, and only really grow to around 6mm in length. Of course, this means it's easy for them to fit into the smallest crevices around your room: in your bed itself, or in the cracks in your wall, the skirting boards and the plug sockets. They nap during the day and sneak out at night to do what they do best (bite you).

The key to getting rid of bed bugs is in knowing your enemy. That's why we've put this guide together: below, we've outlined everything you need to know about the minuscule menaces, and then explained exactly how to get rid of them, including reviews and links to our favourite bedbug-removal products.

Without further ado, here's how to get rid of bed bugs.

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Best ways to get rid of bed bugs: At a glance

How to get rid of bed bugs

A quick entomology lesson

While male bed bugs are purely built for blood-sucking, females can lay up to five eggs a day and up to 500 in one lifetime. These baby bed bugs – known as nymphs – shed their skin five times before they are fully grown, and the little horrors need more blood before each shedding. They can potentially grow to fully fledged bed bugs in just one month, then produce three or even more generations every year.

And because bed bugs can crawl long distances, they can spread like wildfire around your home. They particularly like fabrics and wood but can also be found everywhere from the edges of carpets to behind wall-mounted pictures.

Scarier still, even if bed bugs don’t get access to your blood, they can survive for up to a year, which makes eradicating them all the more difficult.

Here are a few common misconceptions:

  • Bed bugs only live in dirty homes: Because bed bugs survive on blood alone, the reality is you’re just as likely to find them in spotless homes.
  • Bed bugs nest: Unlike ants and bees, bed bugs don’t have nests, but they do find common hiding places, so you are likely to find them in groups.
  • Bed bugs only live in your bed: Of course, bed bugs love beds because it means easy access to your blood. However, once they start spreading you can find them anywhere in your home.
  • It hurts when bed bugs bite: Although they have to pierce your skin to access your blood – which they feed on for several minutes, accessing any area of the body they can find – they do this mainly while you’re sleeping. You only feel discomfort when the bites turn into itchy marks or lumps later (not that that’s a whole lot of comfort).

How can I prevent bed bugs?

  • Check any second-hand bedroom furniture (beds, bedside cabinets etc) thoroughly before bringing them into your home
  • Avoid buying second-hand mattresses
  • Inspect your mattress and bed regularly
  • Keep your bedroom clutter-free – and so cut down on their hiding places
  • If you think you've stayed in an infested room, check everything you have with you (luggage, clothing etc) for bugs, using the top tips below. Ideally, wash them on a hot (60°C) cycle. Alternatively, dry clean everything or put them in a freezer for at least three days to kill all the critters off.

How can I tell if I have an infestation of bed bugs?

There are several tell-tale signs:

  • You wake up with itchy bites you didn’t have the night before; these often appear in straight lines on your body
  • You got a used bed or other used furniture when these bites started
  • There are tiny blood stains on your sheets or pillowcase
  • There are small dark or rusty spots of dried bedbug poo on your sheets, pillowcase, mattress (don’t forget to look on the underside) or other areas around the home, including walls
  • There are signs of shed skin (tiny mottled bug-shaped exoskeletons) around your home
  • There are signs of tiny white eggs in the crevices and joints of your mattress and furniture – you may need a torch to find them
  • There’s a musty smell in your bedroom

If you think you have an infestation, remove all bedding and check for excrement signs, then check for these excrement signs in the mattress and on the bed frame, as well as all around the bed including on the carpet, in books, clocks, phones and plugs. Don’t forget to examine your wardrobe as bed bugs love clothes, and it’s worth checking any other fabrics in the room like curtains, cushions and cuddly toys. You should also inspect whether the bed bugs have spread into other areas of your home. Still not sure? Use bed bug traps under furniture legs and the bedframe to monitor whether you have any bed bugs. And if you’re not sure about the signs, pest control can help (see point 6 below).

I have a bed bug infestation – what next?

1. Wash all the fabrics in the relevant room – including bedding, clothing and curtains – on a high setting (ideally 60°C) and/or put them in a tumble drier on a hot setting for half an hour; the heat will kill the bed bugs. Alternatively, dry clean all affected items, as the chemicals also kill bed bugs.

2. Scrub all surrounding areas, especially around your bed, with a stiff brush, then vacuum thoroughly to suck up the bugs, getting rid of the sealed bag outside immediately. Don’t forget the walls, paintings and all furniture – and pay special attention to bed and furniture legs, carpet edges and door or window frames.

3. Apply a chemical bed bug treatment (spray or steamer) to all the areas mentioned above, taking care to use a product that is safe for bedrooms and bedding. See below for specific mattress cleaning instructions. Be sure to check if, and how often, you need to reapply the treatment.

4. Repair cracks in the plaster or wallpaper to seal up favourite bed bug hiding places.

5. Keep the area around your bed as clear as possible. Consider using bed bug traps under furniture legs and the bed frame.

6. If you feel overwhelmed by the infestation or aren’t sure you’re successfully eradicating them, call in professional help. Contact your local council or a pest control firm that’s a member of the British Pest Control Association or National Pest Technicians Association. They will carry out an inspection, then use a special treatment such as insecticide, a steamer or rapid freeze system to get rid of the bugs.

How do I treat my mattress for bed bugs?

If your mattress is heavily infested, consider buying a new one. Just ensure you tackle the surrounding areas first, or the bed bugs will just move from the old mattress to the replacement. Cover the mattress with plastic before disposing of it.

If you want to treat your mattress and keep it, spray an aerosol can of bed bug treatment (see recommendations below) directly onto the mattress. Focus on the seams, tufts, and folds and don’t worry about the mattress getting damp – just allow it to dry.

Alternatively, use a bed bug steamer (again, see recommendations below) to steam your mattress, bed and surrounding areas.

Now use insecticide dust on both the mattress and box springs. This treatment lasts for several months and reaches tricky-to-get-to areas like mattress corners.

Next, cover your mattress with a bed-bug-proof mattress cover or bed bug mattress encasement to stop bed bugs entering or escaping for at least one year. It’s the only way to ensure they are all dead. Ditto with a box spring encasement for your box spring. If you don’t cover them, you’ll need to reapply your bed bug treatment every 7-10 days until you don’t see any further bed bug activity.

You can now reapply your bedding, as long as it’s been washed at a high temperature and run through a tumble dryer on high heat.

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How to get rid of bed bugs: Our favourite products

1. Agropharm Ultimate Bed Bug Killer Kit: Best bed bug killer kit

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Some bed bugs can build up a resistance to certain pyrethroids, making them tricky to treat. But this comprehensive kit of various products is highly effective – giving you everything, in fact, that you need to blitz the little buggers. Use the spray and dust as per our instructions above and they’ll die immediately, then you light the fumer and leave the room for three hours. The smoke bomb releases an insecticide so no nook and cranny is unaffected. The result is the same as getting in professional pest controllers, but you must remember not to take stuff out of the room before you use the kit – everything, and we mean everything, must be subjected to this government-approved chemical treatment.

Key specs - Capacity: 1L (Bed Bug Killer Spray), 4 x 11g (Midi Fumers), 100g (Residex P Dusting Power)

2. Zero In Bed Bug Traps: Best bed bug traps

Price: £4.29 (pack of 3) | Buy now from Amazon

Not quite sure if you have bed bugs? Traps can be your best bet in finding out, acting as an early indicator that you have an infestation. They’re also good if you’ve had a bed bug nightmare and want to prevent future problems. Since these ones are poison and chemical-free for up to two months, you don’t need to worry about inhaling nasties – and they catch bed bugs at both the immature and mature stages quickly. Once you find bed bugs in the trap, we recommend following our tips above promptly or calling in the professionals.

Key specs - Dimensions (WDH): 8.6 x 2.4 x 14.6cm; Weight: 30g

3. PestShield Bed Bug Killer: best bed bug spray

Price: £6.44 (pack of 3) | Buy now from Amazon

You get three cans in this pack, which is a good job as, with a bad infestation, you’ll need to keep spraying and spraying as per our instructions above. Don’t use it on the bedding and bed linen – that needs to be washed at high temperatures. Instead, save the spray for the mattress, headboard, springs, base and every area you can around the bed, including carpets, skirting boards, walls, bedside cabinets and elsewhere. The mattress will take the longest because you’ll need to focus on seams, tufts and folds, as well as the surface. Pestshield Bedbug Killer is one of many such products on the market, but we found it more effective than others in killing on contact and not stinking your home out along the way.

Key specs - Dimensions (WDH): 19.2 x 5.3 x 21.5cm; Capacity: 200ml (per can); Weight: 690g;

4. Lifesystems Bed Bug Sheets: Best travel solution

Price: £14 | Buy now from Lifesystems

Worried about bed bugs when you’re staying elsewhere? This lightweight (100g for the single; 160g for the double) and easily transportable sheet is made from an ultrafine netting material with 196 holes per square inch to add an extra layer of protection between you and the mattress. It comes with its own lightweight storage bag in a choice of double and single sizes, and we found it’s a good fit that seems to stop anything getting through without spoiling your night’s sleep. The sheets are also treated with Lifesystems’ EX8 Anti-mosquito formula; a permethrin impregnation that kills any insects upon contact and will last for up to 2 years or 35 washes.

Key specs - Dimensions (LW): 200 x 145cm; Weight: 220g

Buy now from Lifesystems

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