How to kill bed bugs Organically from Pam (Radio Listener)

laundry basket and dirty clothesEradicating a bed bug infestation organically requires a methodical and disciplined approach.  It will take up to twelve days depending upon the level of infestation and many life cycles.  Bed bug eggs take a week to twelve day to hatch.  Bed bugs and lice in—beds of course, fabrics, furniture crevices and even in the baseboards.  When you are first discovering that you have them night time is your friend.

Go into the infested room late at night with a flashlight and examine the previous mentioned spots where they are emerging to find a food source.  This will give you a better idea of what you are up against.  Also, go online and do a little research to understand the bed bug’s life cycle, residue that they leave behind, and what they look like at all stages of life.  Getting rid of them is a multi-tiered process.  Here is a step-by-step process on how to get rid of them using non-toxic methods.

1.       Select a staging area for all the items in the infested room and closets, because you are basically moving everything out.  Select an outdoor covered patio, or a garage, so you don’t contaminate another area of the house.  If it is wintertime or summertime, outdoors would be best because you can utilize the extreme temperatures to aid in killing the pests.

2.      Get a box of black construction trash bags and take into the infested room.  Begin packing every item into trash bags so that you can safely transport things to your staging area. Start with bedding, then clothing, then stuffed animals, then books, decorative items, etc.  Move everything out.  Leave the bed and heavy furniture in the room for the time being, for you will treat the bedding the room and you don’t want to potentially contaminate the rest of the house transporting the large items outside.

3.      Start doing laundry.  Depending upon how much you have, this could take days.  Take a bag, one at a time from the staging area into the laundry room and carefully load the items into the washing machine.  Roll up the contaminated trash bag and immediately put in outside trash bin.  Every item of fabric needs to be washed and dried on HOT.  Delicates may need to go into the Dry Cleaner or stored in the bag for a full month and then you can wash them.  As each load is completed, fold items and put into a clean black trash bag.    Seal, and stage all of the cleaned items in a separate staging area way from infested room and contaminated items.

4.      As the laundry process is going on, begin de-contaminating the infected room.  The more of the following procedures that you can do, the better; Even if you can do some of these processes multiple times over the 12 days, because the bugs need to be killed at all life cycles. I found bed bug residue in the crevasses of drawers, so that is where I started.  Remove all drawers, place each in a trash bag and move to staging area.  Leave chests and shelving in place.  Spray and wipe down each piece of remaining wood furniture and shelves with orange oil or another organic bug killer, focusing on cracks, crevices, especially on the inside where the drawers reside.  Spray baseboards, especially if they are not sealed or caulked.

5.      Rent or buy a steam cleaner and steam clean the carpet.  You can add an organic pesticide into the solution if you want, but the heat, soap and suction should get most of them. Also purchase allergen bedding encasements for the mattress and the box spring.  Encasements are sold in most bedding departments for people allergic to dust mites.  Bed bugs are bigger than dust mites, so they won’t get in or out.  Buy new pillows and toss the old ones.  If you love your pillows and refuse to do away with them.  Buy encasements for them as well.

6.      Don’t install the encasements right away.  Stand up the mattress and box spring against the wall and steam clean, using the hand attachment.  Also with the attachment, go along the baseboards between the molding and carpet.

7.      As you are waiting for the carpeting and bedding to dry and continuing with the laundry, begin working on the other items in black bags in staging area.  Everything needs to be wiped down with orange oil solution or another organic pesticide of your choice.  Now is a good time to downsize and minimize!  Maybe you don’t need all of those knickknacks in that room.  Also, if there is something that can’t be wiped down for some reason or other, keep it in the bag, in the staging area for at least 2 weeks, or put it in the freezer for 24 hours, if it fits.  Once you have decontaminated an item, move it methodically to the second staging area – the clean room.

8.      When the carpet is thoroughly dry, dust the carpet, especially around the baseboards with Diatomaceous Earth, and rake it in.  Let it sit for a day and then vacuum thoroughly.  You can/should repeat one or both of the steam cleaning and the DE process in a day or two, because there may be un-hatched eggs.  In fact I followed up my soap/orange oil steam cleaning with a steam cleaning using a cup of white vinegar per gallon.  I feel that the change in pH the carpet inhospitable to the eggs or larvae.

9.      Every night, go into the infected room  frequently to observe the bed bug activity.  The residual bugs will be active, looking for a food source and you will see them.  Spray any active bugs that you see.  It would also be wise to create a barrier at the doorway with a thick line of DE.  The bed bugs might actually try to travel out of the room.  This happened to me.  On the third or fourth night along the baseboards, there was a small trail of vagabond bedbugs moving from carpeted bedroom into the ceramic hallway.  At that point they were an easy target, since they move so slowly.  Where did they come from?  I think they were hiding between the baseboards and the carpet, which is very difficult area to treat throroghly.

10.   As soon as you have treated the mattress and box spring to your satisfaction, cover each with one of the dust mite mattress enclosures and zip it up.  If there are any bugs still alive or hatching, they will be u unable to emerge.  Continue to leave the bed in the room and examine every night to see if bed bugs are actually on the outside trying to find their way in.  Keep a vacuum in the room at this point to vacuum up any trays that you may see at night, and vacuum the floor once or twice a day.  Change the bag, or vacuum up the DE into the bag to kill the bugs inside the bag.

11.   Take your time with this whole process because rushing through may cause you to miss a few bugs in the egg state, and then in a few months they will have multiplied and you have to repeat this process over again.  You surely don’t want to do that again.  As painful as it may be for the resident of the infected room to be without their space, it would be best to wait 10 to 12 days before moving things back in.  At the very least, wait until you observe two consecutive nights with no activity near the bed, baseboards and existing furniture.

12.   Here’s the upside.  While you have the rooms cleaned out and are waiting to move things back in, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint!  That is what we did, and it was the silver lining to the whole process.  We got rid of the bugs and ended up with a room that was very clean and de-cluttererd.

Having bedbugs can certainly be a nightmare, but you don’t have to spend a couple thousand dollars with a pest control company and expose your family to all of those toxins which are not guaranteed to work.  Take a deep breath, don’t panic, take your time, do it yourself, and do it safely.

Dave Owens the Garden Guy
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