The Bed Bug – Cimex lectularius – is a very common problem these days. Almost everybody knows someone who has dealt with a bed bug infestation at least once. Not only are bed bug bites very annoying and potentially dangerous for your health, but it’s also very difficult to actually get rid of bed bugs without using the services of a professional pest control company.
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In recent years, there has been a resurgence of bed bug infestation in the United States and around the world. One of the reasons for this is that the dangerous pesticides that were once used to combat these tiny bloodsuckers (e.g. DDT) have been rightfully outlawed, and there are very few single substances that will entirely eradicate bedbugs.
The good news is that there are ways to naturally get rid of bedbugs. In this article, we will describe how to develop an anti-bedbug lifestyle and explain the steps needed to repel, control, and kill bedbugs. Read on to learn more.
Get Rid Of Bed Bugs Starts With An Anti-Bedbug Lifestyle?
Eliminating bedbugs and keeping them away is a multi-step, ongoing process. It involves developing habits of vigilance and cleanliness. A lifestyle bed bugs find unwelcoming includes:
- Setting up a regular bed bug patrol to examine your bed and bedding, areas around your baseboards, soft furnishings, and any other areas where bedbugs may congregate.
- Avoid spending time in close quarters with strangers (e.g. on public transportation, in movie theaters, etc.)
- Avoid sharing items such as coats, jackets, hats, and other items of clothing that might pick up bedbugs.
- Build up your personal resistance by staying healthy and keeping your immune system strong.
- Use personal care products that contain essential oils that may be repellent to bedbugs.
- Wash with very hot water and dry your clothes and bedding at the hottest setting.
- Use cedar-based cleaners, cedar oil, and other bedbug repellent essential oils.
- Use a rotating arsenal of natural bedbug repellent and killing products.
- Change your bedding and turn and inspect your mattress regularly.
- Store outerwear and luggage separately from your living areas.
- Keep your home (and especially your bedroom) free of clutter.
- Perform an annual spring cleaning.
To live an anti-bedbug lifestyle, you must clean your home and belongings regularly and thoroughly using a rotating variety of all-natural cleaning products such as food-grade diatomaceous earth, essential oils, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and other substances that repel, kill, and eradicate bedbugs, their larvae, and their eggs. You must sweep, mop, and vacuum regularly, and steam clean occasionally.
Does Having Bedbugs Mean You Are Dirty?
Technically, no. Bedbugs live on blood and travel on people or in their belongings, so they are just as likely to land in a clean environment as a filthy one. The steps needed to eradicate them do involve cleaning, but just keeping your home clean is not enough to prevent bed bug infestations.
Having said that, it is true they are more likely to set up a successful infestation in a cluttered setting that is not:
- Or scrubbed frequently
The reason for this is they have more places to hide in a cluttered environment, and lack of regular cleaning means that they are left undisturbed. If you don’t clean your house and wash your clothing and your bedding on a regular basis, they are more likely to become well-established.
On the other hand, if you vacuum thoroughly, wash frequently, and clean regularly using cedar-based household cleaners, essential oils, vinegar, and other substances that irritate and kill them, they will be repelled and discouraged. While these steps may not exterminate them entirely, they will help keep their numbers in check.
Regular disruption of their environment and regular use of products harmful to them prevents them from getting a solid toe-hold.
For all these reasons, if you do have the habit of keeping your home environment clean, you are ahead of the game if bedbugs do attempt to invade you.
What Do Bedbugs Look Like?
Bedbugs are about the size, shape, and color of an apple seed. They are sometimes mistaken for ticks or small cockroaches. Like ticks, they feed on animal and human blood. Unlike ticks, they crawl very quickly. They cannot fly, but they can rush to hide in the seams of clothing, luggage, and other tiny nooks and crannies. This is how they spread rapidly between locations.
They also spread quickly through rampant reproduction. A single female adult bed bug can lay hundreds of eggs about half a dozen times a year. These eggs are no bigger than a dust mote, so they are very hard to see and eliminate.
After hatching, bedbug nymphs outgrow and cast off their skins a total of five times. They must do this on a full stomach, so they seek out human or animal blood each time. The process of transforming from egg to adult is completed in less than a month.
How Do You Find Bedbugs?
Put simply, finding bedbugs isn’t easy. They are tiny, fast, and sneaky, and they can hide in the very smallest cracks and crevices. Their flat bodies can slip easily into a space just large enough to insert an object the width of a credit card.
They prefer to hide in soft materials, such as mattresses, pillows, upholstered furniture, and the like; however, they will also hide in the cracks in headboards, bed frames, and other hard furnishings.
It is easy for them to elude detection altogether by getting settled inside your box springs where you will never see them, their nymphs, or their eggs. At night, after you go to sleep, they will swarm out and drink your blood.
Of course, if they are allowed to remain for any length of time, they will spread out to other areas of your home. They frequently hide under baseboards, behind loose wallpaper, inside plug sockets and light switch plates, inside lamps, clock radios, and anywhere else they find a tiny hiding place.
How Do You Know If You Have a Bedbug Infestation?
Even as sneaky as they are, bedbugs cannot help leaving telltale signs of their presence. You can detect these signs with your eyes, your nose, and your skin!
- Bedbugs leave rusty, dark splotches of excrement on bedding, mattresses, and even on the walls surrounding your bed.
- If you go to bed itch-free and wake up itchy, you probably have bedbugs.
- If you find bloodstains on your bedding, you should be suspicious.
- A musty, moldy, sweetish scent indicates a bedbug infestation.
- You may find shed bedbug nymph skins cast about.
What Can You Do If You Think Bedbugs Have Moved In?
Look all around the room for signs of them. Check the floor and carpet around the bed, the baseboards, behind sockets and switch-plates, in your closet, and inside any appliances that may be near your bed.
Pay close attention to seams in clothing, soft furnishings, mattresses, box springs, and bedding. This is where they typically congregate and lay their eggs.
If your search turns up evidence of bedbugs, you must take swift action to deal with the problem before they multiply. Start with a very thorough cleaning. Here is a brief list of steps for reference. You will find more detailed instructions on how to carry out these steps further along in this article.
10-Step Bed Bug Treatment Battle Plan
Follow these steps quickly. Time is of the essence: Do it all in one day, and don’t let time elapse between steps.
#1 – Wash all your bedding, clothing, curtains, and any other soft, washable item in hot water, and dry on the hottest setting possible.
#2 – Place items such as fabric shoes in the dryer and tumble on high for half an hour, or place them in a black plastic bag, seal it tightly, and set it outdoors in the hot sun (or below freezing temperatures) for several days.
#3 – Scrub the seams of mattresses, box springs, and soft furnishings with a stiff brush to dislodge eggs and hiding bugs.
#4 – Vacuum thoroughly and immediately. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag promptly by placing it in a sealed plastic bag in the garbage and/or in the blazing sun, or in freezing temperatures.
#5 – Steam clean all soft furnishings. The heat of the steam will kill bedbugs on contact. If you add a cedar-based cleaner to the steam, it will leave a residual scent bedbugs do not like. Cedar will also help eradicate any musty bedbug odor that may be present.
#6 – Be sure to fix any cracks, crevices, or other imperfections that provide hiding places for bedbugs. Use wood putty, spray foam, and other appropriate products to fill in gaps that allow these pests access to your home and a place to hide. Repair, remove, or replace loose wallpaper and other damaged items that might provide shelter for undesirable creatures.
#7 – Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth lightly under your bed, along and under baseboards, and behind switch plate and wall socket covers. Leave it in place.
#8 – After you have completed all your bedbug battling activities, put your newly cleaned mattress, box springs, and pillows into specially designed mattress encasements. These bedbug-proof covers are made of a tightly woven fabric that even nymphs cannot penetrate. They fit tightly and zip up securely to keep bedbugs both out and in.
If you have not been able to eradicate all the bugs hiding in your mattress, putting the encasement on it will force them to stay where they are until they starve to death. If you have recently purchased your mattress and box springs, this may be a very attractive option for you as these items can save you a great deal of money in that you will not have to replace your mattress and box springs.
Be sure to leave the encasement in place for at least a full year. Bedbugs can fast for this long without harm, so if you plan to trap them inside your mattress, you must keep the trap in place and securely zipped for a full 365 days.
#9 – Clean your entire bedroom and keep it free of clutter. If you make the mattress inhospitable to bedbugs, they may just move on and find somewhere close by to live. Clothes on the floor and other clutter provide fine hiding places for bedbugs, so keep your home as tidy as possible.
#10 – Be sure that you have washed all your outerwear. Establish an area separate from your living space to store your coats, jackets, hats, umbrellas, shoes, and boots. This will help prevent bringing bedbugs and other undesirable pests and substances into your home.
Spring Cleaning Is a Good Idea!
In the old days, at the end of the winter every year, most households would turn everything outdoors and scrub the entire house from top to bottom, including ceilings walls and floors.
Soft furnishings were placed in the bright sunshine to air out and kill anything that had taken up residence in the winter. Hard furnishings were taken apart, scrubbed, and left outdoors to air in the sunshine. These steps helped to eradicate all manner of pests, such as spiders, cockroaches, fleas, and bedbugs.
Old-fashioned practices such as performing a thorough spring cleaning every year can go a long way toward keeping bedbugs out of your home. These days, performing a spring cleaning may not be so easy, though. This is especially true if you live in an apartment or other close quarters that would prevent you from safely setting your belongings outdoors for any length of time.
Nonetheless, the concept is a very valuable one. To keep bedbugs from settling in, it’s a good idea to move your furnishings around, scrub them thoroughly, use a heat treatment like steam cleaning, vacuum, and otherwise, keep all surfaces of all belongings scrupulously clean.
How Can You Remove Bedbugs from Hard Furniture?
Although bedbugs prefer to live in soft furnishings and fabrics, they will also hide in the crevices of wood, metal, resin, or plastic furnishings. Therefore, it’s very important to take your bed frame apart if you find that you have a bedbug infestation.
Dismantle the frame and headboard completely and clean all the pieces thoroughly with a cedar-based cleaner or rub alcohol over the complete frame. Set the bed frame outdoors in the sun or in the cold for a significant time to kill off bedbugs, larvae, and eggs.
If you find bedbugs in your home, check all your hard furnishings to be sure that bedbugs are not hiding in tiny cracks and crevices. Remember that if you can slide a credit card into a crevice, bedbugs can hide there!
How Do You Remove Bedbugs from Upholstered Furniture?
To remove bedbugs from soft furnishings and mattresses you should begin by brushing down all the seams with a stiff-bristled brush to drive out bugs and brush out eggs. Follow up by vacuuming thoroughly with a powerful vacuum cleaner.
Vacuuming can remove large numbers of bedbugs, larvae, and eggs. As soon as you have finished vacuuming, remove the vacuum cleaner bag and put it in a black plastic bag. Seal it up tightly and dispose of it properly. If you cannot put it in a separate, sealed garbage can right away, put it in your freezer for several days to kill the bedbugs before disposing of it in a community dumpster or other shared, open receptacle.
After you have vacuumed, steam clean methodically using a very powerful machine. A small handheld steam cleaner will not do the job. You need a machine that can penetrate deeply into cushions, mattresses, and other thick, soft furnishings. Anyplace that the steam does not go, bedbugs can survive.
When you have finished steam cleaning, it’s a good idea to set up some powerful fans to dry things out quickly. If you can also raise the ambient temperature to 130°F or so, this will help kill off any malingerers.
If you can set soft furnishings outside in the sunshine, this can also help, but it should not take the place of the other steps.
Video: A SEVERE Bed Bug Infestation
Learn To Use An Arsenal Of Natural Products
Regular cleaning and diligent use of essential oils, diatomaceous earth, heat treatment, cold, and other practices that disrupt the lives of bedbugs can help keep them at bay. The various substances and practices that disturb them work in a variety of ways, as described below.
What Is Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth & How Does It Kill Bedbugs?
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) is an all-natural substance made from the skeletons of tiny microscopic prehistoric creatures. It is mined from the earth and contains a great deal of silica.
Silica has sharp edges that can cut into the exoskeleton of a variety of insects. It also has drying properties that desiccate insect pests. Using diatomaceous earth around your home is advisable because it will not only help control bedbugs, but also control cockroaches, ants, and other undesirable insects and arachnids.
To use food-grade DE to kill bedbugs, sprinkle it liberally around the area where bedbugs have been seen. Leave it in place for 24 hours and then vacuum it up using a shop vac like this. You should not use your household vacuum cleaner for this task because the DE dust can damage the motor of your vacuum.
This is a good treatment to perform periodically throughout the year. When you first discover and area infested with bedbugs, you should follow the steps in the 10-Step Treatment Battle Plan above. Subsequently, you should apply DE thoroughly and vacuum it up on a seasonal basis.
Between seasonal treatments, you should keep it lightly scattered about in areas such as underneath your bed, along your baseboards, in cracks and crevices, and behind switch plates and plug covers.
You needn’t worry that this all-natural substance will be harmful. It is completely non-toxic and safe for consumption. In fact, many people use it as a dietary supplement because it has an impressive mineral content.
This substance is so safe that it can be used as a flea powder on your cats and dogs. Be sure not to get it wet because this will prevent it from working.
Be certain that you are using food-grade diatomaceous earth and not the type that is used in swimming pool filters. That is a different product, and it is not safe to come in contact with or consume.
How Do Essential Oils Work to Repel, Control & Kill Bedbugs?
There are several essential oils that are effective in either repelling or killing bedbugs. Some types (i.e. lavender) break down the surface of bedbug eggs to kill them before they’re ever hatched.
Some top choices in anti-bedbug essential oils include:
- Oil of lavender
- Tea tree oil
- Cedar oil
- Peppermint oil
- Lemon oil
- and many others.
It’s a good idea to learn how to use essential oils to create your own home and personal care products as most of these oils will have some negative effect on bedbugs, as well as other insect pests.
Knowledge of an assortment of oils is advantageous because it’s important to occasionally switch out the oils you are using. Remember that bedbugs are highly adaptable and can develop a resistance to any product used consistently over time.
There are numerous recipes that you can use to create bedbug repellents and sprays using a variety of essential oils and carriers such as white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and even plain water.
For specific recipes and tips on using essential oils, click here to read our comprehensive article – Does Peppermint Oil Bed Bug Repellent Really Work? A discussion of the use of peppermint oil and other essential oils to keep bed bugs off and away from you.
Why Wash & Dry Clothing & Bedding at High Temperatures?
One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to kill bedbugs, their larvae, and their eggs is to wash and dry your clothing and your bedding at high temperatures. This also works well for small stuffed animals and other soft, washable items. Washing in hot water will kill adults and nymphs. Drying at high temperatures will destroy eggs.
Add a cup of cedar-based cleaner, such as Pine-Sol, to your wash for even greater effect. Be sure the items you wash are completely dry before taking them out of the dryer. You may also wish to put the items outdoors to reap the benefits of open air and sunshine.
It’s important to understand that this treatment will only work if you wash and dry all your soft washables in your initial treatment. If any item is left unwashed and harbors bedbugs, nymphs, or eggs, you will be right back where you started. Remember to wash all your outerwear, rugs, towels, linens, etc. at the same time to eradicate all bedbugs in your first treatment.
It may be smartest and easiest to remove these items from your home and take them to a professional laundry service to have them washed and dried while you carry out the rest of your bedbug battle. If you are not able to do that, perhaps you could delegate a day at the laundromat to a trustworthy family member while you attend to the rest of the necessary tasks.
Can You Kill Bedbugs with Heat?
Bedbugs are extremely sensitive to heat, and some professional pest control services use super-powered heaters to heat up entire rooms to eradicate them. Still, other professional treatments involve encasing your mattress and box springs in plastic and blowing super-heated air into the enclosure for an extended period. This is very effective for killing off all the bedbugs in a mattress and box springs.
While you probably do not have super-heating equipment available to you, there are several household appliances you can use to scorch bedbugs. In addition to your clothes dryer, you can also use your hair dryer and the heat of the sun to kill bedbugs.
After you vacuum and steam clean, try blowing hot air from your hair dryer over the seams of soft furnishings to dry them and to kill any bedbugs that may still be lurking there.
You can also put small items into black plastic bags and set them outdoors in the sun for several days. If you do this, do not pack the bags solidly because they may not get uniformly hot through and through.
Put soft items such as stuffed toys, clothing, bedding, and the like into the bags loosely. This will allow them to heat thoroughly and uniformly. You may wish to shake the bags up and turn them occasionally to be sure of even heating.
Can You Kill Bedbugs with Cold?
Many people have had good reslts getting rid of bedbugs by simply placing everything into an unheated storage building through a very cold winter. If you live in an area where the temperature drops below zero for an extended period, this may work for you.
Be sure not to pack your belongings too tightly into the storage building as this may leave warmer spots for bedbugs to hide. Your items should be thoroughly exposed so that they become frozen to kill off bedbugs.
For smaller items, you can put them in plastic bags and place them in your freezer for 24 hours.
What Pesticides Will Work Against A Bed Bug Problem?
Common pesticides such as pyrethrum and permethrin have limited effect against bedbugs, but they’re worth adding to your arsenal. You may wish to start your bedbug battle with one of these relatively mild pesticides. After thoroughly treating your home and property, you can then transition into natural treatments. [source]
Another alternative is to use a pesticide made from natural ingredients. One such product is EcoRaider, which has very good reviews and is said to be quite effective.
This product is all-natural, safe for pets and children, and safe to use directly on your mattress and box springs. It is effective against even super-resistant bedbugs at all stages of life.
EcoRaider is used by pest control professionals and is recommended by the Public Health Pesticide Program – USDS IR4 for use in public housing.
While the product is advertised as the only treatment you will need, you would be wise to take this claim with a grain of salt. Just because it is effective against resistant bedbugs now does not mean it will continue to be effective. If this is the only product you use, sooner or later bedbugs will adapt to it.
Instead, add this powerful tool to your anti-bedbug lifestyle and continue to rotate your treatments to prevent having bedbugs adapt and become even harder to address.
Is It Necessary to Call a Pest Professional?
Opinions on this question differ. An overwhelming majority of people believe a professional exterminator is essential to eliminate bedbugs. Unfortunately, these professionals don’t come cheap.
If you are financially challenged, you should take whatever steps you can to get rid of a bed bug infestation as quickly as possible and strive to get professional help as soon as you can, as well.
If you have a light infestation or have only seen one or two bedbugs, don’t be complacent! Get to work right away vacuuming, steam cleaning, washing and drying everything, sprinkling diatomaceous earth, and adding essential oils to your everyday cleaning and personal care habits. [source]
By presenting a multifaceted front, you should be able to make a big dent in your bedbug population. Practiced consistently, a healthy anti-bedbug lifestyle will keep bedbugs away.
Video: Outlining 5 Natural Methods To Get Rid Of Bedbugs
The video below outlines five natural methods that you can use to get rid of bedbugs from your home.
The narrator recommends the use of diatomaceous earth, lavender oil, tea tree oil, and a hot wash. Users are also advised to use steam cleaners to clean carpets, seats, and beds where bedbugs tend to stay.
How Can You Prevent Bringing Bedbugs Home with You?
When you travel, always examine your room, bedding, and bed very carefully before you settle in. Strip the bed and spray it with a natural, essential oil bed bug repellent before sleeping. You can also make a good bed bug repellent for your body to prevent being bitten.
Adding essential oils such as cedar oil to a carrier such as rubbing alcohol or vinegar at a rate of about a dozen drops per ounce can make a good repellent spray for mattresses and furnishings. [source]
For your body, add about half a dozen drops of essential oil such as oil of lavender, tea tree and/or oil of peppermint per ounce of carrier such as coconut oil and/or aloe gel. Use this as an all-over moisturizer to help keep bedbugs away.
These are just simple, general ideas for repellents. There are additional recipes you can use for more powerful and specific results.
Always place your luggage on a luggage stand. Never put it on the bed or on the floor as bedbugs will swarm into it and ride home with you.
It’s a good idea to use hard luggage or even a plastic tote to prevent picking up bedbugs and other pests in your travels. When you repack your clothing to bring it home, put it into sealed plastic bags.
When you arrive home, leave your luggage outside. Spray the inside and outside of your luggage with a cedar-based cleaner and set it out in the sunshine to dry. Store your luggage in an outbuilding away from your bedroom and living areas.
Empty your sealed plastic bags of clothing right into your washer for a good hot wash followed by hot drying.
When you go out shopping or commuting from home to work and back, try to avoid being in close quarters with strangers. If you must be shoulder-to-shoulder in a crowd, remove your jacket or overcoat before going indoors. Give it a good shaking to dislodge any tiny travelers that may have hitched a ride.
Set up an area outside of the main living areas of your home (e.g. a mud room) where you can place your jackets, overcoats, shoes, and boots.
Leaving your outer garments and shoes outside of your living areas will help prevent bringing bedbugs and other pests inside.
Handle second-hand furniture with great care. If you buy furnishings, clothing, bedding, or any other items second-hand, examine it carefully before bringing it home. When you bring your second-hand finds home, be sure to clean them completely before bringing them indoors.
Wash second-hand clothing and bedding immediately at the very hottest settings your washer and dryer can provide. If you don’t have a washer and dryer at home, make a stop at a laundromat before bringing your items home.
Vacuum and steam clean soft furnishings. Clean wooden furnishings and other hard items with a cedar-based cleanser such as Pine-Sol or cedar oil.
Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite!
Developing an anti-bedbug lifestyle can help you prevent bedbug infestation or reinfestation and the bites which come along with that unhappy event. Even so, your first awareness of a bedbug problem may be the discovery of bedbug bites. While this can be a disturbing discovery, you’ll be happy to know that bedbug bites are not typically dangerous.
Bedbug bites are creepier than other kinds of insect bites, but they aren’t really any more serious than other types of bites. In fact, in terms of potential danger, they are less serious than bites from ticks and mosquitoes, which carry life-threatening diseases. [source]
Like ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, and other blood suckers, bedbugs drink your blood by piercing your skin with a sharp, elongated beak. They are most active at night and are most likely to bite you while you are sleeping. They tend to feed in increments of three-to-ten minutes at a time.
Being bitten by a bedbug doesn’t hurt, but it may itch later. They are not known to carry disease except under specific tropical conditions; however, if you scratch a great deal, your bites could become infected. [source] [source]
What Do the Bites Look Like?
Bedbug bites usually look like other types of insect bites (e.g. mosquito bites and flea bites). In some cases, these bumps do not swell and itch. Some people have no reaction to being bitten.
Others develop a rash and may think they are having an allergic reaction to something in the environment or that they have picked up ringworm or some other skin condition.
Some people experience delayed symptoms. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reaction to bedbug bites may take as long as two weeks to develop. If you tend to be allergic or sensitive to stings and bites, you may experience more itching and/or inflammation than people with lower levels of sensitivity. [source]
In short, bedbug bites may be difficult to identify. In fact, even doctors often have a hard time identifying them because they look so much like other conditions. One telltale sign that your bites came from bedbugs is that these pests tend to deliver three bites lined up in a straight line. Some people refer to these as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Location of the bites provides another clue as to the perpetrator. Bedbugs generally tend to bite on the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and face. Flea bites are usually found around the ankles, and mosquito bites tend to be on the legs and torso.
Are There Effective Home Remedies for Bed Bug Bites?
The same sorts of home remedies that help with itching and irritation caused by other types of bites and stings will also help with bedbug bites. Here are a few ideas you can use to relieve itching and inflammation caused by insect bites and stings.
Reach for As-Needed Cool Therapy
- Apply Cold Compresses: You can use an ice pack or chill a damp towel as often as you like to cool and soothe the itching and redness caused by bedbug bites.
- Soothe Itching with Cucumber Slices: Another remedy that you can use at any time is chilled cucumber slices. Keep a container of them in your fridge to apply as needed to itchy bites.
Cool cucumber does more than just chill your bites. It also provides a healthy dose of enzymes to reduce inflammation, along with vitamins A, C, and E to nourish your skin.
- Save & Chill Your Tea Bags: A chilled tea bag can also provide relief from itching and inflammation. When you make a cup of tea, just put the bag in a container in the fridge to have it ready to cool and soothe your bug bites.
Any cool tea bag will feel good and ease itching, but the best choices are black tea and chamomile tea. The tannins in black tea act as a natural astringent and help protect injured, irritated tissues. Chamomile tea is famous for its soothing, anti-inflammatory properties. Not only will it calm your upset tummy, it has also been found to be more effective than hydrocortisone ointments when applied topically to irritated skin.
- Raw Honey Heals: As a healing, anti-inflammatory salve, it’s hard to beat pure, raw honey. Manuka honey is especially beneficial, but all raw honey provides actual healing, medicinal properties. You can apply honey to your bug bites as often as needed.
According to the Mayo Clinic, applying raw honey topically soothes irritation, reduces itching, and provides a protective barrier over the bug bite. Naturally, because honey is sticky, you will want to apply a light, dry bandage to prevent damaging clothing and picking up bits of lint. [source]
All four of these simple remedies can be applied as needed throughout the day and night to provide cooling relief.
Clean, Soothe & Protect the Skin
- Apply Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): This natural “cure-all” helps relieve redness and itching by balancing the pH level of your skin while fighting off bacteria and promoting healing.
To use, simply mix ACV and cool water 50/50. Keep the mixture in the refrigerator for even more relief from itching and burning.
Apply this mixture to the affected area 2 or 3 times a day using a cotton ball or facial pad. Allow the ACV mixture to dry and then rinse it off with cool water.
This is an especially good treatment for bites on your face as ACV is generally good for your complexion. This mixture also makes a good skin toner, even if you don’t have bug bites.
- Apply Pure Lemon Juice: Chilled lemon juice can be applied directly to the bites, as-is, up to three times daily. It provides many of the same benefits as ACV, and you don’t have to rinse it off.
- Apply Witch Hazel: This extract of the Hamamelis virginiana shrub has natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and astringent properties that help soothe itching, promote healing, and reduce swelling. It is a safe, all-purpose home remedy that can be used on numerous skin irritations.
You can splash it onto the affected area, apply it with a cotton ball, or make a compress to hold on your worrisome bed bug bites for ten minutes at a time. As with ACV and lemon juice, don’t repeat this process more than three times daily. There is no need to rinse witch hazel off.
You can use any one of these remedies up to three times daily or alternate them for a total of three uses. Don’t use all three, three times daily because this would be drying to your skin.
Poultices & Soothing Baths
Applying a healing paste directly can be helpful to painful or itchy bites. A soothing bath is a great way to address large, itchy areas.
- Turn to Baking Soda: This is an old-fashioned bite or sting remedy. Just mix baking soda with water to form a paste or poultice. Apply this mixture directly to your bites and leave it in place for fifteen minutes. Rinse it off gently with cool water. You can do this twice a day.
Baking soda soothes inflammation and has natural antibacterial properties. If you have many bites or a rash that covers a large area of skin, pour a box of baking soda into a lukewarm bath and take a soak for about half an hour. Take a quick, cool shower after to rinse the baking soda off. You can do this once a day.
- Oatmeal Calms Irritation & Itching: As with baking soda, you can make a paste with finely ground oatmeal or you can use it to create a soothing bath. Here’s how:
- Oatmeal Paste: Grind up a bit of oatmeal in your blender or coffee grinder. Combine this powder with plain yogurt to form a paste. Apply this paste directly to your bites, and leave it in place for about half an hour. Rinse gently with cool water. You can repeat this process up to three times daily.
- Oatmeal Bath: Put a cup of oatmeal in an old sock and tie the top of the sock shut. Drop the sock into your bathtub and run a warm (not too hot) bath. You can soak as long as you like. Oatmeal is nourishing and soothing to the skin, so a long soak will do you good. [source]
These remedies are supported by centuries of anecdotal evidence and statements by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which says that oatmeal paste and baths can provide effective relief for the inflammation and itching caused by bug bites. [source]
Heal with Natural Carrier Products
Natural nourishing, healing, and moisturizing products such as aloe gel and coconut oil moisturize, soothe, and heal the skin. They can be used alone or as a carrier for healing and bedbug repelling essential oils.
- Nourish Your Skin with Aloe Gel: You can use 100% pure aloe gel like this as a spot treatment for bug bites several times daily. According to the Skin Pharmacology & Physiology Journal, its natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties are more effective than those delivered by one-percent hydrocortisone gels and creams.
Aloe can help nourish skin that may feel a bit dry from other natural treatments like baking soda, lemon juice, witch hazel, and ACV. Those are great treatments, but they can be quite drying. Alternating them with aloe can help prevent excessive drying. Aloe can also be combined with coconut oil to provide additional moisturizing properties along with other benefits.
- Heal & Nourish with Coconut Oil: This natural oil is an excellent addition to any medicine cabinet. Coconut oil has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Use it alone to help soothe and heal bug bites and skin irritations; mix it with aloe gel and/or use it as a carrier oil for essential oils.
Both aloe and coconut oil are effective to use as spot treatments and safe to use over large areas of skin for overall moisturizing, conditioning, soothing, and healing.
Reduce Inflammation & Avoid Infection with Essential Oils
Many essential oils have anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial, and healing properties. Here are 5 of the top picks for treating bug bites of all kinds:
- Tea Tree Oil: This is a must-have for any medicine chest. Keep tea tree oil on hand to treat bug bites, minor scrapes and cuts, acne, and more. You can use this essential oil full strength or diluted with a carrier oil or aloe gel.
- Lavender Essential Oil: This sweet-smelling oil is often thought of as interchangeable with tea tree oil. It has many of the same properties along with calming aromatherapy benefits. It can be used full strength or combined with tea tree oil and/or a carrier oil or aloe.
- Peppermint Oil: This cooling oil possesses the antifungal, antibacterial, and calming qualities of lavender oil. Be careful not to overdo peppermint oil as its cooling sensation can become a burning sensation if you use too much! This oil should always be mixed with a carrier.
- Chamomile Oil: Add a few drops of Chamomile oil to your oatmeal bath to soothe and calm your itchy skin even more. Toss about a dozen drops with the dry oatmeal before you put it into the sock. This will ensure that the oil is dispersed evenly throughout the water rather than simply floating in drops on the surface. You can also mix it with a carrier for spot treatment of bites.
- Calendula Oil: Mix with a carrier, such as coconut oil, and apply to bites and rashes to soothe itching.
As a rule, when mixing essential oils with carriers combine at a rate of 6 drops total essential oil per ounce of carrier. If mixing a smaller amount, two or three drops of essential oil per tablespoonful of carrier is about right.
Can Home Remedies Be Combined?
For the most part, home remedies for bed bug bites can be used in conjunction with one another. Many of the topical treatments can be drying, so it’s not a good idea to use many similar treatments all in one day.
For example, you would not want to apply an oatmeal poultice three times in one day and a baking soda poultice three times on the same day, but you could apply a total of three poultices (some oatmeal and some baking soda) in one day.
It would also be fine to take a baking soda bath in the morning and relax with an oatmeal bath in the evening (or vice-versa) if you wanted to.
You could follow up your baths with an all-over massage with coconut oil or a combination of coconut oil and aloe to soothe and nourish your skin and promote healing. You can add essential oils to this mixture for added benefit.
You can apply cool compresses, cucumber slices, chilled tea bags, or honey as often as you wish in combination with any of the other remedies.
Keep Your Immune System Strong
There are a few bedbug “experts” who claim that taking one B vitamin or another will help you repel bedbugs. There is really no basis for this claim; however, it is always a good idea to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Parasites such as bedbugs, mosquitoes, ticks, and others are naturally attracted to creatures with weakened immune systems. [source]
Having a strong immune system may help you avoid being bitten and will help you recover from bites of all kinds much faster. Furthermore, even though bedbugs do not currently spread disease, there’s no guarantee that this will always be the case. Having a strong immune system can help you avoid becoming ill, and it will help you recover if you do contract an illness.
Be sure to sleep, exercise, and eat well. Take a high-quality multivitamin daily. There is some evidence that taking extra water-soluble vitamins (B&C) is beneficial in repelling blood-sucking pests. Adding 1000 milligrams of C and a balanced B complex (B-50 or B-100) daily can provide some pest-repelling benefits.
A Multi-Faceted, Proactive Approach Can Beat Bedbugs!
Developing an anti-bedbug lifestyle can help you prevent bedbug infestation or reinfestation and the bites that come along with that unhappy event. Knowing how to recognize signs of bedbugs and being vigilant can go a long way toward preventing or successfully dealing with bedbug infestation.
Cultivating housekeeping habits that set up an unfriendly environment for bedbugs will help prevent their becoming established in your home. Use of personal care products that contain bedbug repelling essential oils can help keep bedbugs from hitching a ride on you, and carefully keeping luggage and your outer garments out of your living areas can go a long way toward keeping bedbugs and other pests out of your living areas.
As a bonus, developing these personal habits will also help you keep other types of pests out of your home, along with germs and illness. Refer to the advice presented here to cultivate a successful anti-bedbug lifestyle and generally improve the quality of your home environment and your life.