Worried about bed bugs? Here’s how to treat your furniture

Bed bugs are on most people’s list of worst nightmares. The thought of pesky insects infesting the places you relax and sleep is enough to make anyone uneasy. If you’ve never had bed bugs in your home and are concerned with how to deal with them, there are some steps you can take to ensure you know how to treat furniture for bed bugs. Bed bugs are a problem that you can prevent by taking certain precautions since most bed bug infestations come from previously-infested items.

Identifying bed bugs

Bed bugs got their name from where they like to dwell: Warm, mostly-dark areas such as bedding and mattresses. Since they are nearly invisible to the naked eye, bed bugs can be hard to identify. If you happen to spot a mystery bug in your bedding, here’s what to look for: Bed bugs are about a quarter of an inch long and shaped like a long oval. Their bodies are flat and reddish-brown colored. They have four legs and an antenna. It is important to note that young bed bugs or bed bug eggs can be smaller and a milky-white color.

If you can’t get your hands on an actual bed bug but you suspect that they are lurking somewhere in your home, look for the following signs. First, look for reddish stains on your sheets or mattresses caused by bed bugs being crushed. Other mysterious dark spots on your bedding may be from bed bug feces. The most obvious way to spot a bed bug infestation is by bug bites on you, someone in your house, or your pets. Bed bug bites are often confused with mosquito bites or rashes, but they can cause welts and rashes in humans, and they itch.

Keeping them away

Where they live

Bed bugs are drawn to access to warmth, carbon dioxide, and frequent foot traffic. This pretty much means that wherever there are lots of humans, there is a lot of blood, and that’s what bed bugs like. This is why places like dorm rooms and hotels are prime locations for bed bugs. They like to hide in bedding, box springs, and mattresses. These places have the perfect combination of warmth, access to blood (people), and carbon dioxide.

If you think you have an infestation, don’t stop your search in the bedroom. Bed bugs like any small hiding spot such as furniture cushions, curtains, electrical outlets and appliances, drawers, ceiling or floor cracks, and wallpaper. Bed bugs will survive anywhere their host can live, so the list is pretty much endless. They are most active at night and can live between six months to a year, so don’t wait to exterminate them if you see signs of an infestation.

How to prevent them from entering your home

You may have heard that bed bugs live in messy or dirty homes, but that is simply not true. Most infestations come from previously-infested furniture or people. Bed bugs will attach themselves to people or luggage and travel back home with you. They can also be found in secondhand furniture, in shoes, and on clothing.

Since the main cause of bed bugs is secondhand furniture and people, the best way to prevent them is to inspect all secondhand furniture and clothing thoroughly before bringing it into your home. Check along the seams of the upholstery for any sign of bed bugs and what they leave behind. As a general rule, never purchase a secondhand mattress.

If the furniture passes the initial inspection and you buy it, be sure to give it a good cleaning before putting it inside your house. Store the piece in your garage or shed, vacuum fabric and upholstery thoroughly, and clean other materials with hot, soapy water. Be sure to get into all crevasses and storage areas.

Regular inspections

You don’t have to inspect your bedding every night, but you should take some time to check your mattress and pillows when you wash your bedding. If you see signs of bed bugs, remove your bedding, and wash it in the washing machine on the highest heat setting possible. The heat and water combined will kill any bed bugs that are living in your bedding. To be safe, wash any rugs, pillows, throw blankets, curtains, or anything else that may have been exposed in your bedroom.

Take your mattress and box spring outside and use a scrub brush to get into seams and affected areas of the mattress. The brush will get all of the bugs and bug eggs out. Then, take a vacuum and clean the entire box spring and mattress, taking care to get into seams. Take the vacuum inside, and vacuum your bedroom. When you’re finished, empty the vacuum outside into a plastic bag and place it in a trash can outside.

The last step is to enclose your mattress and box spring in a tight-fitting plastic covering and leave both outside overnight. The plastic will suffocate any bed bugs that managed to survive the scrub brush and vacuum treatment. If you don’t want to go through all of this work, you may just want to buy a new mattress and box spring and never bring the old one back in the house again.

Some additional tips

When traveling, be sure to check your hotel room for bed bugs before you unpack. Focus on the bedding, upholstered furniture, and curtains. Ideally, you won’t even bring your luggage into your room until you’ve inspected it. If you find bed bugs, notify the front desk and ask for a new room. If you think that anything you are wearing or traveling with (luggage, pillows, blankets, etc.) has been infested, separate it from the rest of your belongings immediately.

Some people believe that certain essential oils can get rid of bed bugs, but natural products won’t kill them. Feel free to use oils such as tea tree oil, thyme, lemongrass, lavender, or peppermint as a preventative measure by mixing the oils with water and spraying your bedding, furniture, and curtains. If you have an infestation, though, you will want to follow the steps above or call an exterminator since essential oils will not eliminate your problem.

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