Housekeeping Strategies that Minimize the Spread of Bed Bugs

Dr. Harold Harlan © Armed Forces Pest Management Board (with permission)

There are quite a few things you can do to make your home less hospitable to bed bugs. These strategies will not eliminate bed bugs, but they will help to keep bed bug populations under control by reducing harborage sites, removing bed bugs mechanically and blocking access to your bed and sofa.

Vacuuming and Laundering
1. Vacuuming – Regular, thorough and targeted vacuuming of your bed, upholstered furniture, rugs, floors, baseboards, and other likely areas of harborage will reduce, but not eliminate, bed bugs in your home. Be aware that bed bugs can be spread by a vacuum cleaner. See Indiana University’s Housekeeping Procedures for Bed Bugs for great tips about targeted vacuuming and care of the vacuum cleaner.
2. Launder Bedding Wash and dry all bedding, (sheets, blankets, etc.) with high heat on a weekly basis. Note: Do not remove bed bug proof encasements from mattresses, boxsprings or pillows for laundering for eighteen months if they were installed after a bed bug infestation.

3. Wash, dry, or heat treat all clothing, toys, bags, throws, etc. in an infested room. Store properly until the infestation has been completely eliminated.
Reducing Harborage Sites
1. Reduce clutter. Piles of clothes, books, shoes, toys, magazines, papers and junk give bed bugs millions of places to harbor. It is almost impossible to control bed bugs in a highly cluttered environment. Be sure to seal anything you are going to remove from an infested area tightly in garbage bags to avoid spreading the infestation to another part of your home. Disinfest and properly store items you want to keep.
2. Seal cracks and crevices around baseboards, window molding, furniture joints, etc. to keep bed bugs from hiding in them.
3. Caulk and seal all holes where pipes and wires come into the room to prevent bed bugs from migating in along pipe and wiring runs.
4. Don’t use the area under the bed for storage. If it is necessary to store items under the bed, be sure that they are sealed in plastic bins with tight fitting lids to prevent them from becoming infested.
5. Keep wood flooring sealed and in good repair. The cracks between floor boards are an ideal harborage area for bed bugs.
6. Repair peeling paint and wallpaper. Bed bugs love to hide behind it.

Blocking Access to your Bed
1. Protect your mattresses, boxsprings and pillows wih bed bug proof encasements. Encasements will keep bed bugs from infesting your mattress and boxspring.
Not all encasements marketed for this purpose are effective. Check that the manufacturer has had scientific studies done that support their claims.
  • Vacuum the mattress, boxspring and bed frame thoroughly before installing encasements. If you are getting pest control treatments, wait until the first treatment is complete before installing encasements.
  • You must measure the thickness of your mattress and order the appropriate size for your bed. A properly fittine encasement will be less likely to tear.
  • Install the encasements carefully to prevent tearing. You may want to cover any protruding screws or sharp edges on the bed frame with felt pads.
  • If you are using encasements following an infestation, don’t remove them for laundering for eighteen months to ensure all bed bugs that were on the mattress are dead.
  • Check the encasements periodically for tears. If they have torn, seal them with duct tape or install an new encasement over the existing one.
2. Keep your mattress and boxspring off the floor. It will be impossible to block access to your bed unless it is elevated.
3. Use Climb-Up Interceptors under the legs of your bedframe or sofa. These devises keep bed bugs from being able to climb up the legs of your furniture
4. Keep a 4 -6 inch buffer between the bed and walls, draperies or other furniture. Do not use bed skirts or dust ruffles that touch the floor or allow blankets, sheets or comforters to hang off the bed and touch the floor. Bed bugs can climb up any of these items onto your bed.
5. Use light colored, solid sheets so that signs of bed bug infestations (fecal spots, drops of blood) can be easily spotted.