Preparing your home for bed bug treatment

You can treat your home yourself, but it is recommended to work with a pest management professional to prepare your home for bed bug treatment.

Once you have determined that you have bed bugs you have a choice to make. Will you attempt to get rid of the bed bugs yourself or hire a professional? The task requires a great amount of time and effort; some people may not be able to attack the problem themselves. However, hiring a professional can be expensive. If you own your home, the decision will be up to you. If you rent, you will have to work with your landlord or property manager. The focus of this article is on working with a pest management professional. Future articles will discuss how individuals can to work to eliminate bed bugs themselves. They will also address tenant and landlord issues.

A pest management professional will want to inspect the home before beginning any treatment. The inspection will tell the professional how widespread the infestation is. It will also prevent the disturbance and spread of bed bugs before treatment begins. Once the professional has inspected your home, they will offer recommendations for treatment (options may include heat treatment and chemical pesticide treatment). Once a treatment plan has been selected, the professional should provide you with instructions on how to prepare your home for treatment.

After the pest manager’s inspection, it is time for you to clean and organize. Cleaning and organizing a room or home for bed bug management can be as much of a burden as moving. It is, however, an extremely important first step in the control of bed bugs, because bed bugs thrive in cluttered living areas. Cleaning should be carried out in a systematic way. Soap or detergent will aid in the clean-up of bed bug debris and allergens, making the environment healthier and more tolerable for those living there.

Here are steps to follow when cleaning and organizing. If the pest management professional is going to use heat treatment, the steps may be different.

  • Force bed bugs out of cracks and crevices with a putty knife or an old playing card, or with hot air from a blow-dryer on low setting. Catch them with sticky packing tape or crush them in paper towels.
  • Scan the room for items on the floor. Make a plan for each item and how it will be quarantined (closed into a plastic bag, for example), inspected, sanitized of bed bugs, and stored until further notice.
  • Remove all items from under the bed but do not put anything on top of the bed or move items into another room.
  • Place clothes, shoes, plush toys, pillows, and bedding into large clear plastic bags and seal the bags tightly until the items can be laundered.
  • Empty furniture items (such as dresser drawers and bookcases) for better inspection.
  • Plastic tote bins that have an airtight seal can be used for items that cannot be laundered, such as hard toys, electronics, books, breakable items, etc. Be prepared to store these items for a period of time until they can be thoroughly inspected or enough time has passed that bed bugs are dead – at least a year. Another method is to have these items treated in the container. Consult a pest management professional for guidance.
  • Launder all clothing and bedding. It is recommended to use the highest heat settings for washing and drying, if possible, for at least 30 minutes. Once the clothing is clean, store it in sealed bags or plastic containers to keep it from becoming re-infested.
  • Move furniture away from walls. Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture and drapery. Dispose of the vacuum bag or the canister contents in a sealed plastic bag and place it outside the home.

Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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