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We survived a bed bug infestation and lived to tell the tale

Everyone hates bed bugs but people rarely want to admit to having them. They are worse than cock roaches or mice. They produce severe anxiety and revulsion. Having bed bugs is embarrassing! We did battle with these pests for more than a year. This is our story about how we won the battle against bed bugs without contacting an exterminator.

If you are reading this, you might either be waging war or wondering if you are. Bed bugs are mostly nocturnal, and they suck our blood when we are most defenseless — asleep. They typically feast on people in a three to five day cycle, but it’s truly horrifying to learn they can live nearly a year without feeding. Female bed bugs can lay up to 5 or 6 eggs a day, so the problem can multiply very quickly.

Visible Signs of Bed Bugs

It’s common to go for weeks and weeks without realizing you are dealing with bed bugs. Their bites are similar to those of mosquitoes, but not everyone exhibits the usual red bite marks. A small percentage of people aren’t allergic and thus they might not show any obvious signs. But you know you’re dealing with a serious infestation when the other tale-tell signs appear: small black stains on your pillows, sheets or walls; and red streaks on your sheets from a blood-drunk bug being crushed during the night when you move. The small black stains, typically about the size of a dull pencil point, will usually smear when wiped with a rag. Of course, it’s extra disgusting to learn those black dots are the feces — the waste product of their blood consumption.

If you hire an exterminator, there’s a protocol to adhere to, and failure to follow all of the steps will mean your pests will remain. The proper protocol includes washing all bedding, sheets, linens, and mattress covers in hot water. This must be followed with a lengthy hot dryer cycle, and then all of those items should go into new garbage bags while you take care of the next steps. The hot water temperature and a hot clothes dryer is important because sustained heat will kill bed bugs. But that’s just the start. You also need to vacuum items that are not machine washable and put them in sealed bins. And you have to wash and vacuuming floors, carpets, moldings, electrical sockets, furniture (e.g., couches), and rugs. It’s also critical that you move objects away from the parameter of the room and take apart the bed frame. Once all of that is done, an exterminator can come in and spray. They normally need to come back in two weeks to spray a second time, to kill the young bed bugs that were still unhatched (eggs) and thus survived the first spraying.

How We Won the Battle Against Bed Bugs

So how did we win the battle against bed bugs without calling an exterminator? It wasn’t easy, and I have actually waited several years to write this in order to say with confidence, that the bed bugs didn’t come back.

Knowing what I know today, here’s what we would do if confronted with another bed bug problem.

We’d start by doing a thorough investigation. Knowing that these pests want to be close to their meal (us!), we would concentrate on the bedrooms and the living room. We were surprised at all of the places these nasty critters would hide. While many locations made sense, a few of their hiding places were unexpected. Use a strong flashlight to help locate live bugs and/or evidence of bugs.

Here are the places we found their excrement and/or live bugs:

  • The edges of the mattress, especially if there’s a fold area where they can hide or bury into
  • The bed frame, including intersections of wood or metal, and/or where two pieces of wood joined
  • Behind picture frames and mirrors on the wall
  • Around the base boards, especially near the head of the bed
  • The top of the door jam of our master bedroom door
  • Crawling on the bedroom walls, especially around the head of the bed
  • In our couch (sofa), especially on the left/right sides since we tended to sit on both the far right and left of the couch

We might be forgetting a few areas, but the list above definitely covers the hot spots.

Killing Live Bed Bugs

I understand that a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol is one option. However, I found a really effective tool: liquid CO2 for freezing the damn bugs! I kept a supply of cans of compressed air for this. But here’s the super important tip. You have to hold the can upside down, and very gently press the trigger so that a modest amount of liquid CO2 comes out. It is super effective at killing any bug or insect. I can typically spray any bug for several seconds, and they get frozen very quickly and never come back to life. I repeatedly tested to make sure this was a permanent death by placing bugs into zip-lock bags and then making sure the critters didn’t come back from the dead.

So anytime I found live bed bugs, I’d grab a can of compressed air, hold it upside down and gently spray liquid CO2 on them and on the immediate area. I found it especially effective to pause briefly after spraying some liquid CO2, which allows the liquid to evaporate and improves the freeze-to-death effect. It takes practice to find that light squeeze touch that releases a modest amount of liquid CO2 while not forcefully blowing the bugs away before getting frozen to death. Practice!


Similar to the protocol mentioned earlier, we washed all bedding, sheets, linens, and mattress covers in hot water. This was followed with a lengthy hot dryer cycle, and then we put our clean bedding into new garbage bags while we tackled the next steps. In the bedroom area especially, we de-cluttered. We carefully inspected any non-critical furniture and items; vacuumed it, and put it in the basement. We then vacuumed floors, carpets, moldings, electrical sockets, furniture (e.g., couches), and rugs. We moved objects away from the parameter of the room for cleaning and inspection, and we took apart the bed frame. We always found bugs in weird places in the bed frame. The compressed air (C02) freezing was helpful here.

Making Life Harder for Bed Bugs

Next, after the bed frame was put back into place, we purchased and installed cups like these that are simple but effective at keeping bugs from crawling up the legs of the bed. There should be a cup under every leg of the bed. The bugs are unable to climb the interior walls due to the unique surface of the traps.

We also purchased diatomaceous earth, a super fine powder that can be effective for a lot of small bugs. The link provided includes a small powder duster. I applied diatomaceous earth around the baseboards in our bedroom and anywhere else that I thought they lived or travel to/from.
After doing all of the above, I had a daily (or every other day) routine of checking the hot spots for any live bugs or signs of bugs. For the dark stains on the wall, we’d take a wet towel or washcloth to remove those stains. They would usually wipe away fairly easily with a wet rag.

Over the Counter Bug Sprays and Heat Treatments

We researched different bug sprays that claimed to exterminate bed bugs. But we never felt confident in their effectiveness and we hated the thought of foggers and other bug sprays in our bed rooms and living areas.
We also considered professional heat treatments and wondered if maybe we could somehow do that ourselves too. But getting a bedroom or living room area up to a horribly hot 122 degrees for an extended period of time is beyond the ability of a few space heaters.
We hope you never have to deal with bed bugs! But if you do and you either can’t afford the expensive extermination services or prefer to tackle it yourself, we hope the tips and steps outlined above prove successful for you.


  1. Quixie

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with this and it lasted so long! Also, I get the embarrassment. My kids brought home lice a few times and it was an AWFUL experience.

    • Logan

      I hear ya! My wife had to deal with lice with her youngest a couple of times. That’s an awful experience too!

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