STEP #6: BED BUGS IN CARPET AND WALLS
We recommend cleaning your walls and floors thoroughly while you’re fighting a bed bug infestation. Even if they don’t show signs of active infestations these are the surfaces on which bed bugs will travel from area to area.
First let’s clean the flooring. The best tools to use when cleaning your flooring are diatomaceous earth and a vacuum cleaner. We cover diatomaceous earth in step four so if you need more information check that out. But basically diatomaceous earth works by drying out bed bugs slowly over the course of a week. You’ll want to spread a thin layer of diatomaceous earth out first and leave it there for about two weeks. So you maximize the chances of bed bugs crawling through it. If there are living bed bugs left after this time they’ll mix with diatomaceous earth in the vacuum cleaner and to killed that way.
A great tip we learn from dr. Jeanne Miller of Virginia Tech is to use pantyhose when you’re vacuuming up bed bugs. To do this you’ll either need to cut the end off of a pair of pantyhose or use knee highs. You’ll then want to put the foot portion up into the vacuum tube like so and make sure that the pantyhose are firmly attached to the end. You can use tape or elastic bands for this just make sure that it’s firm enough if the foot won’t be sucked up into the vacuum tube. This acts as an easy bag select all the bugs and diatomaceous earth. So you won’t have to worry about living bugs being trapped in your vacuum cleaner. If you’ve used pantyhose tied them off immediately.
Whenever possible and for your vacuum outdoors or empty it over a garbage can and take out the garbage immediately. Always minimize the risk of spreading bedbug. Whenever possible it’s better to be over cautious than to risk having bed bugs living inside your vacuum cleaner. We recommend vacuuming a second time also with the pantyhose just to be overly cautious.
If you want to be even more careful at this point you can use a carpet shampooer or a steam cleaner if you don’t have carpet floors. Walls are much less likely to have bed bugs on them except in severe infestations, but as always it’s better to be safe than sorry.
To clean your walls we recommend vacuuming them as much as possible, but if you don’t have a wand vacuum it’s not worth trying to lift a heavy vacuum up against the wall. If you can steam clean your walls we recommend that. Otherwise if you manually wipe them down with soap and water. This will just remove the bed bugs but it’s a great step to take before you vacuum.
THREE CRUCIAL TIPS FOR VACUUMING
The most important thing to remember is to only use a vacuum cleaner that has disposable bags. Do not use a bag-less vacuum cleaner like a Dyson because they can be much harder to empty without spreading bed bugs or leaving them alive inside the vacuum cleaner.
When you begin vacuuming always first vacuum up some diatomaceous earth. This is so that if you vacuum up any bed bugs they will mix with the diatomaceous earth in the disposable vacuum bag, which will help kill them.
After every vacuuming session, take the entire vacuum outside and dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag. If you leave the vacuum cleaner sitting around after a vacuuming session it’s possible that a bed bug could escape. You’ll need to change the vacuum bag after each and every vacuuming session. Be sure to change the vacuum bag outside for the same reason—just in case a bed bug escapes while changing the bag, you want that to happen outside.
How to Heat Treat Area Rugs
Area rugs are easy to make bed bug free. Simply fold up your rug and put it in a ZappBug for heat treatment, which will kill bed bugs in all life stages. Alternatively, you can put the rug into your dryer on high heat for at least 45 minutes. This too is effective heat treatment and will kill bed bugs. Unfortunately in our experience the backing on most rugs is too stiff to allow folding of the rug into a small enough bundle to get into standard residential dryers. But if you can make the rug fit into your dryer then this is also a great method of heat treatment.
How to Vacuum Bare Floors
With bare floors you are going to use diatomaceous earth in combination with vacuuming. For more information on diatomaceous earth see Step 4. Follow these steps:
▪ Spread diatomaceous earth over the floor area. A pesticide duster is helpful with this. Be sure to wear a dust mask because spreading this much diatomaceous earth around will get some airborne. Although diatomaceous earth is natural, it is not a good idea to breathe it (or any fine particulate matter) into your lungs.
▪ Thoroughly vacuum the floor, including all of the diatomaceous earth that you just laid down. When vacuuming pay particular attention to thoroughly running the vacuum over any cracks that might be between tiles or floor boards. If you have edging attachments for your vacuum use them here, and on any other crevices and the edges of your floor.
HOW TO CLEAN WALL-TO-WALL CARPET
With wall-to-wall carpet you are going to use diatomaceous earth, followed by vacuuming and carpet shampooing.
Follow these steps:
▪ Spread diatomaceous earth over the carpet. A pesticide duster is helpful with this. Be sure to wear a dust mask because spreading this much diatomaceous earth around will get some airborne. Although diatomaceous earth is natural, it is not a good idea to breathe it (or any fine particulate matter) into your lungs.
▪ Thoroughly vacuum the carpet, including all the diatomaceous earth you laid down. Once you’re done vacuum it for a second time – it’s not necessary to reapply diatomaceous earth this time. Remember, you want to be very thorough because you are trying to vacuum up any bed bugs or eggs that might be hidden in the carpet. Even if you feel like you covered everything with your first pass through you want to go above and beyond to get rid of bed bugs.
▪ Use a carpet shampooer to clean the carpet according to manufacturer’s directions. This is an extra precaution to get any bed bugs that vacuuming might have missed. Like vacuuming, shampooing the carpet won’t kill bed bugs but it will help mechanically remove them.
How to Deal with Walls, Etc.
Bed bugs don’t generally lurk around on bare walls as they prefer to hide in cracks and crevices. That said, we’ve seen them on walls – especially in severe infestations.
You will be concentrating most of your vacuuming on places on the walls that provide hiding opportunities, such as window sills and curtains. Pay extra attention to any fabric drapes as bed bugs can climb fabric easily and the seams in drapes can be great hiding places. We cover this in more detail in our instructions below.
To deal with your walls and everything related to them:
▪ Give your bare walls a quick vacuuming with the vacuum brush attachment. If you have little holes in your walls from having pinned up posters or pictures, be sure to run the vacuum over those holes. If possible you can seal the holes using spackle. Very minor holes can be sealed using toothpaste – check this link for more information.
▪ Concentrate most of your vacuuming on wall areas that have nooks and crannies such as window sills. Vacuum these areas thoroughly and if necessary repeatedly. This is also a good place to use the edger tool of your vacuum if it has one.
▪ Heat treat pictures and other hanging art in ZappBug. If you don’t have a ZappBug then thoroughly vacuum these objects. Take the pictures out of their frames if possible and go over the frames separately to make sure that any nooks and crannies have been vacuumed.
▪ Heat treat fabric drapes in ZappBug or a clothes dryer. This will kill any bed bugs that might be hiding in them.
If you don’t have a ZappBug and for some reason you cannot run your drapes through your clothes dryer, then you should steam clean the drapes very thoroughly. The hot steam will kill bed bugs; but you must make sure you that the steam penetrates every part of the drapes, especially the seams. This is harder to do successfully yourself than using a dryer or ZappBug so we don’t recommend doing this alone if they are able to be heat treated.
If neither heat treating nor steam cleaning are possible then at the very least make sure you vacuum the drapes extremely thoroughly. Pay particular attention to the seams. We don’t recommend relying on vacuuming for drapes, but it is far better than doing nothing.
How to Deal with Walls, Etc.
▪ For spreading a lot of diatomaceous earth over a wide area (for example, when you are covering a carpet or floor with d.e.), a pesticide duster is useful. It’s not necessary, but it is helpful.
▪ Diatomaceous Earth is non-toxic to handle. However, if you are spreading a lot of d.e. around and getting it airborne, then you will want to wear a dust mask, because getting any fine particulate matter in your lungs is not a good idea. When you are spreading diatomaceous earth over your carpets and floors, some of it will likely get airborne, so it’s beneficial to wear a dust mask.
▪ The most important thing to remember is to only use a vacuum cleaner that has disposable bags. Do not use a bag-less vacuum cleaner like a Dyson.You want a vacuum with good suction power. Just because a vacuum is expensive does not necessarily mean it does a better job. For a vacuum with excellent suction power that is relatively inexpensive, we recommend the Hoover Tempo Widepath Upright Vacuum . It has gotten great reviews by Consumer Reports. And it is the vacuum that Andrew (one of our founders) used when he got rid of bed bugs from his own home.
▪ For your wall-to-wall carpeting, renting a carpet shampooer is an option. But for the cost of renting a carpet shampooer a few times, you can actually purchase one. If you are considering purchasing a carpet shampooer, then we suggest the Hoover SteamVac Carpet Cleaner with Clean Surge.
▪ We only recommend a steam cleaner as a secondary option for cleaning drapes. We feel heat treating with ZappBug or a clothing dryer is a better option because these will ensure that bed bugs are killed. With a steam cleaner you have to make sure the steam penetrates every part of the drapes, especially the seams—all of which is very labor intensive.
Heat Treating with ZappBug Oven or Home Clothing Dryer
For heat treating we recommend the ZappBug Oven 2 or the ZappBug Heater which will accommodate area rugs and drapes of a variety of sizes.
ZappBug is also ideal for hanging art. A home dryer set on high could work equally well for drapes and rugs, assuming you can fit them into it and you know for fact that your dryer can get above 120 degree Fahrenheit
Disclaimer: Some of the procedures outlined in this guide may be tricky and should be undertaken at the readers own risk. Readers should consult all material data sheets for any products they use in their own attempts at pest control and consult with the manufacturers of all products regarding best usage practices. This guide should be construed as theoretical advice. ZappBug and its employees will not be held responsible for any injury due to the advice offered herein. This guide cannot be construed as formal advice and ZappBug will not be held liable in any instance of an action resulting from this story. This disclaimer assigns the readers all responsibility for their own decisions.