Bedbugs: how do I get rid of them?
Bedbugs are very hard to get rid of. If you do have bedbugs, it is strongly recommended that you hire a licensed professional pest control operator.
If you are a tenant and have bedbugs, you should tell your landlord right away. Tenants who have bedbug-related issues should speak with a public health officer for help in dealing with the infestation.
If you live in a multiple-unit dwelling and building management has asked you to prepare your unit for bedbug treatment, this usually includes emptying storage furniture to make it easier to inspect, organizing your belongings and placing them in bags, washing all your clothes and bedding, and moving furniture away from the walls. The pest control operator will usually give you specific instructions to prepare for an inspection or treatment.
Professional pest control operators can use a variety of tools to control bedbugs. These include liquid insecticide sprays, aerosol insecticide sprays, insecticidal dusts, diatomaceous earth, pressurized carbon dioxide snow, and steam and heat treatments.
Whichever treatment is used, it will only be effective if physical control methods and preventative measures are used together.
How to find a professional pest control operator
Contact information for exterminators or pest control operators can be found by contacting the Canadian Pest Management Association or your provincial pest management association.
Physical control methods
Physical methods of controlling bedbugs include steam cleaning, vacuuming, heating, freezing, washing, and throwing out items. Steam cleaning should be done before vacuuming, as the steam will flush any bedbugs not killed out of hiding. Heat treatments should be left to the professionals.
Steaming, washing and throwing out items
- Infested (but intact) mattresses, upholstery and plush items that cannot be washed with hot water and detergent should be steam cleaned. Bedbugs die at 50°C and steam cleaners generally emit steam at a temperature of at least 100°C. Dry steam or low vapour steamers are better because they leave behind less moisture. Steam will only kill the bedbugs that it reaches, so move the steam cleaner slowly to maximize depth. Avoid excess moisture, which could lead to mould.
- Putting small items in the freezer or outside is sometimes effective. However, freezing temperatures must be kept for a prolonged period (4 days of consistent cold at -19°C), and may not kill all of the bedbugs.
- Place small non-washable items and dry-clean-only items in a hot dryer for 30 minutes or more.
- Wash mattress pads, bedding, bed skirts, infested clothes, curtains, and so on in hot water and dry them on the hottest dryer setting. Store clean, dry items in light-coloured sealed heavy duty plastic bags or plastic storage bins with secure lids to avoid infesting other areas.
- Throw out any items that can't be washed, heated, or steam cleaned.
- Vacuum daily following the directions below.
Handheld vacuums, vacuums with a cloth bag, and vacuums with hoses that are made of fabric are not a good idea for bedbug clean-up because these vacuums can become infested. For households with family members who have allergies or asthma, it's best to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to avoid putting insect and dust allergens back into the air.
- Bedbugs cling to wood and fabric, and their eggs are cemented to the surface where they were laid. Using a stiff brush attachment and a back-and-forth scraping motion on the surface of the mattress, and a nozzle for the seams and crevices, carefully vacuum all sides to remove bedbugs and eggs. This includes the mattress, box spring, bed frame, baseboards, non-washable furniture cushions, any rugs and carpeting, around heating units and baseboards, and the inside and underneath all drawers and furniture.
- Let the vacuum run for a bit to make sure all bedbugs have been sucked into the bag, then dispose of the vacuum bag in a sealed white plastic bag (white plastic makes it easier to spot a bedbug), in a garbage bin with a lid.
- Stuff paper towel in the end of the vacuum hose and seal it with tape to prevent any bedbugs from escaping.
- Wash all vacuum attachments in hot water and detergent.
- Store the vacuum in a large plastic bag and seal it.
- For a bagless vacuum cleaner, follow the instructions above, but also empty the canister contents into a plastic garbage bag, seal and dispose of the bag right away, and wash the dust container in hot water with detergent.
Using pesticides and pest control products
Health Canada regulates pesticides in Canada. We make sure that each pesticide registered for use meets Canada's high standards for health and environmental safety, and that the product works as claimed on the label.
Each registered pesticide comes with a detailed label that provides directions on how to use the product safely, which pests it controls, where and on what it can be used, and how to apply it properly. To see if a pesticide has been registered for use in Canada, check the label for a Pest Control Products (PCP) registration number. If the product label does not have a PCP registration number, do not buy or use it. Unregistered pesticides are illegal in Canada and their safety and effectiveness have not been reviewed by Health Canada.
Follow these precautions when using pesticides:
- Carefully read the label before buying or using pesticides, to figure out which products are best for your situation and to use the product safely.
- Use only pesticides registered by Health Canada and only as directed on the label.
- Never use any treatment on people, pets or bedding unless the pesticide label specifically says to do so. For example, pesticides registered for use on bed frames are not meant to be used on mattresses or box springs.
- Do not use pesticides on baby cribs, playpens, or toys.
- Do not use homemade pesticides. While they may seem simple and harmless, many homemade pesticide recipes can be dangerous both to make and to use. They could harm you and your family.
For more information on pesticide use and regulation, contact Health Canada's Pest Management Information Service.
Ozone generators are machines that produce ozone gas. Manufacturers and vendors may claim that they can kill bedbugs and get rid of mould and indoor air pollution.
However, Health Canada is warning Canadians: do not use ozone generators. These devices are not safe. They can cause respiratory problems that include:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
- irritation of eyes, nose and throat
No ozone-generating devices have been approved for use on bedbugs in Canada. Home-owners and pest control operators should not use ozone generators to control bedbugs, mould or other pests.
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