Bedbugs: how do I prevent an infestation?

Prevention is the key to avoiding bedbug infestations in your home. To reduce the chances of an infestation, follow these steps:

Reduce places where bedbugs can hide

  • Get rid of clutter.
  • Vacuum often, including under and behind beds.
  • Repair or remove peeling wallpaper and tighten loose electrical faceplates.
  • Seal all cracks and crevices on wooden bed frames, between baseboards, and in walls, ceilings, windows, door frames, and furniture.
  • Check any entry points on walls that you share with neighbours, and openings that allow access to the inside of the wall (like areas where pipes, wires and other utility services enter).

Be careful about what you bring into your house or buy

  • Check every item you bring into your home for the first time, including used books, new furniture, and garage sale or antique store furniture.
  • Be very cautious with second-hand or refurbished items.
  • New mattresses are often delivered in the same truck that carries away old mattresses, so be careful to check your new mattress before it enters your home. Insist that your new mattress be sealed before it is delivered.
  • Never take a mattress or sofa from a curb.
  • Check items before you put them in your vehicle and check your vehicle after helping a friend move.
  • When you return from a trip, follow the tips described on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

Check your home regularly for bedbugs

Regular inspection is important to prevent infestations. To thoroughly inspect your home, you will need a few simple tools:

  • flashlight
  • something to scrape along mattress seams and other crevices (like an old credit card cut into a long triangle: use it in a sweeping motion in narrow spaces to chase bedbugs out of hiding)
  • screwdrivers for removing electrical faceplates and taking furniture apart (always be sure the power is turned off before opening an electrical outlet)
  • alcohol, glass-cleaner, or baby wipes for checking if stains are bedbug droppings (if spots dissolve into a reddish brown colour when rubbed, the spots could be bedbug droppings)
  • cotton swabs for checking stains in crevices
  • white plastic bags that can be sealed, for your belongings

Check on, under and beside beds, couches and upholstered furniture. Look for black/brown spots (dried blood or feces), white spots (eggs - very hard to see), or live or dead bedbugs.

If you find signs of bedbugs, you should carefully widen the area of your inspection. If you have a pet, check areas where your pet sleeps as well.

Checking a bed for bedbugs

  • Remove and inspect all bed linens, including pillows. If you see signs of bedbugs, wash the linens using the hot cycle of your machine.
  • Slowly lift up each corner of the mattress and examine all creases, tufts, and buttons, along each side of any piping material sewn onto the edges, along mattress handles and air holes, and under pillow tops.
  • Slowly lift up each corner and check where the box spring sits on the bed frame.
  • Look closely at the top surface of the box spring, inside folds of material, along seams, and where the fabric is stapled to the box spring. Also check along the edge of the cloth underside. If you see signs of bedbugs, flip the box spring upside-down and remove the cloth underside to look inside the box spring.
  • Check all surfaces, crevices, screws, staples, tacks, and under wooden plugs that cover screw or nail holes on the bed frame, legs, and headboard.
  • Also go over the wall behind the bed (bedbugs can hide in wallpaper and electrical outlets). Remove electrical, telephone, or cable faceplates to check behind them. Always be sure the power is turned off before opening an electrical outlet. Pay extra attention to gaps in the baseboard or rips or bumps in wallpaper.

You should throw your bed out if you find bedbugs inside the box spring or where holes or worn spots in the fabric of the mattress are. These spots can allow bedbugs to lay eggs in places that are not easy to reach for treatment.

If you do throw out your bed or any other infested items, wrap them in plastic and tape off the edges to prevent spreading bedbugs on your way to the trash. Put a sign on the item saying it has a bedbug infestation, so that no one else takes the problem home with them.

Checking furniture for bedbugs

  • Remove any loose cushions and check the creases, especially the seams and around the zippers of upholstered chairs and couches. Check the seating area and any creases along the sides and back of the chair or couch. Check the legs, especially where they join the upholstery, and where the fabric is tacked to the frame.
  • Go over all corners and surfaces of wood furniture like dressers, cabinets, tables, chairs, and bookshelves. Remove drawers and look at the inside, the top, sides, back, and legs, paying extra attention to any cracks. Use the crevice tool to check any gaps (like between a shelf and bookcase frame, and under metal drawer slides).
  • Wicker furniture is an ideal hiding spot for bedbugs, so check it carefully.

If you find signs of bedbugs, also check:

  • Wall baseboards closest to the bed, using the crevice tool to check inside gaps.
  • Between the folds of curtains, along the curtain hem, inside curtain rods and under the hardware on the wall.
  • Around window and door casings and frames, along the hinges and in the hole for the door latch.
  • Under area rugs and the edges of carpets. Fold back the edges of wall-to-wall carpeting and check the carpet tack strips.

If bedbugs are on the walls, they could also be hiding in picture frames, light fixtures, smoke detectors or other wall-mounted items. Bedbugs hiding in ceiling lights could mean that they are entering from a room above yours.

For more information on pesticide use and regulation, contact Health Canada's Pest Management Information Service.

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