How can I get rid of bedbugs?

Young woman looking at bites on her forearm

People who have bedbugs in their home want to get rid of them as soon possible. A few simple things can help. But bedbugs are persistent and professional help is often needed. That is why the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) recommends getting assistance from a pest control company.

Bedbugs and their eggs all have to be gotten rid of for your home to be completely free of them again. Young bedbugs hatch from the eggs within just a few days and can then grow and reproduce. The eggs and the young bugs can hardly be seen with the naked eye at first, which can make it harder to tackle them. Adult bedbugs can grow to be 0.5 cm (about 0.2 inches) long, and up to 1 cm when full of blood, and are then easily visible.

Bedbugs and their eggs cannot cope with cold and heat. Constant temperatures over 55° Celsius (131° Fahrenheit) or below -18° Celsius (0° F) are needed to kill them. That is why cleaning infested items is not enough. To make sure that all eggs and young and adult bedbugs are gotten rid of, the cleaning utensils have to be treated with cold or heat afterwards. You can squash any bedbugs you might see roaming around with your foot or a fly swatter and then dispose of them.

What can I do myself to get rid of bedbugs?

There are a few things you can do to get rid of bedbugs and their eggs.

  • Clean hiding spots: If you find a bedbug hiding spot, you can clean it. You can remove the insects and the eggs that are not stuck too much with a vacuum cleaner. You can use a spatula or thin plastic card to scratch off any residue left stuck to the surface and then vacuum that up. You can also pull off bedbug eggs with a strong sticky tape.
  • Vacuuming: Bedbugs can be removed with a vacuum cleaner. It is best to thoroughly vacuum your entire home. You should use a vacuum cleaner with a bag. Bagless vacuum cleaners are only suitable if the dust collector fits in the freezer. You can use the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner to suck up any eggs that are not stuck too hard to the surface, especially if you slightly scratch them off the bottom.
  • Cleaning: You can scrub infested surfaces to remove any remaining eggs or tiny baby insects that might be left after vacuuming.
  • Washing: It is best to wash bedding and any affected clothing at 60° Celsius at least. If possible, dry them on a hot cycle in the dryer.
  • Freezing: Smaller items, books and sensitive clothing can also be frozen. Place them in bin bags and tightly seal them - perhaps using sticky tape. It takes about 3 to 4 days for bedbugs and their eggs to be killed at standard freezer temperatures of -18° Celsius.
  • Heat in the oven: Heat-resistant items can be put in a closed pot or casserole and heated in the oven for at least one hour at temperatures of at least 55° Celsius.
  • Steam cleaning: If you have access to a steam cleaner, larger items like mattresses or suitcases can be treated with hot steam (where possible with dry steam, a low steam flow, and a wide nozzle without bristles). Steam cleaning is suitable for items that are resistant to heat and moisture.

It makes sense to freeze used cleaning cloths, spatulas and sticky tape after cleaning to make sure no eggs survive. The normal seal on vacuum cleaner bags isn't enough to keep the bedbugs in, either. It is best to put the cleaning utensils and the vacuum cleaner bag in bin bags and seal them well with sticky tape before freezing them for a few days. Only then should you put the bin bags in your household waste.

What is best left to specialists?

Chemical insecticides are freely available to buy as sprays or nebulizers. But bedbugs have gotten used to a lot of the active ingredients and have built up to them. That means those products cannot definitely get rid of the bedbugs and it gets more difficult to combat them. That’s why it's best to leave it up to specialists: They often use a combination of several different active ingredients. Pest control specialists are also trained in preventing health damage caused by insecticides.

A use of heat or hot steam on larger areas is an alternative to using insecticides. Professional service providers can heat whole rooms with special machines.

The costs of professional pest control can vary a lot. It depends on things like how severe the bedbug infestation is and how many rooms have to be cleaned. It can be worth getting a few different quotes.

Whichever method you use, it makes sense to carry out a check about 2 or 3 weeks later: Are there any new signs of bedbugs? It is important to repeat the measures you took as soon as possible if you do find bedbugs or eggs. That prevents the insects from infesting your home again.

Doggett SL. A Code of Practice For the Control of Bed Bug Infestations in Australia. 2013.

Kells SA. Non-Chemical Control. In: Doggett SD, Miller DM, Chow-Yang L (Ed). Advances in the Biology and Management of Bed Bugs. Hoboken: Wiley Blackwell; 2018. S. 257-272.

Parola P, Izri A. Bedbugs. N Engl J Med 2020; 382(23): 2230-2237.

Umweltbundesamt. Bettwanzen: Erkennen, vorbeugen, bekämpfen. 2017.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Created on September 21, 2022

Next planned update: 2025


Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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