Removing bed bugs from soft furnishings: an ultimate guide

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Despite the name, bed bugs don’t just make their home in your bed, or even just in the bedroom. They are tiny creatures that clutch onto fabrics, clothes, and luggage, hitchhiking a ride into your home with their new food source (you). Even though they are so small and hide in small dark crevices in fabrics, carpets, and mattresses, they are one of the most troublesome infestations to have in your home. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t actually associated with uncleanliness, and they are often picked up by people that have been travelling or moving around, no matter what kind of establishment you spend the night at. 

If you suspect you or someone in your home has picked up these irritating creatures, be prepared to take the required steps to remove them from your home and soft furnishings; it isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

Removing bed bugs from soft furnishings an ultimate guide

How to know if you have bed bugs

The first thing you will notice if you have a bed bug infestation are the bites. These are little itchy welts on your skin, predominantly on your back and legs. You may find specks of blood on your clothing and bed sheets from where they have bitten you. For thorough details on determining whether you have bed bugs, and identifying and treating bedbug bites, take a look at Patient’s article. Patient provides detailed information on a range of medical issues and concerns in articles that are written and reviewed by doctors, as well as offering at-home tests and tools to assist with your healthcare. 

If you have noticed the first signs of bed bugs, the next step is to thoroughly inspect your soft furnishings, clothes, and bedding to see if you can spot the creatures. Because they are so small, to do this successfully, you will need a flashlight, rubber gloves, some thin plastic like a credit card, double-sided tape, and a magnifying glass. Cover the plastic in double-sided sticky tape and run it along the seams of your furnishings and into all the little crevices, thoroughly inspecting after each one. If you notice any signs of bed bugs, immediately contain the infected upholstery in a sealed plastic bag.

Signs of a bed bug infestation

There are a few sure signs to look out for when inspecting for a bed bug infestation. Firstly, you may notice the adult bed bugs themselves. These are tiny round creatures that are reddish-brown in colour. Their nymphs that have been recently hatched are more translucent and much smaller. Look out for eggs, which are smaller than a grain of rice but similar in colour and will be in deep dark crevices where they remain until they hatch. Bed bugs also shed their skin, so if you find what appears to be non-moving bed bugs, this is probably what it is. You may also find their excrement on your furnishings when carefully inspecting, which appears as small black spots or streaks on the material. Finally, as bed bugs bite, they often leave a tiny open wound on your skin which can bleed, which is why a common sign of a bed bug infestation is the accompaniment of small spots of blood on your clothes or bed sheets with the raised, red, itchy bite marks.

Using heat to remove bed bugs

Extreme temperature is the most effective method of removing bed bugs from your home, especially high temperatures. Washing your clothes and any other infected material on the highest temperature setting possible will definitely kill them and remove your infestation. When you return from your travels, no matter where you have been, it is a good idea to always wash all your clothes on a high temperature for at least thirty minutes, and then use the dryer for another thirty minutes to be sure that all the bed bugs in each stage of development have been killed. For items that can be washed, this is the best way to treat bed bugs. 

However, not everything can just simply be thrown into the washing machine. If bed bugs are hiding in cracks and crevices in your furnishings, opt for a steam cleaner. This can be used on chairs, sofas, carpets, and other crevices. Use the highest temperature setting and repeat the treatment a few times to be sure that they have been removed. Alternatively, placing items in a large, sealed bin bag and putting this out in direct sunlight has been found to be an effective method for removing bed bugs, and can be done whilst you are travelling as well to avoid bringing them back to your home in the first place.

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Using cold to remove bed bugs

Alternatively, extreme cold can also be an effective method when it comes to removing bed bugs. If you live in an area where outside temperatures get really low, this could be your best and easiest option for getting rid of your infestation. If the outdoor temperature is zero or below, place your soft furnishings outside for eight hours or more. Alternatively, for smaller items, you can place clothing, bedding, cushion covers and other fabrics in a sealed bag into the freezer for 10 or more hours. You may need to repeat this process to fully remove all the bed bugs as it isn’t as effective as using extreme heat, but it is a viable option.

Vacuum and clean regularly

To prevent and control bed bug infestations, make sure you vacuum on a high suction setting regularly and deeply – get into all those tiny cracks and crevices in your furnishings and make sure you dispose of your vacuum bags immediately in a sealed bag. Always placing potentially infected items in a sealed container or bag will prevent them from escaping, surviving, and multiplying elsewhere in your home. It keeps the infestation contained and controlled. Not only should you vacuum, but you should also wash all your furnishings regularly, especially if you or someone in your house has just come back from travelling. Steaming is the best option for regular cleaning to prevent a bed bug infestation, especially if the items cannot be thrown into the washing machine. But always remember the top tip for controlling and removing a bed bug infestation is making sure you get deep into all the fold, cracks, crevices, and dark places when vacuuming or steaming. This is where they hide, so this is where you need to target. 

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Airtight containers

If they cannot feed, bed bugs will die. So, storing your bedding, clothes or soft furnishings in a sealed container for a few months will likely remove any bed bug problems from the material. If you choose to do this or have had an infestation in the past, it is probably best to also wash any of these items on a high temperature before reintroducing them into your home to make sure that you aren’t reinfecting your furnishings.

An integrated approach

If you think you have a bed bug infestation in your soft furnishings, the most effective way of removing them would be by using a combination of all, or a few, of the methods. Wash, steam and dry your items the best you can and make sure you don’t miss anything out. Any bed bugs that are missed will just multiply and your infestation problem will continue.

Bed bugs can be incredibly irritating; not only do they cause itchiness, but they are also stubborn and difficult to remove. Using this guide, if you ever have a bed bug infestation, you will know how to remove them quickly and effectively.

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