Bed bugs have been a nuisance to many homeowners and their households. It’s estimated that at least 1 in every 5 households in the United States will experience a bed bug infestation, as it indiscriminately spreads in all types of households.
For some, this begs the question: is your household plagued with bed bugs because of poor hygiene? Not exactly – bed bugs aren’t after dirty hosts and will thrive in any place where they have access to a host and a suitable place to survive and breed. Here’s what you should know about bed bugs and cleanliness.
Are Bed Bugs a Sign of a Dirty Household?
No, bed bugs aren’t caused by poor personal hygiene or unclean households. Even if your home is as clean as it can be, there’s still a chance that bed bugs may enter your home. Although practices like frequent deep-cleaning and changing your sheets and linens often can prevent a major bed bug infestation, that isn’t going to stop bed bugs from coming into your home when you least expect it.
Bed bugs survive by finding a warm host to feed on (in this case, it’s you, your household, and even your pets). They then hide in places like under upholstered furniture, cracks in the walls, and other dark areas where they can survive and breed, living close to areas like beds where they can get a blood meal every two weeks. Left unchecked, this can grow into a colony that can spread to other parts of the home. If you live in a multi-unit building like an apartment or condominium, bed bugs can also spread to other units.
So, in short: bed bugs are not a sign that your home is filthy or your household has bad hygiene practices. Any home can experience a bed bug infestation if you’re not careful.
What Causes Bed Bugs?
The general reason your home has bed bugs is because someone (or something) unknowingly carried bed bugs into your home. These bed bugs managed to survive by finding a place to hide and a host (usually humans when asleep, hence the name bed bugs) to feed on. If left to survive, bed bugs can breed and cause an infestation.
A few common ways your household brought in bed bugs include:
- Multi-Unit Buildings. You’re more likely to catch bed bugs from your neighbors if you live in apartment complexes or condominiums compared to single-family homes. Your nearby neighbors can cause a bedbug infestation that can spread to your unit, and vice versa. Bed bugs are wingless insects and cannot fly or jump, but they can crawl very fast and pass through walls, ceilings, and hallways and into your unit. They’re also as flat and as small as an apple seed, so they can hide in extremely tight areas.
- Second-Hand Furniture. Moving-in furniture – both new and used furniture – may carry bed bugs, but the risk is higher if you’re buying second-hand furniture. This can spread to other upholstered furniture like couches, chairs, and beds.
- Your Outdoor Activities. When you do things like visit other homes, travel, or stay in public spaces (e.g. sitting in movie theaters or public transportation), there’s a chance that bed bugs from other people or from certain locations could climb onto your clothes or bag. You and your household might have unknowingly brought them into your home. While bed bugs usually feast on human blood, this can also apply to pets.
- Your Guests. Guests who visit your home may unknowingly have spread bed bugs to your home. It can take time to notice a bed bug infestation, so they might not have noticed and did not contain the problem and have accidentally left bed bugs in your home.
- Inefficient Insecticide Resistance. These days, bed bugs are immune to certain types of insecticides like bug bombs and fogging, and may not work unless it’s a specific insecticide or if the insecticide is applied directly to the insects. Although you can find insecticides designed for bed bugs, this may not be enough to treat an entire infestation. Pest control companies are the best solution for major bed bug infestations.
Although bed bugs are not life-threatening, it can be uncomfortable living with them. Bed bugs do not carry as much of a risk of infectious diseases like mosquito bites or similar insect bites from ticks and fleas. In rare cases, bed bug bites can cause an allergic reaction or a bacterial infection, which may require professional medical attention.
How to Prevent Bed Bugs
When it comes to bed bugs, prevention is better than the cure. A bed bug bite may not be immediately noticed, so it can take time to notice you have bed bugs. By the time you do, it can be a serious issue in your home. Because not all insecticides are effective at removing bed bugs, you will need to call in a professional pest control service to handle your home. That’s why it’s much better to practice some of these ways to prevent bed bugs:
- Avoid buying secondhand furniture. Especially if you’re buying or picking up upholstered furniture, since these can be difficult to see if they have bed bugs. If you really must get second-hand furniture, check areas like the seams or its box spring for bed bugs. Have them deep-cleaned and heat-treated to reduce the risk of bed bugs and bed bug eggs.
- Clean second-hand clothing before wearing. Buying from thrift shops and discount stores also have the risk of picking up bed bugs. Seal your clothing in a plastic bag and empty the bag directly into your washing machine. Wash your clothes with hot water and then dry in the highest heat setting.
- Be careful when travelling. If you’re staying in a hotel or Airbnb, check the hotel bed and furniture for signs of bed bugs before unpacking. Some signs of bed bugs are a musty smell on the bed and rust-colored droppings and shed skin. If you’re not sure, place your used clothes in a separate bag and wash them with hot water and high heat.
- Use pesticides specifically designed for bed bugs. Before it develops into a major infestation that requires professional pest control services, bed bug pesticides can work to remove minor cases of bed bugs. Check the pesticide label if it is suitable for bed bugs, other wise bed bugs can survive due to pesticide resistance.
- Avoid placing your bag on the floor. Especially if the floor is a carpet, which is a good breeding ground for bed bugs. Bed bugs can also enter your home through your personal items, so instead of leaving your bag on the floor, place it on top of a table or dresser.
How a Clean Home and Good Hygiene Can Help
A dirty home and poor hygiene habits do not cause bed bugs, but keeping a clean home and practicing good hygiene habits can help prevent bed bugs from growing in numbers and causing an infestation. You won’t stop bed bugs from coming in due to the causes we mentioned earlier, but these practices can make it harder for them to survive in your home.
- Get rid of the clutter in your bedroom. Bed bugs can hide in dark places and crevices around your home. Their flat bodies make it easy for them to live in tight places like wall cracks, inside the seams of your upholstered furniture and mattresses, and more. By getting rid of clutter, you can reduce the number of places bed bugs can hide.
- Move your bed. Bed bugs can travel up to 20 feet away from their hiding place to feed on a host. It takes them around 10 minutes to feed and can survive by feeding at least once every 14 days. If your bed frames are near a potential hiding spot, consider moving them farther.
- Vacuum your home regularly. This includes the molding, windows, floors, mattresses, and furniture. Seal and dispose the bag from the vacuum cleaner immediately to prevent bed bugs from crawling out.
- Wash your linens regularly. Bedsheets and pillows should be washed once every two weeks, while curtains should be replaced up after six months (or earlier, if you have dust allergies).
- Change your clothes after coming home. After coming home, wash up and change your clothes before sitting down on the couch or laying down on your bed. So, if bed bugs attached to your clothes while you were outdoors, you can prevent transferring bed bugs to your furniture.
Live in Comfort in a Bed Bug-Free Home with California Bed Bug Exterminators
There are many benefits to living in a clean home and practicing good hygiene, but that’s not going to stop bed bugs from coming in. If you unknowingly bring in bed bugs, it can be a matter of time before it grows into a major infestation. What cleanliness can provide, however, is the possible prevention of a bed bug infestation.
If your home is facing a bed bug infestation, it’s best to call a professional pest control service to handle the situation effectively. California Bed Bug Exterminators can remove all bed bugs that are making your home uncomfortable and give you the peace of mind that your home is pest-free and less likely to develop future infestations. Contact us today to learn more about our pest control services.