Dear PoPville – Has Anyone Resolved a Bed Bug Issue Permanently?

“Dear PoPville,

I’m writing after a long night of itching and anxiety. My house recently became infested with bedbugs. This is something I’ve NEVER experienced before until recently when my upstairs roommate complained that they were in her room. She called the landlord, and a he sent a guy over to spray and inspect. Just a few days later, they’re in my room and I’m getting bit. I’m trying to do all the right things — isolate my bed, double/triple wash and dry my clothes, purchasing natural remedies — but online research isn’t making me feel optimistic. I’ve complained to my landlord again, but he doesn’t seem to have any sense of urgency about this situation. I’m just getting really sad and anxious that this is going to go on for a long time, and I’ll have to stay covered up this summer so that people don’t see my bites.

Have you heard of any success stories or remedies that worked PERMANENTLY for people in DC getting rid of bed bugs?”

Ed. Note: We first spoke about one reader’s experience with bed bugs in 2010 and Tony’s battle with them shortly thereafter. We spoke about them here in 2011 and most recently last summer.

42 Comment

  • You have to remember that the people posting on the internet are those who are most frustrated with the situation – the ones who can’t get the bugs to go away. I got rid of them very successfully using Orkin, who did an excellent job treating my apartment and all my neighbors (next door and above/below). I only had one treatment + a follow-up inspection 1 month later.

    The reason they’re in your room is that they’ve been disturbed upstairs and are finding new places to hide. Get a professional and keep your clean/dried clothes bagged until you’re sure they’re gone.

  • Your landlord needs to pay for professional remediation. Natural remedies aren’t going to cut it.

  • Several years ago, Orkin was able to clear up a relatively small problem for me. Granted, I don’t live in a multi-unit apartment building, but you might want to check with them. It was hell of a lot of work on my part — all clothing washed in hot water or dry-cleaned (or stored in sealed bags for over a year), furniture moved, edges of carpets pulled up, all switch and outlet plates removed, before they did the treatment. But, it worked.

  • Yes, I had to deal with them permanently, but i was able to catch it before it got out of control. I tried bombs and sprays labeled for “bed bugs”. Those guys gave me the middle finger and kept biting. I thought about paying a guy, but I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I bought a combination of pesticides from Amazon (search for “Delta Dust with puffer” and “Bedlam Plus”).

    The bugs live within 5 feet or so of your bedding. Strip everything, wash on hot with bleach or colorsafe bleach. Wash again, wash again, dry, dry, dry. Just overkill the linens basically. Then treat the edges of the mattress and boxspring with the Bedlam Plus, and all angles, corners, joints and legs on your bed frame with bedlam plus. After the bedlam plus dries, puff the Delta Dust powder into every single nook and cranny. Hit the baseboards, everything around with the Bedlam, let it dry, then the Delta Dust. Look everywhere for evidence of the bed bugs. They molt and leave their old exoskeletons lying around. Wherever you find evidence of them, treat with bedlam plus and the delta dust. Basically, they need to come to your body to feed, they will have cross one or more of the pesticide barriers. The delta dust breaks down their exoskeleton as well as contains pesticide, and the bedlam plus is free to penetrate and knock them out. It worked for me. I was rather satisfied. I retreated everything 2 weeks later just to be safe.

    • I should note that this cost me like $70, plus a couple hours of labor, and solved the problem permanently.

  • Washing isn’t going to help. You have to use one of the HEATED treatments. Bascially, get a specialist that will bring in a dog to confirm the bedbugs. Then they basically heat the entire inside of the house aboe 100 I think to kill the bugs. All your bedding etc should be washed in some industrial size dryer at a laundromat. Dont let anyone tell you that you can get rid of these suckers without heat treating the entire apartment and preferably all the adjacent units.

    • This. If it’s an infestation. But you can dry stuff in your own dryer, I think they can get up to 160 degrees.

  • You have to heat treat them, no chemicals needed. I used Superior Bed Bug Solutions and it took care of the room where I had the problem. They should stay away permanently as long as you dont bring them back into the house another way.

  • I had a bed bug issue in my studio apt. last fall. I used American Pest heating services, in which they heat your apt. for a whole day. It is more expensive than the chemical method, but it did not require bagging or destroying clothing, mattress, or other belongings. After the heating treatment, I purchased a bed bug mattress cover from Bed Bath & Beyond, which was designed to trap any remaining bed bugs and to prevent potential new ones from hiding in mattress seams. I have not had any bed bug issues since the heating treatment.

    • I also used American Pest Control, but did their chem treatment since it’s what my landlord would pay for (after fighting for them for 6 weeks until they agreed to pay for). Ultimately, it took 3 treatments (and about 2 months) to finally get the bastards, and I haven’t seen any in 8 months. Bed bugs are the worst. APC also has a one-year warranty where all future chem treatments after the first are included. So while the whole process is incredibly stressful and invasive, at least you only have to pay them once.

  • jim_ed

    We had a relatively minor bed bug case 6 months ago, and had a local company come out to treat it. They sprayed the house on 3 seperate occasions, while we washed and sanitized everything and then basically lived with the dining room table as our closet, with everything tighly sealed in plastic. We tossed most of our pillows, and after the final treatment the mattress and boxspring got anti-bed bug cases. It wasn’t very much fun, and I think my wife has lasting laundry trauma from how many loads we did, but it seems to have worked, and wasn’t outrageously expensive like the heat treatment option was.

    • I have never looked into this but given these options seems like heat is well worth the money. You don’t have to be as thorough and risk not treating something, it seems more foolproof, and, almost as importantly, you won’t be introducing those nasty chemicals into your living space. Those chemicals are really toxic and the companies like Orkin don’t tell you how nasty they are. I’ll take heat any day.

  • Had my 1st ever bedbug experience 2 months ago. Fumigation & spraying is nearly impossible as a solution in older buildings & rowhouses bcuz bugs can smell the stuff coming and they hide in the hairline cracks of wall & floorboards. I hired a green comany, Superior Bed Bug Solutions (SBBS) of Alexandria, VA. They have a detection dogs and then they heat treat your home in three blasts to eradicate all bugs in walls & floors. If u live in a 1 bdr/1 bath apt & r infested, treatment is $1500.
    Alternative: identify the source/nest then throw it out; hot steam the living daylights out of yr floor coverings & mattress seams; go to garden supply shop or Amazon and get lots of Diatomacious Earth then disperse it liberally on your floors and bedding materials.
    Hope u get rid of the buggers expeditiously & completely.

  • It’s your landlord’s responsibility. Get a good pest control company. Heat, from a hot enough steamer, is the only thing that will kill all phases, including the eggs, which are hard to see and difficult to kill. I really should get my wife to write up a primer. She was successful in solving our problem with a steamer and Bedlam plus. The Bedlam is good for the cracks and crevices. Those suckers will get in electrical plugs, wood finishing, basically anything tight that they can fit in.

  • Sorry – maybe I’m missing something, but why is exterminating bedbugs the landlord’s responsibility? It sounds like the bugs came from your roommate’s mattress or somewhere in her things… I’m not seeing why the landlord has to take this on?

    • Pests and rodent removal is a landlords responsibility.

    • I think technically they aren’t the landlord’s responsibility, because bedbugs don’t spread disease and therefore aren’t considered “vermin.”
      But any landlord with any sense would want to eradicate the problem.

    • This is what the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate says:
      “The short answer is that, generally speaking, you are responsible for extermination if your unit is the only one infested, and the landlord is responsible if more than one unit in the rental accommodation is infested.
      This general rule applies to the extermination of any vermin including rodents, roaches and other insects including bed bugs. If yours is the only unit infested or you rent a single-family dwelling, there is an important exception to this general rule. Namely, the landlord becomes liable for the extermination if he or she has failed to maintain the premises in a rodent-proof or reasonably insect-proof condition.
      The source of a bed bug infestation, however, is particularly difficult to determine, which underscores the fact that pest control ultimately is a shared responsibility. It is critical that landlords and tenants alike do their part to prevent access points or “harborages” (hiding places) for pests of any kind. Tenants in multi-family dwellings should promptly report an infestation to the landlord or management company, and landlords should take immediate remedial steps.”

  • Yes, way back in 2009, when the second coming of the bedbug was just beginning and most pros didn’t even know what to do with them yet. I was able to get rid of most of them in about a week, and all of them in about a month, with no sign of any return through the end of 2012 (no sign then, either, but I moved then, and can’t comment on the bedbug status of the house after I moved out). I used a combination of 1.) diatomaceous earth (you can get this at any hardware store, apply with a fine brush, basically non-toxic but try not to disburse a big cloud of it into the air and then breathe it), 2.) a deltamethrin-based pesticide called SuspendSC (got it online, requires special equipment, slightly toxic but pretty benign), and 3.) an “insect growth regulator” (which doesn’t kill them but stops them from reproducing, very toxic, use protection when working with it) called Gentrol IGR. This stuff basically sticks around and continues to work on the bedbugs that encounter it unless you wash it away or something, whereas with most of the stuff you can buy at the store, you basically have to spray it right on the bedbugs or they’d have to walk through the spray while it’s still wet in order to do anything. For all I know any one of those might have gotten the job done, but anyway, I used all three, and it worked.

  • I don’t think “natural remedies” (which it sounds like were the OP’s preference, rather than the landlord’s) were going to work.
    If your housemate’s room has been sprayed and yours hasn’t, the bugs are naturally going to find your room preferable. At the very least, you need to get the landlord to have his guy come back and spray your room. From what other people say, that might not resolve the problem completely, but it should at least lessen it.

  • Another vote here for heat treatment. We had at least two floors of a big rowhouse infested, after our landlord tried to do what your did (treat one room and hope that would solve it). Our experience with American Pest was great- it was a one-day treatment, with no gross chemicals to worry about. The house did look like a tornado had gone through it afterwards, but they had warned us that would be the case, and that was the last thing we were worried about anyway since at that point we were sprinkling diatomaceous earth everywhere (not so smart) and bagging all our clean clothes in those huge zip-lock bags.

    We also bought something called a Pack-Tite – it’s a collapsible heating unit you can put stuff like suitcases inside to cook a little, if you fear you’ve been exposed to bed bugs while traveling. It was pricey – $300 maybe? it’s been a while – but my roommate and I have used it a handful of times since then to be on the safe side and the peace of mind was so worth it.

  • We’ve had our house treated twice – first with chemicals, then two years later with heat. I’ll never consider it permanent because there are just so many ways to pick them up and bring them home. And if you live in multi-unit dwelling or row house, your neighbor’s problem is always going to be your problem.
    Get professional help. Seriously.
    In the meantime, to sleep with some peace, you can try JT Eaton spray or use 90%+ rubbing alcohol to soak every crevice of your bed where they may be hiding. Then find plastic containers that will fit around the feet of your bed (they can’t climb on plastic) and sprinkle a powder called diacetemous earth inside them for extra certainty. The idea is to cut off access to their food supply (you) so you have to make sure none of your bedding touches the floor, wall or surrounding furniture.

  • You need to get “bed bug monitors” for starters. These things are a ingenious design that are like cups that you place under the feet of your bed. They will at least trap the bed bugs that are coming onto the bed at night into the well of the monitor that they cannot climp up due to the design of it ( which is also dusted in Diatomaceous earth). I would also purchase a special sealed cover for your mattress/boxspring which will also help trap any of the bed bugs already in your mattress from biting you and keep any new ones from getting into your mattress.

    Second, buy some Diatomaceous Earth and spread it (like dust not in clumps) around your baseboards and bed. Keep your bed away from the wall. The Diatomaceous Earth dries out the exoskeletons of the bed bugs and makes it come apart eventually killing them. Unlike, what a previous commenter has said though the bed bugs can live farther than “5 feet” from your bed. They can live in virtually any tiny nook & cranny you can imagine and they can travel long distances. The ones that got in our house even came through the wall from our neighbors house. The bugs can also live up to a year without feeding as well.

    Lastly, you need to pay for a professional treatment or have your landlord pay for it. That is the only way you will even have a chance of getting rid of it. Our neighbor tries to treat his infested house with his homemade chemicals and he never gets rid of them. We paid for a professional treatment and doused our entire house from top to bottom in chemicals and almost completely got rid of them if it weren’t for the fact that our neighbors won’t pay for the same treatment. You need cooperation with your room-mate to get rid of them/ the entire building and any adjacent connected buildings as well. I would definitely recommend Connor’s pest control. Or try Orkin as it seems other commenters have had success with them. It might take a combination of both chemical spray and heat treatment to get rid of them. You have to kill the ones alive first and then also destroy the eggs that they lay by heat. One female can lay hundreds of eggs apparently.

    One last thing I would say is this can go on for years. Treat it now and crush the bastards.

  • We had them and paid American Pest Control to treat our house and they haven’t come back. That was three years ago. I highly recommend them. We first used Terminex and they charged an outrageous amount of money, required us to do a lot more prep than APC, and the bed bugs were back 6 months later. APC offers a one year guarantee, which is great.

  • I had them when I lived in Cleveland Park in 2008 and I had Western Pest come out… I think they’re from Gaithersburg. I caught the issue in the very early stages, but I never had a problem once they came and sprayed. Hang in there, you CAN get rid of them!

  • I had a similar issue where an old roommate dragged her infested mattress through our apartment (#1 thing NOT to do) and the landlord’s pest people conveniently “didn’t see” any evidence (meanwhile, we had literally shown the landlord bugs in a baggie… but I digress). They treated the apartment once but all my research says that once is NOT enough (you need a follow up treatment to kill any newly hatched bugs 2-3 weeks after the initial treatment) and I was very worried about moving them to my new place. Did a lot of research and for the cost/reputation, went with American Pest ( — they are local. They brought a dog out for an inspection and sure enough found signs of bugs, bagged my mattress and box springs with a bug proof barrier, treated the apartment, and then came back 2 weeks later for one all inclusive price, and this included a warranty/guarantee. Several months later I worried that the bites were returning — they brought the dog back out who didn’t alert but for peace of mind agreed to treat the apartment again anyway. You DO have to was EVERYTHING, I put all my dry clean only stuff in the dryer on high heat for 20 min+ (dry, not wet — it didn’t damage anything), lived w/ bare minimum clothing out of bags for about a month, but I haven’t had a problem since. This was more cost effective than the heat treatments which were not an option for me (I lived in a rowhouse) and it fixed the problem. FWIW. The folks I worked with were extremely professional and tactful about the whole thing, which was stressful to begin with.

  • I’ve had bed bugs in my Ward 4 apartment and the apartment complex where I live still have these critters. Bed bugs is a serious matter. According to Orkin, Washington, D.C. is ranked 8th in the United States with a bed bug infestation. Some states and cities have passed bed bug legislation. New York City, Chicago, and the entire state of New York have passed bed bug legislation. I had red marks all over by body bitten by bed bugs and bed bug bites itched badly. Many landlords will not exterminate their entire property because it’s too costly. They will exterminate on a case by case. Without exterminating an entire property, these critters will go from one apartment to another. According to a recently study, the bed bug problem will increase. My landlord provided a heat treatment to get rid of the bed bugs in my apartment, however, other neighbors have had them recently. I’ve been spraying my apartment with Raid Bed Bug spray and Raid Roach spray, combining the 2 sprays. Knock on wood, I have seen any in almost 2 years, but I still live in fear of getting these critters again.

  • My landlord paid for the chemical treatments last year and I would say they didn’t come back, but we didn’t stay much longer to find out. No bed bugs have moved with either me or my roommate in our stuff.

    I wish I had gone for heat treatment though. My landlord wouldn’t pay for it, but I should have thrown in the money because the chemical route is not as open and shut effective. I was paranoid for weeks, no, months after. I regretted not spending the money to get the piece of mind.

    Anyway, the burden the chemical treatment puts on you isn’t worth your time and expense.

  • Putting your bed legs in plastic is good advice, but also be sure to pull your bed away from the wall. If these guys like you, they are tenacious – they will also crawl up the walls and across the ceiling to fall on you if they can’t get to you any other way. This didn’t seem to be widely known in Internetland around the time I got them. I’ve had two experiences with bed bugs thanks to roommates who didn’t understand how difficult they are to get rid of, and I was alerted to their presence the second time by watching one of the bugs do just this (I couldn’t reach him until he fell). They’re like heat seeking missiles, only they seek carbon dioxide.

    FYI too, that Murphy’s Oil Soap is a contact killer of bed bugs for some reason. It will NOT kill eggs, and it doesn’t appear to do much once it’s dry, but it does kill the bugs if sprayed on them.

    Try to remain calm if you get them or have them. It could be a lot of hard work to rid yourself of them, but you can do it. Don’t be too hard on yourself or a loved one if you or they feel a little traumatized by experiences with them either – I had very extreme reactions to their bites (huge, incredibly itchy welts around each bite that merged – I have bad allergies in general though) and it took about a year for the paranoia about them to go away, but it did. It is a really horrible experience for anyone who they like to bite – it can make sleeping hard. And I know FIRST HAND that two people can sleep in a bed with them and they’ll go after one person but not the other. That also is something that is becoming more widely known, if not understood.

  • I had them bad in a multi unit in Columbia Hieghts in 2009. Since my building would spray only the units that complained, the bugs would leave the treated unit for a day and always return. I had to break my lease, move across town (where I could afford to not live in an MDU) and then called Pest Central for them to come spray my belongings and my entire new place before I could really move in fully. It worked and no bugs since. I had to move and pay for the treatment out of pocket, but it was the only thing that seemed to work and I finally was able to sleep well at night.. Good luck, those little fu#*ers are the worst.

  • There is no silver bullet for getting rid of bed bugs, and doing so requires a lot of patience and dedication, but here is what worked for us:

    – We used Raid bed bug spray throughout our infested bedroom, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies (i.e., cracks in floor boards, base boards).
    – We wrapped our mattress and box spring in plastic covers to suffocate/kill any bugs or eggs that were on them.
    – Any time we experienced a bite, we stripped the bed and thoroughly washed the bedding in hot water (this was a huge hassle, but worth it in the end).
    – We sprinkled diatomaceous earth on the floor beneath our bed, focusing particularly on the bed legs, which created a barrier so that no bugs could crawl onto the bed.

    It took us several weeks of repeating these steps to see results. I haven’t had a bite in months (I used to get several nightly), so I think that we managed to kill them all.

    • If you have wood floors, pull your bed away from the wall and drop a thick layer of diatomaceous earth under your bed and all over. That did the trick for me a year ago–that plus hot laundry and spraying and sealing the mattress.

  • Oof. My condolences; bed bugs are notoriously hard to get rid of. Heat treatments are supposedly the way to go, but they’re really expensive. There are some creative traps if you Google “bed bug traps”, and you can also submerge your bed legs in bowls of water – think of it as a moat to keep the bastards out. That, along with bed bug covers for your mattress and pillows, might at least keep you from being bitten as much.

  • Ugh, bed bugs are THE. WORST. I am so sorry!

    From personal experience, I learned the ONLY effective way to kill bed bugs (and all their eggs… yuck!) is to literally cook them. I found a company (Superior Bed Bug Solutions) that uses equipment to heat the rooms up to killing temperature. The other good thing about heat treatment is that you don’t have to spray pesticides all over your apartment, which is bad for pets, and can actually cause the bugs to run away and into the walls or the apartment next door.

    SBBS did a great job, and they have the cutest doggy inspectors! Luckily, I am still bed bug free.

    • SBBS’ Sherlock is Mister Business! He didn’t care a whit that the bathroom had cats in it.
      My bedbugs arrived from the delivery of new mattresses. Think abt it: delivery trucks also carry off buggy old mattresses, and them bugs hitch rides/transfer onto new mattresses while on the truck.
      One last fun fact: I had the inspector put one bed bug in a small sample jar with a tight twist-top lid. It lived for days and days. I was as outraged as thrilled by its tenacious survival. The butt head.

  • I had bedbugs twice in my previous apartment. It was a nightmare both times, and you feel like you’re trapped with no escape!

    The first time, my landlord suggested we use Home Paramount — total bust. They came in, sprayed horrid chemicals willy-nilly, and left. Took almost two months to get the problem under control, and sometimes I still wonder what toxins I slept around.

    Second time, I tried A Healthy Home – I know this is going to sound like an ad (feel free to private message me if you want more detail, but to summarize the experience:

    (1) They fog the area with thick cedar smoke to kill the live bugs, then spread DE around your bed to use you, essentially as live bait. The bugs want to get you, so they crawl through the powder and die.
    (2) It took probably a month, but it worked –no fervent clothes washing, no chemicals. I had a small reaction when I sprayed the cedar stuff directly on my legs once (because I am dumb) but otherwise it wasn’t ridiculously disruptive, assuming you don’t mind everything you own smelling like cedar (which in my book is better than the bugs.)
    (3) In contrast to the big exterminators, the Healthy Home folks were – gasp! – pleasant, professional, and comforting. They understood how traumatic it could be and tried to give me detailed explanations of what they were doing, how it worked, and – when I still was getting a bite now and then – what that could mean. It took probably 3-4 followup appointments, but it did the job.

    I moved out of my place and have had no problems since (knock on wood), but if I did I would probably go back to them after telling my landlord that it’s in their interest to help me take care of the problem.

    Good luck!

  • Heat treatment heat treatment heat treatment. And it should be for the entire apartment/possibly the entire building, not just your room.

    • P.S. I say heat treatment as someone who had bedbugs and it took FIVE (!!!) pesticide treatments and a lot of loads of laundry to finally get rid of the bastards.

  • Yes! Heat treatment all the way!

  • Bed bugs can live up to 18 months without feeding so you haven’t “permanently” gotten rid of them until you hit the 19 month mark. Good luck. And you must heat items at 120 degrees for at least 60 mins to kill all stages. They have four stages of life and they look different at each stage.

  • We used heat treatment successfully in our apartment complex. The building down the street wasn’t so lucky – one of the pieces of heating equipment exploded and half the apartments burnt down!

    Another alternative I’ve heard really good things about is PROOF Bug Spray. It’s EPA registered as 100% effective against both bed bugs and their eggs, and because it’s plant-based it’s not the nasty poisonous chemicals in conventional sprays. Worth a shot … if I had a bed bug infestation again this is what I’d use.

    • we went through several sprays but the only thing that actually worked was the heat treatment. We lived out of plastic bags for months, hoping the sprays would help and getting professional dogs to sniff things out. In retrospect, we should have shelled out the cash originally for the heat treatment. I never comment n POPville but am hoping so save you stress in the long run by encouraging you to take the plunge and do the heat treatment. Best decision of our lives.

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