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Bed Bugs

How to find bed bugs at home or work

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​​​​If you think you might have bed bugs you need to do a thorough inspection to see if you have them and how far they’ve spread.

Collect the tools below so you can find and clean the bed bugs up as you go:

  • Flashlight to look in dark gaps and cracks and on dark surfaces. Sometimes the light startles bed bugs. They’ll stop moving for a few minutes and then move quickly to get away from the light.
  • Magnifying glass to make it easier to see and confirm that they are a bed bug.
  • Narrow tool such as an old credit card or thin putty knife to force them out of cracks and crevices (gaps).
  • Plastic bags to capture and discard any bed bugs you find.
  • Paper towel to clean surfaces and to squish the bed bugs.
  • Vacuum cleaner that has a crevice tool to vacuum the bed bugs as you find them.
  • Bucket of soapy water and sponge to clean up signs of the bed bugs (like the brown or red spots). This makes it easier to watch for new signs of bed bugs.

Start close to where you sleep. Keep moving out until you don’t see any more signs of bed bugs.

Look in all the places that might hide a bed bug. For example:
  • Beds: Look along seams of mattresses, between the mattress and box spring, and on all sides of the bed frame, including the underside and behind the headboard.
  • Other furniture in the bedroom: Along drawer runners, undersides of drawers, and any hidden cracks, crevices (gaps), and joins between parts of furniture.
  • Room: Look along baseboards and along other trim around windows and doors. Look behind pictures or anything else hanging on the wall, as well as in cracks in the drywall and under torn wallpaper.
  • Look in and under smaller items such as books, clocks, toys, and anything else in the room that is small.

Move to the next room and repeat the inspection.

Once you have finished the inspection and cleaning you will have a good idea of how far the bed bugs have spread.​​

Bed bugs at work

When you work in a client's home you may come into contact with bed bugs. You may worry about how to do your best for your client and at the same time protect your home from the bed bugs.

What to do at a client's home

Clothing to wear at work

  • Wear clothing that can be washed then dried in a hot dryer. This includes your winter coat and other outerwear (like mittens).
  • Light coloured clothing makes it easier to see bed bugs. Choose pants without cuffs and shoes that are smooth with no trim that bed bugs can hide under.
  • Hang your coat or jacket on a wire hanger and hang it from a shower curtain rod. Make sure it doesn't touch anything else.

Be careful where you sit. The safest choice is a hard kitchen chair. Try not to sit on sofas and beds.

Take as little as possible with you when you go in. Things like bags, tool kits, and coats are good hiding places for bed bugs. Leave them in your car or outside if you can.

Equipment you take with you

For items you do have to take inside, consider the following tips.

  • Use smooth bags, without a lot of decorations on them, or use metal or smooth plastic toolboxes and containers for your equipment.
  • Put a barrier under your bag or other equipment to isolate it from the room. For example, a white plastic bag works well as a barrier. Bed bugs are not likely to crawl on it because it's smooth. Using a plastic bag that is white makes bed bugs easier to see. Leave whatever you use as a barrier under your bag for the client to throw out.

Going home after work

When you work in places that have or may have bed bugs, you may be worried about bringing them home with you. Having a routine that will kill a bed bug that manages to hide on your equipment or clothing is a good way to stop this from happening.

  • Take off the clothes you were wearing in the bed bug infested building as soon as possible and before moving around in your home. A great place to do this is in your garage if you have one.
  • If you don't have a garage, take off any clothing that may have bed bugs as close to the entrance door as possible. If you live in an apartment, the bathtub might be the best place. This is because bed bugs are easy to see on light surfaces and don't like crawling on smooth slippery surfaces. 
  • Put all your clothing in a plastic bag.
  • Seal the bag and take it directly to the washing machine.
  • If your clothes are still clean, put the clothes in a dryer on the hottest setting for 30 minutes. It is the heat of the hot dryer that kills the bed bugs.
  • Don't take clothes off in your bedroom—it's easier for the bed bug to get into your bed if you're in the same room.

Working with clients living with a bed bug infestation

If you can see bed bugs moving around a well-lit room, there is likely a heavy infestation. You should leave if you can. It may be a good idea for anyone living there to leave if they can.

If your client lives in rental housing, suggest that they tell the landlord they have bed bugs. If the landlord doesn't do anything about it, you can suggest that your client call the Environmental Public Health office in their area. You can also report the infestation to Environmental Public Health if you find the landlord doesn't do anything about the infestation. You will have to give the name of your client when you report this, but their name is not shared with the landlord.

If your client lives in a home that they or their family own, they can call a pest control company for help to treat the bed bug infestation.

If you work in different homes during the day, be very careful not to transfer the bed bugs from one place to the other. If you know a place has bed bugs, visit it last. You can also wear a protective coverall so the bed bugs can't crawl under a seam or in a pant cuff.

If you find yourself working in a building that is heavily infested, you should change your clothes if you can before you go to the next place.

Bed bugs need people to move them from place to place. They also depend on the large numbers of offspring 1 female makes to survive and spread. Knowing a little bit and using a few simple precautions may prevent an infestation.

Current as of: July 6, 2022

Author: Environmental Public Health, Alberta Health Services