You’ll sometimes find bed bugs living in your carpet, but it’s relatively easy to determine where they’re located. Unless you have particularly long carpet fibers, it’s hard for bed bugs to hide away. The main issue that you’ll face is that the carpet has a large surface area.
To get bed bugs out of your carpet, clear the room of all of your furniture and possessions. Then with a mixture of steam cleaning, double-sided tape, silica gel, and vacuum cleaning you can get rid of bed bugs and their eggs fast.
If you don’t clear the rest of your house before you start, they’ll be back in no time. Carpets aren’t a bed bug’s first choice. They prefer your bed or nearby furniture with lots of cracks and corners. So, make sure that you clear the walls, bed(s), and furniture first.
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Do Bed Bugs Crawl on The Floor?
So, we all know that bed bugs live in mattresses and box springs. But, in the most severe infestations, they can live in carpets, fixtures and fittings, furniture and even electrical sockets.
And if you’re not careful, they’ll get into the wall cavity through cracks in the wall or baseboard. That’s because they’re natural explorers when they’re in search of a) hosts and b) safe harborage sites. It’s all down to how they feed.
Bed bugs have to feed to ‘evolve’ into the next stage of their life cycle. These stages are called ‘instars.’ According to a paper in Clinical Infectious Diseases, bed bugs will feed before each one, anywhere between 3 and 15-day intervals. Once they feed, they scatter, to find a safe resting place. They then stay there to digest their meal for many days.
Typically, this resting place is in a communal area. Bed bugs secrete scents by which they can recognize ‘safe’ areas, where they congregate. In severe infestations, there will be many such locations: some under the mattress, some in the box spring, and others further afield. Bed bugs can climb walls or cross carpets to get to these safe place or to come back to feed. Specific places may include:
- In the corner of the room, on the carpet or otherwise
- Underneath the corners or sides of carpets
- In cracks behind sideboards, just above the carpet level
- Within deep carpets, particularly in the corners
- In the crack between a table leg and the carpet
As such, making the carpet uninhabitable for bed bugs is a vital part of tackling severe infestations—if they aren’t able to cross it, any infestation but the one in your mattress won’t be able to get to you.
Can You Get Bed Bugs Under Carpet?
But what about if bed bugs got underneath your carpet? Depending on your house or apartment, it’s entirely possible in the following circumstances:
- Your carpet isn’t flush to the wall (i.e., it doesn’t quite meet the baseboard)
- There are holes or tears in your carpet
- Your carpet is worn away in places
Then there’s a chance that bed bugs could have slipped underneath. Remember, they’re wafer thin: biologically perfect for fitting into any crack or crevice. Any crack that can fit a credit card can fit an infestation of bed bugs.
As such, take a look at your carpet for signs of infestation around any hole or tear. If bed bugs have managed to make their way underneath the carpet itself, then the following guide won’t be able to catch them all for you on its own.
At this point, you should consider heat treatment or other solutions that will be able to penetrate through your carpet to tackle the infestation beneath.
Step-By-Step Guide to Bed Bug Removal from Carpets
Killing carpet bed bugs isn’t as simple as vacuuming them up, and throwing them away. For starters, vacuuming them doesn’t kill them. Bed bugs are happy to live inside a vacuum cleaner for up to a year until they starve to death. As such, bed bug removal from carpets is a far more complicated process than just that.
The first step? Prepare your house. There’s no point whatsoever in going through the steps below, only for bed bugs to re-infest your room from a piece of clothing or furniture that you bring back in. The carpet should be one of the last parts of your house that you tackle.
Before you start the guide below, get rid of bed bugs in the following places:
- Mattress, box spring and frame
- Cracks in the wall
These things are all more straightforward to treat than carpet. You spray them, and leave them; check back on them to see if the bed bugs are dead and if they aren’t, respray them. Bedding and clothing are just a matter of laundering them.
Clear the Room and Floor Completely
Before you start doing anything, you have to prepare the room. That means clearing everything out—everything. But before you begin hauling rugs and wardrobes out of your bedroom, bear in mind that they may all be harborages for bed bugs. You have to clear the room carefully. Start from the top:
- Inspect any furniture, and spray it with something that’ll kill bed bugs on contact like tea tree oil.
- Launder anything that can be laundered. Bed bugs are susceptible to heat, and laundering and drying them has a 100% mortality rate.
- Anything that can’t be laundered or sprayed should be bagged. Bed bugs won’t suffocate unless they’re kept in an oxygen-depleted atmosphere. However, airtight bagging does stop them from spreading.
Store bags, boxes, and furniture outside. If just one bag splits, the bed bugs will re-infest everything within a week or two. Bed bugs can survive outside, but they’ll find it difficult to get back inside.
And if there’s anything you’re not fond of, throw it away; it’s not worth the effort of cleaning and inspecting. This applies to any soft toys and furnishings you don’t like or clothes that might not fit you anymore.
Why Is This Important?
If you try to clean the room bit by bit, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Bed bugs breed exceptionally fast. According to a paper in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, female bed bugs lay between 5 and 8 eggs a week, and 50 eggs in a lifetime. Considering that their egg-to-egg life cycle takes between 40 and 70 days, you can imagine how quickly bed bugs can spread and re-infest a room, even from just a few eggs.
Double-Sided Tape for Bed Bugs
Double-Sided tape is a standard DIY bed bug treatment. You don’t need any specialist equipment, and it’s not a difficult idea to understand. The odds are that you already have some in the garage. If you’ve never needed to use it before, double-sided tape is like regular tape, except both sides are sticky: it’s used to provide a sticky upward surface when applied to something.
The idea goes that if a bed bug steps on it, they won’t be able to free themselves. And it’s true: if you ever get the chance, try and catch one on some tape, and take a look. It won’t be going anywhere. The only problem is that bed bugs, like other insects, usually are smarter than that. They’ll avoid the tape and find another way around.
You might be wondering, then, why we’re even discussing double sided tape if it doesn’t work as it’s “supposed to.” But you can still use it, and it’s still useful—just maybe not for the reasons you might think. Once you’ve cleared your room, get a roll of double-sided tape. Place it around:
- Any cracks or holes you can see in the wall, ceiling or floor (if applicable)
- The edge of the room, with no gaps whatsoever
- The outside of the door, just in case
You should do this after you steam clean the room because you want to steam every square inch: especially the corners. The tape would get in the way, and peel away under the force of the steam.
Why Is This Important?
Why? Because you’re trying to trap any bed bugs inside and stop any more bed bugs from entering the room. If the bed bugs are in the wall cavity/pipes, then they’ll be trying to find their way back in. It’s crucial that you identify even the smallest cracks so that you can be sure there’s no chance of any more coming back.
According to a paper by Thomas Seidl, insects have a brain weighing a fraction of a milligram: in other words, absolutely tiny. But even so, they can navigate and find their way around obstacles. Almost all insects have this ability. But bed bugs can’t fly or hop, all they can do is crawl.
So, if you block their path in or out, they’re going nowhere. This is your first step: trap them so that you can kill them.
So: clear your room, and place double-sided tape at all entry and exit points. What next?
Silica Gel Kills Bed Bugs
Your next step is to spread some bed bug carpet powder, either silica gel or diatomaceous earth, across the carpet. This might sound crazy, but both are effective against bed bugs. They can survive for a long time without food or water—although they don’t ‘drink,’ so to speak, they get all their fluid from blood meals. In other words, they don’t get dehydrated quickly. At least, not unless you do something to speed up their dehydration.
Silica gel is a name you probably recognize, but you might not remember where you heard it. Silica gel comes with all sorts of products, in little paper bags. It’s there, basically, to suck moisture from the air. Its tiny particles are rough and tough: they can scratch away the thin outer coating of a bed bug’s shell. This coating helps them conserve water. Quickly, they dehydrate and die.
Diatomaceous earth works by the same principle. It’s made from ancient, fossilized microalgae—a very fine powder that looks like corn starch but feels more abrasive. It’s like a natural version of silica gel. The ancient microalgae’s tiny shells were made from silica, and these have the same abrasive effect as the synthetically-produced silica gel.
Why Is This Important?
By spreading either of these substances over your carpet, you officially get started on killing bed bugs in your home. Follow these steps:
- Get as much diatomaceous earth/silica gel as you can get your hands on.
- Spread it in a thick layer around the entire room. Pay special attention to anywhere you think might be an entry or exit point.
- Avoid getting the silica gel/diatomaceous earth on the double-sided tape. This would stop it from working.
- Leave for at least 24 hours. The longer, the better.
According to a study in the journal Insects, bed bugs are developing behavioral responses that grant them a specific immunity to these desiccant dusts. They have learned to avoid, to an extent, any area where these dusts are scattered. Not only that, but another paper in the same journal claims that the coating on their shells is getting thicker—and can’t be scratched away as easily.
But, because you used the double-sided sticky tape, any bed bugs left have nowhere to go. They have no choice but to stay in your carpet and slowly dehydrate. So, the longer you leave them, the more of them will die as a result. You can leave the room for as long as you want before you move to the next step.
Choose Your Vacuum Wisely
Can bed bugs live in a vacuum cleaner? They most certainly can.
You have to make sure you have the right kind of vacuum cleaner if you want to use it to catch bed bugs. If you have a bagless vacuum, it wouldn’t be wise to use it. That’s because, as we said above, bed bugs are natural explorers. They’re happy to climb through a vacuum cleaner hose or find their way through plastic casing. Long story short, you’re going to end up with a re-infestation if you don’t empty the vacuum immediately after use.
Then, not only that but emptying a bagless vacuum cleaner can facilitate the spread of bed bugs yet again. As the compacted debris comes out, you can spread both eggs and bugs, even if you do it outside. Remember, bed bugs are tiny, quick crawlers, and lighter than a feather. You’re far better off relying on a vacuum cleaner with a bag because they’re contained and can’t get out once you throw the bag away.
Vacuum Bed Bugs Thoroughly
So, at this point, your room should be covered wall to wall in powder, and you should have tape down too. Poke your head inside, and take a look at the damage. The amount of bugs you find very much depends on the severity of your infestation. In a severe case, you can expect to find a number of them scattered across the carpet. If you spread the dust thickly enough, they should all, at this point, be dead.
But never fear, because desiccant dust is just the first of our methods for killing bed bugs in the carpet. Our next is to use your regular vacuum cleaner (preferably with a bag). Vacuuming bed bugs won’t suffocate them or, in any other way, kill them. But what it does do is significantly reduce the biomass of any infestation. ‘Biomass’ is a scientific term referring to the overall weight of a population of animals/insects in a particular habitat. Follow these steps:
- Don’t peel away the double-sided tape yet. Leave it until after you finish, just in case any bed bugs try and escape (or come back).
- Vacuum thoroughly, again, just like you’re mowing the lawn. Get every single particle of dust you can find, and suck up bed bugs either alive or dead.
- Don’t use the brush/bristles in your vacuum’s head, unless you plan on vacuuming again later. These won’t pick up every single bed bug; sometimes they spread them around by sending them flying. The same applies to eggs.
Long story short, vacuum as if your carpet was filthy, and the in-laws were coming over. No special techniques required.
Why Is This Important?
Your vacuum cleaner is doing the bulk of your work for you. It’s picking up any dead bed bugs, any still living, and all the debris from the dust you left behind. Even if you don’t have the time for a complete carpet treatment, consider vacuuming thoroughly, and often.
As we said, this will reduce the biomass of your infestation. In other words, it will stop things from getting too out of hand and will discourage the bed bugs from spreading to other areas of the house.
At this point, the bulk of your carpet should be bed bug free. Congratulations! But the fun doesn’t stop here, not by a stretch, Because you might not yet be egg-free.
Vacuum Using Attachments
As an aside, you have to make sure you vacuum using a few of the attachments you have for your vacuum. In particular, you have to make sure that you hit every corner with 100% accuracy. Bed bugs love corners, after all. It’s where they lay their eggs, too. At this point, remove the tape from around the edges of the room. This will give you access to the corners.
As we said above, don’t use a brush, as this may spread them instead of capturing them. Instead, use the angled hose ending attachment that will help you reach the sides and corners of your carpet. Make sure you go all along the wall, not just the edges. Bed bugs love the tiny gap between a carpet and a baseboard, because they’re narrow enough to fit in, and can easily hide.
Alternatively, do use the brush—as your first method of vacuum cleaning. Move across the entire room inch by inch, aggressively brushing the carpet. Then, when you’re finished with the whole room, go over it again with your regular vacuum cleaner attachments. This has the added benefit of uprooting any bed bugs and eggs that are clinging on for dear life in the face of the vacuum treatment.
Either way, go around the room as many times as you like, to make entirely sure that they’re gone. At this point, you’ve dried the bed bugs out and gotten rid of any left, live or dead, with the vacuum cleaner. Unfortunately, these methods aren’t foolproof: there’s always a chance that you missed a spot, or a bed bug found a particularly good hiding place.
Can You Steam Clean Bed Bugs?
Will shampooing the carpet kill bed bugs? Yes, and their eggs too. It’s not a guarantee, though, so it’s vital that you perform this step only after you’ve already done something to get rid of most of the bed bugs (like vacuuming).
This is the first significant step you’re taking towards actually killing the eggs specifically, and, as such, it’s vital you do it right. You should start with a heavy-duty steam cleaner, either one bought online (if you plan on keeping it around—a good idea with bed bugs) or one that you’ve rented. Renting a steam cleaner, or hiring somebody to steam clean for you, might make the problem worse. When you’ve completed the previous steps, do the following:
- Fill your steam cleaner with hot water and some cleaning solution/carpet shampoo. If you want to use a compound that kills bed bugs, feel free—make sure that a) it’s safe for you to breathe in, b) it won’t react with the cleaning solution, and c) that it doesn’t stain carpets. To be safe, wear a face mask and goggles to prevent the solution from stinging your eyes/being inhaled.
- Imagine you’re mowing the lawn. You want to hit every square inch of the carpet, and you shouldn’t be in a rush. Move up and down the room as you would if you were mowing, and move slowly and gracefully so that the steam lingers on each part of the carpet.
- Allow the carpet to dry completely before moving on to the next step. Use a small fan, and open the windows, to help the fumes from the carpet disperse. Feel free to clean the carpet again if you’re not satisfied with the results.
Why Is This Important?
Steam cleaning is an excellent way to kill bed bugs, although, like any DIY method, you can’t be entirely confident of the results. The bugs won’t drown. Instead, they’re sensitive to heat, like we said above. Since you can’t put the carpet in the laundry, this is your next best bet. More importantly, though—whereas diatomaceous earth/silica gel kills bugs, steam cleaning kills eggs. You’re making real headway to getting rid of the infestation, now.
It also works well in combination with the other tips we’ve got above. Collectively, this guide uses a variety of methods to kill bed bugs: heat, drying them out and catching any that are left. It’s essential to use these physical methods of killing bed bugs because they’re becoming immune to pesticides and insecticides.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Renting a Carpet Cleaner?
All of that having been said, there is just one problem with using a steam cleaner.
Because they’re frequently used to kill bed bugs, and because they’re used in any number of different homes, some people are concerned that they might spread from house to house via rental. A great example is a rental store owner quoted on ForConstructionPros.com, in an article on cleaning carpet cleaners. He says:
“I stopped renting rollaways a few years back because I didn’t want to take the chance that bed bugs could be carried from one home to another. I wonder, too, if they could be transported by carpet cleaners.”
Can bed bugs live in a carpet cleaner? No, they can’t—that’s not the issue here. The temperature of the steam is more than enough to kill them. The more significant concern is whether any stowaways decided to crawl into the casing—if they were trying to escape from the steam, for example—or if a bed bug somehow laid eggs on the exterior surface of the machine. Not only that but if you hired someone to come over and steam clean your home, who can say that they don’t have any stowaways in their clothing from a previous job?
It’s unlikely, but bed bugs turn up in the unlikeliest of places. As such, we would recommend buying one rather than renting: just in case.
How to Inspect for Bed Bugs
So, there you have it: if you’ve followed each of our steps carefully, you should be finished. It’s time to inspect your room. But searching for bed bugs doesn’t just involve taking a quick look, and calling it a day. You have to inspect and examine your carpet in detail to make sure they’re gone. Otherwise, like we said: another two weeks and your infestation will be back if they were ever gone at all. So how do you do it?
- Start with a brief visual inspection. Scan the room, foot by foot. Needless to say, after your earlier effort, there shouldn’t be any scurrying around. But take special care to spot any that are sat still: either alive or dead.
- Afterward, pay special attention to certain parts of the room. These are any areas you identified and surrounded with tape earlier on: cracks in the wall, gaps between the baseboard and the wall, and anywhere else that you thought looked like a good hiding place for bed bugs. As we said at the very beginning, you should try and get rid of bed bugs in these areas before you start on your carpet.
- Check the corners of the carpet and wall for any evidence of remaining eggs. Any that you find use a spray—either purchased or DIY/homemade—to get rid of them.
Throughout the process, use a torch. The one on your smartphone will do. Pay particular attention to the weave of the carpet if it’s particularly deep, as well as the edges close to the wall, with a magnifying glass if at all possible. At this point, you shouldn’t find any more eggs or bugs.
If you want to make sure that there aren’t any left, you should use a bed bug detection dog. These dogs are like drug sniffer dogs: trained specially to pick a specific scent. Bed bugs have a noticeable odor when there are enough of them. Dogs can pick out just one, because of their powerful sense of smell. These dogs can smell bugs that you can’t see, like those in wall voids, cracks, and crevices.
My Bed Bugs Won’t Die
Getting rid of bed bugs long-term is a matter of persistence. To discourage them from crossing the carpet, use a concentrated tea tree oil spray. This kills bed bugs on contact, although it does nothing to eggs. Spray it around any known entry and exit points to discourage them from spreading. They’ll avoid coming into contact with the spray, and you’ll be rid of your problem.
Even so, there’s always a chance that your bed bugs found a hiding place and managed to escape your best efforts. But don’t despair, because you still have many options. You can always try using a portable heat treatment device.
These are small heaters with a built-in fan, that can heat the room to the necessary temperature to kill bed bugs: 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The higher the temperature and the longer you use it, the more of them die. You can rent them or buy them online. If you have a regular problem, we suggest buying one.
If the worst comes to the worst, it might be best to replace your carpet. However, it’s unlikely that the infestation is coming from the carpet. It’s more likely that there is an existing infestation—for example in a wall cavity—that is repopulating the rest of the room. As we said before our guide, you should make sure that bed bugs are gone from every other source before the carpet.
You could consider hiring an exterminator. The only problem is that bed bugs are increasingly becoming resistant to conventional insecticides. According to the EPA, there are 300 registered chemical insecticides/pesticides currently in use. Unfortunately, the two most common kinds—pyrethrin’s and pyrethroids—are fast becoming useless in the face of resistant bed bug populations.
Why Won’t Bed Bugs Go Away?
Some infestations seem implacable. Impossible to get rid of. When this is the case, it’s likely that there’s one of three causes at play:
- You’re catching them repeatedly from somebody you know: a colleague, friend or family member.
- You’re catching them when you regularly travel, for work or otherwise.
- They’re making their way from a nearby apartment or house, and entering yours.
If any of these causes is to blame for your infestation, there’s little you can do by vacuum cleaning the carpet. Even if you put in an enormous amount of effort, it’s still likely that you’ll ‘catch’ another infestation. Working on hygiene and keeping a spare change of work clothes, always in a bag, is the best defense.
So, as harborages go, carpets aren’t the first a bed bug will choose; they prefer living on your bed frame, box spring or mattress. And if not there, they prefer living somewhere dark like underneath or behind furniture. But it’s incredibly important to make the carpet uninhabitable by using the techniques above. Otherwise, bed bugs will be able to have access to you from anywhere in the room.