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Will Vacuuming Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

By Chris Williams on August 9, 2013.

Getting rid of bed bugs off mattressQuestion

I manage a small apartment building, just four rental units. One tenant just advised me that he has bed bugs and he wants me to have his apartment treated. His neighbor next door is allergic to chemicals and won’t allow any pesticides anywhere near her apartment. Will a really thorough vacuuming with a crevice tool get rid of the bed bugs?

Answer

The answer depends on how severe his bed bug infestation is, but 99% of the time the answer is “no.” If he only has a couple of bed bugs, you could get lucky and manage to vacuum them up. But if those bed bugs have laid eggs, all bets are off. Even pest control companies with their specialized vacuums and attachments use vacuuming only as a supplemental control method for bed bugs. It’s difficult just to find where bed bugs are hiding in cracks and crevices. And they are difficult to dislodge even with vacuum suction since they cling tightly to rough surfaces like bare wood and fabric. Bed bug eggs are hidden in crevices and are coated with a transparent “cement” that sticks them to most surfaces.

Having said that, vacuuming is still helpful in bed bug control. Thorough vacuuming with the proper equipment can:

  • Eliminate large clumps of clustering bed bugs quickly, so that there are fewer to control with insecticide. Vacuuming is most effective before bed bugs are disturbed by other pest control efforts and while they are still gathered together in clumps.
  • Control bed bugs in sites or on materials where the use of insecticide is not safe, practical, or effective.
  • Provide an alternative control method in sites where clutter is so bad that insecticides can’t reach bed bug hiding places.
  • Maybe most importantly, vacuuming removes dirt, dead bugs, shed skins and other debris which can improve the effectiveness of any insecticide treatment and gives a “clean slate” so that you can spot any new bed bugs or evidence of bugs.

You should try to use a vacuum with a HEPA air filter that keeps bed bug allergens from becoming airborne. Work with a crevice tool and a brush attachment. You’ll have to be careful that you don’t introduce bed bugs into new areas with the vacuum. When finished, seal the vacuum bag with tape, then place it into a sealed plastic bag for disposal. For bagless vacuums, dispose of the contents of the canister into a sealed plastic bag and then wash the canister afterwards. Depending on the type of filter, it should be bagged and disposed of, or washed and dried after use. Make sure that there are not bed bugs caught in the bristles of the brush.

Almost everyone agrees that bed bugs are not a do-it-yourself project. Even professional pest management companies find control a challenge. Although there are many nonchemical methods that can be used, bed bug control almost always requires insecticides or specialized treatment with heat. First thing you should do is have a professional inspect your tenant’s apartment (don’t delay) to determine the extent of the infestation. Hold off on any vacuuming until after that inspection. The pest control company should be able to come up with a treatment plan that will work for your other tenants as well because it’s very possible that your entire building may require treatment for bed bugs.

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