How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Smell: Actionable Tips

How to get rid of bed bug smell requires an extensive cleaning process. Bed bugs are notoriously challenging pests that can invade your space and leave behind a telltale musty odor, just as unpleasant as the bites they may inflict.

Getting rid of this smell is as crucial as addressing the infestation itself. Understanding the source of the odor and the extent of the infestation is the first step in tackling this issue. The smell typically originates from the bugs’ scent glands and can become more pronounced as bed bugs increase.

Removing the smell of a bed bug infestation requires a multifaceted approach. The process begins by thoroughly cleaning infested areas, including laundering, vacuuming, and steam treatments. These measures not only help to reduce the bed bug population but also mitigate the odors they produce.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Smell

In cases where the infestation and odor are severe, professional pest control services might be necessary to eliminate the bed bugs and their lingering smell effectively.

Preventing re-infestation is critical to ongoing management. Regular cleaning, monitoring for signs of bed bugs, and employing preventive measures can ensure your living space remains free of bed bugs and their associated odors. 

Key Takeaways for How to Get Rid of Bed Bug Smell

  • Bed bug infestations produce a distinctive odor, which you must address at the same time you are treating.
  • Initial cleaning steps and, if required, professional services are essential in removing bed bug-related smells.
  • Prevention and home remedies are crucial for maintaining a bed-bug-free and odor-free environment.

Understanding Bed Bug Infestations

The first step for how to get rid of bed bug smell is to identify the problem.

To combat bed bug issues effectively, you must understand their behavior, signs of their presence, and life cycle. In most cases, regardless of the severity of the infestation, it’s in your best interest to hire a pest control company. 

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, nocturnal insects that feed on the blood of humans and other animals while they sleep. Adult bed bugs have flat, reddish-brown bodies around 5-6 millimeters and swell after feeding. Although they don’t transmit diseases, their presence can cause discomfort and stress.

Signs of Bed Bug Presence

Early detection of bed bugs is a crucial step in preventing a more significant infestation. You cannot identify bed bugs from bites; sometimes flea bites or mosquito bites can be confused with bed bug bites. The typical early bed bug signs include:

  • Visible bugs: Spotting live bugs, especially in mattress seams and box springs.
  • Bites on your skin if you react to them: Bed bug bites are often red and in a line or cluster, although they can be single welts or no reaction at all.
  • Foul odor: A musty, sweet smell, often likened to berries, which come from their scent glands. Just because there is an unusual smell does not mean you have bed bugs.
  • Feces: Dark spots on bedding or furniture are bed bug excrement.
  • Blood stains: Small red to brown stains on your sheets from crushed bed bugs.
  • Egg shells and molted skins: Tiny pale yellow skins or shells that nymphs shed as they grow.

Regularly inspect your sleeping area, including sheets, mattress seams, and nearby furniture.

The Life Cycle of Bed Bugs

identifying a bed bug

Bed bugs have a three-stage life cycle: egg, nymph, and adult. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Eggs: Pearly white and just about the size of a pinhead, females lay 1-4 eggs daily, totaling 400 – 500 in their lifetime.
  • Nymphs: After hatching, bed bug nymphs must go through five molts, each requiring a blood meal, before reaching adulthood, which takes about a month under favorable conditions.
  • Adults: They can live up to several months and will feed multiple times during their lifespan.

Understanding the life cycle is essential for effective detection and eradication, as different stages might require varied treatment approaches.

Bed Bug Smell Identification

Before you begin your quest to rid your home of bed bug odor, you must be sure that what you’re detecting is related to these pests. Let’s learn how to identify the scent characteristics of bed bugs and differentiate them from other familiar household smells. 

It’s important to note that you cannot identify bed bugs from their odor. The only way to know for sure that you have bed bugs is to see a bug visibly. In most cases, you will only smell bed bug odor if there is a large infestation.

Fun fact: Bed bug-sniffing dogs are trained to find this odor.

Characteristics of Bed Bug Odor

Bed bugs secrete pheromones, which can vary in scent but often have a musty, sweet smell reminiscent of coriander. Some individuals also report the scent being similar to ripe berries or almonds.

These odors are powerful when bed bug concentrations are high. Using a flashlight may help during the inspection, as these pests tend to hide in the seams of mattresses or crevices of furniture but can be located by looking for signs and visual confirmation. 

Initial Steps to Remove Bed Bug Smell

A comprehensive cleaning strategy is essential to combat the unpleasant odor of bed bugs. Starting with a thorough inspection, move through cleaning and airing out processes to restore freshness to your living space.

Inspection and Detection

Inspect your bedroom using a flashlight to identify bed bug hideouts in mattressesbox springs, and furniture. Look for typical signs such as tiny blood spots, dark fecal matter, or live bed bugs. Consider using interceptors under bed legs to catch them for easier detection.

Vacuum Up All Bed Bug Shells

vacuuming under a bed for bed bugs control

Bed bug shells can hold the bed bug odor, so an important step is to vacuum up all of the exoskeletons lying around. 

Vacuuming Infested Areas

vacuuming a couch for bed bugs

Once you’ve found where bed bugs are hiding, use a strong vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool to suck them out of cracks and crevices. Vacuuming thoroughly can remove bed bugs and their odor from furnituremattresses, and the surrounding area.

  • Be sure to empty the vacuum contents in a sealed plastic bag and throw it out immediately. Learn how to safely vacuum bed bugs here.
  • Repeat the vacuuming process several times to capture as many bed bugs, shells, and eggs as possible.

After You Vacuum 3x, Then Steam Infested Areas

Steam clean the infested areas to kill remaining bed bugs and neutralize odors. Pay extra attention to:

  • Seams and tufts of mattresses
  • Edges of box springs
  • Bed frames
  • Joints and crevices in furniture

The high temperature of the steam effectively eliminates bugs and their distinct smell.

Air it Out

Open windows and use fans to ventilate the room. Fresh air helps dissipate any lingering odor.

Vacuum Again

Vacuum the treated areas again to capture any bed bugs that survived the steaming process or have since emerged from hiding. You’ll also want to make sure you vacuum up all dead bed bugs, as they can hold the odor. Be sure to vacuum the inside of the box spring, too, since this is where many bed bugs often hide out.

Wash and Dry All Clothing

All clothing that could have been exposed to bed bugs should be dried on the highest heat setting recommended for the fabric. The heat kills both bed bugs and their odors:

  • Dry: High heat for at least 45 minutes (if the clothes are wet, then put them in longer)

Wash and Dry All Pillows

Do the same for your pillows:

  1. Wash with hot water.
  2. Dry on a high heat setting if the pillow care instructions allow.

Wash and Dry All Bedding

Strip the bed of all sheetsmattress covers, and bedding:

  • Wash items in hot water
  • Dry on a high setting to eliminate bed bugs and odors

Wash and Dry All Stuffed Animals

Wash any stuffed animals or fabric-based toys as these can harbor bed bugs and their smell:

  • Use the washing machine’s hot cycle and dry thoroughly.
  • If items can’t be washed, placing them in a sealed bag and the freezer for 48 hours can also kill bed bugs.

Common Mistaken Scents – Other Types of Bugs That Can Cause Odors

Indeed, other household pests or factors contribute to smells mistaken for that of bed bugs. For instance, spider beetles emit a scent similar to bed bugs, while roach nymphs and carpet beetles might also produce odors that can mislead you. Types of bugs that can cause odors. Here is a table for quick reference:

Remember, a musty smell does not immediately signal bed bugs; use your flashlight to look for additional signs like dark ink-like stains, rust-colored stains, or discarded exoskeletons to confirm their presence.

If a dog trained (like Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs) to detect the alarm pheromones of bed bugs is available, this can also be an effective way to identify an infestation.

Professional Pest Control Solutions

Sometimes, more than do-it-yourself methods are needed when facing a persistent bed bug problem. Turning to professional pest control solutions is essential to eradicating your infestation effectively.

When to Call Professionals

You should contact a pest control professional when you see your first live bed bug, or when the infestation is extensive. Signs that it’s time to call in the experts include:

  • You find bed bugs in any area of your home.
  • You find bed bugs in multiple areas of your home.
  • You continue to get bitten despite trying various over-the-counter solutions.
  • You spot bed bug eggs, which indicate a growing infestation.

Professionals have the training to identify and kill bed bugs efficiently.

Methods of Professional Extermination

Pest control companies offer a range of methods to tackle bed bug infestations. Here are a few of the popular methods for killing bed bugs.

  • Heat Treatment: This involves raising the temperature in your home (with a professional service) to a level that is lethal to bed bugs in all their life stages. You must hire professionals to do this.
    • Method: Portable heaters and fans heat a room to 120-135°F, an effective temperature range for exterminating bed bugs.
    • Duration: The heating process generally takes several hours.
    • Preparation: You may need to remove heat-sensitive items beforehand.

  • Chemical Treatments: Exterminators use a variety of insecticides to eliminate bed bugs.
    • Types of Chemicals: Pesticides include pyrethrins, pyrethroids, desiccants, and biopesticides.
    • Application: Treatments usually entail targeted applications in bed bug hiding places and may require several visits.

Whichever method you opt for, a professional exterminator is trained to eliminate bed bugs effectively and visually identify them.

DIY Remedies for Bed Bug Smell

Getting rid of bed bug smell often involves a combination of natural, chemical, and temperature control methods. These DIY strategies can effectively neutralize the unpleasant odors associated with bed bugs.

Natural Solutions

Essential oils like peppermint, tea tree oil, lavender oil, neem oil, and cinnamon have natural properties that can combat bed bug smells. Mix a few drops of these strong oils with water in a spray bottle and apply to affected areas. Lemon and mint can also provide a fresh, citrusy scent that may help mask odors.

Chemical Solutions

  • Using rubbing alcohol can temporarily reduce bed bug smells. Create a mixture of:

Spray this solution directly onto bed bug-prone areas. Rubbing alcohol is a desiccant, which can also help kill bed bugs. Remember: Always use alcohol with caution and at your own risk, as it is flammable.

  • Using household vinegar in a spray bottle can also eliminate smells. Vinegar is known for neutralizing odors, so there is no reason it wouldn’t work to eradicate the smell of bed bugs.

Heat and Cold Treatments

Heat treatments: Exposing your belongings to high temperatures can eliminate bed bugs and reduce odors. You can wash your bedding, curtains, and clothes in hot water, followed by at least 45 minutes in a hot dryer.

Cold treatments: Bed bugs and their odors can be eradicated by placing items in a freezer.

Implementing these methods can safely, and effectively tackle bed bugs and the smell they leave behind.

Ongoing Management and Prevention

To maintain a bed bug-free home, focus on cleanliness, use specific deterrents, and regularly check for signs of infestation.

Maintaining a Clean Environment

A clean space is crucial in keeping bed bugs at bay. Regularly washing and heat-drying your bedding, including sheets and mattress covers, will kill any bed bugs hiding there. In case of an infestation, bed bug treatment should include hiring a bed bug specialist who will guide you through thoroughly cleaning and vacuuming seams and crevices in mattresses, bed frames, and around bedrooms.

  • Frequency of Cleaning:
    • Weekly: Wash bedding in hot water.
    • Daily: Check and vacuum bedroom areas.

Utilizing Essential Oils to Get Rid of The Musty Scent

Essential oils can neutralize bed bug odor. Apply lavenderlemon juiceorange oiltea tree oil, or peppermint oil around your bed and bedroom to discourage these pests.

We DO NOT recommend using these as a repellent. If you repel bed bugs with essential oils, the problem will get worse.

Additionally, using bed bug interceptors under bed legs can trap and indicate the presence of bed bugs, acting as both deterrents and detection tools.

  • Essential oils:
    • Lavender oil: Bedsides and linens.
    • Tea tree oil: Mix with water and spray on furniture.
    • Peppermint oil: Mix with water and spray in the room.
  • Mechanical Deterrents:
    • Bed Bug Interceptors: Place under each bed leg.
    • Cover mattresses and box springs with protective encasements. (But make sure you vacuum up the bugs first before you put the covers on)

Monitoring for Future Infestations

Regular inspection for signs of bed bugs is vital for early detection and prevention. Look for small rust-colored stains on sheets or tiny black dots on mattresses to find evidence of bed bugs. Keep a close eye on places where pets sleep and upholstered furniture, as these areas can also harbor bed bugs.

  • Inspection Checklist:
    • Check bed seams and box springs monthly.
    • Examine areas where pets sleep.
    • Inspect second-hand furniture for signs before bringing it into your home.