Stay Legal and Safe in Treating for Bed Bugs
Sometimes people promote dangerous or illegal ways to eliminate bed bugs through Internet sites, blogs, or word-of-mouth. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it is safe, smart or effective. It’s important to remain patient and level-headed when combating bed bugs and not do something out of desperation that will lead to more dangerous or expensive problems.
Buy EPA-registered pesticides labeled for bed bug control (look for EPA Reg. # on label). Read the label carefully and completely before using the products. Follow all the label directions and precautions. It’s that simple.
What’s Not Legal?
Many people looking for a quick fix to control bed bugs turn to control methods that are not only illegal but also can be dangerous and ineffective. If you are not careful, the misuse of pesticides or other control methods could be worse than the bed bugs themselves.
EPA looks at all bed bug pesticides it registers to determine if they work and if they can be used without causing unreasonable adverse effects. EPA recommends using a registered bed bug product to maximize your odds of safely and successfully treating your infestation. Learn why treatments sometimes don't work.
Some things that people frequently do that are not legal include:
- Mixing pesticides with other pesticides or ingredients, which can be dangerous and is unlikely to work well.
- Using diatomaceous earth that is not a registered pesticide product - this type of diatomaceous earth may harm you when you breathe it in. The pesticide version uses a different sized diatom, which can reduce the hazard.
- Using rubbing alcohol – this compound vaporizes quickly, is flammable and has caused numerous house fires when used to control bed bugs.
- Using carbon dioxide, propane, helium or other unregistered gases to fumigate bed bugs, even if it's just in an enclosed bag
- They are not registered and can lead to dangerous low-oxygen situations or cause an explosion.
- Using a pesticide in a way that doesn’t follow the label. For bed bugs, people are sometimes tempted to:
- Use a pesticide labeled for outdoor use. This can make your home dangerous and uninhabitable.
- Buy pesticides from street vendors, flea markets or other unreliable sources. You never know what you’re buying, whether it will work, or if it is safe.
- Apply pesticides (including mosquito repellents) to their body. EPA has not registered any pesticides or repellents for use on human skin against bed bugs and you could end up poisoning yourself.
- Use too much or apply more often than the label allows. Some pesticides take time to work, or your bed bugs may be resistant to that type of pesticide. If a pesticide is not working, trying a different one with a different ingredient may work better. Read about pesticides used to control bed bugs.
- Apply pesticides to a bed, furniture, or clothing if these surfaces are not on the label. You could accidentally poison yourself or your family.
- Use too many fogger products at once, which could lead to a fire and/or explosion.
- Use pest strips in a manner not on the label. There have been incidents where people were overexposed and became ill.
What’s Legal, but Not Safe?
Other control methods may be legal, but aren’t necessarily safe or smart. Some of these include:
- Spraying over and over, whenever you see a bug. This type of application may not actually violate the label, but it is unlikely to eliminate the infestation and can cause the bugs to become resistant to the pesticide so it will no longer work.
- Do-it-yourself heating treatments (such as space heaters and fireplaces) – these have been known to burn down homes.
- Do-it-yourself freezing treatments (such as freezers, fire extinguishers or opening the home to cold air) – these methods may not get cold enough to kill bed bugs.
- Hiring an applicator who does not follow IPM practices – they may charge less but are far less likely to achieve success.
- Hiring an applicator with no or little experience in controlling bed bugs.
- Hiring an applicator that does not provide a follow-up inspection and repeat treatments if needed.