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If you take your time to find an exterminator who specializes in bed bugs, you’ll only have to go through the process once.
Compared to doing it yourself, hiring an exterminator:
- gets rid of the danger of spreading your infestation through incorrect application
- lowers your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals
- gets you access to professional grade whole-house treatment
- provides peace-of-mind as you can rest easy knowing that a licensed professional is handling everything
- good pest control operators will offer a guarantee of success
If you take the time to read through our guides on using bed bug tools properly and don’t go buying random bug killing supplies, the first two points don’t apply to you.
That being said, if you want to do something like tent and gas your home or treat your entire home with heat, your only option is a professional.
Choosing an exterminator is an important decision and a big financial commitment.
We’ve put together the most important questions you need to ask so you can get right to the answers that will help you choose a fantastic company.
9-Steps to Choosing an Exterminator
Prices vary greatly between locations and what you treatments decide to have them execute. In my case, I was given quotes ranging from $500 to $1,500 for an apartment with several treatment methods being offered.
You can let your operator know what kinds of treatment you’re hoping for after going through this page.
To help you through the process of vetting Pest Control Operators (PCOs), I’ve created an easy-to-follow 9-step action list of things to square away before signing anything:
- Get quotes from at least three exterminators before committing
- Look through reviews and estimate the high and low range of prices
- Underpriced options are likely too good to be true with poor service and a lack of experience
- Overpriced options might not actually be interested in dealing with bed bugs unless they are overpaid and might not even have the equipment to deal with bed bugs
- Ask for a breakdown of their plan
- Exterminators should want to make sure that you have bed bugs first.
- If they propose starting treatment without inspecting or seeing proof, this should raise a big red flag
- Pesticides are standard, but other methods should also be used as part of a proper plan
- Every option in our DIY get rid of bed bugs guide – like steaming, vacuuming, bed isolation, and powders is regularly used by professionals. A good pro will use several tools and explain why
- Some sort of crack and crevice treatment like caulking should be included
- Non-pesticide based solutions may be necessary if infestations end up being pesticide tolerant or resistant. Ask what they offer
- Make it clear that you expect your entire home to be treated. You can easily treat beds and furniture yourself. You are paying to have an exhaustive treatment done
- Establish an hourly rate for treatment per exterminator
- Each session should take at least two hours
- Some companies send more than one exterminator at a time which would decrease total hours but increase the hourly cost in labor
- Ask how many sessions will be required to get rid of all bed bugs
- One is too few
- Two or three is average and will do if done correctly
- More than three is unusual, but may be required in heavy or tricky infestations
- Each session should be spaced at least two weeks apart
- Follow up inspections and re-treatment should be discussed and expectations made clear
- Ask if any of their operators are dedicated bed bug technicians
- Non-bed bug dedicated operators don’t have the right experience and knowledge. Bed bugs are especially tricky
- Ask for a copy of licenses and relevant training certification
- Ask about guarantees, warranties, and stipulations
- Guarantees for apartments and similar multiple occupancy housing is rare. The possibility of a a niehgbor bringing in an infestation is out of their control
- If in an apartment, ask about standalone home guarantees; their answer shows their level of confidence
- If they offer a guarantee, be sure to have it in writing
- A better guarantee means more confidence and can be worth the extra money
- Ask about their liability insurance and estimated coverage
- A number should absolutely be available
- Ask for references from previous clients
- This can help you decide between two solid options
Exterminator Picker Printable
Here’s a printable from the Debedbug Ebook that will help you keep track of everything.
To print this file:
- Right click the image
- Select “save image as”
- Open the file wherever you saved it
- Print as usual!
Give the debedbug ebook a try for full resolution and black and white versions of all our printables sent straight to your inbox.
It includes printables that will help make the process a little less painful every step of the way. It also includes condensed information for easy reference.
Professional Treatment Options
When hiring a professional, you get your money’s worth in the form of
- contractual guarantees of success
- access to specialized large-scale equipment
- experienced hands that come with a licensed operator
- not having to worry about every detail of treatment
Things like whole-home heat treatment, gas treatment/fumigation, and industrial pesticide application are only available through a professional.
Those methods are highly dangerous and completely off-limits to non-professionals.
Here are the options that your exterminator will most likely offer to you.
Large-Scale Heat Treatment
Heat treatment is a popular option at all stages of infestation.
Heat leaves no residual impact on structures, doesn’t require the use of potentially harmful chemicals, and is completely safe when handled by a licensed and trained professional.
With the proper tools exterminators are able to monitor the temperature of not only general spaces, but also in the nooks and crannies where heat has to penetrate to kill all bed bugs.
For heat treatment to be successful, your entire home needs to be heated to temperatures above 122ºF fast so that bed bugs don’t have time to escape into the deeper parts of your home.
This requires industrial equipment and is why DIY whole home heat treatment either doesn’t work at all or literally goes up in flames.
You can imagine that bed bugs hiding in your foundation would be a huge pain to deal with.
It is impossible to hit those temperatures quickly and safely using products available to consumers. Expensive specialized equipment and licensed professionals are what you’re paying for when you hire an exterminator.
The use of good old pesticides remains widespread in the pest control industry.
Several common chemicals are turning out to no longer be effective.
Genetic resistance to pesticides like DDT and pyrethroids has been carefully studied and shown to be present amongst many bed bug populations.
It’s a good idea to ask your PCO what chemicals they offer so that you can look into them yourself.
Ask about what they know about bed bug resistance to pesticides as well as their honest opinion on the chemicals they’re recommending using in your home.
It’s important to be sure that you won’t be wasting money on ineffective health-compromising treatments.
If you do sign up for spray treatment, keep in mind that residue will be around for a good while.
Contamination of sensitive areas like the bed, furniture, and general living space is never good; health concerns regarding pesticides harming both people and pets are very real.
Be sure that your exterminator takes precautions to protect your furniture and other surfaces your bare skin may contact after spraying.
With so many alternative methods available these days, traditional pesticides are no longer your only option.
Pesticide treatment requires that other methods of control are used together to handle bed bugs that are resistant to pesticides anyways.
Bed Bug Fumigation
Treatment by gas, also known as fumigation, is an extremely effective method. Recent developments have made it more affordable than ever.
I would personally seriously consider fumigation if I were dealing with an infestation today after looking into the options currently available.
Vikane gas, or inorganic sulfuryl fluoride, is the industry standard at the moment. The gas is not a poison, it actually works by suffocating both bed bugs and their eggs.
Vikane is frequently used to treat entire homes, apartment building, and even vehicles.
Bed bugs have not yet become resistant to Vikane unlike other chemicals.
Treatment by Vikane involves an airtight tent or container, requires a complete evacuation of people and their pets, takes anywhere from half a day to two full days, and can treat an entire home in one go.
Thanks to the fact that it quickly degrades into harmless components after administration, Vikane can allegedly be applied to the entire home including clothing, electronics, and even dishes without leaving harmful trace residue or odor.
This makes treatment way easier than traditional fumigation which requires that you move your sensitive belongings out while it happens.
Small-Scale Gas Treatment
An increasingly popular option involves filling a truck with furniture and other items you’d like sterilized, sending it to a centralized Vikane treatment plant, and having the cleaned contents shipped right back to you afterwards.
This option is a middle ground between getting an exterminator involved and doing it yourself.
If you’re moving homes because of an infestation, this is the perfect solution.
It’s as easy as shipping items off to be treated while you move out of an infested home. Once treated, you can have the load shipped directly to your next home with no chance of contamination.
This method ensures that you won’t be bringing any sneaky bed bugs along to your next home hidden in the sofa.
Studies haven’t attached any negative side effects to Vikane treatment as long as the home or building is given sufficient time to air out.
The stuff works, has a track record of being safe, and is cost-effective thanks to low dosage requirements.
As with your other options, discuss Vikane with your exterminator before deciding.
Other Treatment Options
A good exterminator will have a collection of different tools available to deal with any situation.
This includes tools available to regular consumers.
Other tools are scaled up and more powerful than what normal people would able to buy.
Steam cleaners that pest control firms use hopefully work with higher pressures and penetrate deeper into furniture and baseboards than the budget options consumers can afford.
These days you can get a seriously powerful steamer though.
A PCO is worth the money because professionals have experience and knowledge to make each method of control as effective as possible.
Preparing for Bed Bug Treatment
Throughout the professional treatment, a homeowner’s cooperation is required for guarantees to be honored. This will be part of the contract.
If you choose to take the professional path, there are a few steps that you can take to be best prepared for when your operator arrives to begin treatment.
Many extermination companies maintain their own preparation guidelines and requirements depending on the methods of treatment they will be using.
They will provide instructions once you’ve had an inspection. It is very important to complete the steps they give you.
Always ask your exterminator before doing anything you’re uncertain about.
Some PCOs prefer you leave your home as-is to prevent the scattering of bed bugs into deeper areas of you home.
Others will ask that you clear clutter and take some easy initial steps such as vacuuming and moving furniture, much like the first steps we discuss in how to get rid of bed bugs yourself.
Being able to point out signs of bed bugs will always be helpful and can help inspections go by quickly so treatment can start sooner.
In the case of infestations caught early on, moderate levels of preparation can be great. Your exterminator may recommend clearing clutter beneath beds and on the floor.
It is always safe to treat bed linens and clothes in a dryer. Running your dryer on high for at least 30 minutes should achieve the minimum temperature of 120˚F throughout the entire load as long as you haven’t overstuffed it.
For larger items like cushions and chairs, you discuss options with your PCO if you don’t have a bed bug heater.
In the case of advanced infestations, preparations won’t honestly do much. Bugs dispersed deep and throughout a large area are very difficult to deal with, even by professional.
Your PCO will take the reins, it’s best to trust them.
In many cases, you’ll probably have to continue living in your home during treatment.
Without a food source, bed bugs will remain in hiding and will avoid the traps you and your PCO have set for them as a consequence.
Throughout the process, a homeowner’s cooperation between treatments will be required for guarantees to be honored.
Keeping Bed Bugs Out For Good
One concern that you will surely have once bed bug free is how to keep it that way.
Having that knowledge under your belt will help you avoid situations that would otherwise have you bringing bed bugs into your home.
Thanks for Reading!
Just as with any other type of business, the world of pest control companies is filled with good, bad, and plenty of businesses that fall somewhere in between.
Knowing what to look for and what to avoid protects you from spending more than you have to.
Whether you save yourself from being overcharged or tricked by a deal that was too good to be true, it’s worth your time to go through the vetting process that we went over here.