Do I Have to Leave My Apartment When Exterminating for Bedbugs?

Parents often use the expression “Don’t let the bedbugs bite” when they tuck their children into bed at night, and unfortunately, that warning has become a reality for many apartment dwellers.

Fumigation and Chemicals

Even the cleanest homes can harbor bedbugs.Even the cleanest homes can harbor bedbugs.
Due to changes in pest management practices and increased travel, bedbugs are making a comeback, infesting thousands of homes all across the United States. Bedbugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, and you’ll most likely have to call a professional to get the job done.

Exterminators use several methods for getting rid of bedbugs, and in general, you will not have to leave your apartment during bedbug extermination. In some rare cases, if the infestation is particularly bad, the entire building will need to be covered with a tent and fumigated, and you’ll have to leave, but that is a costly method and not usually used for bedbugs. You may also need to leave for a short time if the exterminator uses a pesticide to get rid of the bedbugs, especially if you have children or pets.

Heat and Cold Treatments

Bedbugs cannot tolerate extreme heat or cold. Some exterminators use heat to get rid of bedbugs, by bringing in specially designed heaters and warming the apartment to 120 degrees F or more for at least 24 hours. If the exterminator uses this method, you’ll need to leave the apartment and remove many of your belongings, as humans cannot tolerate that level of heat for extended periods. In some cases, exterminators use extreme cold, usually by spraying a rapid freezing substance to the infested areas to stop a bedbug infestation. Rapid freezing is generally harmless to humans and doesn’t leave any residue or chemicals, and you generally do not have to leave your apartment.


With some pests, such as fleas, bombing the apartment with a commercial pesticide is an effective method of extermination that requires you to leave for several hours. In the case of bedbugs, bombing is not recommended, as the chemicals will just cause the bugs to scatter and find new places to hide, such as other apartments.

Cleaning and Preparation

While you may not have to leave your apartment during an extermination, there are some things that you will have to do to help get rid of them. The exterminator will provide you with specific instructions, but in general you’ll have to thoroughly clean and declutter your apartment. All of your linens, clothing and personal items, such as stuffed animals, must be washed and dried at a high temperature — at least 120 degrees F. You may also be asked to empty all of your cabinets, closets and drawers. Clean and store all of your items in sealed plastic bags; most treatments for bedbugs do not offer ongoing protection from reinfestation, so if the eggs or bugs are on an item, they may just come back. If your mattress, box spring or upholstered furniture has evidence of bedbugs, you may have to dispose of the furniture if the bedbugs can’t be removed. Otherwise, you can protect your mattress from infestation with a mattress encasement, a permanent plastic cover.

About the Author

Kristen Hamlin began writing professionally in 1998 and is the author of "Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College" (Capital Books). Her work has appeared in publications such as "Young Money," "Scrapbooks, Etc.," and "Creating Keepsakes." She holds a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing.