Bed bug infestations are on the rise in the U.S., and coming up with effective ways to deal with these nocturnal pests has become a big topic around the water cooler. Although bed bugs can hitch a ride on just about anything, including shoes, handbags and luggage, clothing is a common target. It's possible to eradicate bed bugs from laundered clothing, bedding and household textiles like drapes and area rugs, but it takes heat to do it.
A sustained temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit will kill all stages of the bed bug's lifecycle. Some experts suggest maintaining the heat for at least 20 minutes while others recommend continuing high temperatures for an hour. That's good news if you're trying to get bed bugs out of your clothes: Washing your clothes in hot water will probably kill them, and spinning your clothes in a hot dryer will certainly kill them. In fact, just stuffing your bug infested clothes in a trash bag, sealing it and putting it out in the sun on a hot day will kill any critters inside. Just make sure the interior of the bag reaches a sustained 120 degrees Fahrenheit by checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer.
If you're dealing with dry-clean-only garments, the dry-cleaning process kills bed bugs, too, but it's probably a good idea to let the dry cleaner know there may be bed bugs in the clothing you're leaving at his facility. He may want to quarantine your clothes before treating them.
If there will be a delay in cleaning your garments or dropping them off at the dry cleaner, keep them in a sealed trash bag in your garage to make sure you don't spread them to multiple areas in your home.
These tips don't just work for clothing, either. Washing and drying with hot water, dry cleaning and heat treating will kill bed bugs in bedding, draperies, pillows, cushions, area rugs and other household textiles, too. Just make sure that the heat penetrates all the layers of the items you're cleaning.
- EPA. "Top Ten Bed Bugs Tips - EPA." 1/12/12. (4/3/12). http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/bed-bugs-faq-fs.html
- Kells, Stephen A. and Jeff Hahn. "Traveler Q & A: Preventing bed bugs from hitchhiking to your home." University of Minnesota - Department of Entomology. 2006. (4/3/12). http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/housingandclothing/M1196.html
- Mayo Clinic. "Bedbugs." (4/3/12). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs/DS00663
- Mayo Clinic. "Treatment and Drugs." (4/3/12). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs/DS00663/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs
- NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene and Department of Housing Preservation & Development. "Preventing and Getting Rid of Bedbugs. (4/3/12). http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf
- Public Health Department City of Columbus. "Bed Bug Relief Guide." 4/2010. (4/3/12). http://publichealth.columbus.gov/uploadedFiles/Public_Health/Content_Administrators/Press_Room/Bed%20Bug%20Relief%20Guide.pdf
- The Bug Clinic. "Bed Bugs - A Health Problem Returns to the U.S." (4/3/12). http://www.bugclinic.com/bedbug.htm
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. " Joint Statement on Bed Bug Control in the United States from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)." 2/17/11. (4/3/12). http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/publications/bed_bugs_cdc-epa_statement.htm
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control. "Bed Bugs: Frequently Asked Questions." 11/2/10. (4/3/12). http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html