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How to Save Bed Bug-Infested Household Items

August 21, 2019

Here’s a question: if your home has bed bugs, do you have to get rid of a lot of your stuff?

If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Many homeowners share the misconception that getting rid of bed bugs requires getting rid of their stuff. Even homeowners who’ve heard that the washing machine and dryer can kill bed bugs end up getting rid of lots of items—usually anything that can’t be laundered.

The good news is that you can save many bed bug-ridden household items. This includes things that can’t go through the washer and dryer, like books, picture frames, furniture, and more.

How? Keep reading to find out!

The Best Elimination Method for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs don’t do well in extreme heat or extreme cold. However, that doesn’t mean you can turn off the A/C in summer or the heat in the winter in order to kill the bed bugs in your home. (All that will do is just make you even more uncomfortable!) In fact, bed bugs can survive temperatures between 0 degrees and 119 degrees Fahrenheit.

To kill bed bugs, you need to expose them to sustained temperatures under 0 degrees or above 119 degrees. Of these two methods, we recommend heat treatment. Heat treatment is the more reliable, more effective way to eliminate bed bugs. (That’s because freezing them takes longer, and many home freezers don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs.)

How to Use Heat Treatment to Kill Bed Bugs

There are a number of ways that you can use heat to eliminate bed bugs. There is the tried-and-true laundry method, and there are a few other methods you might not have heard of. Let’s talk about each in depth.

Laundering on High Heat

Washing and drying your fabric items—like clothes, bedding, and stuffed animals—on the highest heat setting of your washer and dryer will kill any bed bugs infesting them. Here are some tips to help you do this effectively:

  1. Separate clothes, bedding, and other fabric items that have been infested into garbage bags. Seal the bags until you’re ready to launder the items.
  2. Wash and dry items on the hottest setting safe for the fabric. (You can find this on the care instructions label on garments of clothing.)
  3. Clothes that cannot be washed (like dry clean only clothes) should be placed in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes.
  4. After removing bed bug-infested clothes from their garbage bag and placing them in the washing machine or dryer, re-seal the garbage bag and throw it away outside your house.
  5. After drying, remove everything from the dryer immediately. Store clean/bed bug-free clothes and fabric items in a new garbage bag or a plastic bin (with an airtight lid) to prevent them from becoming re-infested.

Steam Cleaning

When used correctly, steamers can be a very effective method of killing bed bugs. A steamer can kill bed bugs on the surface of an item and can reach bed bugs hiding up to 3/4 of an inch in a fabric item or up to 2 inches in a crack or crevice. This makes them useful for killing bed bugs hiding in baseboards, carpets, box springs, bed frames, curtains, etc.

One thing to note: you’ll need to use a commercial steamer, not a clothing steamer or a carpet cleaner. Clothing steamers and carpet cleaners do not get hot enough to kill bed bugs. Here are our tips for using steam cleaning to eliminate bed bugs:

  1. Make sure to follow all instructions for the steamer. Steamers will get incredibly hot and can cause burns if misused.
  2. Do not use the steamer on any item that can be damaged by contact with water (like electronics.)
  3. Attach a triangular nozzle to the steam wand for maximum control of the steam.
  4. Make sure the surface you steam reaches 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit at maximum. (Any higher and items can get damaged.)
  5. Use the steamer on areas where you see bed bugs or suspect bed bugs may be hiding. You may have to do this several times, since only the bed bugs exposed to the steam will die.

Heating with a Hot Box (or Oven)

A hot box is a great way to eliminate bed bugs in items that can’t be laundered or steamed. This includes things like books, shoes, and frames. Heat can penetrate the tiniest cracks and crevices, which means no bed bug can survive (if done correctly). If you don’t have access to a heat box, you can use your oven. Here are our tips for doing this type of treatment successfully:

  1. If using a heat box, follow all instructions for safety.
  2. During the treatment, monitor the heat box (or oven) in case of malfunction or fire.
  3. Keep the items in the box (or oven) for 45 minutes to an hour. When finished, wait to remove the items until they are cool enough to handle.
  4. After you’re finished, store all heat treated items in a sealed garbage bag or plastic bin with lid to prevent re-infestation.

Professional Home Heat Treatment

If you have a bed bug infestation that extends beyond a few items to one or more rooms in your house, your best option is a professional home heat treatment. This treatment involves using heaters to raise the temperature in the home to around 135 degrees Fahrenheit. (This temperature will kill bed bugs without harming the items in the home—including electronics.) Once that temperature is reached, the home is heated for an hour to ensure that all bed bugs and their eggs are killed.

In many cases, a house-wide bed bug infestation can be fixed in a single professional heat treatment. That’s because the heat penetrates all areas of the home, from the baseboards to the ceiling. In addition, many homeowners find this treatment very convenient, because they don’t have to remove their belongings. They can simply vacate the house for a while and come back to a bed bug-free home!

Questions? Contact Us!

We hope this overview of heat treatment for bed bugs helps you! If you still have questions or think you need professional treatment to get rid of a serious bed bug infestation, call us today.

Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-888-681-1925 or through our website, Facebook, orTwitter.

Authored By: Eric Scherzinger

Quality ProNational Pest Management AssociationOPMABetter Business Bureau Angies List Super Service Award

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