How to Save Bed Bug-Infested Household Items

Here’s a question: if your home has a bed bug infestation, 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 washing machines and dryers 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. Here’s how:

The Best Elimination Methods 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 any 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—so to kill them, they must be exposed to sustained temperatures under 0 degrees or above 119 degrees Fahrenheit.Of these two methods, we recommend heat treatment. Heat treatment is a 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 a bed bug infestation—both the tried-and-true laundry method and several you may not have heard of. Let’s talk about each.

Laundering on High Heat
Washing and drying your fabric items—clothes, bedding and stuffed animals—on the highest heat setting of your washer and dryer will kill any bed bug infestation. Here’s how to do it 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, reseal 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 also 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 doesn’t exceed 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit at max. (Any higher and items can get damaged.)
  5. Use the steamer on areas where you see bed bugs or suspect a bed bug infestation. You may have to do this several times, since only the bed bugs exposed to the steam will die.

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. 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.

ScherZinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton and now Columbus. We’ve been pioneers who have engineered new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our websiteFacebook, or Twitter.