How to Kill Bed Bugs

Washing Methods to Kill Bed Bugs

Posted on February 11, 2010 by Cheshire
Bed bug infestations are on the rise. I live in a college town, and you hear about them every once and awhile. They’re not super-common here in Iowa, but you hear about them from time to time. I’ve helped friends spray their houses for them before, so I know they’re around.

One of the things which worries me, especially during winter, is accidentally infesting my house with bed bugs. I’m not paranoid about it, but I’ve had to stay in a few hotels or crash with friends who live in cheap apartments. Many hotels have problems with bed bugs, but try to keep them as quiet as they can for obvious reasons. Many infestations actually start when the bed bugs crawl into clothes or oviposit on clothes in hotel rooms, and then explode out of control when the unsuspecting patron brings them home.

I don’t know of any friends who have bed bug problems (if they did, I’m probably the first they’d seek for advice), and I don’t know that any of the hotels I’ve stayed at this blizzard season have had problems. Still, bed bugs are hard to kill. They’re tolerant of many environmental extremes, resistant to many insecticides and can live a long time without food. If I stripped in the garage and left my clothes out there during the summer, they’d still be alive in the morning. I could bake my clothes overnight, but this is rather impractical (and might cost me a few outfits). There’s one thing you can do to potentially ward off infection, and it’s something you *should* be doing anyways…you can wash your clothes.

A lot of websites offer advice on washing for bed bugs, but very few of them appear to have evaluated their methods. So the researchers in this article did exactly that…they looked at what settings on household washers and driers worked and also looked at dry cleaning or freezing as ways to kill eggs. In separate experiments, they sewed eggs, nymphs and adults into cloth pouches and stuck them in the pockets of garments before washing them.

Their results are pictured below.

Basically, to ensure you kill the eggs or nymphs/adults you need to wash your clothes in the hottest water you can: around 140 degrees. Insect eggs as a rule tend to be really resilient…standard disinfectant protocol with many butterfly eggs calls for bleachso soap doesn’t really work all that well. Chucking your clothes in the dryer works, too. Just be sure to tumble dry on ‘hot’.

Dry cleaning and freezing overnight also work for those hard to wash items.

Naylor, R. A.; Boase, C. J. (2010). Practical Solutions for Treating Laundry Infested With Cimex lectularius (Hemiptera: Cimicidae) The Journal of Economic Entomology


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