Can You Use a Clothes Steamer to Kill Bed Bugs?

Clothes Steamer to Kill Bed Bugs

For most insects, several methods can be used to destroy them.

From putting out poison to setting up traps to stomping on them with your shoes, most bugs can be eliminated with these processes.

However, bed bugs are an exception because they are parasites, so they do not eat poison.

They are only interested in you, so traps do not work. And bed bugs are so tiny that trying to stomp them isn’t going to work either.

But bed bugs are vulnerable to heat, and that’s where a commercial-grade steamer can come in handy for getting rid of them.

Unfortunately, a standard clothes steamer cannot reach the recommended temperatures unless it is commercial grade.

So, ensure you do not waste your time and efforts using your regular steamer (used for clothes or carpet cleaning) to kill the bed bugs.

What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?

Extreme temperature conditions (both low and high) can make your place a hell for bed bugs to live.

High temperatures more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.778°C) in most cases will start to damage bed bugs.

When reaching 113°F (45°C), bed bugs can be killed in about 90 minutes.

While temperatures as high as 118°F (47.778°C) can kill the adult bed bugs, bed bug nymphs, and their eggs in around 20 minutes.

Interestingly, bed bugs (both adults and eggs) can also freeze and get killed at extremely low temperatures – anything below -13°F (-25°C) in around 4 days.

Temperatures a bit above -13 degrees Fahrenheit can also kill/freeze them but will take a lot of time.

How to Kill Bed Bugs with Steam?

No matter their stage of life, bed bugs can be killed with steam.

The heat provided by the steam will destroy bed bugs without having to use poisons, set traps, or create a mess.

The goal is to set the temperature from 117F to 122F degrees.

But you will need to use a steamer that can reach such temperatures.

Steamers that are used for clothing and carpet cleaning do not reach such temperatures, so they will do little to discourage the bed bugs, much less get rid of them.

This is because clothes and carpet steamers are designed to lift dirt and debris from the fabric or fibers of a carpet while minimizing the burning to the skin that may be caused by accidental contact.

What follows is how to kill bed buds using a commercial steamer that can reach temperatures up to 180F degrees.

1- Attach Nozzle to Steam Wand

A nozzle will concentrate the steam in a tiny location at a time.

This is important because if the steam spreads out, the temperatures will drop significantly to the point where it may not be enough to kill the bed bugs.

So, attach the nozzle to concentrate the steam being generated.

2- Keep It Below 180F Degrees

The goal is to destroy the bed bugs without damaging the bedding material or carpet.

Do not allow the temperatures to go above 180F.

You can use an infrared thermometer to accurately read the temperature generated.

Move the wand and nozzle slowly over the areas where the bed bugs gather.

3- Cover All Areas and Repeat

Anyplace you suspect bed bugs are present, go over it with the steam wand.

This means the bedding, mattress, bed posts, and the legs of nearby tables or chairs where bed bugs will often nest during the daytime.

Be sure that the fabric and fibers are not wet from the steam; they should only be damp.

Otherwise, this might lower the temperature.

Plus, once you have completed the work, switch the steamer to fan mode and dry the bedding and carpet.

It may take more than one treatment to fully eliminate the bed bugs.

If you can, rent the steamer for a few days so you can judge the results of the first treatment and then go over the same areas again if that was unsuccessful.


Blood-sucking bugs can move quickly and hide in items with cracks and crevices.

These include baseboards, box springs, mattresses, couches, and other furniture.

So, to successfully eradicate the escaped critters, repeat the above process 2-3 times.

Depending on the area, you can repeat the steaming procedure after a few hours or the next day.

Do not wait for a few days to repeat the steam treatment, as these bugs can multiply quickly and can leave all your efforts wasted.

Precautions When Using Steamer for Bed Bugs

A commercial-grade steamer can be quite effective, but it can also be dangerous unless you take the proper precautions.

You will want to ensure that you prevent burning yourself or anyone else when using the steamer.

a) Wear Protection:

This includes gloves, long sleeves, and a respirator so you do not inhale the heated area, which might damage your lungs.

It may seem like only a small chance, but it is far better to be safe than sorry.

b) Use a Floor Nozzle:

It is important to note that the type of nozzle used is for the floor, not a pinpoint nozzle.

While a pinpoint nozzle may seem more effective, the concentration of steam and the force behind it may simply blow the bed bugs to another location instead of killing them.

Plus, the high concentration may be enough to damage bedding, the mattress, or the carpet.

c) Read & Follow Directions:

Not all steamers work alike, so read and follow the instructions carefully.

You want to ensure that the steamer is working the way it should and that you do not accidentally damage it or have it not reach the temperatures needed to kill the bed bugs.

This includes refilling the steamer as the water will be put under pressure.

Removing the cap too quickly or a leak occurring will not only reduce the temperature but also might present a danger to you and anyone around.

Finally, when you have started the steamer for use, point the nozzle at a towel as water may be ejected first before the steam gets out.

Your towel can take the heat from the water; your fabrics, carpeting, and skin may not.

will using a hair dryer kill bed bugs

Can I Use a Hair Dryer or Clothes Iron to Kill Bed Bugs?

The answer is no for the hair dryer.

This is because while you can direct the flow of the air, it will not reach temperatures high enough to kill the bed bugs.

Hair dryers are set at a lower temperature, so they do not burn your skin or hair.

Your clothes dryer may reach temperatures high enough to kill bed bugs.

You will need to read the manual to ensure the clothes dryer can reach at least 120F degrees.

Put all bedding, sheets, blankets, and clothes into the dryer and let it run for at least 20 minutes.

This should be enough to kill any bed bugs present.

Your clothes iron can also reach temperatures high enough to kill the bed bugs.

The problem is applying the iron evenly to fabric or carpeting so that it does the job without burning the material.

If the surface is flat, it will work.

But clothing irons do not work well on carpeting or thicker material as it has a difficult time penetrating deep enough to work.

Other Related Questions:

Why are there bed bugs in my clothes?

Bed bugs love drinking blood. And in fact, it’s their only food for survival.

This also means they are always in search of ways by which they can transmit to us humans.

By getting into our clothes, they can get closer to our skin and get an opportunity to feast on blood very easily.

There can be multiple ways by which bed bugs can catch us and stick on our clothes.

And the first is when we travel every day to work, school, church, etc, especially via public transport like the bus, we get in contact with others that may be infested by bed bugs.

Think of when you contact other people carrying bed bugs at public places like airports, clothing stores, hotels, etc.

These tiny critters, while moving, can easily transmit to your shirts, pants, shoes, purse, suitcase, etc.

Another way by which bed bugs can come inside our clothes or wardrobes is through a dirty environment.

Maybe your neighbor is on a cleaning spree and has thrown away their old dirty pillows, beddings, or mattresses.

In search of blood, bed bugs will most likely leave those places and come inside your house.

How to prevent bed bugs from entering your clothes?

One way you can minimize the chances of bed bug infestation is by washing hot water and steaming your clothes regularly.

Remember, it’s the DRYING of your clothes through steamer which is more important than washing, as it will kill the bugs living in your clothes.

After you have cleaned your clothes, be sure to store them nicely in your wardrobe.

Especially if you are treating your home for bed bugs, you should not leave your clothes spread around.

Pack them in a tightly sealed plastic container or plastic bag.

To further prevent/eliminate bed bugs from your fabrics, ensure you also steam and vacuum your carpets, curtains, sofa, etc.

Can bed bugs hide eggs inside or bite when they live in clothes?

Unlike many other insects, bed bugs don’t have nests, and they tend to live in your socks, pajamas, coats, or any suitable place like a wall to hide away from humans and other predators.

They can even hide their eggs inside the clothes that are not very often used, your clothes’ pockets, or if they find a tear inside some clothes section.  

The good thing is you don’t need to necessarily throw away your infested clothes as bed bugs cannot bite through the fabric and cannot make holes into them.

But if the infestation is hard to manage due to the large population of bugs, you will need to properly pack and dispose of the clothes.

Remember, bed bugs can’t chew fabric doesn’t mean they cannot bite you through clothes.

These insects can still crawl through the tiniest of places, holes, or tears inside your clothes and can easily bite and drink blood.

After all, they are inside your clothes for this very reason.

The Conclusion

Using heat or steam is one good way to eliminate bed bugs.

But you will need a commercial-grade steamer (that can go over the mattress and carpeting) to kill the bed bugs. 

A regular clothes dryer (for bedding and clothing) should not be enough as it may not provide the temperature required to kill these insects.

In case you do not have the required equipment that fulfills the temperature conditions, I recommend you call the experts to get the job done professionally.

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