Can You Use a Clothes Steamer to Kill Bed Bugs?

Clothes Steamer to Kill Bed Bugs

For most insects, there are several methods that 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, make sure 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 or 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 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 creating 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 through accidental contact.

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

1- Attach Nozzle to Steam Wand

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

This is important because if the steam spreads out, the temperatures generated 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

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 hours.

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 out the bedding and carpet.

It may take more than one treatment to fully get rid of 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.

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 and 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 carpet.

c) Read & Follow Directions:

Not all steamers work alike, so be sure to 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 reached 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, it also might present a danger to you any anyone around.

Finally, when you have started up 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.

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 that the clothes dryer can get to at least 120F degrees.

Put in 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 it 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.

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 that you call the experts to get the job done at a professional level.

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