Tiny, reddish, brown insects that feed on human and animal blood, aka bed bugs, are becoming more and more of a nuisance in homes. While bed bugs in mattresses and sofas are common, these pests can also thrive in your clothing and spread into other rooms of your house or apartment.
The best way to prevent a clothing infestation and learn how to get rid of bed bugs include:
- Using high heat: use hot water when doing laundry in a washing machine. When using a dryer, use the maximum heat setting for at least 30 minutes to kill any adult bed bugs and their eggs. If you're at a laundromat or using dry cleaning services, keep this in mind as well.
- Keep clothes in sealed bags whether traveling or storing them: by storing clothes in sealed bags, bed bugs won't be able to infest them.
- Examine clothes: before bringing any new clothing into your home, be on the lookout for live bed bugs, eggs, or blood and fecal stains.
- Learn how to use a vacuum cleaner: regularly vacuum your home paying attention to any furniture, carpets, and beds. This can prevent an infestation by physically removing live adult bed bugs and their eggs.
- Inspect luggage: like other personal items, inspect your luggage before bringing it into your home especially if you've just returned from a trip.
- Don't leave clothes in a pile: avoid piling clothing on top of one other while storing them because this can attract bed bugs or spread them
These are a few ways to prevent bed bugs in clothes and form from spreading to other areas of your home.
How to Inspect for Bed Bugs in Clothes
Due to their small size, bed bugs can conceal themselves in the folds and seams of your clothes. To properly check your clothes for bed bugs:
- Put all of the clothes you think or know have bed bugs into a sealed plastic bag to prevent them from getting into other parts of your house.
- Place the bag in the freezer for at least 72 hours to kill any adult bed bugs or eggs.
- Using a flashlight, take clothes out of the bag one by one and carefully inspect each piece. Pay special attention to seams, folds, pockets, creases, and other potential hiding places
- Place contaminated clothing back into the plastic bag and close it if you discover any signs of an infestation such as tiny blood stains, shed skin, or feces.
- Use your washing machine and wash all contaminated clothes with hot water.
- Then, put the clothes in a dryer bag and dry clothes on high heat for at least 30 minutes at a temperature of at least 120°F (48°C.)
- Afterward, check the bag you used and the surrounding area for any signs of bed bugs.
- Clean and vacuum the laundry room.
- Repeat for any bedding, pillowcases, linens, quilt comforter, duvet, or bedspread.
For those using dry cleaning services, you can look for a professional cleaner that uses pesticides. They'll have the proper equipment and products for your dry-clean-only items.
How to Kill Bed Bugs in Clothes
When learning about how to kill bed bugs in clothes, you can use natural remedies, or chemical products, or reach out to a professional pest control expert.
Dealing with bed bugs is a challenge and downright irritating but there are natural ways to kill them:
- Heat: if you want to learn how to kill bed bugs in clothes with heat, put contaminated clothing in the washing machine and use hot water for the cycle. Then, dry them at the highest heat setting in the dryer for at least 30 minutes.
- Laundry detergent: you can kill adult bed bugs and their eggs by simply adding a cup of detergent to the wash cycle
- Vacuuming: vacuum your entire room, making sure to get under and around the bed as well as in the baseboards, corners, and edges of the space. To make sure bed bugs don't escape and reinfest your clothes, clean out the vacuum cleaner bag right away.
- Steam: use a steam cleaner on your clothes, carpets, upholstered furniture, mattress, couch, and other potential bed bug breeding or feeding places.
- Diatomaceous earth: apply food-grade diatomaceous earth to the afflicted area and to your clothing. The bed bugs will be killed and dehydrated by the fine powder.
- Essential oils: use essential oils, like eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, peppermint, and cedar oil. Either spray some water and essential oils onto your clothes, add a few drops of a piece of fabric and throw it into the laundry with your contaminated clothes or store your clothes with a bag of dried lavender or cedar flowers and a few drops of essential oil. Remember that these oils should be used sparingly because they can be hazardous if consumed or used undiluted topically.
If you're using any non-toxic products like laundry detergent, diatomaceous earth, or essential oils, read the directions on the label and follow manufacturer safety precautions.
Although dryers are useful for drying clothes, they could also serve as a breeding habitat for certain insects (e.g., the clothing moth.) The different pesticides you can use to get rid of an infestation include:
- Laundry bug spray: these chemical sprays repel and kill bed bugs. You can spray this on the dryer drum or directly on clothing before it's loaded into the machine.
- Pyrethrins and pyrethroids: these are the synthetic equivalents of the chrysanthemum-derived natural insecticide pyrethrum. Pyrethrins and pyrethroids paralyze and kill bed bugs by assaulting their nervous system.
- Desiccants: These pesticides kill bed bugs by drying them out, which results in their dehydration and death. They should be used in places where bed bugs are likely to hide, such as cracks and crevices, and can be applied as a powder or dust.
- Insect growth regulators (IGRs): These pesticides stop bed bug infestation by impeding their capacity to reproduce.
Whichever chemical product you choose, use the product according to the directions on the package in a well-ventilated area. It's also good practice to routinely clean and maintain the dryer (particularly the lint trap) to avoid future infestation.
It's also important to remember that a bed bug invasion might not be eradicated with pesticides alone and you should consider combining chemicals with heat treatments or vacuuming. If the infestation is out of hand or you're not sure what to do next, contact a professional pest control specialist immediately.
A professional exterminator may have certain equipment and products that they are qualified to handle. So, how to kill bed bugs in clothes with professional treatment?
- The infested garments may also be frozen for at least 72 hours at a temperature below zero degrees Fahrenheit in sealed bags or containers by the exterminator. Any bugs or eggs that could be present in the clothing will also be killed by this.
- Wash all contaminated products (separately and not combined with other clothing) in hot water and dry with a very high heat setting. An exterminator may use bug spray or powder onto clothing before it's washed in a commercial dryer.
- Heat treatments are usually carried out by professional pest control experts who use a portable heater to sterilize contaminated items.
- Using a specific bed bug elimination product is an additional expert treatment option. This might include sprays, dust, and specialist bed bug interceptor traps.
Remember, a mix of techniques is frequently advised in order to eradicate bed guns. This may call for a combination of heat treatment, specific extermination agents, ongoing surveillance, and detailed inspections.
When to Call a Professional Exterminator
If you suspect you have a bed bug infestation, it's important to address the problem as soon as possible to stop it from getting worse. Even if you know how to kill bed bugs in clothes, the methods or products you use may not work. Here are a few signs that it's time to call in a professional:
- You're unable to put your clothes, bags, and other personal items in a high-heat dryer for at least 30 minutes to kill the bugs, or you are unable to dry them completely.
- You've tried the DIY methods on how to kill bed bugs in clothes and they haven't been effective
- You see bed bugs in multiple rooms or areas of your home.
- You've got a large infestation.
- You can't find the source of the infestation
- You have health concerns such as allergies or asthma that may be exacerbated by a bed bug infestation.
A professional exterminator will have access to more advanced treatment methods, such as insecticides and heat treatments, and will be able to locate and eliminate the source of the infestation. They'll also be able to provide advice on how to prevent bed bugs from returning in the future.
Bottom Line: How to Kill Bed Bugs in Clothes
As you're learning how to kill bed bugs in clothes, there are different methods that you can use which include more natural alternatives like essential oils and vacuuming or using chemical products like pesticides. While you can get more detailed information on these methods from the National Pest Management Association and the Environmental Protection Agency, we recommend reaching out to a professional pest control specialist to expertly handle your bed bug infestation.
FAQs on How to Kill Bed Bugs in Clothes
How do bed bugs get into clothing, and why are they a problem?
Bed bugs are tiny, red-brown pests that are a problem when they get into clothing because they feed on human and animal blood and can easily spread to other areas of your home.
How can I determine if bed bugs have infested my clothing?
We recommend gathering your potentially contaminated clothes and placing them in a sealed plastic bag then freezing them for at least 72 hours. Afterward, you can take each article of clothing out of the bag one by one and inspect them for any signs of an infestation with a flashlight. Pay special attention to creases, seams, and folds for tiny blood stains, shed skin, feces, eggs, or dead bugs.
How do I get bed bugs out of clothes?
How to kill bed bugs in clothes? You can use the laundry method (using hot water to wash the clothes and the highest heat setting to dry your clothing), food-grade diatomaceous earth, laundry bug spray, desiccants, vacuuming, essential oils, IGRs, or a steamer.
How can I avoid bed bugs in my clothing?
The best way to avoid bed bugs in clothes is by thoroughly inspecting your clothes before bringing them into your house if you've just bought them or are coming back from a trip.
Which essential oils can be used to ward off bed bugs?
Tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, cedar oil, lavender, and peppermint oil can be used to ward off bed bugs.
Can bed bugs be eliminated with dryers?
Yes, some bed bugs can be eliminated with dryers but this method can be used with other techniques to kill these pests.
What types of pesticides work well against bed bugs?
Pesticides that are effective against bed bugs include pyrethrins and pyrethroids, desiccants, and insect growth regulators (IGRs).
How can I safely apply insecticides to my clothing?
Follow the instructions on the product label and take any clothing that can only be dry-cleaned to a professional cleaner who uses pesticides.
What expert bed bug treatments are available for clothing?
Expert bed bug treatments include an extensive heat therapy process or pesticides that only qualified pest control specialists are allowed to use.
When should I contact a qualified exterminator about bed bugs on my clothing?
You should definitely call a professional pest control expert if the DIY methods on how to kill bed bugs in clothes didn't work, you have allergies or asthma that's triggered by bed bugs, you have a large infestation, or you don't know where the bed bugs are coming from.