Bed bugs are excellent hitch-hikers, they cling to your luggage and clothing and enter your house as uninvited guests. Before you know it, these bed bugs can multiply and cause a serious infestation in your home.
But luckily, you don’t have to dispose of your wardrobe if bed bugs are living in your clothes!
We will tell you the steps to wash clothes with bed bugs, how to store laundry in case of an infestation, how long can bed bugs live on clothing, how to remove stains, and lastly, some extra tips and tricks to treat laundry with a bed bug infestation.
Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?
If you have bugs wandering inside your closet, DO NOT panic and throw out your wardrobe. There are easy DIYs with which you can easily kill all the bugs in one go by washing.
Treating your laundry in the right manner to get rid of bed bugs, can kill every bug present in your clothes and will leave your clothes 100% bug-free. Washing laundry in the correct manner can finish off half of your task, and the other half can be done by drying – an equally important step to eliminate bugs. DO NOT skip the drying part as it is equally essential.
It is not the water that kills the bed bugs, but the temperature. Bed bugs are intolerant of excessive heat and will die when the temperature is raised above a certain extent.
Most washing machines cannot reach that high temperature of 1200F to kill bed bugs, but dryers can! So, a washing machine can kill a few bed bugs through agitation, water submersion, and detergent, but a dryer will do the main work!
Equipment Needed for Washing Clothes with Bed Bugs
All you need to accomplish your task are a few home tools and materials which are cheap and easily available.
- Washing machine
- Rubbing alcohol
- Laundry detergent
- Trash bags
Key Steps in Washing Clothes to Kill Bed Bugs
Now that you are armed with the right equipment, it’s time to guide you through the right steps of washing laundry infested with bed bugs!
Separate the Garments
Separate your clothes into two sections- one, clothes that can be washed and dried. Second, clothes with care labels that state ‘dry-clean only’.
Now, what can you do about the clothes that can’t be washed?
For fabrics that cannot be washed and need to be dry-cleaned, immediately place the clothes in a sealable plastic bag. You can send these clothes out for dry cleaning. Dry cleaning surely kills the bed bugs. You can also directly run these clothes in the drier on a high-heat cycle to get rid of bed bugs.
If neither of the two works for you, then just leave the clothes in a sealed plastic bag and wait for them to die out of starvation. But this process will take a fair amount of time and you cannot use these clothes till then.
As soon as you identify a bug infestation in your clothes, spray them with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol will kill bed bugs as soon as it comes in contact with them. If you find a live bed bug, spray the bug immediately with rubbing alcohol.
Remember, DO NOT spray rubbing alcohol on fabrics that cannot be washed and can only be dry-cleaned.
Also, note that rubbing alcohol is highly flammable, so do not bring these clothes near a lighter, cigarette, or kitchen as they can readily catch fire.
Sort the Clothes
Now, sort your clothes as you would normally do before laundry, for example, separate white and colors. Sorting should be done only in the infested area, if you take these infested clothes around the house, bed bugs may spread from one place to the other, and you may face an outbreak in a matter of weeks.
After sorting, put separate piles of clothes into separate trash bags and seal them properly so that the bugs cannot escape.
Set the Washing Machine
Select the correct cycle for the fabric type depending on the pile that you’re putting in as you would normally do, but remember to set the temperature as high as these garments can tolerate because high temperatures will kill bed bugs faster.
You can add regular detergent if your washer does not have an automatic dispenser. There is no need for any kind of special detergent, as it plays a minimal role in killing bugs.
Keep in mind that your fabrics do not get damaged due to hot water, set the temperature only up to which the garments can tolerate.
Transfer Clothes to the Washer
Do not touch the clothes, or take them out from the trash bag. Directly pour the clothes from the trash bags into the washer. DO NOT roughly dump out the clothes, as bed bugs could escape and infest your house later.
This is important even if you’re using a communal laundry, to protect others from these insects as well. DO NOT leave the trash bag there, take it outside and dispose of it in an outside bin.
Set the Dryer Cycle
Transfer these clothes from the machine to the dryer immediately after washing them. Washing kills only a few bed bugs, so even if you leave the clothes outside for a few minutes, the bugs can escape causing a much bigger problem.
Run the dryer for at least 30 minutes on the highest possible heat cycle that does not damage your clothes. Ideally, the heat should exceed 1200F to eliminate bed bugs and their eggs.
If you do not wish to clean the clothes, and you only want to get rid of the bed bugs, you can skip the washing part and directly place them in the dryer and run them under high heat.
For clothes that get damaged in a normal dryer, send them out for dry cleaning. If you cannot send them out to dry clean, you can place the clothes on the roof of your car under the sun for a few hours. The heat from the roof of your car will kill the bed bugs and dry your clothes.
Fold the clean and dry garments and place them in the right place. If your house is infested, then it is not wise to place these clothes in your cupboard as bed bugs may get inside your clothes again.
The safest option is to seal the washed and dried clothes in plastic bags.
Now that we have learned the entire process, it is essential to know how often we should repeat it to get rid of bugs.
Usually, one washing and drying cycle per load of laundry is enough to do the job but it does not mean that bed bugs cannot infect your clothes again. So, check for bed bugs in your clothes repeatedly and immediately repeat the process if you find any.
Storing Laundry Infested with Bed Bugs
After you’ve successfully gotten rid of these pests from your clothes, you’ve to store them in a way that they do not get near your clothes again.
For this, the first and foremost thing to remember is, after taking your clothes out from the dryer, DO NOT set them on a folding table unless you’re sure that the table is free from bed bugs.
We suggest that you take them out of the drier, one at a time, fold and put them in a plastic bag directly. If you’re at a communal laundry, you can put all your clothes in a plastic bag, seal it and take it to your home for folding. But, do this only if your house is bed bug-free.
If you still have an infestation at your home, do not set the clothes in your cupboard, keep them in sealed bags till the infestation is controlled. This will prevent the clothes from being re-infested.
Do not use cardboard or wooden boxes for storing laundry as bed bugs can live inside both of these materials.
If you still doubt that there are bed bugs in your clothes, or there are clothes that cannot be washed, like silk garments, suede boots, shoes, or lingerie, a simple method is to freeze them. Keep them in your freezer for about 4-5 days at a temperature of less than 40F. This will get rid of any bed bugs that may have survived, although it is unlikely. After freezing, dry them again and store them in plastic bags.
After storing them in plastic bags, make sure to first vacuum the space where you are storing these bags, then you can then safely keep them there, and use your clothes directly from the bags.
How Long Do Bed Bugs Live on Clothing?
Bed bugs do not prefer living near your body due to the body heat. For this reason, bed bugs do not prefer living in your clothes as well and they will escape finding a more suitable hiding place at any chance they get.
The lifespan of a bed bug can range from six months to a year normally, but if they are stuck in your laundry, they are most likely not getting any food. When a bed bug is not feeding, it is most likely to survive for 2-3 months. But this span can change with the climate they’re living in.
In normal circumstances, bed bugs feed about once a week. In colder temperatures, bed bugs may survive up to a year without a blood meal. This happens because bed bugs are cold-blooded and they can slow down their metabolism.
Treating Stains on Laundry Infested with Bed Bugs
Unfortunately, bed bugs can leave stains on your mattress, clothing, sheets, or pillowcases. These stains are generally little, dark, rusty dots that are marks of bed bug feces.
Before directly washing your stained laundry, you should pre-treat the stains.
Use cold water to blot and rub away the stains. DO NOT use hot water as they will set the stain. Now, use 3% hydrogen peroxide and blot the stains on the damp areas. You can use an enzyme-based fabric stain remover to pre-treat the stains before washing the laundry.
Some Extra Tips for Washing Infested Laundry
To ensure that bed bugs have been eliminated from your laundry by 100%, you should go the extra mile! Here are some extra tips for the same.
1. If you are in a shared laundry room or a communal laundry, you should ensure that the folding table is free of bed bugs before setting your clothes there. Inspect for these little creatures first and then fold your clothes. You can also directly put laundry in a plastic bag straight from the dryer and take it home to fold.
2. To get rid of bugs, you can try a fabric steamer on your clothes. The temperature should be between 160-1800F to kill the bugs. Make sure that you steam every inch of the cloth.
3. You can vacuum after cleaning or steaming your infested clothes, it will catch any remaining bed bugs and also pick up the remains of dead bed bugs and their eggs. Make sure to dispose of the vacuum bag in an outside trash can.
4. Freezing your belongings can also help get rid of bed bugs. Try freezing the items that cannot be washed like silk, suede, etc. Wrap these items in a plastic case and put them in your freezer for 4-5 days at a temperature below 40F. This will kill bed bugs in these items but remember that larger items may take more time.
5. If you have infested laundry, there are good chances that bed bugs may also be hiding at several places in your house. So, instead of just treating the laundry, get rid of these bed bugs once and for all by treating your house. This can be done by heating, sprinkling diatomaceous earth, spraying disinfectant, etc.
6. During or after the cleaning process, avoid leaving your clothes on the floor as bed bugs may enter your clothes again, or they may even leave your clothes and infest your home, which can be troublesome.
7. If you cannot access a dryer, then leave your laundry on the dashboard of your car for drying on a hot day. You may do this for one full day. This process will kill bed bugs from the heat.
If you ever feel that your house or even clothing has been exposed to bed bugs, it’s not the end of the world! It is surely unsettling to think about bed bugs living in your clothes, but you can correct this with a simple cycle of washing and drying!
This is all you need to know about removing bed bugs from your wardrobe. If you follow the steps given in the article, you will be able to easily remove any bed bugs and make your wardrobe a bug-free zone!