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Do bed bugs live in clothes? Does washing clothes kill bed bugs?

Bed bugs are first-rate hitchhikers, and an infestation can begin with a single female in your luggage or on your clothing. So, technically, bed bugs can live in your clothes. However, it’s unlikely that a bed bug would be living long-term in the clothes that you’re wearing. You move around a lot and they prefer a stationary home. But, it is very possible that bed bugs could settle in an unpacked suitcase or backpack. Of course, the little guys would eventually have to head out in search of food. That means they might move to your headboard or nightstand, so they’re closer to a meal – which is you.

Washing and drying your clothes does kill bed bugs

If you’re dealing with a bed bug outbreak, you don’t need to toss out your wardrobe. The key to ridding your clothes of bed bugs is washing and drying them with the highest heat your clothes can tolerate.

What you’ll need

The process is simple and you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Laundry detergent

  • Trash bags

  • Washing machine

  • Dryer

The first thing you’ll need to do is sort all your clothing into plastic bags. Separate them as you would to do laundry (lights, darks, colors, delicates), because that’s just what you’re going to do. You’ll want to sort them in the infested area then tie a tight knot in the bags for transport so the bed bugs don’t escape and spread the infestation into other areas of your home.

How to

Use your own washer and dryer or head to the laundromat, but choose the washer and dryer that offer the highest heat settings. Once there and ready to go, just:

  • Separate Dry-Clean-Only Garments - even if you don’t plan to take them to the dry cleaner for additional cleaning, still separate in a sealed plastic bag. They can be put into the dryer on high heat to kill the bed bugs. If you do take clothes to the dry cleaner, fess up so the dry cleaner can take necessary precautions so they don’t spread to other customers.

  • Spray Washable Clothes with Rubbing Alcohol – this will kill live bedbugs on contact; however, it will not eliminate eggs.

  • Set the Washing Machine - select the hottest water temperature recommended for the fabrics keeping in mind that a temperature of at least 120 degrees is necessary to kill the bed bugs and eggs. If you don’t have a washer that heats to 120 degrees, put the clothes in the dryer BEFORE you wash them at a high heat for 30 minutes.

  • Transfer Clothes to the Washer - take one bag at a time to the washing machine and tip it over CAREFULLY, so the clothes spill into the machine. Don’t shake the bags because the bed bugs could become airborne. Put the contaminated bags into a clean garbage bag and tie it tightly, then dispose of it in an outside bin.

  • Set the Dryer - transfer the washed clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Set the dryer to run for at least 30 minutes on the highest possible heat cycle that will not damage your clothes. Again, the temperature must exceed 120 degrees to kill both bed bugs and eggs.

  • Fold Laundry and Store – fold your clean and dry clothes on a surface that is free of bed bugs. Then, store your clothes in a clean plastic bag or sealed plastic bin until you’re sure your home is totally bed bug free.

Hopefully this helps answers your question about bed bugs and laundry. If you still have questions, feel free to give us a call.



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