Will Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

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Will Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

It can be extremely distressing to find that bed bugs have infested your home. Whether they’re in your bed, your closet, or your furniture, bed bugs can cause stress and unease, not to mention the nasty little bites they leave behind.

Here, we are going to answer the question “Will washing clothes kill bed bugs?” We’ll also look at the different steps to take to prevent any further contamination.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are small insects that commonly live on bedding, furniture, or fabrics. They feed on human blood, leaving itchy, sore bites on the skin. They’re typically visible to the naked eye; usually around a quarter of an inch in size when they’re fully grown. 

Bed Bug

Bed bugs can find their way into your home on any item of furniture or fabric such as your clothing or handbag. Second-hand furniture is a common culprit for transporting bed bugs into the home.

How Do I Know if Bed Bugs Are In My Home?

There are a few signs to look out for if you think your home may have become infested with bed bugs. First, you might notice small, red itchy bites on your skin. These might cause swelling for some people and can be extremely painful.

Bed Bug Bites

You might also notice small red or brown marks on your bed or on your clothing and furniture. These could be caused by bed bugs being squashed into the fabric.

Alternatively, you might actually see the bed bugs. As we’ve said, they are usually visible to the naked eye, so a quick scan of your bed or furniture should tell you whether they’re present in your home.

Will Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

If you find that you do have bed bugs in your home, you’ll want to get rid of them as soon as possible. Getting rid of bed bugs is pretty straightforward, so don’t rush off to discard infested items of furniture, bedding, or clothing.

Machine washing is an extremely effective way to eliminate bed bugs. The water and heat will kill most bed bugs on the fabrics. Pair this with a blast in a high-heat-setting dryer, and you should be free from bed bugs in no time.

Tips for Removing Bed Bugs from Clothes and Fabric

Below are some basic tips for quickly removing bed bugs from your clothing and fabrics to understand the correct way to answer the question, will washing clothes kill bed bugs?

Separate the Clothes

Start by sorting your washing into piles according to their specific wash requirements. You want to wash the clothes on the highest heat possible and by sorting them according to their care guidelines you can do this safely without damaging the clothing.

Sort the clothes into sealed bags that can be disposed of immediately after moving the clothes into your washing machine to avoid further contamination within your home.

Use Regular Laundry Detergent

Use your own preferred laundry detergent within the wash. Try to go for something that is antibacterial as this will give you the best chance of removing any living bed bugs or eggs. It will also remove any nasty bacteria or residue left over from the bed bugs.

There are many excellent chemical-free laundry detergents out there that will leave your fabrics free from bacteria and dirt without the use of any harmful chemicals or toxins.

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Method Liquid Laundry Detergent
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Planet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid DetergentPlanet 2x HE Ultra Laundry Liquid Detergent
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There are numerous detergents out there marketed as specific bed bug killers. The truth is, they’re unlikely to do a much better job than your regular detergent, but will probably contain many more toxic chemicals, so best to avoid these if you can, or read the ingredients carefully before purchasing.

Select the Highest Heat Setting

This is a vital step in effectively removing bed bugs. You need to wash the clothes on the highest setting possible while still adhering to the garments care guidelines.

The heat is what will kill the bed bugs, particularly when coupled with a good laundry detergent. Washing on a cold setting is unlikely to thoroughly eliminate all of the bed bugs.

Dry the Laundry Thoroughly

Similarly, you want to finish the cycle by drying the clothes in a tumble dryer on a high heat setting. A heat setting of 120 degrees for roughly thirty minutes should kill all of the remaining bed bugs.

Store the Laundry Securely

Ensure that the clothing and fabrics are thoroughly dry before removing them from the dryer.

Visually inspect each garment individually to check for any remaining bed bugs or eggs. If bed bugs are still visible, repeat the wash and dry cycle. If the items appear to be clear of any bed bugs or eggs, go ahead and fold these or hang them on laundry hangers.

All previously infested items should be stored securely in boxes or sealed bags until you are positive that the bed bugs have been removed from your home.

Wait a couple of weeks before reintegrating the clothing back into your closet or home, by which point if you have had no further signs of bed bugs present in your home, you can be pretty sure that they are gone.

How to Remove Bed Bugs from Fabrics That Are Not Machine Washable

So, machine washing is an effective way of removing bed bugs from clothing and household fabrics, but what can you do if the infested fabrics are not machine-washable?

Your first option is to seek out the help of a professional laundry service. Be sure to tell the company that the items are infested with bed bugs since some companies won’t accept the items and you may end up with a hefty charge for failing to disclose this to them. Those that do accept bed bug-infested laundry should be able to effectively remove the bed bugs without damaging your garments.

Alternatively, you can tackle the bed bugs yourself using some basic household tools.

Some people choose to start by vacuuming the clothes. This can effectively remove the bed bugs from the fabric but could lead to further infestation if the vacuum is not emptied and cleaned immediately afterward.

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Shark NV356E S2 Navigator Lift-Away Professional Upright Vacuum
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Alternatively, steam cleaning can be extremely effective in killing bed bugs. You’ll need to use the highest heat setting possible when steam cleaning the garments, and you should also do this in a secure space where the bed bugs can’t contaminate other fabrics or areas of the home.

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Many dry-clean-only garments are actually able to go in the tumble dryer. Check the label on the item of clothing and if possible, toss it in the dryer on the highest suitable heat setting for around thirty minutes to effectively kill any remaining bed bugs.

Related: The Best Steamer for Bed Bugs

Other Important Steps to Remove Bed Bugs from Your Home

A serious bed bug infestation may require the attention of a professional pest control service. They will be able to fully eradicate any bed bugs from your home pretty efficiently, depending on the scale of the infestation.

This is definitely the best option if you find that most of your furniture, carpets, and clothing are riddled with bed bugs. The downside here is that you will probably need to vacate the property for a period of time while the company services your home. It can also be an expensive service but is, unfortunately, a necessary one in some cases.

There are also steps you can take to deal with the problem yourself. In addition to washing your clothes and fabrics effectively, you could steam clean mattresses and other items of furniture to kill bed bugs and then finish by drying with a hairdryer. The heat should kill any remaining bed bugs which can then be vacuumed up and disposed of.

Preventing the Re-infestation of Bed Bugs in the Future

Unfortunately, bed bugs can often make their way into your home through no fault of your own. They might be carried in on your jacket or shoes and can quickly multiply and infest your entire home.

With that being said, there are a few steps you can implement into your regular cleaning routine that will enable you to reduce the risk of a serious infestation.

Get into the habit of removing shoes and outdoor clothing as soon as you enter your home. Give them a quick visual check before putting them away and then try to store them in a secure area so that if any of them have become infested with bed bugs, the infestation will remain localized to one area within the home.

It’s also important to regularly change your bed sheets and wash them thoroughly. This includes the mattress and any mattress toppers. Baking soda is a great antibacterial cleaning agent and can be sprinkled all over the mattress to soak up any moisture and remove bacteria before being vacuumed off.

You can also use a dry brush to loosen any dirt or bugs from the hard-to-reach corners and crevices of mattresses or other furniture before vacuuming.

Final Thoughts on Will Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

Finding bed bugs in your home can be distressing but unfortunately, bed bugs are extremely common and most of us are likely to encounter them at one time or another.

Catching bed bugs quickly and eliminating them efficiently is incredibly important since they multiply rapidly and the situation can quickly escalate.

By effectively washing your clothes and following the basic steps outlined in this article on Will Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs, you should be able to rid your home of any lingering bed bugs and prevent future re-infestations.