Similar to other insects, you can kill bed bugs by different means. One of the most popular is by using insecticides and other toxic chemicals. You also have to follow recommendations to keep your house clean and free of clutter. But you might have heard about using temperature to kill bed bugs, which is another measure you can take, and it is especially useful for your bedding and other parts of your house. You can use temperature to kill bed bugs, and here’s how:
Extreme temperatures for bed bugs
Bed bugs can survive to high and low temperatures, but they have a higher and lower limit. The most common way to get rid of bed bugs by using this measure is by applying hot temperatures. Depending on the heat, you need to apply hot temperatures for a longer or shorter time. Bed bugs and their eggs start to die at 113 ºF, but they need to be exposed to it for 90 minutes or more. If you want to kill them faster, you need to reach 118 ºF, which kills them in 20 to 30 minutes. If you want to kill them immediately, it is better to reach 125 ºF or higher temperatures. Keep in mind that bed bug eggs are usually more resistant and need a more extended heat exposition to die.
We’re summarizing what you need to know about bed bugs and hot temperatures in this table:
|Temperature||Time to kill bed bugs||Time to kill bed bug eggs|
|113 ºF||90 minutes||100-120 minutes|
|118 ºF||20-30 minutes||90 minutes|
On the other hand, if you want to use cold temperatures to kill bed bugs, that is usually not as effective as heat. You can freeze bed bugs, but they have a very high tolerance to low temperatures. Bed bugs can survive in a dormant state for a long time when exposed to 45 ºF. They do not move and reduce their metabolic processes, and you may think they are dead because they won’t be moving, but as soon as the temperature goes up, they will resume their activities. If you want to kill bed bugs with cold temperatures, you need to reach 0 ºF or lower temperatures, and they will not die immediately. It takes a few days under such low temperatures for them to freeze and die.
How do you use hot and cold against bed bugs?
As you can see above, using temperatures against bed bugs can be useful, but only if you consider heat temperature. It is not useful to use cold temperatures, at least not in most countries and times of the year. There are frozen carbon dioxide sprays that may be used to kill bed bugs, but they should not be used routinely and require expert monitoring. So, forget about cold temperatures if you want to kill bed bugs. Instead, you can use hot temperatures against them, and it works better.
We can use at least three methods to heat bed bugs to death: a clothes dryer, a portable heating device, or steam treatment.
- Clothes dryer: If you want your bedding and clothes to be free of bed bugs, a clothes dryer can do the trick. You’re not meant to treat your clothes and bedding with insecticides, but you can definitely use the dryer to kill bed bugs, and that includes your shoes, plush toys, and stuffed dolls. Fill the dryer loosely and set it on the higher level of temperature, usually around 120 ºF. After 30 minutes, you can take out your bedding, clothes, and stuffed dolls without any trace of bed bugs.
- Portable heating devices: These are very useful to kill bed bugs and other pests in suitcases, clothing, sleeping bags, books, pillows, shoes, purses, and many other home items where it is not recommended to use insecticides. They come in portable electric devices you can carry around. There are many types of heating devices. Some of them have a duffle bag where you can place the items you want to be disinfected. Temperatures in these heating devices go above 120 ºF, and they can kill bed bugs and their eggs. Some models take a longer time to kill bed bugs because they do not reach 120 ºF, so be sure to check out the owner’s manual and follow the instructions.
- Steam treatment: This type of heat treatment is very effective for bedding, clothes, carpets, and other parts of your room. There are different steamer types, and some of them have larger heads you can use to treat your mattress, the box spring, or any other kind of furniture. Most of them are appropriate to treat carpets and clothes. However, if you’re using steam, you need to be methodical and patient because this is a slow process. Otherwise, steam will dissipate, and the surface will not reach an appropriate heat concentration. That’s why heat treatment is often used by technicians, and if you want to do it yourself, it is recommended to get professional assistance first.
Alternative measures to get rid of them
As you can imagine, the measures above are often not enough to get rid of bed bugs. You can use alternative methods in items and parts of the room where you cannot use toxic chemicals. If you want to eradicate bed bugs, you also need to use insecticides, and you need to clean your house and keep it clutter-free.
Start by looking at the hiding places where bed bugs are laying their eggs. Once you locate the crevasses and cracks they are using to hide, you want to apply chemicals to kill them and their eggs. The good thing about these chemicals is that they stay there for a long time, and any bed bug that circulates the area will die, too.
If you’re having a hard time getting rid of bed bugs, it is probably because your infestation has become severe and difficult to handle. If that’s the case, do not hesitate to contact pest control services. They have specialized equipment combined with their experience in bed bug hiding places and quick methods to get rid of them.
Benoit, J. B., Lopez‐Martinez, G., Teets, N. M., Phillips, S. A., & Denlinger, D. L. (2009). Responses of the bed bug, Cimex lectularius, to temperature extremes and dehydration: levels of tolerance, rapid cold hardening and expression of heat shock proteins. Medical and veterinary entomology, 23(4), 418-425.
Forbes, C. (1990). U.S. Patent No. 4,961,283. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Rukke, B. A., Aak, A., & Edgar, K. S. (2015). Mortality, temporary sterilization, and maternal effects of sublethal heat in bed bugs. PLoS One, 10(5), e0127555.