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How to get rid of Bed Bugs on Clothes-Can they Live, Bite through or Travel on Laundry

Bed bugs look for any nooks and crannies to make a home and the clothes in your closet have been found to create such spaces. This article discusses how bed bugs thrive on garments, for how long they can survive there, their traveling habits, how they can be eliminated from your laundry and the tips to prevent infestation of bed bugs on your clothes.

How long can bed bugs Live, Hide or Travel on Clothes?

Can they Hide, Live on clothes?

Bed bugs can hide in everything that offers any tight dark spaces and therefore, the answer is yes, bed bugs can live on clothes. Among the many places bed bugs hide are your clothes. This explains why, a process of eliminating bed bugs from your house is not complete until you check your clothes well and if needful wash them. Bed bugs have been found to love stinky clothing more compared to the clean ones.
can bed bugs live on clothes and how to get ridg
An entomologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey called Richard Cooper agrees to the study on bed bug attraction to clothes with human odor. However, there is a very small relationship between bed bugs and hygiene. Dirty clothes only make it more comfortable for bed bugs to thrive. The reason bed bug can survive for a very long period in your clothes is that the cold-blooded bed bugs slow down their metabolism in colder climates. When their metabolism is slowed down, the bed bugs can survive without feeding since they do not require energy from food. Bed bugs are found to last in your clothes longer if you live in cold climate than if you live in a relatively warmer environment. Most people keep their clothes in their bedroom and that is why it is very likely to have bed bugs living in your clothes. This is justified by the fact that bed bugs find the nearest place to hide during the day as they wait to feed on your blood at night when you are in bed. It is easy for the bed bugs to crawl from your closet to your bed at night. Bed bugs spent 90% of their time hiding, mostly near where a person sleeps.[1]

Duration bed bugs stay in your clothes

Bed bugs can live in your clothes for a year or more. The bed bugs can live in your clothes as long as it is a good hiding place for them. Bed bugs can live for a year without having to feed on your blood and that confirms why they can go for a year or more unnoticed. Different factors will determine how long the bed bugs live in your clothes. Discussed below are some of the factors; Frequency of use of the clothes If you wear your clothes frequently, it means that you will wash them frequently as well. In the many times you wash the clothes, the bed bugs hiding in them will get killed either by the detergent you use or through squeezing in attempt to clean the clothes. On the other hand, if you wear the clothes on rare occasions, the bed bugs could always escape during washing and hence survive for long in your clothes Even if you have many clothes and hence go for long without wearing a particular cloth a second time, always consider turning your clothes time and again to create discomfort for any bugs that make a home in your clothes. Mode of treatment There are people who attempt to get rid of the bed bugs in their clothes but they still cannot eliminate all the bugs. This is in the case where the method of eradicating bed bugs used does not kill the bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs take only about a week or less to hatch and that means a new infestation in your clothes. The more effective the method used, the lesser is the period the bed bugs can survive in your clothes. The hygiene of your clothes As much as hygiene and bed bug infestation have no close relationship, it is a factor determining how long bed bugs will find comfort in your clothes. A recent study done in the University of Sheffield indicated that bed bugs are attracted to soiled clothing and will thrive for long in such clothes. If you store dirty laundry for long, you give a chance for bed bugs to thrive and probably hatch many more. Dr William Hentley of the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences advises that dirty laundry should not be left exposed as that would bed bugs. Keeping your clothes clean is likely to reduce the period bed bugs stay in your clothes. They will always prefer moving to the dirty laundry.[2]

How bed bugs travel in your clothes

Bed bugs are mobile in nature and they can easily crawl from one place to another. Clothes have been found to make it very easy for bed bugs to travel from one person to another and consequently, from one house to another. When a bed bug gets to one cloth in your closet, it can crawl to any other cloth in that cloth. When you travel to places and have your clothes in a suitcase, bed bugs in an infested place such as a hotel room will crawl into your clothes. That is how the bed bugs find their way into your home when you are from travelling. All bed bugs need to do to travel in your clothes is to hide in between your clothes.

Bed bugs on clothes pictures

bed bugs on clothes pictures
Bed bug on clothes
bed bug on laundry

Do bed bugs bite through clothes?

Bed bugs do not bite through clothes. To protect yourself from bed bugs at night, you are advised to wear clothes that cover all parts of your body because that way, you will not suffer the bed bug bites. The reason bed bugs cannot bite you when your skin is covered is that, the sucking mouth part of the bed bug is not long enough to penetrate your clothing.

How to kill and get rid bed bugs in clothes Instantly

Some of the ways of getting rid of bed bugs from your clothes include the following; Exposing clothes to the hot sun Place the infested clothes in a clean plastic bag then place them outside in the hot sun the whole day. Although not 100% effective, this method has been found to kill most bed bugs in your clothes.
sun drying laundry to kill bed bugs
Sun-drying clothes
To increase the effectiveness of this method, expose the clothes while still sealed in the plastic bag to the sun for several days. Continuous heating makes it hard for bed bugs to survive. Using natural repellants To keep bed bugs from infesting your clothes, apply repellants on the clothes suspected to be infested. Effective bed bug repellants include; mint leaves, lavender oil and even duct tape. These repellants have been found to keep away bed bugs from your clothes. Use baking soda Due to its desiccation properties, baking soda dries the bed bugs and their eggs leaving them dead. You are required to sprinkle baking soda on the infested clothes probably put in a plastic bag; then seal the bag  containing the clothes and leave it for a couple of days.

Does washing clothes kill bed bugs

Washing clothes is one of the most effective ways of getting rid of bed bugs that hide in your clothes.
washing clothes to get rid of bed bugs
washing clothes
However, the manner in which you wash the clothes determines how effective the process will be. Below are steps to be followed when washing clothes in order to get rid of bed bugs; STEP 1: Sort the clothes Sorting clothes is the normal beginning step when washing clothes and it must be your starting point in this case as well. Sort your clothes into different piles depending on which clothes wall be washed first. Each sorted pile should be placed in a separate plastic bag. This allows you to set the correct allowable level of temperatures for washing and drying each set of clothes. If there are dry-clean-only clothes in the piles, put them separately as they will not need to be made wet and may only be placed in the dryer. Prior to moving your laundry, seal the bags to prevent bed bugs from escaping to other parts of your home. STEP 2: Wash and dry your clothes
  • The first thing to do is to empty the bags containing the clothes into the washer.
  • When you are done emptying the bags, seal them and empty them into another bag then seal the bigger bag and dispose it.
  • Wash and dry the clothes setting the highest possible temperatures that the clothes can withstand safely.
  • For the dry clean clothes that can be safely placed in the dryer, put them into a dryer on medium to high setting and let the dryer run for about thirty minutes.
  • Drying only without washing will kill bed bugs but not wash the clothes, therefore, if you wish to only kill the bed bugs and not wash the clothes, place all the infested clothes in a dryer and set it on high heat for thirty minutes.
STEP 3: Sort cleaned clothes If you were doing the cleaning in your house, fold the clothes neatly and place them on a bed bug free table. Check your closet thoroughly for bed bugs and possibly spray it to kill any bed bugs. This is to ensure the clothes already cleaned do not face another bed bug attack. Check through your house as well. When you are sure there are no bed bugs in the house, put back the clothes in your closet. If you were doing the cleaning in a commercial laundry facility, put your clothes in a new plastic bag and seal it then carry it home. After doing a thorough check of the closet and house at large to spot any living bugs, unseal the bag and put the clothes back into your closet.[3]

Does putting clothes in the dryer kill bed bugs?

The heat in the dryer is sufficient to kill bed bugs. Dr. Dini M. Miller from the Virginia Tech, Department of Entomology, explains that when exposed to a temperature of 113 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes, bed bugs will die. That is considered to be bed bug’s thermal death point, meaning, it is the temperature beyond which bed bugs cannot survive. However, bed bug eggs require a little more input. For the bed bug eggs to die completely, you will need to expose them to a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit for twenty minutes. To be on the safe side, therefore, your dryer should be able to get to temperature of 118 degrees and beyond. Luckily, the heat in most if not all clothes’ dryers is high enough to kill both bed bugs in whichever life cycle stage and their eggs as well. You must however remember that different dryer machines take varying time periods to heat up. If your dryer goes up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it will kill the bed bugs and eggs very fast. Even that, the dryer may take up to 15 minutes to heat up. To avoid the inefficiencies that come with the dryer not heating up fast enough, allow the clothes to stay in the dryer for thirty minutes while set on high temperatures. You are advised to place your clothes in the dryer first so as to kill the bed bugs before you can wash them. In the case where your clothes have the ‘dry-clean-only’ label, place the clothes in the dryer then set a moderate temperature for about 90 minutes. This ensures all the bed bugs and their eggs are killed by the heat.

Best bed bug spray for clothes

There are sprays that have been designed to kill bed bugs. Such sprays can be used to eliminate bed bugs from your clothes. One of the best sprays to effectively kill bed bugs on your clothes is the rubbing alcohol. This spray is very effective as it kills bed bugs on contact. You are advised to spray your clothes well enough to kill all bed bugs and their eggs then take your clothes to a laundry unit. Rubbing alcohol bed bug spray kills bed bugs by dissolving their cells. The alcohol spray also kills bed bug eggs by drying them since it is a desiccant. As an additional benefit, the rubbing alcohol spray will also get rid of the blood stains as well as fecal matter stains that the bed bugs leave on your clothes.

Tips to prevent and get bed bugs out of clothing

Preventing bed bugs from getting into your clothes will save you the need to do all the above in attempt to get rid of these insects. Below are tips that will help in preventing bed bugs infestation on your clothes;
  • Avoid placing your clothes too close to your bed just in case the bed is infested with bed bugs.
  • Keep your dirty clothes away from your bed as they will likely attract bed bugs from the bed. When the bed bugs get to a single cloth, they will likely be spread to other clothes in your room.
  • Rearrange your clothes occasionally to expose any bed bugs that may have created a home in the clothes. This enables you to kill any bed bugs found before your clothes face a heavy infestation.
  • When you trace any bed bugs in your home, check your closet well for any bed bugs hiding on the edges and that may get into your clothes.
  • Add some rubbing alcohol top the water you use to wash clothes once in a while to keep away any bed bugs that may want to get to you clothes. Rubbing alcohol apart from killing the bed bugs acts as a repellant.
Sources [1] http://www.wrha.mb.ca/staff/safety/files/BedBugs-MAFCN.pdf [2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/09/28/keeping-dirty-laundry-bedroom-allows-bed-bugs-thrive-say-scientists/ [3] https://www.bedbugs.umn.edu/bed-bug-control-in-residences/laundering Further Reading