Killing bed bugs with heat - which method works best? (2023)

(Step 4 of 9 in Bed Bug Killer Ultimate Guide - updated March 6, 2020)

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Killing bed bugs with heat - which method works best? (1)

Do you knowHow can you use heat to kill bed bugs?Heat treatment for bed bugs can take many forms, and you'll likely need to use more than one. Bed bugs begin to die at temperatures above 40°C if they are exposed to it for at least 90 minutes. Therefore, extreme heat has become one of the most effective ways to eradicate bed bug infestations. Which approach you use depends on whether you're treating small items, large items, or the whole house.

Your basic tools:

  • hot washing water- apply to small items
  • Tumble dry on high heat- apply to small items such as clothes
  • Steam boat- best for beds, sofas and other large items, as well as carpets and floors
  • Portable heat chambers- Use it for larger items, after a trip or for items that don't go in the washing machine
  • Hot outside temperatures- Rarely should this be your go-to solution, but if hot enough and long enough it can be effective for packaged items
  • Professional thermal heating systems- Use it to treat your whole home

Let's take a closer look at each method.

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hot washing water

Wash clothing, toys, stuffed animals, and other items in hot water, at least 120°F (49°C) to kill bed bugs. Washing items is especially helpful while you get rid of themdisarrayand before enclosing and storing items in a permanent location.

Pre-sort your clothes as usual (separated by color or washing instructions). Then put each stack in its own bag and tie it tight enough to keep all the bugs inside. Place any clothing items that require dry cleaning in a separate bag only. You will not wash these items. You will only put them in the dryer (and only if they are not wet).​

Set the washing machine to the hottest setting allowed for the fabrics in each bag.

Watch this video from the University of Minnesota Department of Entomology for some tips on washing clothes and other bed bug control items:

​​Some experts recommend that you dry your clothes before washing them. That's right; Do the opposite – first the dryer, then the washing machine. That's because washing alone, even in the hottest water, won't kill all bed bugs and their eggs. The dryer does this when it's hot enough.

How do you get your laundry from outside or your room into the laundry room without bed bugs escaping to other parts of your home? First, make sure the container you are transporting the items in is sealed. Heavy garbage bags will do.Very gently, pour the contents directly into the dryer. Do not place the bag on the ground to unload. Set the dryer on high heat for at least 40 minutes; an hour is better. Then close, tie and seal the bin liner immediately. Take it straight to the garbage outside.

Next, wash the items as usual andthen dry them again.Dispose of your sealed bin liner in the trash outside.​​

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Dissolvable laundry bags prevent bed bugs from escaping

Here's a different approach where you would wash your clothes as you normally would and then dry them. This option eliminates the need to open the contaminated bag in the first place: use dissolvable laundry bags to seal your belongings inside. Instead of opening the bag, just throw everything in the washing machine. The eco-friendly bags disintegrate and safely dissolve in the washing machine. You are safe for your clothes and the machine.

Watch a quick demonstration of using these laundry bags to curb bed bugs, after entomologist Jeff White traveled:

Dissolvable laundry bags can be found at Home Depot. A 3-pack costs about $10. If you travel frequently or with groups, Amazon also carries a pack100 dissolvable laundry bagsthat might suit your needs better.

Regardless of which option you choose, it's important to ensure that the bag you place items in remains sealed until your items are safely dropped into a washer or dryer.


Dry clothes at high temperature for at least 45 minutes. This is effective atKilling adult bed bugs and eggs.

You can also place marked clothingdry cleaning in your household dryerwhile things are dry before throwing them in the dryer. Set the heat on medium-high for 30 minutes.

If you decide to have your clothes professionally dry cleaned, make sure you bag the garments before taking them to the dry cleaner. Tell the cleaners that the clothes may contain bed bugs. This way you avoid spreading the infestation to your shop and other innocent customers who bring their clothes into your shop. They know how to give these items special treatment to protect everyone.

(Video) Proof! How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in 24 Hours GUARANTEED!


Steam cleaning is another alternative to kill bed bugs and their eggswith heat and without chemicals. When it comes to bed bugs, steam is a contact killer. It must make contact in order to kill.

Steamers are great for treatmentmattresses,Box spring beds, baseboards, upholstered furniture, carpets, pillows, curtains and other valuable items. Creases, skirts, creases, and other such areas are attractive to bed bugs. Steam is the perfect way to reach these hideouts. Click here to watch a videoHow to cushion a mattress against bed bugs.

Use good quality high-pressure steam cleaners that are designed to use heat to kill bed bugs. The most important criterion is that they get hot enough to get the job done.bed bug steamerCount on warmth without generating excess moisture that can damage your belongings

However, since it is water based, you have to consider piece by piece if you want to apply it. For example, leather chairs and sofas may not be the place for steam. However, you can test these and other materials by applying the steam to small, hidden areas before proceeding.

As with any eradication effort, the key is to be thorough. Treat everything in the room. If you miss a source of the infestation, you're back to square one, as the survivors will repopulate the areas you've subdued.

You can rent a professional steam cleaning unit at many local hardware stores and some grocery chains.

Bed bug steamers are also availablekaufen.​

Portable heat chambers

What about items that can't be washed or don't fit in your dryer? Aportable heat chambercould provide your solution. Portable warming chambers, sometimes called "heating boxes" or "ovens," are zippered containers that contain a heater. This heater heats the device to 120 degrees or more to kill bed bugs at all stages of life.

They differ in size and portability. The smallest units are great for items like shoes, books, clothing, bedding, toys, electronics and more. Larger units can accommodate luggage (both carry-on and full-size) and even small pieces of furniture. The largest and least portable units are designed to hold all of the large items in a room such as mattresses, sofas, and dressers.

​Portable heat chambers are very effective and will kill any bed bugs in the items placed inside if left inside long enough. This is typically 2 to 8 hours depending on the size of the items, their loose packaging and the type of chamber used.

However, these units do not come cheap and cannot be returned once purchased. So if you don't travel much or the whole process we're laying out for you here doesn't work, this might not be for you.

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For now, focus on killing bed bugs in your bedrooms by washing, drying, and steaming. Complete this process, then continue to learn when and how to applybed bug sprays.

Hot outside temperatures

When it comes to killing bed bugs, the sun can be your friend. Left in an inescapable package long enough, the little critters will roast away. However, this is not a technique recommended by experts. We're only mentioning it here because it's a frequently asked question.

If you try this method, place the pests in a sealed bag where they have no place to escape. Lift the bag off the ground. Locationonly a few clothes, bedding, toys or other items in the bag; this eliminates shadow nests for them.

This creates the same heat as being in a car with the windows up with no escape route on a hot summer day. The temperature in the sealed bag should reach at least 49 °C. Monitor the temperature with an outdoor thermometer. Leave the bag(s) in the sun for at least 24 hours - preferably 3 to 4 days.

This method might kill some bed bugs, but it is not the best choice for implementing a bed bug eradication process. The biggest problem is that you can't control the outside temperature to ensure it stays hot enough long enough to guarantee success. Also, putting all of your stuff outside is just not practical. Remember, if you spot bed bugs, everything in the room needs to be treated. Everything.

​​Next:Spray for quick kills

We deal with the topic of professional thermal heating systems in detail in a separate article. For now, let's focus on the process to follow if you're doing this yourself. After you've treated everything in your bedrooms by washing, drying, steaming, or sealing, it's time to move on to the next treatment step:bed bug sprays.

Did you miss the previous steps in the guide?

​​In case you missed it, click here to read the previous steps:

  • Step 1: Bed Bug Facts - First, know your enemy
  • Step 2: How to spot bed bugs
  • Step 3: Cleaning from bed bugs
  • treatment tools

(Note: This article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking an affiliate link, we may receive compensation.)

(Video) How To Eliminate 100% of Bed Bugs For Under $47 [DIY]


What is the number one way to kill bed bugs? ›

These bugs are pretty easy to kill with high heat at 115°F (46.11°C) or intense cold at 32°F (0°C). Here are a few ways to treat bedbugs using these methods: Wash bedding and clothes in hot water for 30 minutes. Then put them in a dryer on the highest heat setting for 30 minutes.

Can you get rid of bed bugs with heat? ›

Temperature That Kills Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs die at 119 degrees Fahrenheit, and their heat-resistant eggs require temperatures upwards of 125 degrees. Some infested objects can be safely baked in the oven at these temperatures for three to five hours to get rid of the pests.

Can bed bugs come back after heat treatment? ›

Yes, bed bugs can come back after a year.

Bed bugs are excellent at reproducing and building up their colony size if they aren't fully eliminated. If you used a DIY treatment that didn't eliminate all the bed bugs in the colony, then there's always the chance that they'll remain in hiding until they've reproduced.

How much does it cost to heat treat a room for bed bugs? ›

Heat treatment: The average homeowner can expect to pay somewhere in the $2,000 to $4,000 range a for heat treatment. Heat treatment kills all stages in the bed bug's life cycle, so is usually a one-and-done treatment.

How long does it take to kill bed bugs at 120 degrees? ›

But expect bed bugs to die immediately at 122 °F or within ninety minutes at 118 °F. Heat treatments usually take 6 to 8 hours, depending on the severity of bed bug infestation in the house. Keep reading to learn more about the heat treatment for bed bug removal.

What is the strongest thing to kill bed bugs? ›

Pyrethroid-resistant strains of bed bugs are common, but many bed bug sprays are effective. When combating a bed bug infestation, pyrethrins and pyrethroids are the most frequently used compounds.

How do pros kill bed bugs? ›

Whole room heat treatments involve a Pest Management Professional (PMP) bringing in specially designed equipment to raise the temperature in your home to kill the bed bugs. Bed bugs and eggs die within 90 minutes at 118°F (48°C) or immediately at 122°F (50°C).

How do professionals kill bed bugs? ›

Exterminators use a variety of strategies to get rid of bed bugs such as heat treatment, mattress encasements, crack and crevice injection/spot treatment and pesticide dust.

Is chemical or heat treatment better for bed bugs? ›

The answer is simple—it's safer and WAY more effective. Heat treatments have the ability to permeate into every possible bed bug hiding spot, even behind picture frames! Unlike chemical treatments, bed bugs are actually drawn to heat (which is also one of the disturbing reasons why they like to cuddle up with humans).

How do you prepare for a heat treatment for bed bugs? ›

Place items stored under/on the bed such as shoes, stuffed animals, toys, books, etc. in open weave laundry baskets and leave in the room to be treated. the space between the items is large enough to allow the heated air to circulate. Arrange hanging items to open up air space between them.

What kills bed bugs permanently? ›

Pyrethroids are synthetic chemical insecticides that act like pyrethrins. Both compounds are lethal to bed bugs and can flush bed bugs out of their hiding places and kill them.

What does rubbing alcohol do to bedbugs? ›

Alcohol works two ways to kill bedbugs. First, it acts as a solvent, which means it eats away the bug's outer shell. The dissolving action might be enough to kill some bedbugs, but alcohol delivers a one-two punch. It also acts as a desiccant, a substance that induces drying out.

How long does heat treatment last for bed bugs? ›

One thing that runs through everyone's mind when they find out they have bed bugs is “how long does it take to get rid of bed bugs?” Getting rid of bed bugs with heat treatment takes between four and seven hours, and only takes one single treatment.

How do I make sure bed bugs don't come back? ›

Completely enclose your mattress and box spring in zippered bed encasements available from allergy or pest control supply companies. Put duct tape over the zipper, because zippers have a space where bedbugs can enter or escape. Mattresses can also be wrapped and sealed in plastic film.

How accurate is heat treatment for bed bugs? ›

But when done properly, heat treatment has a 100% success rate. If the exterminator takes their time, heat treatment kills every single bed bug and their eggs. And as they're killed instantly, there's no need to wait weeks for the bed bugs to die.

Is there a mattress cover that kills bed bugs? ›

ActiveGuard Mattress Liner is a bed bug protective encasement made of a mesh material that can be used on various types of mattresses. The mattress liner is used to eliminate bed bugs and dust mites. Liners have no offensive odor and are effective for up to 2 years. Please make sure that this is the item you need.

Do bed bug bombs work? ›

An exception is “Bug bombs”, or aerosol foggers. Foggers are mostly ineffective in controlling bed bugs. Because bed bugs hide in crevices and voids where aerosols do not penetrate, they are able to avoid contact with these insecticides. Their use is not recommended.

What kills bed bugs instantly baking soda? ›

Myth. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that baking soda is a successful home remedy for bed bugs. Baking soda actually breaks down when it comes into contact with water, so the idea that it can absorb the thick fluids found on a bed bug shell is quite questionable.

How long can bed bugs live in a sealed plastic bag? ›

Plastic bags can kill people and most any bug by rapidly removing oxygen but even so, suffocating bed bugs in this manner is challenging. With their tiny size, bed bugs don't need much air to breathe and just enough air can be in a sealed bag to keep them kicking for months.

What kills bed bug eggs instantly? ›

If you've discovered bed bug eggs clinging to bedsheets or clothing, washing and drying them at temperatures of at least 120°F is enough to kill them. For upholstered furniture, a steamer can be a good option. Steam forms from water at 212°F, which is hot enough to instantly kill any bed bugs and their eggs.

What can get damaged during heat treatment? ›

Candles, lipsticks, crayons, chocolates, medications. Make sure these items are removed from any insect heat treatment prior to turning on the heaters. Moderately sensitive items can be damaged between 120°F and 140°F. Vinyl wallpaper, mini blinds, audio and video tapes and CDs/DVDs.

What company uses heat to kill bed bugs? ›

Answer: Orkin Pest Control performs both conventional and heat treatments for bed bug control. Call us to see which one is done in your area. A certified Orkin Bed Bug Pest Specialist will conduct a thorough inspection of your premises and determine which treatment best suits your situation.

What chemical does Terminix use for bed bugs? ›

Diatomaceous Earth: Bed Bug Repellent | Terminix.

How fast can exterminators get rid of bed bugs? ›

It typically takes anywhere from 2-4 treatment sessions over a period of 3-6 weeks to completely eliminate bed bugs, depending on the level of infestation and the size of the house. However, each situation is unique.

Is it possible to get rid of bed bugs without an exterminator? ›

Keep the Infestation from Spreading

Seal any small hiding areas. Use silicon caulk to seal cracks and crevices. This eliminates hiding places and gets the bugs out into the open. Remove infested items.

How do you disinfect your house from bed bugs? ›

Clean All Items Within a Bed-Bug-Infested Living Area

Heat treat clothing, bedding, and other items that can withstand a hot dryer (household dryer at high heat for 30 minutes), which will kill bed bugs and eggs. Washing alone might not do the job.

How many chemical treatments does it take to get rid of bed bugs? ›

The number of treatments needed to get control is (national average) 3 to 4 treatments. The first step to treating the problem yourself is taking your bed apart. The frame should be completely deconstructed to reach all cracks and crevices. For any unreachable areas, aerosols are useful.

How do you clean bed bugs after heat treatment? ›

Thoroughly wash and clean all the surfaces in your home, especially in your kitchen and bathroom. Vacuum your entire home every day for at least four days following treatment. If your vacuum cleaner requires a bag, only use disposable bags and throw it away in an outdoor garbage can immediately after vacuuming.

What is a heat treatment process? ›

Heat treatment is the process of heating metal without letting it reach its molten, or melting, stage, and then cooling the metal in a controlled way to select desired mechanical properties. Heat treatment is used to either make metal stronger or more malleable, more resistant to abrasion or more ductile.

Can you heat treat one room at a time for bed bugs? ›

Must treat whole home at once. Majority of bed bug exterminators will not allow for 1 or 2 room bed bug heat treatments even though most bed bug infestations are localized to 1 or 2 rooms.

What does baking soda do to bedbugs? ›

Baking soda is said to dehydrate bed bugs. While baking soda may kill off one or two bugs, it's rarely strong enough to get rid of an entire infestation. Still, many people will try to use baking soda to get rid of these parasitic bugs.

What smells attract bed bugs? ›

One scent that bed bugs find appealing is dirty laundry or dirty bedding because of how it smells once it's come in contact with humans. Research has shown that bed bugs prefer previously worn clothing and used bedding, which is why you shouldn't leave these items on the floor close to your bed.

What happens after heat treatment for bed bugs? ›

After treatment the house will be very hot and need time to cool off before reentering. Be sure to immediately turn on Air conditioning as soon as you are allowed to enter. You may want to turn on air then leave out for a few additional hours for home to cool down.

Can bed bugs survive after treatment? ›

With chemical treatments, however, the bed bugs can survive up until they come into contact with the bed-bug-busting chemicals, so it's a little more difficult to estimate the time frame, but they should be dead within a few days.

Do bed bugs go away in the winter? ›

In most cases, bed bugs thrive inside a home whether it's cold or warm outside. In fact, they can be extremely active in the winter months, especially if you keep your home nice and warm to combat the cold. So if you notice bed bugs in your home, don't wait for the cold outdoors to scare them away.

How do you break the cycle of bed bugs? ›

Wash Infested Items - Aside from your mattress, bed bugs like to hide in your bedding, clothing and fabrics the most. Strip away your bed sheets, pillowcases and take any clothing you suspect to be infested and run it through your washer and dryer on the highest heat setting for both.

Can bed bugs be completely eliminated? ›

It can be difficult to eliminate bed bugs, but it's not impossible. Don't throw out all of your things because most of them can be treated and saved. Throwing stuff out is expensive, may spread the bed bugs to other people's homes and could cause more stress.

What type of heater is used to kill bed bugs? ›

For DIY projects, we recommend electric bed bug heaters which are easier to use than propane, diesel, or kerosene options and pose less risk of heat damage as well. For professionals, we offer propane bed bug heater and diesel-indirect models that are ideal for treating a bigger space.

Can you use a propane heater to kill bed bugs? ›

The thermal death point for a bed bug is between 111°-114°F. The larva and eggs die at 117°F. A propane heater can be used to easily heat an area to a temperature that is lethal to a bed bug.

How do you prepare a room for heat treatment? ›

Place items stored under/on the bed such as shoes, stuffed animals, toys, books, etc. in open weave laundry baskets and leave in the room to be treated. the space between the items is large enough to allow the heated air to circulate. Arrange hanging items to open up air space between them.

What to do after bed bug heat treatment? ›

STANDARD HOUSEKEEPING: Following your heat remediation treatment, thorough vacuuming of the entire home and some contents is required to remove the dead remains of bed bugs, eggs and nymphs. This should include : Vacuuming on and in seams of all mattresses and box springs. Bed frames.

How do you find a bed bug nest? ›

Around the bed, they can be found near the piping, seams and tags of the mattress and box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. If the room is heavily infested, you may find bed bugs: In the seams of chairs and couches, between cushions, in the folds of curtains. In drawer joints.

Can you trick bed bugs into coming out? ›

To lure bed bugs out of their hiding spots, you can use a steamer or a hairdryer to heat areas such as mattresses. Neither of these is hot enough to kill the bed bugs, but it can trick them into thinking a human host is near. You can also keep an eye out at night to locate their nests when they are most active.

What brings bed bugs out? ›

They can come from other infested areas or from used furniture. They can hitch a ride in luggage, purses, backpacks, or other items placed on soft or upholstered surfaces. They can travel between rooms in multi-unit buildings, such as apartment complexes and hotels.

What is the best propane heater to kill bed bugs? ›

A recent independent analysis reports that the GreenTech Heat Titan 800 bed bug propane heater is the most powerful portable, propane bedbug heater available.

Will a salamander heater kill bed bugs? ›

They said they have directed cautioned against using any type of fueled heating device, particularly the so-called "propane salamander," which is commonly used to warm construction sites in cold weather. Beattie said that using propane salamanders to eradicate bed bugs is contrary to the fire code.


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