Bed bugs are irritating little creatures that are spread all over the globe, and while generally harmless, they can cause issues. Bites from bed bugs can leave skin rashes, and while rare, it is possible also to cause an allergic reaction.
They can also lower the value of a property you want to sell or rent. At the very least, it’s also not a pleasant feeling to be sharing your house with them, right?
Despite their name, bed bugs can actually inhabit other places, too. This includes furniture and even clothes. Why? Because this is the easiest way for them to get to their source of food – your blood.
Getting rid of bed bugs can be tricky. There are plenty of products on the market that “promise” perfect results. The reality is that most of them won’t bring the expected outcomes. Why? Because bed bugs can adapt to them, especially when they are used commonly.
This is why we come to the question at hand today. One of the most popular home remedies for bed bug removal from clothes is simply to throw them in the washing machine for a cycle. Sadly, this doesn’t actually guarantee that you will remove all bed bugs from your clothes.
Bed bugs are very resilient. They can survive various conditions with surprising ease. One of their weaknesses is high temperature. Sadly, many clothes also don’t respond well to hot water, so that option is also not a complete solution.
Here comes the laundry detergent
There are conflicting opinions on this topic. The general opinion that the combination of a hot wash cycle (the maximum allowed according to the labels of the clothes you will wash) along with detergent will be too much for the bed bugs. This is true, but with a catch. The wash cycle has to be long enough, hot enough, and the detergent has to come in contact with the bugs and their eggs.
Research from the Wang laboratory at Rutgers University showed some interesting results. For example, washing clothes at 60 degrees C for 30 minutes terminates all bed bugs and eggs. Lowering the temperature to 40 C kills all adult bed bugs, but only 25% of the eggs. So, obviously, you have to go for the hotter option, but not many clothes can endure it. The good news for delicate fabrics is that dry cleaning is effective in exterminating bed bugs in all stages.
But dry cleaning isn’t exactly something people can do at home. So, it all comes down to the detergent. Even dish soap can achieve a good result, as long as it manages to reach the bed bugs.
How to wash clothes infested with bed bugs
You need to set up a bit of a process to do this properly. First, read the labels on the infested clothes to determine the best possible wash for each item.
Next, put the clothes in sealed bags or containers. This way, you will avoid the risk of spreading the bed bugs to other places as you transport them to the washing machine.
It’s better to use disposable bags which have seals on top, or you can tie up. Then put the bags in the washing machine and open or rip them inside. This way, you avoid spreading bed bugs onto the ground around the machine. Of course, put the used bags into another, clean bag, seal it and throw it in an outdoor rubbish bin.
Some people might give you another tip: spray the clothes with rubbing alcohol. This should ensure that all bed bugs will be killed. On the other hand, depending on the fabric, you may ruin the clothes, so it’s best to avoid this if you’re not sure.
Some bed bug products are like additives for regular laundry detergents. They promise additional success rate, but actually, any laundry detergent can handle the same task.
If possible, also use a dryer set for at least 30 minutes. And you can also repeat the wash process again, to increase the chances for maximum success and ensure there are no bed bugs hidden away in some seam that has managed to survive the detergent.
When to get professional help
Sadly it’s not always that easy. Washing clothes from bed bugs would be a good solution if you were at an infested place as a guest. But if your own home is infested with bed bugs, it’s more than likely that the critters are in other areas of the house, too.
This is when you will need professional help to locate and exterminate bed bugs properly. There are two popular solutions. One is bed bug heat treatment. This is the more modern and recommended option. It involves heat, and there are no chemicals.
The other option is bed bug spray treatment. It relies on professional products, and it’s slower than heat treatment. It’s still a viable option for premises where heat treatment is not possible.
You can combine both solutions, depending on the property and the level of infestation. This is a decision you can make with the help of the professionals who will advise you on the best options for your particular issue.