Of all the methods of killing bed bugs, laundering your infested clothes seems like the simplest one. We all have the washing machine in our homes and aside from simply washing the clothes, it can serve as a bed bug killer. The main trick when killing bed bugs with the washing machine is to use hot water and not rely on drowning them because bed bugs can’t drown that easy.
If you’ve read our previous articles, you know how hard it is to drown them or make them die due to the lack of food. But, can bed bugs somehow survive the washing machine treatment?
Can bed bugs survive in washing machine? Bed bugs can survive in the washing machine if you’re using cold water, regardless of how many times you wash the clothes. We know that everyone uses a detergent when washing the clothes, but there’s no scientific evidence that bed bugs can be killed by a washing agent or any similar chemicals. This means that if you don’t use hot water, bed bugs can survive.
What about hot water then? In this case, bed bugs have drastically lower chances of surviving, mainly because hot water or high temperatures can kill them.
With that in mind, we can say that bed bugs can survive in the washing machine but not if you do it right. In this article, we’re going to talk about the effects of the washing machine on bed bugs and how you can use it to your advantage.
Related: Bed Bugs in Clothes: Can Bed Bugs Live in Clothes?
Table of Contents
How to Get Rid of the Bed Bugs with the Use of the Washing Machine: Instructions
1. Storing the Clothes
To avoid making the laundering process obsolete, you need to carefully store the infested and non-infested clothes. We know that this process can be time-consuming but if you don’t want to infest every piece of clothing you have, doing this is mandatory.
First of all, you need to read the washing instructions on your clothes to know on what conditions those clothes can be washed. For example, you can inform yourself about the washing temperature, duration, etc. When you’ve done that, you need to pack your clothes in plastic bags and check if there aren’t any holes and cracks. The clean clothes should be put aside or in the dryer, to make sure that the clothes don’t infest with bed bugs.
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To make things clear, we’re talking about clothes here but you can also launder your bedding, pillowcases, etc. Of course, you can’t launder your mattress to kill bed bugs. Other methods are used to extract or kill bed bugs in the mattress. Now that you’ve packed your clothes in the plastic bag, you need to be careful not to move it around too fast or intense because bed bugs can be triggered very easy. This state will make them try to run away from the harborage, thus scattering across the whole inner surface of the plastic bag.
2. Laundering the Clothes
Now that your clothes are all stored and ready, you can begin to launder it. There are several factors to consider when starting a program on your washing machine. First, the washing machine is always combined with the dryer, so we recommend getting one if you don’t have it. Then, you need to use a regular detergent, hot water temperature, and normal cycle type. The drying cycle on the dryer should be set to high-heat, to ensure that bed bugs are killed in the least amount of time. If you’ve done everything to get ready, here are the pre-laundering steps that you need to complete:
- Use the Rubbing Alcohol to Spray the Clothes
We know that you’ve already packed the clothes inside the plastic bag, so before you do this step, transfer the clothes to your bathroom and put the clothes from the plastic bag into the bathtub. Use the spray bottle and pour in some rubbing alcohol, and then spray the alcohol all over the clothes. This alcohol will kill the alive bed bugs on contact, thus slowing the infestation, although it will not kill the bed bug eggs or get rid of the whole infestation.
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- Return Clothes into the Plastic Bag
Now that you’ve sprayed the clothes, carefully return them to the plastic bag and be careful not to disturb bed bugs too much.
- Transfer Clothes into the Washing Machine
Transferring the clothes into the washing machine should be slow and seamless, once again, not to disturb bed bugs. Carefully put them into the machine, rather than dumping the clothes in half a second because bed bugs can scatter around your bathroom. After transferring the clothes, don’t throw the plastic bag in a trash can inside your house. Instead, wrap the dirty plastic bag into another plastic bag, and throw it outside in the container, if you happen to have one in the neighborhood.
3. Set the Required Settings
What have we told before? Go back and read it again. In short, you need to use regular detergent, normal cycle type, and hot water. When you set these settings, leave the machine to wash your clothes and when it’s near the end, you can start preparing the dryer.
4. Set the Dryer Settings
Not every dryer is the same, so we’ll say that you need to use the best settings to achieve the best results. If you don’t have a dryer we suggest that you buy it, it will come on handy for other things as well. For example, you can have a dryer that can run the process for 30+ minutes. We suggest going at least 30 minutes and more, if possible, using the highest possible heat cycle that will NOT damage your clothes.
Remember the information regarding the clothes we mentioned before? This is why you should read it and apply the heat accordingly. The heat should go over 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48.889°C), which is enough to kill both bed bugs and their eggs.
5. Repeat the Process
Do you want to make sure that bed bugs haven’t survived the washing machine? If so, repeating the process is always recommended, to minimize the chances of survival.
6. Store the Clothes
Finally, when all is done, storing and folding your clothes in plastic bags is recommended. This is because if the process wasn’t successful, you can always transfer the clothes from there without worrying that the infestation could spread again.
What If the Clothes Can’t Survive the Heat?
Some clothes can’t be laundered in the washing machine. For example, leather jackets or any other leather clothes. These clothes usually can’t stand the heat, so heat treatment isn’t possible. Fortunately for us, bed bugs can also be killed using extremely low temperatures of zero Fahrenheit or lower. These clothes include suede boots and shoes, silk garments, lingerie, and unfortunately, stuffed animals. To kill the bed bugs, simply pack these into a plastic bag and leave it in the freezer for two to four days. Set your freezer to the lowest possible setting and wait for the process to finish.
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Remember that bigger items may take more time to freeze, thus the time of killing the bed bugs is extended. After the process is finished, use your vacuum cleaner to suck in the dead bed bugs and dispose of the vacuum bag outside of the house.
Is the Washing Machine Enough to Kill the Entire Infestation?
If we are talking about the infestation in the entire house then the answer is no. As we said, laundering your clothes will only kill the part of the infestation, while the other part will probably wander around your bedroom, mattress, bed, etc. You need to use hot water because bed bugs can survive in water up to 24 hours and even more if they’re floating.
If the bed bugs are drowning, they can be dead in less than an hour. But many bed bugs that haven’t had a meal will float since they’re lighter than the full bed bugs. One study in which the scientists soaked the bed bug infested clothes for 24 hours showed that drowning can kill all the bed bugs and nymphs, while the eggs will survive.
In many cases, though, bed bugs will not survive in the water, especially if it’s hot water. That’s why we said that using hot water is imperative for effectively dispatching the bed bugs.
Related: Bed Bugs in Water: Can Bed Bugs Survive in Water?
To conclude, yes, bed bugs can survive the washing machine but only if you’re not laundering your clothes properly. Those who read our article from start to finish, know how to launder the clothes properly and will as a result kill bed bugs. Although they are stubborn and durable animals bed bugs can be killed effectively if you know how to do it. Using the washing machine in combination with the dryer is only one way to get rid of them but there are other ways we also suggest trying (click to read more about this).
If you haven’t read our articles, we suggest taking your time to read them, as they can help you fight off the infestation, in case you have one. Even if you don’t have an infestation, informing yourself about bed bugs is never a bad thing – you don’t know when you’ll need it!
List of Sources
Laundering Items To Kill Bed Bugs, University of Minnesota
Snetsinger R. 1997. Bed bugs & other bugs, pp. 393-425. In Mallis A, Hedges SA [eds.], Handbook of Pest Control, 8th ed. Franzak & Foster Co., Cleveland, Ohio.
Frye M., Gangloff-Kaufmann J., How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Belongings, Cornell University