What is one of the most effective ways to get rid of bed bugs? Steam is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs. Bed bugs will die at all stages of development in heat ranges of 117 degrees Fahrenheit to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Using steamers for getting rid of bed bugs is best for items like mattresses, bed frames, blankets, sheets, curtains, and pillows without causing damage.
Steam kills both bed bugs and the eggs.
It is important to note that depending on the extent of the infestation, that steam may not be the best solution for ridding your home of bed bugs. Steaming is not very difficult or labor-intensive, but it isn’t meant to reach as deep into areas the same way that a heat treatment would.
But for those who are looking to stop an earlier infestation, keep reading. This article will educate you on how to deal with these vampiric pests through steam. Check out our 4 part series on Bed Bugs for more information.
Get The Right Kind Of Steamer
In order to kill a bed bug with any type of heat-related treatment, it needs to be exposed to a heat range of 117-122 degrees Fahrenheit. To do this effectively, you need to make sure your steaming is targeted, or aimed, directly towards the areas that bed bugs like to hideout.
Steam is an extremely effective method of killing bed bugs at any stage of life, and when properly applied, the treatment that is provided by a steamer is invaluable. Be sure to use a commercial-grade steamer that has a minimum of at least one gallon that has a steam volume control setting.
Do not use these types of steamers for getting rid of bed bugs:
- A steamer that is used for clothing
- A steamer that is used for carpet cleaning
These types of steamers do not reach high enough temperatures to eliminate a bed bug infestation. Steamers operate by producing and delivering lethal temperatures to where these parasites could be potentially hiding.
It is especially effective when bed bugs are on an item’s surface and can be effective up to three-fourths of an inch deep into a fabric’s surface.
Within cracks and crevices, at the right temperatures steam will kill bed bugs 2 ⅜ of an inch into a gap. Be sure to use an infrared thermometer on the area being treated to monitor the surface temperature accurately.
To ensure the steam effectively kills the bed bugs, the surface temperature needs to be 160- 180 degrees Fahrenheit right after the brush has been passed over.
Check out our Resources Page on the best bed bugs tools.
How To Kill Bed Bugs With Steam
When using a steamer be sure to follow the instructions provided in the instruction manual to ensure that the steam is produced safely and provide the best results in controlling bed bugs.
Follow these instructions on how to correctly and effectively use a steamer:
- Make sure to attach the nozzle to the steam wand. Often times, steamers will come with the steamer and work well most of the time. A floor nozzle will work but the nozzle will need to be moved slowly to ensure the right temperatures are maintained in a concentrated area. If the steam spreads out too much, it won’t be hot enough.
- The surface of the area brushed needs to reach a temperature of 160-180 degrees. Any lower than that and the bed bugs could survive the steaming. Higher than this range, and you risk damage to fabrics or any other material undergoing the treatment. As mentioned, the infrared thermometer needs to be used to ensure the ideal temperature is reached. Below this range, move the wand slower. Above this range, move the wand faster.
- It is alright for the fabric to be damp, but not wet. If the fabric is wet for any reason, check to see if the steamer has a dial that can be used to control the steam.
- Use the steamer on any and all areas that you see or possibly suspect were bed bugs could be. When using the steamer, ensure that you are thorough to achieve the best results.
- After you finish using the steamer, use a fan to circulate air in the area to assist with the drying of fabrics and other materials affected by the steam.
- After you have completed the steaming, be sure to follow the instructions provided by the manual to ensure the proper steps for cooling are followed and to make sure that the pressure is relieved.
- You might have to repeat the process a few times as the steaming method only controls the bed bugs that are directly exposed to the heat. Any bed bugs that are not directly exposed to the steam will survive.
How To Use A Steamer On A Couch And Chairs To Kill Bed Bugs
To effectively use a steamer on a couch, it will take a few extra steps.
- Use the single nozzle for crevices.
- Wrap a microfiber cloth around the opening and secure it with an elastic. This will help the steam to come out stronger and more consistent.
- Watch all your cracks and crevices. Apply the steam along every crack and crevice.
- Go slowly. Don’t go faster than 1 inch per second. Hold it for longer for greater effectiveness.
- Use the triangle attachment for the flat surfaces of the sofa. Add a microfiber cloth around the opening and secure with an elastic.
- Roll your sofa on the back of the couch.
- Take off the cover along the bottom of the sofa. Steam the entire surface and the cracks of the under part of the sofa.
- Add residual bed bug powder, if you are using it.
- Re-staple the cosmetic cover on the underside of the sofa.
Take the same steps for chairs.
How To Steam A Mattress
There are a few important steps to effectively steam a mattress and get rid of bed bugs.
- Use the triangle attachment on your steamer. It’s best for flat surfaces.
- Wrap the end of the attachment with a microfiber towel or fabric. Secure it with an elastic. This helps to control the moisture and better concentrate the steam.
- Make sure to steam all the seams and tape edges of the mattress. Steam both sites of the top and bottom seams.
- To steam the flat surface of the mattress: Apply light pressure and hold the steamer down for 1-10 seconds. Move to the area next to the previous area and apply with pressure for 1 second. Continue until the entire surface has been steamed.
- Let the surface dry. Flip the mattress to do the same to the other side.
- Steam the sides of the mattress.
How To Steam Carpets For Bed Bugs
It’s difficult to effectively steam carpets and kill bed bugs. First, carpet steamers don’t reach a high enough temperature to kill bed bugs.
You can use a bed bug steamer on your carpets, but you will need to test a small area of the carpet first.
Some types of carpets are sensitive to hotter temperatures. If your test area doesn’t show any negative reaction in color or texture to the heat, continue to monitor the carpet while you steam it.
Another thing to know is that steaming carpets will be very time-consuming. You will want to evenly and slowly steam the carpet from one section to another.
Alternative to steaming carpets: One pretty popular way to treat carpets for bed bugs is to use Diatomaceous Earth. Use food-grade DE and sprinkle it in your carpets.
Wait several days and vacuum it up. Make sure you use a HEPA approved vacuum so that you don’t spread bed bug eggs into the air of your home. This will defeat any effectiveness of the DE.
Check out our Bed Bug Basics Part 4 for more information on treating carpets.
Precautions To Steam Safely
While steam is an effective method of controlling bed bugs, it can also be dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Here are some safety tips to ensure that you can steam the bed bugs without steaming yourself:
- Use a respirator while using steam. I know steam doesn’t feel like a dangerous thing, but the heat of the steam can vaporize existing chemicals already on the surface of your items. Be aware that a respirator is not a dust mask. It is labeled for “vapors.”
- Always read and make sure you understand the instruction manual provided with the steamer before use.
- Always follow the directions provided by the manufacturer to ensure proper function and safety.
- The steam is under pressure, due to this, you must exercise extreme caution when you are refilling the steamer and using the wand.
- The steam produced by the machine will be extremely hot, at temperatures ranging from 212 degrees all the way up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep children away. Never let children use or come into contact with the steamer always direct the steam away from yourself.
- When using steam, it is important to always test the steamer on an unseen area as some fabrics can be damaged by steam. When it comes to microfiber fabrics make sure you steam in the direction of the microfiber.
- At times, a steamer will expel hot water when you start it up, or when it has not applied steam for a while. To ensure safety, be sure that you point the wand at a towel when you first start to steam to catch this expulsion of water.
- Never use a pinpoint type steam nozzle. Ever. When using a nozzle, make sure to choose one that is a floor or upholstery attachment. They distribute steam at lower pressures and won’t damage fabrics or other materials. Aside from that, you might just blow bed bugs away with a pinpoint nozzle and not in a good way. They could just be simply displaced and survive.
Can I Use A Clothes Iron To Kill Bed Bugs?
An iron on the steam setting can be used in a pinch to kill bed bugs. One of the biggest challenges of using an iron to kill bed bugs is the difficulty of covering the entire area. An iron is more awkward and harder to get the heat into many areas.
But, an iron will work well on flat surfaces. It will work on clothing.
One difficulty of ironing is that bed bugs will often run away from the heat. That makes it harder to be effective with an iron.
Another difficulty of using an iron is that the heat doesn’t penetrate the surface so it isn’t very effective on more than clothing and sheets.
When ironing a mattress, go quickly over the surface so that you can outrun more of the bed bugs. Make sure that your mattress is made out of flammable resistant materials. It can be dangerous to iron a mattress.
Will A Hair Dryer Kill Bed Bugs?
The cost of buying or renting a steamer can be intimidating. You might be asking the question:
Will A Hair Dryer Kill Bed Bugs? A hairdryer will not kill bed bugs. Hairdryers are not hot enough to kill bed bugs.
They are meant to safely dry hair. They don’t reach a high enough temperature to kill bed bugs.
Instead, use your clothes dryer to heat anything you can throw in the dryer such as clothing, pillows, stuffed animals, and curtains. Set it to the hottest setting and dry for 20 minutes.
Bed bugs can be a nightmare, but using the right tools will help you to eliminate bed bugs. Check out these other articles for more information on preventing and getting rid of bed bugs.