There’s nothing worse than finding out that your favorite shirt or suit has been infested with bed bugs. As much as you might not be scared of insects, you just can’t get over the fact that you share your precious home and wardrobe with these creatures.
Bed bugs will usually start with mattress, then they conquer wardrobe, and move onto carpets and even chairs. Getting rid and preventing bed bugs in clothes can be done by washing the clothes regularly, using a steamer, carefully storing the clothes, and using a few more methods, which we’ll talk about later in the article.
How to Tell if Your Clothes Are Infested with Bed Bugs
The worst thing about bed bugs infestation is that it’s almost always detected when it’s severe. A small infestation can go unnoticed until bed bugs start crawling all over your house, mattress, and clothes, at which point is already a serious issue.
The first thing you’ll notice are red spots on your skin, tell tale sign that some insect bit you. There red spots can sometimes be confused with mosquito bites but at a closer look they can be distinguished from each other.
When a mosquito bites you, it will leave a large red spot. It sometimes gets swollen and it’s very itchy, to the point where you can make it bleed from scratching.
When it comes to bed bugs, their bites are very small but concentrated on a certain spot. One big bite (mosquito) versus several small bites (bed bugs). If your red spots look more like the second scenario then it is time to check your clothes, mattress or wardrobe for bed bugs.
If you notice dark grey stains on your clothes, it is another sign of bed bugs infestation. They love hiding their eggs in clothes, which is what those stains are. Furthermore, they also defecate there, leaving the fecal remains all over the place they move.
How Long do Bed Bugs Live on Clothes
Since bed bugs are cold-blooded insects, they love cold and despise the heat. Their life span also depends on the frequency of eating in conjunction with the temperature of the environment.
For example, bed bugs can live two to three months in clothes without having a single blood meal. If you keep your clothes in a very cold room, the life span can further be increased to almost a full year without a meal. The reason why they die after this is that their metabolism slows down, resulting in complete shutdown and death.
Now, if we take normal conditions into an account, bed bugs can feed once in five to ten days. In this case, their life is increased and on top of that, they multiply, which makes it impossible for them to disappear on their own.
Their feeding time is, in most cases, at dawn or an hour before dawn but they might feed anytime when they’re hungry. The feeding lasts about five minutes and after that, they return to their hiding spots. They don’t stay too long on your skin because our skin emits heat.
Different Ways to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Clothes
There are several ways to get rid of them and those include frequent washing, drying, vacuuming, steaming in combination with proper storage.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Clothes, Step-by-step Instructions
Sorting Your Clothes
Step 1 – Upon detecting the infestation, pick up your clothes and split them by the type of material and color. Separate them into whites, delicates, etc.
Step 2 – Get a couple of plastic bags.
Step 3 – Sort every type of clothing in the separate plastic bag.
Step 4 – Seal your plastic bags tightly! This is very important, as bed bugs can squeeze through the tiniest holes.
Step 5 – Now your clothes are ready for washing.
Washing and Drying
Step 1 – Get your sorted clothes and open the plastic bag.
Step 2 – Be sure to check the washing instructions of every piece of clothing and put them in your washing machine accordingly.
Step 3 – Set the washing temperature to the highest setting, as the excessive heat will quickly kill the bed bugs. Cold or mildly hot water will be ineffective. On top of that, very hot water will help eliminate the specific smell that bed bugs produce.
Step 4 – Wait for washing cycle to complete
Step 5 – Now it’s time for drying. This is where you also need to set the highest temperature that your clothing can support.
Step 6 – Set the clothes in the dryer for 30 minutes and use high heat.
Step 7 – Pull out your clothes and check the results.
Step 8 – If everything is clean, sort your clothes accordingly and you’re good to go.
Spray Around Your Wardrobe
Step 2 – Before spraying, wipe around your wardrobe both on the outside and on the inside.
Step 3 – Put on your fumigation mask if needed and set up your spray.
Step 4 – Spray inside the wardrobe, outside, on the top, and at the bottom
Step 5 – Spray around the wardrobe, especially furniture with clothing.
Step 6 – Wait for the spray to dry and then repeat the process. Don’t be afraid to put more spray, as the dry residue can kill some of the bugs.
Properly Store Your Clothes
Step 1 – To properly store your clothes, it’s essential that you have plastic bags and/or tightly-sealed plastic boxes.
Step 2 – Whether your infestation is under control or not, store your clothes inside and keep it shut. Even if you have bed bugs on your clothes, a plastic bag will keep them in control, until you control the infestation outside.
Step 3 – If you’ve washed your clothes, be sure to store them in a CLEAN plastic bag or box and place it somewhere where bed bugs can’t reach it.
Step 4 – Don’t just mix your clothes altogether. Be sure to sort them out as we mentioned above, and then use your plastic bag.
Step 5 – When you finish packing, check around to see if there are tears or holes.
Step 6 – If you find holes, unpack your clothes and put it in the new plastic bag or box.
Step 7 – Keep the clothes inside until you’ve eliminated the rest of bed bugs in your house.
Use Your Vacuum and Steamer
Step 1 – Vacuuming can be done before or after washing and drying. We recommend that you do it after you’ve washed and dried your clothes.
Step 2 – Sort out your clothes in a way that they lay completely flat on the surface.
Step 3 – Use the vacuum cleaner to slowly vacuum every part of your clothes. Go slowly and be patient.
Step 4 – If you see particular spots where bed bugs once were, be sure to clean it or else bed bugs can infest again.
Step 5 – When you’ve finished cleaning, it’s time to grab your steamer.
Step 6 – Steamer needs to be set at a temperature of 120 degrees Celsius, which is, in most cases, the maximum temperature.
Step 7 – Go slowly with the steamer, steaming all parts of the clothes, including sleeves and pockets.
Step 8 – Now turn your clothes inside out and repeat the process of steaming.
Step 9 – Store the clothes accordingly. Either in plastic bags, boxes or directly in your wardrobe. Make sure that the wardrobe is completely clean and properly sprayed, just like we mentioned.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Clothes
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Cayenne pepper is a natural bug killer when mixed with natural items such as oregano and ginger. The best thing about this solution is that it kills bed bugs on contact, so you don’t need to wait a few hours for them to die.
The natural solution can be made by mixing one teaspoon of cayenne pepper, oregano oil, and ground pepper. Mix them up, add some water, and pour it into a spray bottle. Since this is a safe solution for people, you can spray in indefinite amounts.
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Indian lilac is great for clothes infestation. In fact, it’s specifically used for this type of infestation. The main purpose of this plant is to stray the bed bugs away from your home and your closet. You can use it by crushing the leaves and spreading them around.
Alternatively, you can boil the leaves, strain the liquid from the leaves, pour it in the spray bottle, and spray the solution. You can spray it wherever you want – sofas, closets, wardrobes, beds, and other furniture in your house.
If you love eating beans, you should think about using bean leaves to combat your bed bugs in the closet. This method is discovered about 80 years ago when the researchers found out that the microscopic hair on the leaves successfully impaled and cut the limbs of bed bugs.
Here, you don’t need to boil the leaves but just put them on the surface of your closet or directly on your clothes and wait for bed bugs to emerge. The leaves will not only make it harder to walk for bed bugs but will also dismember their limbs and kill them.
Just like people burn saga to get rid of evil spirits in the house, burning thyme will eliminate bed bugs. However, this requires some time and repetition to make it effective.
The process needs to be repeated every few days until you see the results. All you need to do is tie a stick of thyme with a cloth and set it aflame near infested areas. Be cautious not to catch your clothes in fire!
List of Sources
Preparing for Treatment Against Bed Bugs. Oct 17, 2015, United States Environmental Protection Agency
Dolling WR. 1991. The Hemiptera. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.