How to Kill Bed Bugs with Heat Treatment?

When it comes to killing bed bugs, you probably think about professional exterminators. Professional exterminators are masters at killing bed bugs quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly. But, have you ever wondered what methods do they use?

One of the most used methods is the well-known heat treatment. Bed bugs are known to dislike extreme temperatures, whether it’s a very low or very high temperature. However, the most common way of killing bed bugs is by using very high temperatures. Although bed bugs love living in warm conditions, using very high temperatures ensures that bed bugs will die within one or two days.

So, how to kill bed bugs with heat treatment? The most common things that we all have at home is a dryer or a steamer, which are excellent at eliminating bed bugs through high temperatures. The DIY heat treatment that also works well is by using very hot water, which is used by your washing machine when you are laundering your clothes. Hot water in the washing machine, in conjunction with detergent, is more than enough to kill every bed bug inside your clothes, bedding, shoes, or pillows.

Bed Bug Exterminators

These were some of the heat treatment methods that can be used against bed bugs. Conducting your DIY heat treatment isn’t very hard but some people are encountering a bed bug infestation for the first time. This is why we decided to give them a helping hand and write a thorough article on how to kill bed bugs with heat treatment.

But, before we get to the nitty-gritty of today’s topic, let’s see how bed bugs fare with extreme heat.

Do Bed Bugs like Heat?

Bed bugs love the heat as much as you love bed bugs. This means that bed bugs hate the heat and extremely high temperatures. This is why we use heat to kill bed bugs but bed bugs are some of the most stubborn pests out there and are made to endure even the harshest conditions.

In very cold conditions, bed bugs can live without food for a whole year and still survive! In the opposite case, it’s not much different, as bed bugs can survive in some very hot environments.

However, using a steamer or a dryer, you can produce much higher temperatures – a lot higher than the temperatures we can encounter in different environments. This amount of heat is despised by bed bugs and it can kill them very fast.


Does Heat Kill Bed Bugs?

Yes, extreme heat kills bed bugs swiftly and efficiently. Unlike other methods that include entrapping bed bugs in a plastic bag or box, heat directly kills bed bugs, killing both the bugs and their eggs.

The main reason why many people decide on this method is that it kills bed bugs very quickly and thoroughly, unlike many other methods, for example, some bed bugs pesticides can kill bed bugs on contact but spraying a pesticide on a surface will not kill bed bugs beneath that surface.

On the other hand, heat can pierce through your bed, mattress, clothes, carpets, etc.


Can Bed Bugs Survive Heat Treatment?

If done correctly, bed bugs can’t survive the heat treatment. That’s why we recommend hiring a professional to do that for you, in case you’re not experienced. We mentioned that bed bugs can endure the harshest of conditions. This implies that even the very high temperature might not kill bed bugs immediately.

The lower the temperature, the higher the time it’s required to kill bed bugs, unless we’re talking about sub-zero temperatures. In this case, very low temperatures are required for killing bed bugs. We’ve talked about that in our other article “Can Bed Bugs Survive in Cold Temperatures?”.

Now, for the proper heat treatment. A proper heat treatment will ALWAYS ensure that every bed bug is dead at the place where you are applying the treatment. Let’s say you’re applying the heat treatment to your mattress. In this case, proper heat treatment will eliminate EVERY bed bug from that mattress.

On the other hand, using a lower temperature than it’s needed can result in some bed bugs dying and some surviving. Bed bugs closer to the surface of the mattress will probably die, while those embedded deeper inside will stay intact.


At What High Temperature Do Bed Bugs Die?

At What High Temperature Do Bed Bugs Die

The main question is – at what temperature do bed bugs die? Bed bugs start to suffer and die off at 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) but they need to be exposed to this temperature for 90 minutes. Although this temperature is enough to kill bed bugs, it might take a bit more to succeed, as this is just a bare minimum. In most cases, a heat treatment is conducted with a temperature much higher than that. It’s better to be sure that the temperature is higher than to go below that and risk underdoing it.

For example, professional exterminators use a temperature of 122 degrees to kill bed bugs inside the furniture. The higher the temperature the less time it takes for them to die. This temperature is way above the minimum temperature required to kill bed bugs and it’s very effective. That’s why professional exterminators always eliminate every bed bug with ease.


Bed Bug Heat Treatment Equipment: What Do You Need?

If you want to perform heat treatments like a professional, you’ll need some fancy equipment. Big boys use big guns and they always manage to annihilate their enemies. Although bed bugs aren’t big boys, they represent a chivalrous enemy that’s capable of bringing destruction to your home.

For the simplest heat treatment using a dryer, you’ll only need that. Although it’s used for drying your clothes, it relies on the high temperature to kill bed bugs. That, in itself, represents a type of heat treatment.

Now for the big stuff. Have you ever heard of propane heater packages? Well, companies like Pets-Heat offer products like that. Their TPE-500 propane heater package with four big fans helps distribute the heat evenly, as well it has sensors for measuring and recording temperatures. This system can treat up to 1500 square feet and represents the most powerful weapon against bed bugs.

The equipment for small treatments includes some heat treatment chambers like this one – ZappBug Heater.

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It’s a very small chamber that lets you put your clothes or bedding inside, plug it into an outlet, and killing bed bugs inside, due to the induction of high temperature. This can kill nymphs, adults, and eggs, making it a very versatile weapon for killing these creatures.


Bed Bug Heat Treatment – Step by Step Instructions


Method 1 – Using a DIY Hot Box

1. Use a metal or plastic bin and wrap a layer of plastic around. The bigger bin allows you to put more stuff inside, making the bed bug killing more efficient.

2. Use the insulation material and put it inside the bin.

3. Use the lid of the insulated bin and apply the same material there.

4. To make the heat get inside, you need to make a hole in the bin lid for a tube. The heat will get through that tube inside the bin.

5. At the end of the tube, place a small fan heater.

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6. Check for cracks and seals in the bin. If there are cracks, fix them by applying more insulating material or plastic wrap.

7. Start the fan and let the stuff inside the lid get warm. This should kill all the bed bugs inside the bin if the temperature is right.


Method 2 – Using a Dryer

1. The dryer is very easy to use. Before bringing your clothes or bedding to the dryer, pack them inside a plastic bag.

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2. Carefully carry the bag to your dryer and place the clothes/bedding from the bag inside the dryer (do this to avoid spreading bed bugs through the entire house).

3. Choose a temperature of 120°F, which is, in most cases, the maximum temperature of commercial dryers.

4. Wait for the cycle to finish and check your stuff.

5. If the bed bugs are dead, the job is done. If you suspect that not all of them are dead, repeat the process.


Method 3- Using a Steam Cleaner

Using a steam cleaner lets you kill bed bugs on the surface. However, giving you step-by-step instructions for a process this simply would not be wise. You can use your steam cleaner however you want.

Steam cleaners usually reach 245°F and the surface heats up pretty fast but also cools down fast. If the infestation isn’t critical, using a steam cleaner will let you get rid of a vast majority of bed bugs in your house.

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What Is the Cost of Professional Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs?

To be clear, professional heat treatment isn’t very cheap. That’s why many people decide on some DIY methods until the infestation reaches some critical levels. On average, expect to spend anywhere between $200 and $400 per room.

Depending on your number of rooms, you’ll probably spend over $1000 and if you live in a bigger household, expect to spend $1500 or even $2000 for the entire house. As we can see, not everyone can afford a professional heat treatment but on the flip side, its effectiveness is undisputed, as it represents the best treatment against bed bugs.


Summary

If you have money to spend, we suggest that you go for professional heat treatment as soon as you spot bed bugs in your house. Although it can cost a substantial amount of money, the exterminator will make sure that every bed bug in your house is eliminated. But, if you want to give some DIY methods a try, some of the methods we’ve mentioned are quite efficient, although for smaller infestations.

To summarize, the heat treatment represents an ultimate treatment for bed bugs, whether it’s a DIY treatment or if it’s done by professionals. Alternatively, you can also try a cold treatment, which we talked about in our previous article. Both of these extreme treatments give some excellent results when it comes to killing bed bugs.


List of Sources

Miller D., Using Heat to Kill Bed Bugs, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

Bed Bug Control: Heat and Cold, The Ohio State University

Dolling WR. 1991. The Hemiptera. Oxford University Press, New York, New York

Jones Sc, Bryant JL. 2012. Ineffectiveness of over-the-counter total-release foggers against the bed bug (Heteroptera: Cimicidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 105: 936-942.

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