How Can I Find Bed Bugs In My Clothes

How to Get Rid of Bedbugs in Luggage

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Bedbugs occasionally stowaway in luggage. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images )

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If you’ve stayed in a hotel, motel or other type of lodging that experienced a bedbug infestation during your stay, it’s possible your luggage is now infested. Unlike clothing and other washables, you can’t throw your luggage into the dryer to get rid of them. Before you call an exterminator or give up and buy new luggage, save some money and get rid of the bedbugs yourself.

Items you will need

  • Garbage bags
  • Stiff scrub brush
  • Pesticide
  • Vacuum
  • Steam cleaner

Step 1

Empty your luggage and place the contents in plastic bags; seal them until you can wash them. All clothing should be washed in hot water and dried at high temperatures, at least 120 degrees, to ensure that all the bedbugs die.

Step 2

Take the luggage outside and scrub every nook and cranny with a stiff scrub brush. This will dislodge any egg clusters and dead bedbugs. Vacuum the luggage thoroughly.

Step 3

Purchase a pesticide specially formulated for bedbugs — pyrethroid chemicals, such as pyrethrin, permethrin and phenothrin are the most common active ingredients found in pesticides for bedbugs. Spray the luggage thoroughly to kill off any remaining bedbugs. Alternatively, you can rent a steam cleaner and clean the luggage two or three times to kill the bedbugs if you are concerned about the pesticide smell lingering.

Step 4

Vacuum the luggage again to suck up the dead bedbugs, then discard the vacuum bag immediately. Wrap the vacuum bag in garbage bags and tie tight knots to make sure the bedbugs can’t escape.

Step 5

Leave the luggage to dry in the sun. Inspect it thoroughly for bedbugs. If any are still lingering, steam clean the luggage again. Repeat the process until you are certain that no bedbugs remain.

  • If you are experiencing extreme hot or cold weather, you have a natural solution to your problem. Place the luggage in garbage bags, then set it outside if it is below freezing. Alternatively, if your car’s trunk gets up to 120 degrees while sitting in the sun, you can place the sealed luggage inside it to kill the bedbugs. Leave the luggage in either condition overnight to ensure that all the bedbugs die. Vacuum the luggage the following day.

Disclosure

Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

References

Resources

About the Author

Jarrett Melendez is a journalist, playwright and novelist who has been writing for more than seven years. His first published work was a play titled, "Oh, Grow Up!" which he wrote and performed with a group of his classmates in 2002.

Bedbugs

In this Article

In this Article

In this Article

Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.

Continued

Signs of Infestation

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

Bedbug Treatments

Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

  • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
  • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
  • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
  • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
  • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.

Continued

Bedbug Extermination

While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.

Sources

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

I Need Tips for Getting Rid of Bed Bugs in Clothes

N ight time bug bites and stains on your bedding reveal that you’ve been invaded by bed bugs. Now you’re finding them everywhere, including your dresser drawers and clothes closet. You’re taking steps to get rid of nasty little pests, but now they’re in all your clothes. Your priority now is learning how to get rid of bed bugs in clothes. Is there a special detergent that will help? Is it better to pay a dry cleaner? Or do you just have to toss everything in the trash? Keep reading. We’ve collected the tips and information you need.

Table of Contents

Bed Bugs Can Infest Your Clothes

Bed bugs thrive wherever people are. They are travelers and can hitch a ride on about anything. That includes your luggage if you set it anywhere near a bed bug.

You may not have bed bugs in your home, but you can carry them home from anywhere you visit, including five-star hotels or your best friend’s house. You can learn here how to prevent bed bugs from invading your living quarters.

Bed bugs love dark spaces. That includes the folds of your clothes. When they don’t have better places to hide, bed bugs crawl into your clothes.

Washing and Drying Has a Surprising Benefit

Bed bugs have infested your clothes. Does that mean you have to spray them with the same insecticide you’re using on the carpet and mattress? It’s supposed to be safe for fabrics. How will you get any of the poisonous residue out of your lingerie?

Actually, getting rid of bed bugs in your clothes isn’t as complicated as getting rid of them elsewhere.

Two goals to consider:

  1. Keeping the bugs already in the clothes from infesting other areas.
  2. Keeping bugs from other areas from re-infesting your clothes.

Plastic bags that seal tightly are your best friend for both these goals.

The Process Is Effective If Done Correctly

Follow these three basic steps to wash and dry clothes infested with bed bugs:

  • Seal the clothes in plastic bags.
  • Wash and dry the clothes.
  • Seal the cleaned clothes in plastic bags.

Don’t place the bags where there might be a bed bug infestation. If all the bed bugs in your home have been eradicated, then you can put your clothes in drawers and closets after cleaning. If not, take what you need each time from a sealed bag, and reseal the bag.

Hot Water

Heat kills bed bugs. Use the hottest water that safe for your clothes when you wash them. You can add cleaning products to the wash water, but the hot water is what kills them. It’s best that the clothes are in hot water for at least 30 minutes, so you may need to use two wash cycles.

Avoid placing the plastic bag on the floor or tossing your clothes in one at a time. Carefully unseal the plastic bag so that the opening is inside the washer. Then push in the clothes from the bag without touching them.

Keep Your Clothes Sealed in Plastic. Once the bag is empty, quickly reseal it, then place it another bag and seal it. Dispose of both bags outside in an appropriate trash container. The bed bugs in the inside bag will eventually die from lack of food.

When you transfer the washed clothes to the dryer, avoid allowing them to touch anything. If you’re at a commercial laundromat or other shared facility, place your clothes in a sealed bag directly from the dryer. If you’re using your home washer and dryer, you can fold or hang your clothes as you usually would, if you’re sure there are no bed bugs in the area. Putting bed-bug infested clothes on the floor allows the bugs to spread and infest the laundry area.

Laundry Soap

Bedbugs have become resistant to the chemicals traditionally used to exterminate them. Effective chemicals, such as those in modern insecticide sprays, aren’t suitable for use in your laundry.

Laundry soap is meant to clean your clothes. It doesn’t contain insecticides or other ingredients that are toxic to bedbugs. When you’re getting rid of bedbugs in your clothes, washing and drying at high temperatures is all that you need to do.

Some people add dishwashing detergent, such as Dawn to the wash water. Dishwashing detergents can kill bed bugs on contact. They’re effective when sprayed directly on bugs, rather than put in laundry wash water. For more tips on how to get rid of bed bugs naturally, read this article.

Bleach

Harsh chemicals like bleach will kill bedbugs. Even if you use products that promise they won’t fade fabrics, bleach is still a risky way to try to get rid bed bugs in your clothes. Internet advice recommends adding the bleach to hot water when you do your laundry. Then use high heat in the dryer to dry them. The bleach may kill a bed bug or two, but it’s the high temperatures that destroy them.

Making a spray of half bleach and half water and using that on your mattress is fatal to bed bugs hiding there. That can help keep your clothes from being re-infested. You’ll find instructions here on how to get rid of bed bugs in furniture to keep them from getting into your clothes.

Special Laundry Detergents

You will find products online or in retail outlets that are meant to be added to your laundry to kill bedbugs.

These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Bed Bug 911 Exterminator Laundry Treatment.
  • Formula 4 Bed Bug Detergent.
  • SayByeBugs Laundry Treatment.

The products claim to be non-toxic and safe for fabrics.

Searching for a list of ingredients in bed bug laundry detergents yields information such as:

  • All-Natural,
  • Proprietary formula,
  • Special formula.

You can use any of the products that you care to try, but note that most of the directions advise you to use hot water in the wash.

If the instructions include washing in cold water, then you are to use high temperature in the dryer. It’s the heat that kills the bed bugs, not the detergent ingredients. It’s also worthwhile noting that some states don’t allow the use of some of the products. Those products may not be as harmless as advertised.

How Do I Kill Them With Heat?

As has been established, high temperatures are fatal to bed bugs. High temperatures can also be harmful to certain fabrics. Items that require dry cleaning can’t be washed. Some of these can be placed in a dryer, but you must use the highest temperature and leave the items in for a minimum of 30 minutes. Then you can take them to a dry-cleaning establishment.

It’s a matter of courtesy that you inform the dry cleaner that the garments were infested with bed bugs. You should also take them in a sealed bag, in case the dryer heat didn’t kill them all.

Ranger Heat Bed Bug Treatment Bag

Put The Sun To Use

Another option for using heat to get rid of bed bugs in clothes is to make use of the sun. Put your clothes in a sealed plastic bag. Place the bag in the sunshine for a few hours. You can use an infrared thermometer or similar instrument to monitor the temperature. Keep in mind that the clothes in the center won’t get hot as quickly as the outer layer.

What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?

How hot does hot have to be to kill bed bugs? Research and experiments have shown that temperatures of at least 50 degrees C or 122 degrees F are fatal to bed bugs. That temperature must be maintained for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Bed bugs have 3 major stages of growth.

These are:

  • Egg,
  • Nymph,
  • Adult.

If you don’t eliminate all three stages, your items will soon be re-infected.

A 24-hour soak in cold water, then drying on high temperature can kill adults and nymphs. This can be an option for delicates that hot water would damage. It won’t destroy eggs, so you may have to repeat the process several times.

Using temperatures that are at least 60 degrees C or 140 degrees F will kill eggs, nymphs, and adults. Maintain the temperature for at least 30 minutes. Regardless of the temperature, the nymphs won’t die in less than 30 minutes.

What Are the Steps to Kill Bed Bugs in The Dryer?

When transferring wet clothes from the washer to the dryer, place them in plastic bags and avoid letting them touch anything. If you’re placing items in the dryer without washing them first, they must go directly to the dryer from a sealed bag. Place the opening of the bag in the dryer and push the garment in. If you pick up clothes and place them individually in the dryer, the bed bugs can infest the laundry area.

If clothes ball up in the dryer, the inside garments will be cooler. In that case, leave the clothes in longer. Skip the cool down cycle in all cases.

To avoid potentially re-infesting the next load of clothes, thoroughly clean the lint trap. Place the lint in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of it away from the laundry area.

Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets smell nice to humans. Bed bugs don’t care for the smell and will avoid it. That’s led to the belief that dryer sheets are an effective way to repel bed bugs. Dryer sheets do not kill bed bugs or get rid of them.

If you put dryer sheets in one location, the bed bugs simply move to a nearby location. A dryer sheet under your mattress won’t keep bugs out of other parts of your bed. A dryer sheet in the pocket of a garment won’t keep pests away from the rest of your clothing.

Bed bugs emit a musky odor. Dryer sheets can mask that odor, leading you to think that your pest problem has been solved. It hasn’t. The infestation will worsen, potentially making eradication a much harder job than it would have been otherwise.

A bed bug infestation takes a lot of work and time to eradicate. Getting rid of bedbugs in clothing isn’t as difficult as getting rid of them in furniture, carpets, and mattresses. Plastic bags that seal tightly, hot water, and a clothes dryer are all you need to make your clothes bed-bug free. You can also treat your bedding, except for pillows, the same way. Pillows are too thick for the heat to effectively penetrate to the center. Toss them, but wash and dry everything else.

You can find further details of Bed Bugs Control here.

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How to Get Rid Of Bed Bugs in Clothes

Just because you live in one of the most up-scale neighborhoods, does not mean that you won’t have to deal with bed bugs ever. As you might have seen through the other resources presented on this website, there is not much one can do to stop bed bug infestations. Despite taking several precautions (especially while traveling etc); many homeowners all over the United States are encountering bed bugs from time to time. Bed bugs themselves are known as ‘world’s best travelers’ since they tend to hitchhike their way into our residences.

Continue reading to learn ways in which you can get rid of bed bugs from your clothes, and, ultimately, your homes.

Steps to launder clothes effectively to kill bed bugs

So you had a great vacation in Florida this winter, but have come home to find bed bugs in the clothes you took there? Then do follow these laundry tips to help you get rid of bed bugs in clothes:

  1. Spray your clothing with rubbing alcohol until you can get them to a laundry unit. Rubbing alcohol helps eliminate bed bugs on contact. Make sure you sort the clothing in infested and non-infested groups. Bag and separate the two sets into plastic bags to prevent bed bugs infesting the clean clothes.
  2. Next, you must bag and clean items which cannot be laundered, such as shoes, books, electronic goods, jewelry etc. Heat these bags to at least 120 F where possible. You can wrap the items in plastic bags and place them outside in sunny areas. Alternatively, you can freeze bed bugs by exposing them to below-freezing temperatures. This cold treatment, however, has to be done for at least a period of 2 weeks to ensure killing all the eggs and larvae of bed bugs.
  3. Once you are back home from your vacation, place your entire luggage outside in the garage/terrace if you have one. Carry the sealed and bagged infested clothing to the laundry unit or a Laundromat. Spray the empty luggage/travel bags using insecticides or bed bug sprays. Store the luggage away from your sleeping areas while the bed bug treatment is ongoing.
  4. Next, you could contact pest control specialists to treat the inside of your home.
  5. In the mean time, wash the bed bug infested clothing in hot water at a temperature the fabric can withstand. In case of delicate clothing, you could use steam treatment to get rid of bed bugs. Point the steamer on the infested clothing to target the eggs and larvae. You can even sort the delicate clothing to take to the professional dry cleaners. Make sure that you seal all bags with infested items so that the bed bugs are not able to escape and hide in other parts of your home.
  6. When you arrive at the Laundromat, tip each of the plastic bags containing the infected clothes into the washer. Seal and discard the empty bags using clean garbage bags to prevent bed bugs from escaping and infesting other users of the public Laundromat.
  7. You can use your regular detergent, bleach or fabric softener as you normally do when washing clothes.
  8. Dry the washed clothing in the dryer units on medium to high setting.
  9. Items like shoes etc which cannot be washed with hot water can also be put inside the dryer that is run on medium to high heat to kill bed bugs.
  10. Once your clothes are dry, fold them neatly and place them in new and clean plastic laundry bags.
  11. Now you must take necessary precautions to get rid of bed bugs in your home before you open and unload the washed clothes.
  12. You could take help of professional pest control companies or follow DIY measures given on this website to rid your home of bed bugs.
  13. Vacuuming is an essential part of bed bug control, and you must do this daily for ensuring a bed-bug-free home.
  14. Once you are sure there are no bed bugs in your apartment, you can unload the laundered clothes into your closets.
  15. If however, you still suspect bed bug activity, keep the clothes sealed in the laundry bags. This will ensure that the bed bugs do not re-infect your clean clothing.

Make sure you follow an integrated pest control management program which involves multiple strategies to prevent and control bed bugs on a daily basis. These include daily laundry to kill bed bug eggs from bed sheets, clothes and linen as well as regular sanitation and chemical applications on all infested sites.

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How to Get Rid of Bugs That Eat Holes in Clothes

Tiny Insects whose size allows them to elude detection can destroy your clothes without your being aware of what’s happening. By the time you notice their presence, it may be too late. According to extension consumer education specialist Susan Wright, it’s not the adults that wreak the most havoc, but the larvae from eggs they leave behind. Clothes-eating moths, carpet beetles and other such insects feed in quiet, dark areas, such as the closets and drawers of unsuspecting people.

Inspect all drawers and closets at least once a year. Remove all clothing from these areas. Vacuum all closets and drawers thoroughly to remove lint and other debris.

Clean all rugs, carpets, drapes and pet bedding. Move furniture around, as areas behind couches, love seats and dressers are most vulnerable to infestation by bugs that eat holes in clothes.

Empty your vacuum’s bag. According to Pest Control Canada, the larvae of these insects can grow in the bag of a vacuum cleaner, leading to a reinfestation as you continue to use the vacuum.

Wash all garments, including sheets, blankets and pillowcases, at least once a week. Place the cleaned laundry in airtight containers, such as bins with strong lids or plastic bags without rips or tears in them.

Inspect and clean your kitchen. Move all forks, knives, plates, glasses, cups, saucers and utensil holders from their respective areas and vacuum in those places.

Check your bed, both on the surface and underneath. If you find evidence of clothes-eating bugs, such as holes in the fabric that you haven’t noticed in the past, call a professional.

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