How Long Can Bed Bugs Live On Clothes

Bed Bugs FAQs

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are small, flat, parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Bed bugs are reddish-brown in color, wingless, range from 1mm to 7mm (roughly the size of Lincoln’s head on a penny), and can live several months without a blood meal.

Where are bed bugs found?

Bed bugs are found across the globe from North and South America, to Africa, Asia and Europe. Although the presence of bed bugs has traditionally been seen as a problem in developing countries, it has recently been spreading rapidly in parts of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other parts of Europe. Bed bugs have been found in five-star hotels and resorts and their presence is not determined by the cleanliness of the living conditions where they are found.

Bed bug infestations usually occur around or near the areas where people sleep. These areas include apartments, shelters, rooming houses, hotels, cruise ships, buses, trains, and dorm rooms. They hide during the day in places such as seams of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, headboards, dresser tables, inside cracks or crevices, behind wallpaper, or any other clutter or objects around a bed. Bed bugs have been shown to be able to travel over 100 feet in a night but tend to live within 8 feet of where people sleep.

Do bed bugs spread disease?

Bed bugs are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs can be an annoyance because their presence may cause itching and loss of sleep. Sometimes the itching can lead to excessive scratching that can sometimes increase the chance of a secondary skin infection.

What health risks do bed bugs pose?

A bed bug bite affects each person differently. Bite responses can range from an absence of any physical signs of the bite, to a small bite mark, to a serious allergic reaction. Bed bugs are not considered to be dangerous; however, an allergic reaction to several bites may need medical attention.

What are the signs and symptoms of a bed bug infestation?

One of the easiest ways to identify a bed bug infestation is by the tell-tale bite marks on the face, neck, arms, hands, or any other body parts while sleeping. However, these bite marks may take as long as 14 days to develop in some people so it is important to look for other clues when determining if bed bugs have infested an area. These signs include:

  • the bed bugs’ exoskeletons after molting,
  • bed bugs in the fold of mattresses and sheets,
  • rusty–colored blood spots due to their blood-filled fecal material that they excrete on the mattress or nearby furniture, and
  • a sweet musty odor.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a bed bug?

It is hard to tell if you’ve been bitten by a bed bug unless you find bed bugs or signs of infestation. When bed bugs bite, they inject an anesthetic and an anticoagulant that prevents a person from realizing they are being bitten. Most people do not realize they have been bitten until bite marks appear anywhere from one to several days after the initial bite. The bite marks are similar to that of a mosquito or a flea — a slightly swollen and red area that may itch and be irritating. The bite marks may be random or appear in a straight line. Other symptoms of bed bug bites include insomnia, anxiety, and skin problems that arise from profuse scratching of the bites.

Because bed bug bites affect everyone differently, some people may have no reaction and will not develop bite marks or any other visible signs of being bitten. Other people may be allergic to the bed bugs and can react adversely to the bites. These allergic symptoms can include enlarged bite marks, painful swellings at the bite site, and, on rare occasions, anaphylaxis.

How did I get bed bugs?

Bed bugs are experts at hiding. Their slim flat bodies allow them to fit into the smallest of spaces and stay there for long periods of time, even without a blood meal. Bed bugs are usually transported from place to place as people travel. The bed bugs travel in the seams and folds of luggage, overnight bags, folded clothes, bedding, furniture, and anywhere else where they can hide. Most people do not realize they are transporting stow-away bed bugs as they travel from location to location, infecting areas as they travel.

Who is at risk for getting bed bugs?

Everyone is at risk for getting bed bugs when visiting an infected area. However, anyone who travels frequently and shares living and sleeping quarters where other people have previously slept has a higher risk of being bitten and or spreading a bed bug infestation.

How are bed bugs treated and prevented?

Bed bug bites usually do not pose a serious medical threat. The best way to treat a bite is to avoid scratching the area and apply antiseptic creams or lotions and take an antihistamine. Bed bug infestations are commonly treated by insecticide spraying. If you suspect that you have an infestation, contact your landlord or professional pest control company that is experienced with treating bed bugs. The best way to prevent bed bugs is regular inspection for the signs of an infestation.

This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

Can you wash bed bugs out of clothes?

Bed bug infestations are on the rise in the U.S., and coming up with effective ways to deal with these nocturnal pests has become a big topic around the water cooler. Although bed bugs can hitch a ride on just about anything, including shoes, handbags and luggage, clothing is a common target. It’s possible to eradicate bed bugs from laundered clothing, bedding and household textiles like drapes and area rugs, but it takes heat to do it.

A sustained temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit will kill all stages of the bed bug’s lifecycle. Some experts suggest maintaining the heat for at least 20 minutes while others recommend continuing high temperatures for an hour. That’s good news if you’re trying to get bed bugs out of your clothes: Washing your clothes in hot water will probably kill them, and spinning your clothes in a hot dryer will certainly kill them. In fact, just stuffing your bug infested clothes in a trash bag, sealing it and putting it out in the sun on a hot day will kill any critters inside. Just make sure the interior of the bag reaches a sustained 120 degrees Fahrenheit by checking the temperature with an instant read thermometer.

If you’re dealing with dry-clean-only garments, the dry-cleaning process kills bed bugs, too, but it’s probably a good idea to let the dry cleaner know there may be bed bugs in the clothing you’re leaving at his facility. He may want to quarantine your clothes before treating them.

If there will be a delay in cleaning your garments or dropping them off at the dry cleaner, keep them in a sealed trash bag in your garage to make sure you don’t spread them to multiple areas in your home.

These tips don’t just work for clothing, either. Washing and drying with hot water, dry cleaning and heat treating will kill bed bugs in bedding, draperies, pillows, cushions, area rugs and other household textiles, too. Just make sure that the heat penetrates all the layers of the items you’re cleaning.

Can Bed Bugs live in Your Clothes?

Last Updated: January 20th, 2019 by Marie Seska

Home » Sleep » Can Bed Bugs live in Your Clothes?

Worried that you might have bed bugs and wondering if they can live in your clothes? Having bed bugs in your home or being exposed to them is scary!

These pesky bugs can leave bite marks all over your body and be nearly impossible to get rid of once they have got comfortable! While bed bugs typically live in your bed, shoes, and other dark places they can live and travel in your clothing.

Always be sure to check your entire wardrobe after finding bed bugs or you might start finding bites after sleeping!

How to get Bed Bugs out of Clothes

There are a few different ways to get bed bugs out of clothes. The most popular methods are involve ziplock bags, the dry cleaners, a few cycles in the dryer on high heat and even special laundry additives!

Step One – Isolate Your Clothing

The first thing to do when you find bed bugs in your clothes is to isolate everything you are wearing in a large zip lock bags to prevent the pests from spreading. If you can catch the bugs before they spread it will be much easier to get rid of them.

Make sure to be careful while changing and don’t throw any of your clothes on your bed, blankets or carpet floor! If you do not have any large zip lock bags on hand you can also leave your clothing in the bathtub or in sealed trash bags in the laundry room.

Step Two – Decide How to Clean

Our favorite method of removing bed bugs from clothes at home is to first wash them on “Heavy” with a killing laundry additive that contains an active ingredient like cedar oil. Try to turn your washer on as hot water and as long a cycle as possible! Bed bugs can survive temperatures up to 130 degrees for 30 minutes or more. The hot water plus the cedar oil should kill the bed bugs in your clothing!

After washing with a combination of laundry additive and normal laundry soap immediately put the clothing into your dryer. To kill the remaining bed bugs in your dryer turn the heat up to at 130 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Bed bugs are resilient but can be easily killed with high temperatures.

Cleaning Clothes with Bed Bugs

Another option to kill bed bugs in clothing is to take them to the dry cleaners or laundry mat. Professional washers and dryers get much hotter, for longer periods of time than the washer and dryer you have at home!

Can bed bugs stay on your clothes all day?

Yes!Bed bugs prefer dark places but they can crawl into your clothing from beds, couches and carpet. Once they have grabbed hold of the threads they can hang on until you get home at night!

Top 10 Myths about Bedbugs

The insects, making a comeback around the globe, cannot fly and are really not interested in hanging out on your body–but they do occasionally bite during the day

  • By Megan Scudellari on May 27, 2011

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Once a pest of the past, bedbugs now infest every state in the U.S..Cimex lectularius—small, flattened insects that feed solely on mammalian and avian blood—have been living with humans since ancient times. Abundant in the U.S. prior to World War II, bedbugs all but vanished during the 1940s and ’50s thanks to improvements in hygiene and the use of pesticides. In the past 10 years, however, the pests have staged a comeback worldwide—an outbreak after the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney was a harbinger of things to come. This revival may be the worst yet, experts say, due to densely populated urban areas, global travel and increasing pesticide resistance—something to consider as the summer travel season gets underway.

"By every metric that we use, it’s getting worse and worse," says Coby Schal, an entomologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Health authorities and pest control operators are regularly flooded with calls, and the epidemic may not have yet peaked. And because bedbugs are indoor pests, there are no high or low seasons throughout the year, he adds, only continual bombardment. "It’s just the beginning of the problem in the U.S.," Schal says.

Spreading rapidly with the bedbugs is a mass of misinformation about their biology and behavior. Straight from the experts, here are the facts behind some of the most notorious myths about the diminutive bloodsuckers.

Myth 1: Bedbugs can fly
Bedbugs lack wings, and therefore cannot fly. That is unless you put a blow dryer behind them, says Stephen Kells, a bedbug researcher at the University of Minnesota. Then they’ll fly about 1.2 meters. On their own, bedbugs crawl about a meter a minute, he says.

Myth 2: Bedbugs reproduce quickly
Compared with other insects, bedbugs are slow to reproduce: Each adult female produces about one egg per day; a common housefly lays 500 eggs over three to four days. Each bedbug egg takes 10 days to hatch and another five to six weeks for the offspring to develop into an adult.

Myth 3: Bedbugs can typically live a year without a meal
Scientists debate this point, but evidence suggests that at normal room temperature, about 23 degrees Celsius, bedbugs can only survive two to three months without a blood meal. But because they are cold-blooded, their metabolism will slow down in chillier climates, and the insects may live up to a year without feeding.

Myth 4: Bedbugs bite only at night
Although bedbugs are generally nocturnal, they’re like humans—if they’re hungry, they’ll get up and get something to eat. "If you go away to visit a friend for a week and you come back and sit down on the couch, even though it’s daytime the bedbugs will come looking for you," Schal says. Keeping a light on, then, unfortunately does not keep these tiny vampires away.

Myth 5: Bedbugs live exclusively in mattresses
"’Bedbug’ is such a misnomer," Kells says. "They should also be called pet bugs and suitcase bugs and train bugs and movie theater bugs." Bedbugs spread away from beds into living areas and can be seen on any surface, he says, including chairs, railings and ceilings.

Myth 6: Bedbugs prefer unsanitary, urban conditions
"Bedbugs are terribly nondiscriminatory," Schal says. Bedbugs can be found anywhere from ritzy high-rises to homeless shelters. The prevalence of the bugs in low-income housing is therefore not a result of the insect’s preference, but of dense populations and the lack of money to pay for proper elimination strategies. "Any location is vulnerable," Kells says. "But some people are going to have a harder time getting control of them because it is such an expensive treatment."

Myth 7: Bedbugs travel on our bodies
Bedbugs do not like heat, Kells says. They therefore do not stick in hair or on skin, like lice or ticks, and prefer not to remain in our clothes close to our bodily heat. Bedbugs are more likely to travel on backpacks, luggage, shoes and other items farther removed from our bodies.

Myth 8: Bedbugs transmit disease
Bedbug bites can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness and even secondary infections, but there have been no reported cases of bedbugs transmitting disease to humans. They do, however, harbor human pathogens: At least 27 viruses, bacteria, protozoa and more have been found in bedbugs, although these microbes do not reproduce or multiply within the insects. Canadian researchers announced (pdf) in the June issue ofEmerging Infectious Diseasesthat bedbugs isolated from three individuals in a Vancouver hospital carried methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus, aka MRSA. Still, there have been no reported cases that the bugs actually transmit human disease.

Myth 9: We should bring back DDT
When the controversial pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, most bed bugs were already resistant to it, Schal says, and today’s populations are even more widely resistant thanks to the use of a new class of pesticides. Pyrethroids, the main class of pesticides used against bedbugs today, targets sodium channels in bedbug cells, just like DDT. Consequently, as bedbugs develop resistance to pyrethroids, they also become cross-resistant to DDT.

Bed Bugs Are Attracted to Your Dirty Clothes, New Study Finds

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With the holidays fast approaching, you might find yourself frantically Googling “how to get rid of bed bugs in luggage,” after discovering you’ve brought home a colony of bed bugs. According to a new study, there’s a way you can reduce the chance a group of these blood-sucking pests hitches a ride in your suitcase.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Sheffield in England looked at whether or not leaving your dirty clothes out at a hotel had any effect on the spread of bed bugs. They created two simulations: One room contained clean clothes while the second contained dirty, soiled clothes. The researchers also pumped extra carbon dioxide into one room with clean clothes and one room with dirty clothes to simulate human breathing.

What they found was that in the absence of a human — in this case, the rooms without the added carbon dioxide — bed bugs were twice as likely to collect on the dirty laundry pile. When researchers added carbon dioxide to the room, bed bugs were more likely to leave their hiding spots and begin host-seeking behaviors.

So how can you prevent bed bugs from latching onto your dirty clothes and coming home with you? William Hentley, PhD, one of the lead researchers, writes that there’s a pretty simple solution: “Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.”

You know those space-saving vacuum packs people use for their clothes? Maybe it’s time to stock up before you leave the state to see the family for Thanksgiving. The holidays are a stressful time, and you don’t want to be dealing with bed bugs if you have family staying with you.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Luggage

Let’s say you read this article after you got home, and you, unluckily, caught a case of bed bugs. How do you get rid of bed bugs in your luggage? Here’s your step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Empty our your suitcase.

If you haven’t already, you need to empty the contents of your luggage and place them in sealed bags until you can wash and or sanitize them. Your clothes will need to be washed at a high temperature — at least 120 degrees — to ensure that the bed bugs die.

Step 2: Take your luggage outside and thoroughly vacuum it.

With a stiff brush, you’re going to want to give your suitcase a good scrub to loosen up any dead bed bugs or bed bug eggs that may be clinging to the lining. Once you’ve done that, you need to vacuum the entire thing

Step 3: Mist it with a bed bug spray.

You can find these sprays at stores like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and the like. If you are worried about the pesticide smell lingering, you can rent or purchase a steamer and steam the entire suitcase two or three times to ensure that you get all the bed bugs.

Step 4: Vacuum the suitcase again.

Now that you’ve killed and shaken loose all the bed bugs and egg clusters, you want to vacuum the entire thing again. Once you’re done, remove the vacuum bag and discard it, making sure the garbage bag that its in is knotted tightly so that no bugs can escape.

Step 5: Let your suitcase bake for a little while.

Now that the hard part is done, leave your suitcase out in the sun for a little bit. If you check back and notice that there are still bed bugs, you will have to repeat the process. If you’ve tried multiple times to clean your luggage and nothing has worked, you might want to consider biting the bullet and getting a new suitcase.

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