How To Treat Bed Bugs With Heat
Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control
Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?
Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:
- How many bed bugs you have;
- How much clutter is available for hiding places;
- Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
- Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.
Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.
The following steps will help you begin:
You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.
Identify the Problem
- Identify the pest:
- Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
- Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
Develop a Strategy
- Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
- Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
- Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.
Keep the Infestation from Spreading
- Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
- Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
- Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
- Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
- Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
- Use spray paint to mark furniture with "Bed Bugs."
Prepare for Treatment
Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.
Kill the Bed Bugs
- Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
- Considernon-chemical methodsof killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
- Heat treatment:You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
- Cold treatmentcan be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
- Steam cleaners(wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
Evaluate and Prevent
- Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
- Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.
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Using Heat to Kill Bed Bugs
The Achilles heel of bed bugs is heat. Once you expose bed bugs to 120 o F or hotter both the bugs and eggs die very rapidly (less than a minute). This is why the best way to treat clothes that may be infested with bed bugs is to place them in a dryer on high for a full cycle (even a low cycle is usually enough with most dryers). There have been many companies that have taken this concept and created heating equipment that can generate enough heat to bring entire houses up to 120 degree or hotter. This is an excellent method to treat for bed bugs as it is one of the few treatments that can eliminate manageable infestations in one treatment and also reduces the amount of pesticides introduced to a home. The issue is that many homeowners that are looking for ways to treat their bed bug infestation read about heat and think they can open their windows on a hot day and treat their home for bed bugs. It unfortunately is never that easy.
There is actually a lot of protocol and technique to heat treating a house. In addition to needing equipment that will bring the entire house up to 120 degrees all at once, you want to heat the house up slowly and circulate the heat in a very methodical fashion. Bringing the temperature up slowly and proper circulation reduces the amount of cool spots for the bugs to hide in. In addition to this, furniture and clutter needs to be moved, turned and tossed during treatment to further address any cold spots that may exist. That is why a dryer is ideal for heat treating clothes because it is constantly tossing the clothes around which assures equal distribution of the heat. Obviously there isn’t a “tumble cycle” for your home and the only way to properly distribute the heat is to turn items by hand. The issue is that you should be turning those items during heat treatment which exposes the technician to high temperatures which can have adverse health effects if not done properly and carefully. This is why we recommend that heat treatment be performed by trained professionals.
I also receive questions from the occasional homeowner about renting heaters and heat treating their houses themselves. Not only is this a risk from a heat exposure perspective, many heaters need trained professionals to use them properly and reduce exposure to any exhaust that the heaters may create. Many rental heaters use propane as a fuel source which can also pose potential health risks. More reasons why heat treatment should be left to professionals.
When it comes to professionals performing heat treatments, just like any other service in any other service industry, there are good companies and not so good companies. One question you can ask a service provider you are evaluating to treat your home is what is the critical temperature for bed bugs, how do you evaluate when a room is at that temperature and how long do you hold it for? As mentioned before something around 120 degrees is the temperature you want to them to answer with. In addition they should be using temperature monitors during a job and recording temperatures at different location throughout the job. They should be holding critical temperature during a bed bug treatment for a minimum of two hours and ideally for 3-4 hours. You can ask the service provider you choose for heating records at the conclusion of the job. This way you can see if they held the right temperature for the right time in different spots in the home.
- Heat is a great way to treat for bed bugs but there is a lot of protocol and technique to doing it right
- There are several different aspect to heat treatment that can pose significant health risks if not done properly – this makes heat treatment NOT a suitable DIY method
- Always ask a service provider treating your home how they are going to do it and for temperature records upon completion of the service – you want to see them hold 120 degrees or hotter for 2-4 hours
Bed Bug Heat Treatment Cost
Learn about bed bug heat treatment costs and considerations. While costs can vary, the right professionals can help make sure your bed bug treatment is worth every penny
Bed Bug Heat Treatment: Cost and Considerations
From your mattress and box spring to your carpet and baseboards, bed bugs can nest almost anywhere in your bedroom. In fact, most bed bug infestations occur within a few feet of their human blood meal host, like your bed or other furniture. Not to mention, they can hide in crevices as small as nail indentations in your wall. As so, bed bugs can be hard to kill, no matter how prepared you think you might be. That’s why a bed bug heat treatment can be one of the most effective solutions. Costs will vary depending on the type of treatment used and the size of the infestation.
Successfully getting rid of bed bugs relies on early detection, proper preparedness and correct treatment methods. That’s where heat treatment comes in. So what is bed bug heat treatment, and how does heat kill bed bugs? Let’s look at some of the common methods used by some pest management professionals .
Can a Hot Box Kill Bed Bugs?
By placing items such as shoes, dry cleaning, blankets, bags of clothing or even luggage into a hot box, sustained heat is used to kill bed bugs. Generally, a dryer is used for clothing and linens, and a heat chamber is used for the items that can’t be put into a dryer. In both instances, the heat penetrates small crevices that cannot be inspected. Lethal temperatures for bed bugs range from 117–122° degrees Fahrenheit. The walls of hot boxes reach a higher temperature than the suggested lethal range, though, to permeate the belongings placed within. This can help kill all bed bugs in all their life cycle stages.
How the box is heated is important. The wrong or misused heat source can cause fires, so caution must be used with this method. Also, some items may become damaged by the heat source if it’s too close or too hot. Proper ventilation must be applied to some heat sources, such as gas or propane, for them to be safely used inside a building, and you should always check manufacturers’ laundering instructions of all applicable items before heating any item in a dryer or heat chamber.
Will Steam Kill Bed Bugs?
Will steam kill bed bugs? In short, yes — steam is another form of heat that can help kill bed bugs, larvae and eggs. Steam treatment is no more labor intensive than other methods. However, it’s not meant to penetrate materials deep enough to kill hidden bed bugs. In fact, the University of Minnesota states that steaming can kill bed bugs in cracks and crevices no deeper than 2⅜ inches.
Steaming works best on items such as box springs, bed frames, blankets, sheets, curtains and pillows. It can even be used on several items without causing destruction. That said, steaming utilizes high heat (up to 230° Fahrenheit) and could damage certain items. Not to mention, it can pose dangers to children and adults when mishandled. As so, you should consult a pest management professional and the applicable manufacturers’ laundering instructions to determine whether steaming is the right solution for your home .
Can Dryers Help to Kill Bed Bugs?
As discussed above, regular residential clothes dryers can also destroy bed bugs. In fact, the washing machine and hot soapy water can help kill them. There are many items that cannot be washed, though. Instead, these items may be able to run through a dryer cycle without damage. This includes stuffed animals and "dry clean only" items. The heat of the clothes dryer alone can kill bed bugs. It’s recommended that you dry items on high heat for at least 20 minutes. Be aware that some items cannot go in the washer or dryer. Always refer to the manufacturers’ laundering instructions. Additionally, it’s important to keep freshly cleaned items away from the infestation. If not, they can easily become reinfested.
How Much Does Bed Bug Treatment Cost?
So how much does bed bug heat treatment cost? Prices can vary, depending on the pest management professional, the type of heat treatment used and the size of the infestation. Be sure to do your research when it comes to local pest control companies to ensure your bed bug treatment cost is worth every penny.
How to Prepare for Bed Bug Heat Treatments?
If your home is about to undergo heat treatment for bed bugs, preparation is vital. While your pest management professional should provide any necessary instructions, North Carolina State University also recommends completing the following actions prior to treatment:
• Do not move items to another room in your home. This may cause the infestation to spread to other areas.
• Seal all items on the ground in plastic bags. If these items are infested, sealing them can trap bed bugs inside.
• Launder sheets according to the manufacturers’ instructions and store them in sealed plastic bags upon cleaning. Do not remove these items until your pest management professional has deemed them clean.
If you have bed bugs in your home, schedule an appointment with Terminix. Our trained technicians can help determine the best solution for your home, which may or may not include some type of heat treatment. They can even help walk you through the necessary steps for preparation so that you get the most out of your service.
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Heat vs Chemical Treatment for Bed Bugs: Which Is Best?
If you’re worried you may have bed bugs in your home, your first question will likely be something along the lines of,“how do I get rid of these things, and fast?”You have two main options when it comes to ridding your home of these troublesome little insects:heat treatmentandchemical treatment.
In this guide, we’ll look at the pros and cons of both. You’ll also get all the basic knowledge you need to make sure you can be free of bed bugs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A Few Things You Should Know About Bed Bugs
First, to help you put your treatment options in context you should know a little bit about bed bug prevalence, their life-cycle and why infestations are so tricky to deal with.
How Common Are They in the US?
Fifty years ago, bed bugs had been all but wiped out. However, since the 1980s, there’s been a sharp resurgence. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this has happened partly because bed bugs have become resistant to some pesticides, and also because transmission rates have increased as a result of international and domestic travel.
Today, many pest control experts consider bed bugs to be the number one infestation problem in the US. We can attest to this as we serve Ohio which has some of the worst bed bug infested cities like Cincinnati which always makes it on to thetop 10 infested bed bug city listsacross the nation.
Fact 1:bed bugs areverycommon.
Why Are They Difficult to Treat?
Bed bugs are extremely stealthy. They’re small, and are guided by a survival instinct of tucking themselves away into tight, difficult-to-reach crevices. They’re capable of lodging themselves in areas little thicker than the width of a fingernail, and can stay there out of sight for months between feeding sessions.
These factors make bed bugs both hard to find, and difficult to eradicate even once you know where they are.
Fact 2:They’re stealthy, sneaky and resilient.
How Quickly Should I Treat an Infestation?
Adult female bed bugs will lay up to anywhere from five to a dozen eggs daily. In its lifetime it will lay up to 500 eggs. A bed bug colony is therefore going to grow very quickly. But that’s only part of the problem. Their movement patterns make it even worse.
A female is hard-wired to retreat from other bed bugs before laying its eggs. This means bed bugs have a tendency to migrate quickly from room to room. A small colony in one bedroom can rapidly become an infestation across your whole house.
Fact 3:Fast action, and quick-acting treatment is important.
Now that you’re up to speed on how bed bugs operate and why they pose such an infestation control challenge, let’s compare your treatment options.
Option 1: Heat Treatment
Heat treatment involves raising the temperature in your home to the point it’ll kill bed bugs. A pest control specialist will place specialized heaters throughout your home, gradually raising the temperature to over 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Strategically placed fans circulate the hot air, effectively turning your bed bug infested rooms into a convection oven.
A bed bug will die within an hour or two if it’s exposed to temperatures in the 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit range. They’ll dieinstantlyonce the heat increases beyond that. That’s the temperature we aim for.
The whole process is discreet, takes less than a day, and is powered off a single generator.
Heat Treatment Pros
- It’s usually a single treatment:Done right, a heat treatment to exterminate bed bugs will require just one treatment. Chemical treatment usually requires several visits.
- It attacks bed bugs where they’re most vulnerable:bed bugs are tough insects, and they’re remarkably good at hiding out of reach. Moreover, some strains are resistant to certain pesticides. The beauty of heat is that, unlike chemicals, it gets everywhere. No matter how many layers of bedding or clothing a bed bug is hiding under, the heat can reach and destroy it. Heat is also deadly to bed bugs throughout all stages of its life-cycle. They can run but they can’t hide.
- There are no residual effects:Once the heat in your house returns to normal, the only lasting change you’re left with is a lot of dead bed bugs. This is an advantage if you’re worried about chemical residues in your home.
- Heat treatment is discreet:Let’s face it, having your home treated for bed bugs is not exactly something you want to advertise to your neighbors. Heat treatment is discreet. All that’s visible from the street is a generator, which you could easily be using for anything from running fans to dry paint, or steam cleaning your carpet.
Heat Treatment Cons
- Heat treatment won’t stop bed bugs from returning:Heat leaves no residual effects. Without residual chemicals providing a preventive barrier, they may return. However, keeping your home freed of clutter and thoroughly cleaning your bedding on a regular basis are both effective non-chemical bed bug prevention measures.
- You’ll need to prepare your home:During treatment, your house will have to be vacated, including your pets. You’ll also probably need to make sure that heat-sensitive items such as wax and crayons from the house. Our pest control experts can offer advice on what’s safe to keep in your home and what should be removed.
Things to Consider When Using Heat
Heat treatment is a great option. It’s fast, discreet and can reach infestation areas that are hard to reach with chemicals. You will need a prevention strategy in place though. One great option to consider is to use heat in conjunction with chemical treatments around the boundaries of your house.
This gives you the benefits of minimizing chemicals in your home while setting up a residual chemical barrier where it’s most useful.
Option 2: Chemical Treatment
Chemical treatment involves the introduction of chemical agents throughout the house. Typically, a pest eradication expert will employ three kinds of chemicals: a contact insecticide to quickly eradicate easy to reach bed bugs, a residual (long-lasting) chemical to kill bed bugs on an ongoing basis, and a dust to provide longer-lasting protection in cracks and crevices in and around infested rooms.
The effectiveness of chemical treatment depends ongettingto the bed bugs. Unlike heat, chemical treatment is site-specific. Treatment typically therefore happens over multiple visits, to be sure no bed bugs are missed.
Chemical Treatment Pros
- Chemical treatment can be highly effective:Especially if you catch the infestation in its early stages, chemicals can eradicate bed bugs quickly and reliably. Moreover, the combination of quick-acting pesticides with dusts and residual chemicals means you can effectively hit bed bugs over time, and throughout every stage of their life-cycle.
- It can help prevent future infestations:Residual chemicals act as a barrier against future bed bug infestations. While the continued presence of chemicals in the home is not an ideal solution for everyone, it undeniably offers long-term protection.
- It’s cost effective:Chemical treatment is often slightly less expensive than the bed bug heat treatment option.
Chemical Treatment Cons
- Chemical treatment requires a lot of preparation:The chemicals have to reach the bed bugs. This means you’ll have to thoroughly prepare infested areas, removing as many barriers as possible to ensure the chemicals reach where the bed bugs are hiding. A chemical treatment requires time, preparation and careful planning.
- It exposes your home to residual chemicals:While these chemicals are safe for residential use, if you have pets in your home or people with chemical sensitivities, the chemical treatment route may not be for you.
- Chemicals don’t kill the bed bug egg:Unfortunately, chemical treatments don’t kill the bed bug egg. Remember a female bed bug is laying at least 5 bed bug eggs per day.
- You’re most likely looking at multiple treatments & it’s not guaranteed to get you bed bug free:Chemical treatments require a pest exterminator to carefully find and target areas where the bed bugs are most concentrated. As you’ve already learned, these critters are sneaky! For this reason, chemical treatments usually work best when applied two or three times over a period of several days or weeks. Therefore, it’s frequently a less convenient and less discreet option.
Things to Consider When Using Chemicals
The big draw of chemical treatment for many customers is that it provides long-lasting protection against bed bug infestation.
The drawback is that it usually requires multiple applications, and some people may not feel comfortable with having chemical residues in their home. It’s also important to remember that, for the treatment to be effective, you’ll need to carefully prepare your home so that the chemicals can reach targeted areas.
The Best Bed Bug Treatment
So, let’s circle back around to the important question:if you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, what’s the best treatment to use?
Clearly, whether you opt for heat or chemical treatment will depend on all the factors we’ve looked at in this guide. Some people are drawn to the single-treatment convenience of heat, while others feel that the long-lasting protection of chemical treatment is worth the potential downsides of having residual chemicals in your home.
On balance, for the vast majority of our customers, we recommend heat treatment (our clients love this option because they don’t have to get rid of furniture because of bed bugs). It’s quick, it’s discreet, and it just seems to be the best way to counteract bed bugs’ natural sneakiness and resilience. From years of experience exterminating bed bugs, heat treatment wins every time. We consistently get calls from people who have had their homes chemically treated only for bed bugs to resurface again a few weeks or months later.
And of course, if youdowant a preventive treatment, it’s always possible to use chemicals to provide a barrier around the boundaries of your home while relying on heat to deal with your current infestation. This can offer the best of both worlds.
If you have any more questions, just talk to us! We’re experts in dealing with bed bug infestations, and we can help you choose the right treatment strategy for your unique situation.
Integrity Pest Solutionsis the leading pest control company in Columbus, Ohio. Art, the owner of the company, has done over 12,000 heat treatment for bed bugs in one of the top states that bed bugs have overrun.
Bed bugs reach epidemic proportions. Dr. Michael Potter, University of Kentucky entomologist, was quoted recently as saying, “Bed bugs are just going ballistic everywhere. It is going to really rock this country.” Bed bugs are found today in hotels, apartments, dorm rooms, delivery vehicles, dry cleaners, jails, hospitals, churches, cruise ships, furniture rental stores and private homes. Rare for a time, bed bug bites are becoming all too common. Because pesticides are losing their effectiveness at treating bed bugs, the search is on for new ways to eliminate infestations. ThermaPureHeat® kills bed bugs without harming the environment; using heat to kill bed bugs and the eggs they leave behind. And, since ThermaPureHeat® can be effective in a single bed bug treatment, it can be more cost effective than chemical alternatives which can often require replacement of bedding and even mattresses.
What are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs were widespread before World War II in homes, hotels, and boardinghouses, but were greatly reduced with the use of the pesticide DDT. Bed bugs have been making resurgence in recent years due to the banning of DDT, an increase in international travel, and a developing resistance to pesticides.
Bed bugs commonly reside in the seams of mattresses, in the edges of carpeting, in the bed frame behind baseboards, in window and door casings, picture frames, loosened wallpaper, and other cracks and crevices.
Bed bugs can enter a structure by attaching themselves or their eggs to clothing and bedding and by hiding in luggage. They have often been brought into homes in used furniture and mattresses. In certain cases the pests may be brought in by birds or even bats.
Bed bug bites are not always noticed by their victims. This is often the problem with knowing whether an infestation still exists or if it has been successfully treated. Some people are greatly affected by bed bug bites and may exhibit numerous sores, welts and allergic reactions to the bed bug bite. Others may not exhibit symptoms at all. Although no known cases of the transmission of infectious disease have been reported, bed bugs are known to carry at least 28 different human pathogens. It appears the bed bug may be able to transmit Hepatitis B, as the virus has been found in bed bug droppings. Bacterial infections may also occur if the bite creates an open sore.
Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite
Kill Bed Bugs with Heat™
There is considerable documentation citing the temperature and time correlations necessary to kill bedbugs and their eggs. Several sources (Usinger 1966, Gulmahamad 2002, Quarles 2007) report that adults and nymphs die within 15 minutes at temperatures greater than 113ºF and 60 minutes to kill eggs. Raising room temperatures above the thermal death point and maintaining that temperature for several hours normally eliminates a bed bug infestation.
The following is for educational purposes only and every situation may add to or reduce specific application. All information contained herein should be applied and/or performed by ThermaPure licensed, trained, and certified providers.
The temperature required to kill bedbugs and their eggs fall well within the temperature ranges achieved by ThermaPureHeat®. The low thermal death point of bedbugs allows ThermaPureHeat® technicians to better adapt the process to the building and its contents while still achieving efficacy. Unlike many pesticides, ThermaPureHeat® will penetrate into all of the cracks and crevices and kill bed bugs where they reside. Our process will force heat into beds, bedding, mattresses, furniture, electronics, wall cavities, etc. leaving no place for bed bugs to hide. This is important because adult bed bugs have been shown to live up to a year on a single blood meal, and may simply go to a small, dark space away from mattresses to live and reproduce.
Why is ThermaPureHeat® Better than Using Chemicals?
Historically, bed bug treatments have relied on the use of chemicals to reduce and control the pest. Recently, pesticides have shown to be ineffective in managing infestations with single bed bug treatment. An informal survey of pest control operators conducted by an entomologist at the University of Massachusetts found that 68% of all bedbug infestations require three or more treatments, 26% require two treatments, and just 6% require one treatment.
Another concern with pesticide use is the growing evidence that bed bugs are developing resistance to current pesticides used in the treatments. This follows the same trend found many years ago when DDT was the accepted treatment. The Integrated Pest Management Association found that by 1956, DDT resistance was so widespread that the control method had to be changed to Malathion.
Results from current research conducted by the University of Kentucky show that bed bug resistance to insecticidal products that have pyrethroids as an active ingredient has become significant. The excessive use of pesticide solutions may result in the bed bug developing greater resistance to current methodologies. Oftentimes this leads to overcompensating by increasing amounts of chemicals. This can be a dangerous practice. ThermaPureHeat® is a simpler control methodology which alters a bed bug’s natural environment, making it lethal to the bed bug.
Pesticides can also pose a threat to the environment. DDT was an effective chemical in significantly treating bed bug occurrences in the United States before it was banned in 1972 because of the reproductive effects to birds from chronic exposure to DDT. Bird exposure to this insecticide mainly occurs through the consumption of aquatic and/or terrestrial species that have been exposed to DDT (WHO 1989). Like other chemicals, DDT was able to work its way through the ecosystem and cause adverse health and reproductive effects to many animals in the food chain.
Finally, some people may be sensitive to chemicals as a result of neurological or other medical disorders. These people may not have the option to use safely chemical solutions as part of their control method. ThermaPureHeat® is a non-chemical process and therefore is the practical solution for people with chemical sensitivities. It is ideal for treating health care facilities, hospitals, and schools where chemicals are not an option.