October 1, 2020

Does Steam Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs?

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Bed bugs infestation is the last thing anyone would want to deal with. But due to our social life, it is easy to pick them up and carry them to our houses. Bed bugs spread fast and are notoriously hard to eradicate. Therefore, when you discover these bugs in your home, you must exterminate them as soon as possible. But how do you handle bed bug infestation? Many experts recommend steam cleaning as the ideal way to kill bed bugs. But does steam cleaning eliminate bed bugs?

Steam cleaning is the most effective way to kill bed bugs. Steamers work by delivering high temperatures of at least 200°F. Steaming is effective when bugs are on the surface or up to ¾ inch into the fabric surface. In addition, steam will eliminate bed bugs in cracks and crevices as deep as 2-3/8. You can make steaming for bed bugs effective by using an infrared thermometer to keep surface temperature 160-180°F.

Related post: Best Steam Cleaners for Bed Bugs

Why Steam Cleaning is the Best for Exterminating Pest

Handling a bed bug infestation is never easy, but steaming works magic. Many pests, including bed bugs, cannot survive in extreme temperatures above 119 °F. This is what makes steam an excellent solution for pest control, more so bed bug extermination. The main reason why you should steam bed bugs is that steaming kills bed bugs in all development stages – from eggs, nymphs to adults. But like any other pest control method, the success rate depends on the type of steamer you are using and how you are using the steam machine.

To effectively kill bed bugs, ensure that the steam is extremely hot. If the bed bugs steamer temperature is below 160 °F, there are chances some bed bugs will survive.  This is why it is recommended to use steam of 160-180°F. Sometimes you can go as high as 200°F. However, depending on the type of fabric you’re steaming, high temperatures can damage your fabric. Therefore, be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before steaming. Also, it is crucial to know how to use the steamer. This will increase the effectiveness of the steam and keep you safe.

Does Steam Kill Bed Bugs Instantly?

Like any other pest control method, you need to repeat the steaming procedure 2 to 3 times. This is because there are chances that you will miss a bed bug or eggs stack in a crack. By steaming two to three times, you can be sure no bugs or eggs have survived. When steaming, you need to spend at least 15-20 minutes for the steam to be effective. Most importantly, keep monitoring the temperature of the surface and maintain 160 °F as the lowest temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster the bed bugs will die, making steam for bed bugs effective. 

Tips When Using Steam Cleaning to Kill Bed Bugs

Cleaning bed with steam cleaner

  • Use quality steam cleaning machine

Make sure to use the right steam machine to ensure effectiveness. Use a steam cleaning machine with continuous steam and high boiler temperature. The steaming machine should have a rating of 300 °F. This will ensure that the steam coming out is above 180 °F. With the right steaming machine, you will avoid frustrations. For instance, unlike cheap steamers that do not get hot enough, an industrial steamer is very effective.

  • Prepare the area where you will be steaming

Before you start steaming, prepare the room. Start by decluttering the area. For instance, pull furniture and beds away from the walls. This will ensure that you apply steam to all sides of your furniture as well as the wall.

Before steaming, remove beddings, wash and dry them properly. Also, ensure that you remove items from cupboards and drawers. This will make steaming bed bugs easy and avoid destroying paper materials.

Finally, inspect the room thoroughly and remove all bed bugs through vacuuming. Removing visible bed bugs is essential to avoid blowing them as you steam. Blowing means they can survive the steam and continue reproducing. In addition, seal all crack and crevices to ensure bed bugs do not find a hiding place.

  • Use a towel instead of a brush for surfaces

Using a towel helps trap heat in the brush head, making it hotter and ensures heat penetrates in fabric and carpeting easily. Always avoid using any nozzle without covering because the pressure will blow bed bugs and eggs away without killing bed bugs.

  • Be slow when steaming (1 inch per second or slower)

For effectiveness, be sure to give the steamer time to heat the area you are steaming. This way, you attain maximum heat, killing all bed bugs and eggs.

  • For cracks, use a very narrow brushless tip attachment and no towel

When steaming around crevices and cracks, use a narrow and brushless tip and no towel. This forces steam deep the crack, killing bed bugs. This is more effective compared to trying to heat furniture or baseboard all the way to where bugs are hiding. Just as when steaming surfaces, move slowly for better heating.

  • Attention to details is the key

When it comes to steaming, you have to pay attention to details. Steam every inch of your bed including, frames, headboard, screws, crack, knot, etc. This way, you can be sure no bug or egg survives. Then move your bed away and steam carpet and all corners of the wall. The bottom line is to ensure you leave nothing to chance. Even a single pest can mean re-infestation.

For items that need washing, for instance, bedsheets, use a washing machine and dry on high heat for 30 minutes. This will kill any eggs and nymphs. But for the items that are not washable, place them in the dryer and heat for 30 minutes. Keep the cleaned items dry and sealed until the infestation is contained.

Precautions When Using a Steamer

Steam cleaning a bed pillow

While bed bug steam is effective, steam is also dangerous if you are not careful. You need to be careful and take the necessary precaution when steaming. Here are some precautionary measures that will keep you and your property safe.

  • Read all instructions on how to use your steamer before starting the machine. This will protect not only you but also your steam machine.
  • Be cautious when refiling your steam machine. The machine is always under high pressure and can hurt you.
  • Always keep children away when steaming. Steam from the machine is very hot 212–230°F, and can burn you or the kids.
  • Before you start steaming, test your steamer on other objects. This will ensure you do not burn soft material such as fabric on your furniture. For instance, if you want to steam your furniture, test on your carpet, or other harder materials.  
  • Do not use pinpoint nozzles. Look for a nozzle that distributes steam uniformly under little pressure. This way, bed bugs are killed easily. However, a pinpoint nozzle is effective when steaming on cracks. 

Signs of Bed Bugs Infestation

Bed bugs multiply very fast. One female bed bug lays up to 12 eggs daily and 200-500 eggs throughout her lifetime. This, therefore, means you can have thousands of bugs within a short period. For this reason, it is essential to know how to spot these bugs before the infestation becomes overwhelming.

Holding a bed big

Bed bugs can hide in headboards, box springs, mattresses, chairs, couches, in electrical outlets, behind picture frames and other areas. The sooner you detect them, the better because they will not only bite you and destroy your property but also are expensive to contain. Below are signs to look out for if you are suspecting a bed bug invasion.

1. Itchy spots on your skin

Bites from bed bugs are tiny and itchy, but not everybody reacts to them. Bed bugs feed at night – when their victims are sleeping. Since the bites are ‘gentle’ – they have a natural anesthetic, people will not wake because of a bug bite. You will only notice a bed bug bite once you wake up. The bites are visible near blood vessels such as the legs, hands, and arms. While these bites can be from anything else, it is a clear sign that you may have bugs infestation. You must do a pest inspection.

2. Bloodstains in sheets and pillowcases

When a bed bug is feeding on the human body, they inject a substance – anticoagulant to ensure the blood flows freely. They cause blood droplets to form at the point of bite, and the blood finds its way to your pillows and sheets. Therefore, if you find bloodstains in your bed, it is a clear sign you may have bugs. Call pest inspection services to be sure.

3. Visible fecal matter

After consuming blood, bed bugs leave fecal deposits. These are small black spots that you can see on your matters cover or fabrics such as in your furniture. These blood spots have a bad odor and can smear upon touching. You can find this fecal matter in beddings and also in walls, especially behind picture frames. On hard surfaces, the fecal matter resembles small black spots – black pepper. If these sound familiar, consider pest inspections.

4. Old skins

Bed bugs shed skin before every stage of life. If you have bugs infestation, you will find these skins lying around areas of infestation such as around furniture edges, mattresses, in cracks and crevices, and other hiding places. With such signs, you need not pest inspections because it is a confirmation you already have unwanted visitors.

5. Eggs

Although you can barely see bed bug eggs, if you notice small whitish substances in your mattress, sheets, and furniture cracks when cleaning, these are probably eggs. It is a cause for alarm, and you should consider looking for more signs and probably call inspection services to be sure.

6. Visible adult bugs

Although bed bugs are active at night, it is not uncommon to see one by chance during the day. Also, there are chances you will see several bugs at night if you happen to wake up for a glass of water. If you see one bug, it is a sign your home is invaded, and you need to act soonest possible.

7. Odor

If bed bugs heavily infest your home or building, you will note a telltale odor. While a bed bug dog can detect a small infestation, a heavy infestation leaves coriander like odor, and you can easily tell something is wrong. You can always call for professional inspections to confirm your suspicions.

Importance of Pest Inspections

Bed magnifying glass

Once you observe signs or suspect bed bug infestation, it is not yet time to steam. You need to hire professional pest inspection services. Through the inspection report, you will know the extent of infestation and damage. This will help you decide whether you can handle the pest control process on your own or you need professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take steam to kill bed bugs?

When steaming, it will take 15 to 20 minutes to kill the bugs. Bed bugs cannot survive in temperatures above 119 °F. The recommended temperature to get rid of bed bugs is 160-180°F. Therefore, steam for up to 20 minutes and maintain a slow speed of about 1 inch per second.

Does steam cleaning kill bed bug eggs?

With the right steam temperature, the steam treatment kills not only bed bugs but also eggs and nymphs. All you need is to have the right steaming machine and know how to steam. Since bed bug eggs are always hidden, steam in cracks and deep in carpets and furniture.

What is the best steamer to kill bed bugs?

While there are many bed bug steam cleaners, not all are effective. Besides checking the brand name, the right steamer is one that has features such as continuous steam and high boiler temperature.

How do you steam furniture for bed bugs?

When steaming your furniture, first remove the cushions if steaming sofa sets. Then use a towel to cover the nozzle. This will reduce steam pressure coming out. Then start steam treatment in the cracks at a slow speed to ensure you attain at least 160°F. If your furniture has bolts and screws, be sure to steam them as well. The bottom line is to steaming all-round, leaving no spot untouched. But remember to test the steamer before steaming soft fabric to avoid causing damages.

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