How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs With Steam

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Steam is one solution that kills both bed bugs and their eggs.
Steam is one solution that kills both bed bugs and their eggs. (Image: steam image by Dave from Fotolia.com)

At one time, “don’t let the bed bugs bite” was just a cute saying tacked onto “good night.” Since the closing of World War II, through better hygiene and the use of DDT, bed bugs were mostly a third-world problem. These bugs are back and, due to a global economy, they are everywhere. It matters little if you are a homeowner or an apartment dweller, you can get them. They are difficult to get rid of, even for professional pest control technicians. Plenty of pesticides will kill the adult bugs but there are none available, even for the professionals, that can penetrate their eggs. Steam, however, is one solution that will kill them both.

Things You'll Need

  • Flashlight
  • Commercial-grade 1-gallon steamer(s)

Inspection

Remove bed linens, clothes and other fabric items that can be laundered and seal them in plastic bags.

Inspect the entire room beginning with the mattress and progressing outward to the box spring, headboard, bed frame, night tables and carpet. Use a flashlight and look for dried blood spots as well as living bugs, especially in cracks and crevices.

Disassemble any items that have parts such as bed frames, lamps and outlet covers. Remove and inspect drawers, look along and under baseboards, and inspect curtains.

Treatment

Fill the steamer with water and turn it on. Wait for it to reach its optimal operating temperature. Most steamers indicate this temperature with a light. If your machine has multiple settings, set the steamer to a low vapor rate to prevent it from blowing insects away from the steam unharmed.

Steam the mattress edges and piping because the folds are a favorite hiding place for bed bugs. Newly hatched bed bugs are tiny and may dwell deep inside the mattress. To ensure complete penetration of steam, the steamer wand should make contact with the heated surface throughout the procedure.

Test the heated surface with an infrared thermometer to ensure that it is 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius). Higher temperatures can cause property damage and lower temperatures will not kill the bugs.

Concentrate your initial efforts where you found the largest concentration of bugs during your inspection, but steam all seams, inside cracks, crevices and holes. Your steamer wand should move at a rate of 1 foot per 10 seconds on fabric. Move faster on hard surfaces, particularly those with a finish.

Launder bagged linens using the highest temperatures possible.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using two steamers is better so that one is heating while the other steams.
  • Follow up steam treatments are usually required. Professional pest control firms usually follow steam treatments with a pesticide application.

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