The first documented cases of bedbugs date to the 17th century. These bloodsuckers prey on humans, and if there is none within reach they move to animals. Hotels, dormitories and shelters are notorious for bedbug infestations, which have been on the rise since the early 2000s. Unsuspecting individuals can carry bedbugs home with them on their clothing.
Take Them Off
Bedbugs do not move from person to person via the skin, but they do cling to clothing. Close contact with another person who has bedbugs on his attire can open the floodgates, giving the bedbugs an opportunity to march on over to your clothing, too. As soon as you realize that the clothes you are wearing may contain bedbugs, take them off --- quick. Place each article of clothing in a plastic garbage bag. Tie the bag tightly, confining the bedbugs until you can get to a washing machine.
Hot, Hot, Hot
Begin filling the washing machine with hot water and untie the bag over the top of it. Drop the clothes into the washer immediately upon opening the garbage bag. The water temperature in the washer should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill the bedbugs. Each degree lower increases the chances of bedbug survival. Raising the temperature on the hot water heater will help ensure that the hot water temperature is at its maximum. Add the usual amount of laundry detergent and let the washer run through all of its normal cycles.
Hit the Dryer
Washing the clothing in hot water and laundry detergent will satisfactorily kill the bedbugs. If you prefer to be doubly sure, toss the clothing in the dryer immediately after washing. The dryer's heat is sure to finish off any bedbug that may have survived the wash cycle. The dryer is also a good option for dry-clean-only clothing. The clothing should incur no damage as long it is dry before going in the dryer. Send the clothing for a spin on the highest heat setting (approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the clothing afterward, rest assured that no bedbug could have survived the heat of the washer or the dryer.
If you are not convinced that the hot water in the washing machine and the heat of the dryer are enough to kill bedbugs, you may want to add another tactic to the mix. Before bringing the sealed garbage bag to the washing machine, set it outside in the sun for two or three hours. Direct sunlight will heat the plastic bag, killing and suffocating the bedbugs before they even hit the water in the washer. Stick a thermometer in the bag while it is sitting out in the heat. If the heat inside the plastic bag reaches 120 F, the bedbugs are goners.
- The Ohio State University; Bed Bugs; Susan C. Jones, Ph.D.
- University of Minnesota Extension; Traveler Q&A: Preventing Bed Bugs From Hitchhiking to Your Home; Dr. Stephen A. Kells and Jeff Hahn; 2006
- The University of Kentucky; Bed Bugs; Michael F. Potter; August 2008
- New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services: Bed Bug Fact Sheet
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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