Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs? [7-Step Process]

To kill bed bugs in your clothes, begin by separating your clothes by type and sealing them in plastic garbage bags. Then, unbag each type of clothes and put it through a dry cycle on high heat. High temperatures are among the best ways to kill bed bugs and their eggs. After drying, wash your clothes in warm water and repeat the dry cycle on high heat to make sure you kill bed bug eggs. You can run dry-clean-only clothes through the dryer to kill bed bugs. Just make sure to take them to a dry cleaner afterward to clean the clothes and get them ready to wear again.

Does washing clothes kill bed bugs?

Do You Need to Wash All Your Clothes if You Have Bed Bugs?

It’s essential to wash any clothes that may have come into contact with bed bug-infested furniture, mattresses, or carpets. Washing and drying your clothes can kill bed bugs. So, if you have a bed bug infestation in your home, it’s likely that they’ve jumped onto your clothes. The bed bugs may even have spread to other clothes in your closet, so it’s safest to wash all the clothing you own.

What Laundry Detergent Kills Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, there is no laundry detergent that is both safe for clothes and deadly to bed bugs. However, bed bugs aren’t often killed by washing. Instead, putting clothes in the dryer on high heat is the most reliable way to kill bed bugs. So, you can use regular laundry detergent when washing bed-bug-infested clothes. Just use our 5-step method below to kill all the bed bugs in your clothing.

7 Steps to Wash Clothes With a Bed Bug Infestation

In order to eliminate bed bugs and bed bug eggs in your clothes, it’s essential to follow a process that uses high heat. Temperatures above 140℉ (60℃) are certain to kill bed bugs at all stages of life, but bed bugs begin to die at lower temperatures. A drying cycle that heats clothes over 113℉ (45℃) will begin to kill bed bugs. Here’s how to use washing and drying to expose bed bugs to high heat and kill them:

Separate Your Clothes

Begin by piling your clothes into different categories. It is best to separate your clothes into 4 piles: whites, dark colors, dry clean only, and delicates. This allows you to use the most intense washing and drying cycles possible for each type of clothing. This system also helps prevent damage and color bleed to your clothes.

Bag Your Clothes

Once you have separated your clothing into different piles, bag them in plastic bags. Garbage bags work best. It’s essential to put the clothes in the bag and securely knot the bag to close it. Do not use the bag drawstrings, since this can leave an opening where bed bugs can escape. If they do get out, bed bugs can infest other parts of your home, or they may escape into your car if you are transporting your clothes to a laundromat.

Dry Your Clothes on High Heat

It’s best to begin by drying your bed bug-infested clothes because dryers are far more effective at wiping out a bed bug infestation than washers. This is due to the fact that the high heat of a dryer cooks and kills bed bugs, as well as bed bug eggs. You can even put dry-clean-only clothes into the dryer on high heat. So, start by unbagging one bag of clothes and putting it in the dryer set to the hottest temperature that is safe for the clothes.

Throw Away Empty Bags

Once you remove your clothes from their garbage bag, fold the bag inward. Then, place this bag inside another garbage bag, tie it closed, and throw it away. This will prevent bed bugs inside the bag from escaping and re-infesting your clothes later.

Wash Your Clothes

Once your clothes have been through their first dry cycle, move them to the washing machine. Set the washing machine to warm or hot water—depending on the washing instructions for the type of clothes. This wash cycle will wash away dead bed bugs and bed bug eggs that were killed by the dryer. Do not wash clothes that are labeled as “Dry Clean Only.”

Repeat the Dry Cycle

Once your clothes have been washed, return them to the dryer and dry them again on the highest heat that is safe for the clothing. This will not only get your clothes ready to wear again, but it will also kill any stubborn bed bugs that might have survived the first dry cycle. Once your clean clothes are dry, place them in a new, clean bag or container for transportation, or hang them back up in your closet.

Take Dry-Clean-Only Clothes to a Dry Cleaner

Since dry-clean-only clothing cannot be washed in a washing machine, it is best to dry them on very high heat before taking them to a dry cleaner. A good dry cleaning service won’t kill bed bugs, but it will clean dead bed bugs off the clothes you have dried. Now, you can wear and enjoy your clothes again without fear.

Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs in Clothes?

Bed bugs are very opportunistic and will lay eggs in clothes when possible. One of the best ways to kill bed bug eggs is with a high-heat dryer. So, it’s recommended you take your clothing to a laundromat. The hot temperatures of commercial dryers help to kill bed bug infestations and bed bug eggs.

Can Bed Bugs Survive in the Dryer?

Bed bugs can survive in the dryer if your dryer does not get hot enough. In order to kill adult bed bugs and bed bug eggs, you want your clothes to get as hot as possible for as long as possible. Running already-dry clothes through a high-heat dry cycle in a laundromat dryer is one of the surest ways to kill bed bugs in clothes.

What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs in the Wash?

Because bed bugs are only reliably killed when clothes are heated to 140℉ (60℃) for 30–90 minutes, washers are not typically capable of killing bed bugs. Even the hot water setting on most washing machines is cooler than 140℉. So, it’s the drying cycle that kills bed bugs, not washing.

What is the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Clothes?

In order to destroy bed bug infestations in clothes, it’s important to heat clothes to high heat in a dryer and prevent reinfestation. To do this, follow these tips:

  • Separate your clothes into piles: Darks, lights, delicates, and dry-clean-only.
  • Bag each pile of clothes in a plastic garbage bag. Seal the bag with a knot to prevent bed bugs from escaping.
  • Take the clothes out of the bags and put them directly into a high-heat commercial dryer, such as one in a laundromat. Run each type of clothes on the highest heat setting that is safe for the clothes. High heat kills bed bugs and bed bug eggs.
  • Move the clothes from the dryer to the washing machine. Wash your clothes with the hottest recommended water setting. This will wash dead bed bugs off your clothes.
  • Return your clothes to the dryer and repeat the dry cycle. This will get your clothes ready to wear and kill any stubborn bed bugs.
  • Do not wash dry-clean-only clothes. Instead, run them through a high-heat dryer cycle. Then, take them to a dry cleaner for professional cleaning.

This seven-step process will kill bed bugs in your clothes fast. However, it’s essential that you combine these efforts with an extermination plan in your home. If you haven’t killed the bed bugs in your home, they may become re-infested when you hang them up in your closet.

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