Does Steam Kill Bed Bugs? – How to Use It Effectively! 

Updated on by Jared Belson | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

Bed bugs are enough to make anyone’s skin crawl! These bothersome pests are notoriously difficult to kill. They are also experts at hiding. Is steam an effective way to get rid of bed bugs for good?

How Does Steam Affect Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are very particular about their preferred temperature. They thrive between 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter or colder than that, and their reproduction starts to drop. Extreme temperatures will kill them.

It’s not actually the steam that kills the bed bugs. It’s the heat. Steam is just an effective way to deliver the heat.

Steam and Bed Bug Eggs

The problem with many bed bug traps and poisons is that they do not actually kill bed bug eggs. Most steamers can reach a temperature of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This will immediately kill bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs will need to be exposed to temperatures of 160 degrees for around 90 minutes.

Steam and Adult Bed Bugs

Adult bed bugs succumb to warm temperatures much quicker than their eggs. They may die within 15-20 minutes if exposed to a temperature as low as 110 degrees Fahrenheit, though a temperature range of 160-180 is more highly recommended.

How Do I Know If I Have Bed Bugs?

Bed bug bites are extremely itchy! Bed bugs are active at night, so if you wake up with very itchy bites in the morning, take a closer look at your bed. These pests are great at hiding, so check closely.

What to Look For

Look for bed bug casings or shells. They shed their skins regularly. Bed bug eggs look like small, white dots. On the other hand, bed bug feces look like small, dark brown dots. Often, there will be small dots of blood on bedding where the bugs have bitten their victims. Of course, if you spot a live bed bug, that’s a sure sign that there are more!

Where to Look

Start with your mattress. Check along all the seams, nooks, and crannies. Don’t forget to flip it and check the underside! Look along baseboards, in cracks, and vents. Shake out any loose blankets or clothing.

What Temperature Do I Need to Kill Bed Bugs?

Steam needs to be at least 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit to successfully kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs. A steamer will push the heat ¾ inch into fabric or carpet. For best results, expose adult bed bugs to steam for 15-20 minutes. For bed bug eggs, 90 minutes of heat is recommended.

What Are the Risks of Using Steam to Kill Bed Bugs?

Steam may be perfect for killing bed bugs, but it can also be risky for people!

  • Always read and understand all of the instructions before operating a steamer.
  • Follow the instructions carefully.
  • Remember that the steam will be hot, and may cause burns. Never allow children to operate a steamer.
  • Always direct the steam away from people.
  • Remember that the steam is under pressure. Use caution when handling and refilling the steamer.

If steam burns occur, run cool water over the burn immediately. If you have concerns about a burn, contact a medical professional.

What’s the Best Steamer to Use on Bed Bugs?

A clothing steamer will not be large or powerful enough to kill bed bugs. You’ll need to either rent or purchase a steam cleaner. There are several important features to look for:

Nozzles

A variety of attachments will allow you to steam every possible bed bug hiding place.

Temperature Capability

Since heat is the bed bug’s worst enemy, you’ll want plenty of it! Remember, you need to expose the bed bugs to temperatures of at least 160-180 degrees.

Water Capacity

The larger the tank, the longer you can steam before you have to stop and refill the water tank.

A steam cleaner can be a bit pricey, but it will cost less than calling an exterminator! Based on the above criteria, I recommend either the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner or the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner.

How Do I Use Steam to Kill Bed Bugs?

You have your steam cleaner and are ready to kill some bed bugs! What’s next?

Make a Plan

Locate all areas of bed bug infestation in your home. It may be helpful to mark spots with tape. Remember, bed bugs are expert hiders. You’ll want to direct steam into every possible hiding place.

Attach a Nozzle

Most steam cleaners come with a variety of nozzles. The triangular nozzle is usually best for most areas with bed bugs. The floor nozzle may work better for large areas. But you will need to move it slowly so that it disperses the steam in a wider arc.

Do not use a pinpoint nozzle on a flat surface. You’ll just blow the bed bugs to a different area!

Apply Steam

Always carefully follow your cleaner’s instructions when applying steam. Hold the nozzle 1-2 inches from the surface of the material, and move slowly downward. Repeat in strips over the entire surface area.

If you have an infrared thermometer, like this one, use it to check the surface temperature as you steam. If the temperature is too low, move the nozzle slower.

If it is too high, move faster. Extremely high temperatures may damage furniture and fabric, but if the temperature is too low, it won’t kill the bed bugs. It’s all about balance!

Check for Moisture

The surface will be damp, but shouldn’t be too wet. If you think there is too much moisture, adjust the steam level on your steamer.

Release the Pressure

Follow the instructions on how to release the pressure in your steamer. Make sure it is completely depressurized and cooled off before storage.

Dry Off

A fan can be helpful to dry furniture, fabric, and carpet. You wouldn’t want to trade a bed bug problem for a mold problem!

Repeat!

A few bed bugs or eggs may escape one round of steam cleaning. Repeat this entire process 2-3 times, or until all signs of bed bugs are gone.

Final Thoughts

The heat from a steam cleaner is an extremely effective way to kill off bed bugs! Invest in a quality steamer, follow the instructions carefully, and repeat the process. Your home should be bed bug-free in no time!

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