Does Dry Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs? How Long Does it Take?

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

Most of us have had some clothes which were stained to a point that only dry cleaning could clean them. But, what about those having a critical bed bug infestation in their bedrooms?

What if these bugs are using your clothes as a shelter and a place to hide? Can dry cleaning help kill these bugs? Most importantly, is dry cleaning alone an effective solution for a nasty infestation?

In short, yes, dry killing is indeed capable of killing bed bugs in your clothes. It does so within just 20-30 minutes using the combination of heat (which can easily reach around 140–145 °F) and the special chemical solvents like PCE which are used for dry cleaning.

Stick around to know how to determine the seriousness of a bed bug infestation, and how exactly dry cleaning works to kill the group of bugs that have taken refuge in your bedsheets, mattresses, and clothes.

Bed Bugs Infestation – How Serious Is It?

Bedbugs multiply themselves quickly. Just one bug caught in your baggage or clothes is enough for these nasty creatures to grow rapidly and find shelter in your home. It’s hard to spot these bugs crawling over your bed linens and mattresses, but their presence can be felt at night.

They feed on human blood to survive and keep growing. Not only do they bite you, but they can destroy your clothes and make it super difficult to get a good night’s sleep.

However, the good news is you don’t have to throw the bug-infested clothes away anymore. Besides, disposing of your entire wardrobe isn’t the ultimate solution. It is possible to treat the bed bug outbreak without having to get rid of your favorite clothes and bedsheets.

I have had bed bugs in my clothes, and believe it or not, I managed to get them all killed with laundry washing. But you must also know that putting the infested clothes in a washing machine alone will not suffice.

Bed bugs cannot survive at a high temperature for long. So, to kill these bugs, you must wash and treat your clothes at the highest possible temperature the fabric can handle. Washing and drying are two effective ways to expose the bed bugs to extreme temperatures and kill them.

Killing Bed Bugs with Dry Cleaning

Anyone can spot the difference between the clothes washed with regular laundry detergent and special chemical solvents used for dry cleaning. Some fabrics can only be washed with dry cleaning; the same is the case for the clothes with stubborn and oil stains.

In dry cleaning, your garment is treated with a strong chemical solvent that can remove all types of stains and spots easily without causing any damage to the fabric.

Dry Cleaning does not kill bed bugs just by exposing them to a high temperature. It is rather the combination of heat and the chemical solvent in the dry cleaning that kills bed bugs.

There is no specific solvent used for dry cleaning the garments, it depends on the type of fabric you want to treat. It takes around 20-30 minutes to get rid of bed bugs with dry cleaning.

Chemical Solvents for Clothes Infested with Bed Bugs

The most popular detergent, and the one that I personally prefer, is PCE (Perchloroethylene), which is specifically used for stubborn oil stains. This chemical solvent might not be a toxic substance for us, but it is potent enough to kill all kinds of bugs in one wash.

And, while that seems to be an ideal option for clothes infested with bed bugs, you must also note that PCE can cause color bleeding. That is one of the reasons why most drycleaning stores use Hydrocarbons and other mild and less potent chemical solvents.

Dry cleaning does harm bed bugs, but whether it kills all the bugs inside your clothes depends on the chemical solvent used.

Hydrocarbons are strong enough to remove stains and other dirty spots from your fabric, but they are not designed to kill bugs. It may be a good option for normal clothes.

However, if you have clothes infested with a large number of bed bugs, you must consider treating them with Perchloroethylene.

Can Dry Cleaning Chemical Solvents Repel Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, even the most powerful chemical solvent used for dry cleaning is not effective in repelling bed bugs. They can kill the bugs on your clothes, but there is a chance your garments can catch bugs again if they are stored in an infested place. That’s because the solvents do not offer a lingering effect.

And keeping that in mind, you must not dry clean your garments with PCE often. It can cause significant damage to the fiber, especially if you are exposing delicate clothes to this chemical. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that frequent dry cleaning can shorten the cloth’s lifespan.

Dry Cleaning Alternatives

I have tried quite a few effective alternatives to dry cleaning, and thankfully, they all worked. I put my bug-infested clothes into the dryer and set the temperature to the highest. Since bed bugs can’t tolerate a high temperature, this little trick will kill hundreds of bugs at once.

Never get your clothes dry cleaned just to kill bugs. The unused garments with no serious stains can just be dried or exposed to a high temperature for killing bed bugs (at least around 113°F – 118 °F).

If your mattress or bed linen is infested with bugs, then vacuum cleaning combined with steam cleaning can do the trick. I’ve personally tried this McCulloch steam cleaner for this purpose and it was quite effective.

The suction power of a vacuum is strong enough to kill bed bugs. Use a vacuum (such as this one from LivePure) with steam cleaning to kill the bugs that survived the suction.

Storing Tips

Dry cleaning alone is not enough to eliminate bed bugs. You can store your clothes in a plastic bag to keep them from getting infested with bugs. Don’t rely on cardboard boxes for storing your wardrobe as they give a convenient shelter and a hiding spot to the bugs.

You can also try storing your clothes in the freezer as bugs cannot tolerate low temperatures either. But that isn’t a practical option, after all, you can’t toss all your clothes in a small freezer compartment. Besides, you are going to have to keep your clothes in the freezer for 4-5 days or at least until the temperature reaches zero degree Celsius.


These horrible little bugs are so good at hiding that you will not even know they have built their shelters in your home for weeks.

Dry cleaning is a powerful solution to any bed bug outbreak. It has shown to kill bugs in clothes and bedsheets within 20 minutes. However, it offers better results when combined with vacuuming, drying, and other bug-killing techniques.

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