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Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

Have you ever wondered if washing clothes kills bed bugs? There is a lot of conflicting information out there about this, and it can be hard to know the truth.

I’m going to let you know, does washing clothes kill bed bugs, and let you know some tips on getting rid of your unwanted bed bug friends for good…

Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

Why Is It so Difficult to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are difficult to get rid of because they have evolved many ways to avoid being killed.

Dealing with a bed bug infestation means facing a tough survivor that has adapted for thousands of years.

These pests are tiny and flat, so they can go into small spaces that regular treatments can’t reach.

Plus, they can survive for months without feeding, biding their time until conditions are right to resurface.

bed bugs on clothing before going in a washing machine

Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

Regularly washing your clothes can indeed kill bed bugs if the water temperature and cycle duration are appropriately set to eliminate these persistent pests.

When you’re dealing with a bed bug infestation, simply tossing your clothes into the laundry mightn’t be enough. You’ve got to turn up the heat, quite literally.

To ensure that you’re effectively getting rid of bed bugs when washing clothes or bedding, follow these steps:

  • High Heat is Key: Washing clothes in hot water (at least 140°F) effectively kills bed bugs at all life stages, including eggs.
  • Dry on High Heat: Using a dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes after washing can further ensure you kill all bed bugs.
  • Seal Before and After: Place infested clothes in a sealed plastic bag before washing. This will help to prevent spreading; seal clean clothes after drying.
  • Inspect Laundry Baskets: Check and clean laundry baskets or hampers. As bed bugs can hide there and re-infest clean clothes.
  • Don’t Overload: Ensure the washing machine isn’t overloaded. To allow thorough heat penetration and effective killing of bed bugs.
  • Non-Washable Items: For items that can’t be washed, using a dryer on high heat for 30 minutes can still be effective.
  • Dry Clean with Caution: Inform the dry cleaners if you suspect bed bugs in non-washable items to prevent spread.
  • Regular Laundering: Regularly washing and drying clothes can help prevent and control minor bed bug infestations.

bed bugs on clothing before going in a washing machine

Role of Water Temperature For Killing Bed Bugs

You’ll find that water temperature plays a pivotal role in exterminating bed bugs during the laundry process.

Bed bugs can survive in the washing machine if the conditions aren’t lethal enough. 

Research shows that bed bugs can be killed by exposing them to temperatures of 118 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

Yet, cranking up the heat to about 122 degrees guarantees a quicker demise, typically within minutes.

When you’re prepping your laundry, set your machine to the highest possible temperature that your fabrics can handle.

Always check garment labels to avoid damage. Hot water is your best ally in this battle against bed bugs.

The high water temperature kills the live bugs and destroys their eggs, which are even harder to eradicate.

Simply throwing your clothes into the washing machine without adjusting the settings may not be enough.

If the water temperature doesn’t reach the kill zone, bed bugs may endure the wash cycle.

To make sure you’re not giving these pests a free ride through the suds, select the ‘hot’ water option.

After washing, drying your clothes on the highest heat setting that’s safe for the fabric will add an extra level of security. As the prolonged exposure to heat in the dryer will take out any stragglers.

woman putting bed bug infested clothing inside a washing machine

Can A Dryer Kill Bed Bugs?

Efficiency is key when you’re tackling a bed bug infestation. Using a dryer can significantly enhance your chances of eliminating these pests.

When you use a dryer to kill bed bugs, you’re harnessing the power of high temperatures, which is an effective method in your pest control arsenal.

Bed bugs are notoriously hardy when it comes to surviving in various environments, but they have a weakness: heat.

A dryer can generate enough heat to effectively kill the bugs and their eggs. Ensuring that your clothes and other fabric items are no longer harboring these unwanted guests.

  • Heat Cycle: Run your dryer on the highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes. Bed bugs die at temperatures above 120°F (49°C). Dryers usually reach higher temperatures.

  • Dryer Bags: For delicate items, use special dryer-safe bags. These will protect your clothing while still exposing the bed bugs to lethal temperatures.

  • Post-Wash Routine: Immediately transfer your washed items from the washing machine to the dryer. This will prevent any bed bugs from escaping.

  • Empty Dryer: Ensure your dryer is empty before use to avoid giving bed bugs a place to hide from the heat.

  • Regular Maintenance: Clean the lint trap before and after running the dryer. This will help to kill bed bugs, as they can sometimes take refuge in the accumulated lint.

bed bugs crawling on top of a clothing garment

Detergents and Bed Bugs

Your dryer helps fight bed bugs, but detergents are also important for washing and getting rid of bed bugs.

Regular detergents aren’t made to kill bugs, but they can help with pest control.

The mechanical action of the washing machine, combined with the detergents, helps to remove and wash away bed bugs and their eggs from fabric.

How Can I Prevent Bed Bugs From Infesting My Clothing in the First Place?

To avoid bed bugs in your clothes while traveling, store them in sealed bags or containers.

Inspect and vacuum your living spaces, and if you suspect exposure, immediately wash and dry your clothes on high heat.

Don’t forget to declutter your home to reduce hiding spots for these pests.

woman standing in a laundromat waiting for her clothes to be washed to kill bed bugs

How Should I Handle Clothing that I Cannot Wash or Expose to High Temperatures?

When dealing with clothes that can’t be washed or heated, you should seal them in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer for at least 4 days.

Cold temperatures below 0°F (-18°C) will kill any bed bugs. Afterward, you can take them out and shake them off outside, to make sure no dead bugs remain.

It’s a safe alternative when traditional laundering isn’t an option.

Can Bed Bugs Survive in the Washing Machine or Dryer After a Cycle Is Complete?

Bed bugs are resilient pests, but bed bugs can’t survive extreme heat and other environmental stresses.

Bed bugs can get into clothes in the washing machine, but they can’t survive the cycle.

The temperatures reached during a wash and dry cycle are enough to kill any bed bugs that may have been living inside the machine.

It’s recommended to use hot water (at least 120 ºF) with regular laundry cycles if there is a risk of bed bugs.

To get rid of bugs in your clothes, wash them in hot water and dry them completely.


Can washing clothes kill bed bugs? Yes. Regularly washing your clothes with hot water and long cycles can help eradicate these pesky pests from fabric surfaces.

When combined with drying items on high heat for at least 30 minutes, the extermination process is more thorough.

To increase your chance of success, take extra precautions against resilient bed bugs. Freeze delicate items or seal washed items in airtight containers.