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Can Bed Bugs Live In Your Clothes?

Have you ever felt like you’re constantly being followed by something, no matter where you go? It might feel like it’s impossible to escape, and that’s because, it could be bed bugs.

But, can bed bugs live in your clothes? Or do they stick to just your bedding and soft furnishings in your home? Keep reading to find out!

Can Bed Bugs Live In Your Clothes?

What Are The Behavior Habits Of Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are persistent insects that rely on feeding on your blood, usually while you are asleep.

As nymphs (immature bed bugs) or adults, their primary goal is to secure a blood meal, which is essential for their development and reproduction.

These parasitic insects tend to be reddish-brown in color and will often hide near their feeding areas—the places where you rest, such as bed framesmattresses, and other furniture.

Activity Patterns

  • Nocturnal: Bed bugs are mostly active at night, which allows them to feed undetected.
  • Hiding: During the day, they conceal themselves in tiny crevices near sleeping areas.

Spread and Movement

  • Hitchhikers: They can spread to new locations by latching onto clothes, luggage, or furniture.
  • Public Transportation: They’ve been known to travel via shared transit, contributing to their spread to places like hotelsapartments, and homes.

Infestation Indicators

  • Visual Detection: Small blood stains or dark spots on bedding may signal their presence.
  • Physical Evidence: Shed skins and fecal spots around sleep areas often reveal infestations.

Lifespan & Feeding

  • Survival without Food: These pests can survive for months without a meal under favorable conditions.
  • Development: Blood meals are key for moving from one life stage to the next, including to maturation and egg production.

bed bug infestation looking for human hosts to feed on

Signs To Look Out For A Bed Bug Infestation

When you suspect a bed bug infestation in your home, your first step is an informed inspection to confirm their presence.

Bed bugs are small, reddish-brown insects that can often turn a peaceful night’s sleep into an irritating ordeal. Here is what you need to pay attention to:

  • Bites: One of the most telling signs of an infestation is the appearance of bite marks on your skin, particularly on the face, neck, arms, or hands. The bites are often itchy and can become swollen.
  • Bloodstains: After feeding, bed bugs can leave behind small blood spots on your linens or bedding. Check your bedsheets, pillowcases, and pajamas for these telltale signs.
  • Dark Spots: Look for dark or rusty-colored fecal spots on your mattress, clothing, walls, or carpet. These spots may be excrement left by bed bugs.
  • Eggs and Exoskeletons: Bed bugs shed their skins—or exoskeletons—several times as they grow, leaving behind a clear, shell-like residue. You might also find tiny, pale bed bug eggs in the seams of your mattress or box springs.
  • Odor: A heavy infestation might produce a musty-sweet smell due to the bed bugs’ scent glands.
  • Unusual Sightings: While bed bugs are adept at hiding, you might catch one traversing your bedding or clothing, especially if the infestation is significant.

a rack of secondhand clothing in a thrift shop infested with bed bugs

How Do You Get Bed Bugs On Your Clothes?

Bed bugs are notorious for their ability to hitchhike on various items, and your clothes can be one of their primary modes of travel.

When you stay in a hotel, there’s a chance that bed bugs may crawl onto your luggage and clothing.

These pests are opportunistic and will readily migrate from infested mattresses or furniture to your belongings.

In the confines of your suitcase or backpack, bed bugs find dark, secure places to hide during travel. If a bed bug infests your luggage, it can easily transfer to your clothes.

Similarly, placing your coat or jacket on a bed, chair, or sofa in an infested area can lead to them clinging onto the fabric.

Public transportation, like buses or taxis, can also be areas where you might pick up bed bugs.

If these vehicles have had bed bugs introduced to them by previous passengers, your clothes might become a new home for these pests, especially if you rest your purse or clothing against the fabric of a bus seat or car seat.

When staying in different accommodations or using shared transportation, there are specific measures you can take to reduce the risk of transferring bed bugs to your clothes:

  • Always inspect hotel room beds, furniture, and headboards for signs of bed bugs.
  • Hang your clothing and store luggage on luggage racks rather than on the floor or bed.
  • Use protective covers for your suitcase to deter bed bugs.
  • Keep used clothing separate from clean ones, preferably in sealed plastic bags.

How To Stop Bed Bugs From Clinging To Your Shoes

One way these pests can easily enter your home is by clinging onto your shoes. To prevent this from happening, there are several steps you can take.

First, inspect any clothing or items before bringing them into your home, especially if they have been in a public place or hotel room.

If you suspect bed bugs, immediately wash and dry the item on high heat to kill any potential bugs or eggs.

When traveling or staying in a hotel, keep your luggage off the floor and away from the bed to reduce the risk of picking up bed bugs.

Another preventative measure is to regularly vacuum and declutter your home, as bed bugs like to hide in cracks and crevices.

a thrift shop filled with racks of secondhand clothing

Can Bed Bugs Live In Your Clothes?

Bed bugs are adept at finding hiding spots close to their feeding areas, which often include beds and furniture.

These minuscule pests may stow away in various personal items, predominantly your clothes.

While they do not nest like other insects, they are known for their stealthy behavior and can inhabit your wardrobes and laundry piles.

Fabrics offer bed bugs many creases and folds, which serve as convenient hiding places.

Your clothes, particularly when left in dark, undisturbed areas like a closet or a laundry basket, can become temporary shelters for these pests.

Tackling Bed Bug Presence:

  • Laundry: Utilizing high-temperature wash and dry cycles is effective in eradicating bed bugs in infested clothing.
  • Furniture: Consistently check the seams and crevices of furniture for signs of bed bugs to keep your clothes protected when you are not wearing them.
Prevention Tips Description
Store clothes properly Seal frequently worn clothes in airtight containers.
Regular cleaning Vacuum your space regularly to remove any wandering bed bugs.
Inspect second-hand purchases Thoroughly examine any pre-owned fabric items for bed bugs.

Remember: bed bugs are unlikely to reside in the clothes you are currently wearing due to the frequent movement and absence of a dark, quiet environment. 

bed bugs hiding on secondhand clothing from a thrift shop

Do Bed Bugs Lay Eggs On Your Clothing?

Bed bugs have a notorious reputation for infesting living spaces and causing discomfort. Understanding their reproduction habits is crucial to effective pest control.

While bed bugs prefer to lay eggs in secluded, dark areas, the possibility of them using your clothing isn’t entirely off the table, particularly in the absence of preferable conditions.

Eggs: Each bed bug can lay numerous eggs (referred to as “nymphs“), which are tiny and difficult to see.

They’re often deposited in cracks or crevices close to their feeding area, which could be where you store your clothing.

  • Laundry: When doing laundry, ensure you fold and store clothes promptly. Bed bugs are less likely to lay eggs on clothes that are not left lying around, especially if the laundry has been done at high temperatures, which can kill bed bugs.
  • Fabric: Soft and foldable materials provide potential hiding spots for bed bugs. They can deposit eggs on clothes made of such fabric if they’re in constant close proximity to the bed or other infested furniture.

To minimize the risk:

  1. Inspect and vacuum suitcases or laundry baskets where fabric items are gathered.
  2. Maintain cleanliness and reduce clutter in your living and storage spaces to disrupt any potential egg-laying cycles.
  3. Consider encasing clothes in protective bags if you live in an area prone to bed bug infestations.

woman washing and drying her clothes after a bed bug infestation

Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

When dealing with bed bugs, effectively laundering your clothes is an essential step. Bed bugs are vulnerable to high temperatures, and using your washing machine and dryer can be a formidable defense against these pests.

The process involves both washing and drying with high heat to ensure that bed bugs at all life stages, including eggs, are eradicated.

Start by sorting your laundry as you would normally do, keeping in mind that bed bugs could be present on any fabric.

When you’re ready to wash, set your washing machine to the highest temperature setting that your clothes can handle.

Use your regular laundry detergent; there’s no need for a special kind. The hot water combined with the detergent will help to dislodge and kill the bed bugs.

Washing Step Instruction
Pre-treat Use enzyme-based fabric stain removers or hydrogen peroxide for heavily soiled areas.
Temperature Wash on the highest heat setting safe for fabrics.
Detergent Opt for the regular laundry soap you would use.

After washing, transfer your laundry to the dryer. Just as with washing, the key here is heat.

Dry your clothes on the highest heat setting that the fabric can tolerate. It is generally agreed that temperatures above 120°F (49°C) for a sustained period are effective at killing bed bugs.

Drying Step Instruction
Heat Set the dryer to the highest permissible temperature.
Duration Run a full dry cycle to ensure all bed bugs are eliminated.

In cases where items cannot withstand high heat, you have alternatives like sealing the items in a plastic bag and placing them in the freezer for at least four days, as extreme cold can also kill bed bugs.

looking for bed bugs on your clothing before wearing them

Can Your Tumble Dryer Get Rid Of Bed Bugs?

Utilizing your tumble dryer to eradicate bed bugs from your clothes is a practical and effective method. Bed bugs are notoriously intolerant to extreme temperatures.

When you’re exposing them to a sufficient level of heat, you can kill these pests at all life stages – from eggs to adults.

The Key Temperature: Studies have identified that bed bugs can’t withstand temperatures above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Most domestic dryers can easily reach and maintain this heat level, making them a useful tool in your pest control arsenal.

Here’s how to use your dryer to its fullest potential in the fight against bed bugs:

  1. Preparation: Before drying, wash your clothes and fabrics in hot water where possible. This helps by both removing and killing some of the bed bugs.
  2. Drying Process: Set your dryer to the highest heat setting that your fabrics can safely tolerate, typically for around 30 minutes. This exposure to high heat is critical to ensure the elimination of the bed bugs.
  3. Post-Drying: After drying, immediately place your clothes in a clean, sealed bag to prevent re-infestation.
  4. Limitations: It’s important to note that while heat is formidable, some fabric items cannot be put in a dryer. For such items, consider alternate methods such as steam cleaning or consulting with a professional dry cleaner.
  5. Preventative Measures: Regularly using your dryer for clothes, especially after travel or exposure to new environments, can serve as a preventive measure against bed bugs.

What Does Bed Bugs Shedding Look Like?

Bed bugs can quickly become a nuisance if they infest your home. And, unfortunately, your clothes are one of the items that they’re likely to latch onto and hide inside.

It’s possible for bed bugs to live in, or lay eggs on, your clothes. To minimize this risk, regularly inspect your furniture and luggage for signs of bed bugs before use.

If you’re traveling or staying in accommodations where an infestation is suspected, immediately put used clothing into sealed bags to reduce the risk of spreading them to other locations. 

Washing and tumble drying your clothes at high temperatures will effectively eradicate bed bugs from fabrics and ensure that their populations do not grow within your home.