Eliminating Bed Bugs: How Your Washing Machine Can Be Your Ally

Eliminating Bed Bugs: How Your Washing Machine Can Be Your Ally

Ever tossed and turned at night worrying about bed bugs? You’re not alone. These tiny pests can be a real nightmare, causing itchy bites and sleepless nights. But here’s a question that’s probably crossed your mind: can your washing machine be your knight in shining armor?

The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. It’s not just about tossing your infested linens into the washer and hitting the ‘start’ button. There’s a bit more to it. So, let’s dive in and explore whether your washing machine can indeed be a lethal weapon against those pesky bed bugs.

Key Takeaways

  • Bed bugs, tiny but resilient pests, can cause discomfort and distress but may potentially be eliminated using a washing machine, along with other comprehensive pest-control strategies.
  • Bed bugs, which can survive in extreme temperature ranges, react differently at various life stages when exposed to high heat. Bed bug eggs, especially, can resist hot conditions and may survive a wash cycle.
  • The effectiveness of a washing machine in eliminating bed bugs hinges on several factors like water temperature, cycle duration, and fabric type. A hot water cycle and extended drying period using the highest heat setting are recommended.
  • Washing machines are not a complete solution for a bed bug infestation. Their usage should be combined with professional pest control services, heat treatments, and use of insecticides.
  • When dealing with bed bug-infested items, follow certain measures such as containing the items in sealed plastic bags, considering the use of laundry additives, and maintaining a high heat setting for washing and drying cycles.

Your washing machine can be a vital tool in eliminating bed bugs by using high-heat cycles to kill these pests, as highlighted by EPA. It’s essential to use the correct settings and detergents to ensure effectiveness, which PestWorld outlines in their bed bug management advice.

Understanding Bed Bugs

Understanding Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are teeny, tiny creatures, but don’t let their size fool you. These pests can become a massive problem if they’ve settled into your home. Knowing more about them can help in your battle to banish them from your bed sheets.

Bed bugs are small, flat, reddish-brown insects about the size of an apple seed. These critters are extraordinarily resilient. They can survive for several months without feeding and thrive in a wide range of temperatures, from nearly freezing to almost 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that they’re not just a problem in dirty or cluttered homes. Bed bugs can infest even the cleanest spaces if they’ve hitched a ride on clothing, luggage, or second-hand furniture.

Nestled in the comfort of your mattress, box springs, headboard, or even your favorite recliner, these pests can bite you while you’re blissfully unaware. You won’t feel the bite when it happens, but you’ll certainly notice the itchy, red marks they leave behind. Unfortunately, these bugs are nocturnal, meaning they’re most active when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.

Using a washing machine to tackle the bed bug problem might seem like a good idea. But here’s the thing: not all stages of a bed bug’s life cycle respond to laundering in the same way. Eggs, for instance, are surprisingly resistant, and not all cleaners or detergents have the same effect. That’s why it’s essential to understand not just where bed bugs come from but how they live, grow, and most importantly, how they can be effectively exterminated. Stick around to learn more.

Can Washing Machines Kill Bed Bugs?

Your clothes hit the drum, the water starts to fill, and soon it’s a whirl of fabrics and suds. You may believe that your washing machine, with its hot temperatures and grueling cycles, could be the knight in shining armor against your bed bug problem. But is this truly the case?

Understanding bed bugs and their survival capabilities is the key to answering this. Bed bugs are known for their resilience and ability to withstand harsh conditions. So, before tossing everything into the washer, let’s delve further into this matter.

Bed bugs, at all stages of their life cycle, react differently when exposed to intense heat. Adult bed bugs, nymphs, and eggs all display varying degrees of resistance to high temperatures. While adult bugs and nymphs can succumb to such environments, the tricky part revolves around the eggs. Bed bug eggs, which are tucked away in nooks and crannies, are shielded from the heat and might just cling to your clothes even after a warm wash.

Additionally, water temperature in your washing machine plays a pivotal role as well. Can lukewarm cycles kill bed bugs? The answer is simple: Not likely. Bed bugs require a heat level of at least 118°F (48°C) to be effectively eliminated. Your regular wash might not reach this threshold. Hence, ensure that you’re washing and drying suits, linen, and other vulnerable items on the hottest cycle feasible.

Furthermore, there’s the question of the behavior of bed bugs during laundering. Unsurprisingly, it’s a fight or flight response. These crafty critters might just crawl away from your fabrics and infest other areas in your home.

Here’s a critical reminder: Your washing machine is not a guarantee against bed bugs. Instead, it’s a harbinger of a possible solution which needs to be coupled with a comprehensive pest control strategy. This strategy should include heat treatments, insecticides, and a rigorous cleaning regimen, aimed at destroying these elusive pests at every stage of their life cycle.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ll dive into detail about such measures later.

Factors to Consider

Exploring the effectiveness of a washing machine in killing bed bugs involves an assessment of multiple factors. It’s not simply about tossing your infested linens into the machine and hoping for the best.

A key element to consider is temperature. Both the water temperature during the wash cycle and the air temperature during the dry cycle can impact the ability of the machine to kill bed bugs. While adults and nymphs may not survive a hot wash or dry, bed bug eggs are a different story. They often hide in protective spots and can withstand intense heat, making them a tough adversary in your battle against pests.

A lukewarm washing cycle is unlikely to be effective in killing bed bugs despite your best efforts. Therefore, you should consider opting for the hottest settings on your machine.

In addition to the temperature, you also need to be mindful of the duration. Bed bugs, particularly their eggs, may not die instantly in hot conditions. Exposing them to a prolonged period of intense heat can increase the likelihood of successful extermination. Consequently, a prolonged drying cycle following a hot wash may just give that extra assurance.

It’s also worth factoring in the type of fabric you are washing. Thick materials like heavy blankets or quilts may provide a protective shield for bed bugs from the heat. In contrast, lighter textiles may enable the heat to penetrate more thoroughly thus enhancing its bug-killing powers.

Remember though, washing and drying your linens are only part of a multi-pronged approach necessary to eliminate bed bugs effectively. Combining laundry with heat treatments, insecticides, and thorough cleaning ensures that you tackle these pests at all life stages and increase your chances of reclaiming your space.

While a washing machine can help in this battle, it’s just one weapon in your arsenal and should not be relied upon as a sole solution.

Best Practices for Washing Bed Bug-Infested Items

Best Practices for Washing Bed Bug-Infested Items

The old saying, “An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure,” rings true when it comes to fighting bed bugs. So, what are the best practices to eliminate these pesky insects? Read on to learn about strategies that will help you combat bed bugs using your washing machine effectively.

Firstly, always check the temperature. Hot water cycles, hitting at least 120°F, are the best. This high temperature is capable of annihilating these creatures instantly. However, it isn’t just the wash cycle that contributes to their demise; the drying process plays an integral part too. Prolong the drying cycle at high heat for an hour to handle any leftover bugs or nymphs and to especially tackle those resilient eggs hiding in the nooks and crannies of your items.

Inevitable as it is, surface matters. Bed bugs and their eggs can potentially find refuge in thick folds and seams of your fabric items. It’s crucial to consider the type of items you’re cleaning. Thicker materials may need additional cycles or external treatments to ensure thorough elimination.

Thirdly, it’s vital to contain the infestation. Think about using sealed, plastic bags to transport the infested items and prevent any escapees. This step is particularly crucial to prevent the spread of these creatures throughout your home. After washing, dry the items and seal them in fresh bags until it’s time to use them.

Let’s consider laundry additives. Standard laundry detergent is usually sufficient for cleaning, but if you’re faced with a significant infestation, you may want to add laundry sanitizers or specially-formulated bed bug treatments to your wash. Just ensure they’re safe to use with your specific fabrics, to protect your items while eliminating those bugs.

Above all, keep in mind that washing and drying are part of a larger, more comprehensive bed bug control strategy. Pest control efforts should also include professional heat treatments, use of insecticides, and thorough cleaning. By combining these measures, you’ll stand a better chance of eradicating bed bugs from your home.


You’ve learned that your washing machine can indeed be a powerful ally in the war against bed bugs. Using hot water cycles of at least 120°F and prolonged drying times can effectively kill these pests. Remember, it’s not just about washing but also about a holistic approach to bed bug control. This includes professional heat treatments, insecticides, and thorough cleaning. It’s also essential to consider what you’re washing and how to contain the infestation effectively. So, while your washing machine won’t single-handedly exterminate an infestation, it’s a crucial part of your comprehensive bed bug eradication strategy. Keep these points in mind, and you’ll be well-equipped to tackle any bed bug problem that comes your way.

What temperature should the hot water be to eliminate bed bugs?

To effectively kill bed bugs, the washing machine should run a hot water cycle at a minimum temperature of 120°F.

How can extending the drying cycle help in this process?

Extending the drying cycle ensures that any surviving bugs, nymphs, and particularly resilient eggs are targeted and killed due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

Why is considering the type of items being cleaned important?

Certain items can be damaged in hot water or high-heat dryer cycles, so it’s essential to check care labels before washing and drying.

How can we contain the bed bug infestation during laundry?

The infestation can be contained by sealing infested items in plastic bags until they’re ready to be washed, which prevents bugs from spreading to other areas.

What kind of laundry additives are recommended?

Non-toxic laundry additives specifically designed for killing bed bugs are recommended. Always verify if the additives are safe for the fabric type of the infested items.

Is washing and drying sufficient for complete bed bug eradication?

While washing and drying can be effective in eliminating bed bugs from infested items, they should be part of a broader control strategy that includes professional heat treatment, insecticides, and thorough cleaning for comprehensive eradication.