Bed Bug Steaming: Does It Work? Is It Efficient?

One way to get rid of bed bugs is to use a steamer. Steamers can deliver a lethal dose of heat to the areas where bed bugs are lurking. But does steaming work?

In this post, we’ll look at steam as a method of bed bug treatment. We’ll try to determine just how effective and efficient it really is. Read on to find out more.

Bed Bugs: An Overview

Bed bugs are flat little insects that can find their way into all kinds of tiny cracks and crevices. It doesn’t matter if these are in your mattress, furniture, clothes, or luggage. When you’re exposed to areas already infested with bed bugs, you’ll usually bring them home with you (in your clothes or luggage) without knowing it.
While not as big of a problem as they were 50+ years ago due to improvements in public health and standards of living, bed bugs can still cause major damage if not caught early. In fact, in recent years, they’ve been experiencing a resurgence. This seems to be due to the increase in international trade and travel worldwide. Since bed bugs like the heat, tourists often bring bed bugs back home from tropical locations in their luggage.

Where to Find Bed Bugs

Some of you might not have had much experience with these pesky little critters while others will have had far too much. It’s hard to forget the little pests that have infested and destroyed your favorite mattresses, pillows, furniture, upholstery, and so on.

No one is safe from bed bugs. They can appear in more or less any house, apartment, hostel, dormitory, or hotel room. You can also find them in public places like hospitals, public transport, schools, offices, laundromats, and more. Any location with furniture or upholstery is a possible target for bed bugs.

You’re most likely to find them in your bed and bedding (including quilts and pillows) or hiding in the surrounding furniture (such as dressers and nightstands). They also love couches and chairs. They can even be found lurking in the carpets, on the walls, on the ceiling, and in your clothes.

Old, dirty, or poorly maintained furniture and bedding is more likely to contain bed bugs. Signs of their presence include itchy red bites on your skin and black spots on the furniture (which is actually their feces).

Treating Bed Bugs With Steam

Due to their size, shape, and nearly transparent coloring, bed bugs are really hard to detect without help. This makes it very difficult to eradicate them on your own.

So, why not use heat to get rid of them? Bed bugs may like warm weather, but like any living creature, they have their limits. When applied correctly, steam is actually a highly effective means of killing bed bugs. This is true at every stage of their development, including their eggs.

The quality of the bed bug steamer you use is extremely important. It’s best to use a commercial steamer with a capacity of at least one gallon (3.78 L) and steam volume control. Don’t use the steamer that you’d use to steam your clothes and don’t use a carpet cleaner. These simply won’t reach high enough temperatures to kill bed bugs. The surface temperature where you apply the steam treatment should be at least 160–180°F (71–82°C).

Steam treatments work by delivering a lethal dose of heat to the areas where bed bugs could be hiding. (We talked about those areas in the previous section.) Steamers, in particular, are very effective at eliminating bed bugs hiding on the surface of furniture, clothing, and bedding. They can also take care of the critters hiding in cracks and crevices.

When you use a steamer to kill bed bugs, it’s important to follow the directions specified by the manufacturer. Some other precautions to follow include attaching a nozzle to your steam brush or wand. A steamer will often come with its own selection of nozzles. Using one gives you better reach, enabling you to access the hard-to-reach corners, cracks, and crevices where bed bugs might be hiding.

Bed Bug Steaming: Tips and Tricks

Steam ALL surfaces where bed bugs could potentially be hiding

Don’t only treat those areas where youve already found concrete evidence of their existence. As we said, bed bugs are tricky and great at hiding. You don’t want to leave any survivors.

Use an infrared thermometer to keep track of the surface temperature as you go

To get the best results, the treated areas should be from 160–180°F (71–82°C) just after steaming. Anything below that won’t be hot enough to kill the bugs. Temperatures above this range risk damaging your furniture and upholstery. In order to get the right temperature, you may just have to move the steam wand more slowly across the surface. Along the same lines, if the temperature is too high, try moving the wand across the surface a bit more quickly.

Ensure that the fabric and the surfaces you’re steaming don’t get too wet

While they can be damp, water will also reduce the surface temperature. So, if the surface you’re steaming is getting too wet, try decreasing the amount of steam released by the steamer using the appropriate dial or switch.

You may have to go over all surfaces 2+ times to get rid of all bugs

Steam cleaners will only kill the bed bugs that actually come in contact with the steam. Those that remain buried well below the surface will survive but will have to emerge at some point, though. That’s why if you go over the area with a steamer several times, you’ll be more likely to eventually catch them.

After Steaming

After using your steamer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cooling the steamer down and relieving the pressure.

Use a fan in the affected area to increase air circulation, which, in turn, will help the items that have been steamed dry more quickly.

Commercial Steam Cleaners

Commercial steam cleaners can be pretty expensive, ranging from $800–1200. It’s probably not worth the investment if you’re dealing with a one-off infestation. If you live in a housing cooperative or a shared housing arrangement, you should see if the group will buy a steam cleaner, allowing each member to use it when required. If needed, you may also be able to rent a bed bug steamer.

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