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How to Handle Bed Bug Infestation Laundry

Before the Bed Bugs Bite


How to Handle Bed Bug Infestation Laundry

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Bed bugs were seldom heard about in the United States until recently. With the availability of international travel, bed bugs have taken advantage of a free return trip to the U.S. via luggage and clothing. Within About.com you can numerous articles about bed bugs - how to recognize them, their bite and how to get rid of them from your home. We are going to focus on linens and clothes.

Basic Recommendation

Every professional is going to tell you to first vacuum every crack and crevice in your home to get rid of the bugs. Then wash everything in hot water and dry on high heat. High temperatures (120 degrees F. or above) will kill all stages - nymph to adult - of bed bugs. This is the ideal solution for bed bug removal from bed linens and some garments. But what if you have items that should not be washed in hot water or dried on high heat?

Alternative Treatments

The Sun and a Plastic Bag

If you have items that should not be washed in hot water, the sun can do the work for you. Place infested items loosely in a large, sealable plastic bag. Place the bag in direct sunlight and leave for several hours. The temperature in the bag must reach 120 degrees F. It is suggested that a thermometer be used to insure that temperature is reached.

If you feel secure that the bag is tightly sealed, it can be placed in an automobile parked in the sun to help it reach temperature more quickly.

These tips are particularly useful if you have been traveling and are unsure about taking your luggage into your home.

Clothes Dryer

Items that are labeled dry-clean only should be placed in a clothes dryer on medium high (160 degrees F.) for 10 to 15 minutes. This length of time should not be harmful to silk, wool, cotton, linen, rayon, nylon or polyester blends. When the cycle is finished, carefully bag the dryer's lint trap and take it outside to empty.

If you take clothing that is infested or you suspect is infested to a dry cleaner, be sure to tell them. If you don't you may spread the bugs to others.

Warm Water Soak

For really delicate items, allow them to soak in warm water with plenty of laundry detergent for several hours and then wash as usual to remove the bed bugs.

Freezer Time

Bed bugs can not live if subjected to temperatures below 32 degrees F. for several days. Infested items can be bagged and frozen. The downside is that most home freezers fluctuate in temperature and often rise to 40 degrees F. during defrost cycles. However, if you have access to a freezer or weather with constant temperatures, this will do the trick.

Whatever method you use, be diligent. Bed bugs are stubborn insects and you may need to take precautions for several months to be sure that you have gotten rid of every single one.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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