Getting Bed Bugs Out of Your Stuff

- How to "de-bug" your personal items -

Summary: If you are unlucky and discover that you've spent time in a room infested with bed bugs, what should you do to clean or "de-bug" your personal items that can't be washed? Use the suggestions below to stop an infestation before it ever starts.

Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers

Bed bugs are expert at hitching a ride from place to place on our personal belongings like suitcases, backpacks, pillows, electronic devices, and just about anything brought into an infested room and placed near the bed. In fact, since bed bugs lack wings and are not equipped to walk very far they depend on us to move them around (see How To Identify Bed Bug Infestations). So, what should you do if you discover that you have stayed over night in a room infested with bed bugs so you don't carry the little vermin home with you?

picture of bed bug larva (4th

Bed bug (4th instar larva, unfed) - about 1/5". After feeding bed bugs become less flattened, more rounded.

Wash in hot water and heat dry

Place belonging in plastic garbage bags before heading for home. When you get home normal washing in warm/hot water and heat drying is sufficient to "de-bug" anything that can be washed in water. Most insects, including bed bugs, will be killed by temperatures in excess of about 140 degrees F. Dry cleaning is another more expensive option. What about things that can't be exposed to hot water, hot dryer air, or dry cleaning chemicals?

Freezing is the next best option

Place small items that can withstand freezing temperatures in sealed plastic bags and place them in an ordinary home freezer for a couple of days. This will kill all stages of bed bugs. Larger items like suitcases can be thoroughly cleaned and treated as you would a room (see below) then placed in storage away from where people sleep.

How to control an infestation

When moving furniture into a new place for example it is sometimes best to just treat the whole house as you normally would. Bed bugs are not difficult to control if the infestation is caught early. Rooms and mattresses can be cleaned and a residual insecticide can be used to safely get rid of any bed bugs that were missed during cleaning (see How to Treat Rooms For Bed Bugs). There's no need to discard bedding, mattresses or bedroom furniture that can be cleaned.

Supplies: Professional-level pest control supplies are generally not available in home and garden stores but can be found at DoMyOwn.
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