Can Washing Machines Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bug infestations are a persistent concern for homeowners, renters, and hotel guests alike. These tiny, blood-sucking pests have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability over the years, making their eradication a challenging task. One common question that arises is whether washing machines can effectively kill bed bugs from clothing, linens, and other fabrics.

Washing machines can effectively eliminate bed bugs from clothes. High heat and detergent during a hot water wash can eradicate them. However, a comprehensive approach is essential, including dryer use and thorough cleaning to ensure complete eradication.

In this article, we’re going to explore bed bug survival skills in the washing machine, see if washing can truly be a bug buster, and even uncover the secrets of those sneaky critters hiding in your clothes!

Can Bed Bugs Survive a Washing Machine?

One might wonder whether bed bugs can survive the turbulent environment inside a washing machine. The answer depends on several factors, including water temperature, detergent use, and agitation.

Let’s explore these factors further:

Water Temperature:

Bed bugs are vulnerable to high temperatures. Washing your clothes with hot water can be an effective way to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

Bed Bug Survival Rates at Different Water Temperatures

Water TemperatureBed Bug Survival Rate
Cold (below 68°F)High
Warm (86-104°F)Moderate
Hot (above 122°F)Low

Detergent Use:

  • Using laundry detergent is essential as it helps break down the protective outer layer of bed bugs, making them more susceptible to heat and water.
  • Choose a detergent with enzymes and surfactants for maximum effectiveness.


  • The washing machine’s agitation process can physically dislodge bed bugs from fabrics, aiding in their removal.
  • Opt for a longer washing cycle with adequate agitation to improve bed bug elimination.

Can You Kill Bed Bugs by Washing Them in the Washing Machine?

Washing clothes, linens, and other fabric items in a washing machine can be an effective method to kill bed bugs. However, it is crucial to follow specific steps to maximize the chances of successful bed bug eradication. Let’s go through a step-by-step guide:

  • Step 1: Sorting Infested Items: Separate infested items from non-infested ones to prevent spreading the bed bugs to unaffected fabrics.
  • Step 2: Pre-Treatment: Pre-treat heavily infested items with a bed bug spray or bed bug laundry additive before washing. This step can enhance the effectiveness of the washing process.
  • Step 3: Set Water Temperature: Set the washing machine to the highest possible water temperature allowed for the fabrics being washed (preferably above 122°F).
  • Step 4: Add Detergent: Add the appropriate amount of laundry detergent to the washing machine following the product instructions.
  • Step 5: Load the Washing Machine: Place the infested items into the washing machine, making sure not to overload it for optimal agitation.
  • Step 6: Wash and Agitate: Start the washing cycle and allow the machine to agitate for an extended period to ensure thorough treatment.
  • Step 7: Dry Promptly: After washing, transfer the items directly to the dryer. Avoid leaving damp clothes lying around, as it may promote mildew growth.

Can Bed Bugs Survive the Dryer?

The dryer can be a powerful tool for eliminating bed bugs. High heat effectively kills bed bugs and their eggs. Follow these steps for effective bed bug elimination in the dryer:

  • Step 1: Set the Dryer to High Heat: Set the dryer to the highest heat setting suitable for the fabrics being dried.
  • Step 2: Load the Dryer: Transfer the washed items directly from the washing machine to the dryer. Avoid handling the infested items between machines.
  • Step 3: Dry Thoroughly: Run the dryer for at least 30 minutes at high heat to ensure that all bed bugs and their eggs are killed.
  • Step 4: Check Labels: Pay attention to fabric care labels; some delicate items may not withstand high heat and could be damaged.

Table 2: Bed Bug Survival Rates in the Dryer

Dryer TemperatureBed Bug Survival Rate
Low (90-110°F)High
Medium (110-130°F)Moderate
High (above 130°F)Low

Do I Have to Wash All My Clothes If I Have Bed Bugs?

In the event of a bed bug infestation, it is not always necessary to wash all your clothes. Follow these steps to determine which items should be washed:

  • Step 1: Assess the Infestation: Conduct a thorough inspection of your clothes to identify signs of bed bugs.
  • Step 2: Prioritize Infested Items: Focus on washing clothes that show clear signs of bed bug activity, such as live bugs, shed skins, or fecal stains.
  • Step 3: Seal and Isolate Non-Washable Items: For items that cannot be washed, such as dry-clean-only clothes, seal them in plastic bags and isolate them for a few weeks to starve any potential bed bugs.
  • Step 4: Vacuum and Steam: For items that cannot be washed or isolated, use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove bed bugs and eggs from the fabric’s surface. Steam cleaning can also be effective.

Does Vinegar in Laundry Kill Bed Bugs?

Vinegar has been touted as a natural remedy for bed bug eradication. While it may have some effect on bed bugs, it is not a standalone solution. Vinegar’s acetic acid can act as a mild disinfectant, but its effectiveness against bed bugs is limited.

Pros and Cons of Using Vinegar in Bed Bug Treatment

Non-toxic and naturalLimited effectiveness
InexpensiveNot a guaranteed kill
May discourage bed bugs from certain areasDoes not kill bed bug eggs

How to Tell If Bedbugs Are in Your Clothes

Early detection of bed bugs in clothes can help prevent a full-blown infestation. Follow these steps to identify signs of bed bugs in clothing:

  • Step 1: Inspect Seams and Folds: Check seams, folds, and creases of clothes for live bed bugs, shed skins, or dark spots (fecal stains).
  • Step 2: Use a Flashlight: Use a flashlight to spot tiny bed bugs, especially in darker fabrics.
  • Step 3: Check Fabrics Thoroughly: Thoroughly inspect all fabric items, including clothing, beddings, and linens.
  • Step 4: Look for Eggs: Look for tiny, pearly white eggs (approximately 1mm in size) that bed bugs lay in clusters.
  • Step 5: Monitor Bites: Monitor your body for bed bug bites, especially if you suspect an infestation.

How Do I Clean My Washing Machine After Bed Bugs?

After dealing with a bed bug infestation, it’s essential to clean your washing machine to prevent any remaining bed bugs from re-infesting your clothes. Follow these steps for proper washing machine maintenance:

  • Step 1: Empty the Machine: Remove all clothes, linens, and any other items from the washing machine.
  • Step 2: Wipe Down the Interior: Use a damp cloth with warm soapy water to wipe down the interior surfaces of the washing machine.
  • Step 3: Check Crevices and Seams: Pay attention to crevices, seams, and rubber gaskets where bed bugs might hide.
  • Step 4: Run an Empty Hot Wash Cycle: Run an empty wash cycle with hot water and detergent to clean the interior thoroughly.
  • Step 5: Check the Filter: Remove and clean the washing machine’s filter, as it may trap debris and potential bed bug remnants.
  • Step 6: Clean the Dispenser Drawer: Remove the detergent dispenser drawer and clean it thoroughly.
  • Step 7: Dry the Washing Machine: Leave the washing machine door open to allow it to air dry completely.

Does Hot Water Kill Bed Bugs on Clothes?

Hot water is a powerful tool for killing bed bugs and their eggs. It disrupts their cellular membranes and denatures proteins, ultimately leading to their demise. Follow these guidelines for using hot water effectively:

  • Step 1: Set the Water Temperature: Set the water temperature to at least 122°F (50°C) or higher to ensure effective bed bug elimination.
  • Step 2: Check Fabric Labels: Check fabric care labels before washing, as some fabrics may not tolerate high temperatures.
  • Step 3: Wash in Batches: Wash infested clothes in smaller batches to ensure the water temperature remains high throughout the cycle.

Recommended Hot Water Temperature for Bed Bug Elimination

Water TemperatureBed Bug Elimination Efficiency
122°F (50°C)High
140°F (60°C)Very High
160°F (71°C)Exceptional

If I Have Bed Bugs, Do I Need to Wash All My Clothes?

During a bed bug infestation, it is not necessary to wash all your clothes, especially if they are not showing signs of infestation. Here’s how to handle your clothes during an infestation:

  • Step 1: Inspect All Clothes: Conduct a thorough inspection of all your clothes for signs of bed bugs.
  • Step 2: Prioritize Washing: Prioritize washing clothes that show clear signs of infestation, such as live bed bugs, fecal stains, or eggs.
  • Step 3: Separate and Isolate: Separate and isolate infested clothes from the non-infested ones to prevent the spread of bed bugs.
  • Step 4: Non-Washable Items: For non-washable items, such as shoes and delicate fabrics, consider vacuuming, steam cleaning, or professional treatment.

Bed Bugs Washing Machine Temperature

Choosing the right water temperature is crucial to the effectiveness of the washing process. Here’s a guide on the recommended water temperatures for bed bug eradication:

Recommended Water Temperatures for Washing Clothes During Bed Bug Infestations

Water TemperatureBed Bug Eradication Efficiency
122°F (50°C)High
140°F (60°C)Very High
160°F (71°C)Exceptional

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live on Clothes?

Bed bugs can survive for varying durations on clothes, depending on environmental conditions. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Bed bugs can live for several weeks to months without a blood meal, but their survival is influenced by factors such as temperature, humidity, and the presence of alternative food sources.

Bed Bug Survival on Clothes in Different Conditions

ConditionsBed Bug Survival Time
Low temperatureUp to 6 months
Moderate temperatureUp to 4 months
High temperatureUp to 2 months
High humidityUp to 2 months

Can Bed Bugs Travel on Clothes You’re Wearing?

Bed bugs can hitchhike on clothes, especially when you are in an infested environment. Here are some preventive measures to avoid spreading bed bugs:

  • Step 1: Inspect Your Clothes: Before leaving an infested environment, carefully inspect your clothes for any signs of bed bugs.
  • Step 2: Change Clothes Outdoors: If possible, change clothes outside the infested area to prevent bed bugs from spreading to new locations.
  • Step 3: Use Sealed Bags: Store your clothes in sealed plastic bags if you suspect they may have come into contact with bed bugs.
  • Step 4: Laundry on High Heat: Immediately wash and dry any potentially infested clothes on high heat.


Washing machines can be an effective tool in the fight against bed bug infestations when used in conjunction with proper washing and drying methods. Utilizing high water temperatures, appropriate detergents, and thorough agitation can significantly enhance bed bug elimination from clothing and linens.

Additionally, the use of hot dryers can further ensure the eradication of these pests. However, it is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach to bed bug control, including regular inspections, vacuuming, steam cleaning, and professional treatments when necessary.

By implementing the strategies discussed in this article and taking proactive measures, homeowners and renters can increase their chances of successfully eliminating bed bugs and preventing future infestations.

Sifatul Shohan

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