Bed bug control often includes the use of high heat or very cold temperatures. If done correctly, these methods will result in complete elimination of bed bug adults, nymphs, and eggs, which is what is needed in order to stop an infestation. So what are the magic temperatures that kill bed bugs?
Research has shown that freezing infested items at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or heating them to 122 degrees Fahrenheit will do the job, but there are several other factors that must be considered, so let’s take a closer look.
Heat Treating Bed Bugs
There are a lot of different opinions and claims about what temperatures kill bed bugs, but researchers, RA Naylor and CJ Boase, at the University of Sheffield published an article about their research on this subject. They found that all stages of bed bugs were killed when exposed to temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but that high of temperature is not always needed. Heating items for a longer period of time can lower the kill point to around 122 degrees. So you can kill bed bugs with heat, as long as you have the proper equipment.
This is easiest to achieve if the items can be laundered. Naylor and Boase gave some guidelines to follow. Clothing and linens should be washed in hot water (140 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 30 minutes. They can also be put in a dryer on high heat (104-122 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. The length of time is important because it takes time for a large bundle of clothing to reach the correct temperature in the middle. They also found that dry cleaning also works to kill all stages of bed bugs.
If the infected items cannot be laundered, there are solar options. While many people believe that putting items outside in the sun for a few hours is enough, that usually is not true. It typically takes a higher heat than what can be achieved naturally.
However, sealing items in a clear plastic bag in the sun can get the temperature high enough to be lethal to the bugs. To make sure that the inside of the mass reaches the proper temperature, you can place a wireless thermometer in the center. Once the lethal temperature of 122 degrees is achieved, it is wise to leave it for an hour to ensure complete elimination.
Another option to kill bed bugs is to use a high heat steamer that is certified to kill bed bugs, they will have an output temperature of between 200-210 degrees. These are perfect for treating furniture, mattress, box spring and items that cannot be laundered.
Freezing Bed Bugs
Does cold kill bed bugs? You might be asking yourself that questions, and the answer is yes, cold does kill bed bugs, but at what temperature?
Another option to de-infest your things is to use cold temperatures to kill bed bugs. Freezing bed bugs takes longer, but if done properly, it will also work to destroy adults, nymphs, and eggs. Place items in a bag in a freezer that is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. At 0 degrees for 2 hours, the bed bugs cannot survive, but according to Naylor and Boase, it can take up to 8 hours to get a 5.5 lb batch of clothes to that temperature. Of course using severe cold temperatures to kill bed bugs is only an option for items that you can place in a freezer for the recommended period of time. Items such as shoes, clothing that will not be hard from the required temperature.
To ensure that all the bed bugs die, leave the items in the freezer for at least 10-12 hours if not longer.
For whole house contamination, there is the option of hiring professionals with special equipment to heat the home to the appropriate levels, but this can be costly and other options might be better. If the infestation has been contained, treating bed bugs with heat or cold, as well as using home pest control products can help solve the problem.
PF Harris has a wide range of bed bug products that are available for purchase. We are America’s oldest EPA registered pest control brand and have been helping our customers fight pests for nearly 100 years.
Not sure you have bed bugs, here is our guide to identify bed bugs.