As someone who has spent years battling these relentless pests, I can tell you that bed bugs are a formidable foe. Their ability to conceal themselves and evade detection makes them a true challenge for even the most seasoned professionals. Vacuuming alone, while a necessary step, is often an exercise in futility regarding complete eradication.

This is why so many homeowners turn to the power of steam. These pesky critters have a glaring vulnerability – temperature extremes. They simply cannot withstand the intense heat generated by steam, nor the bitter cold of freezing temperatures. But the question remains: can steam cleaning alone vanquish a full-blown bed bug infestation?

Stick with me as I delve into the efficacy of steam treatment as a pest control strategy. I’ll share my hard-won insights from the frontlines of this ongoing battle, arming you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision in your quest for a bed bug-free sanctuary.

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How Does Steam Affect Bed Bugs?

Continued exposure to a temperature around 120 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bed bugs in a matter of 15–20 minutes.

Steam cleaners, on the other hand, can shoot steam with temperatures reaching up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In this condition, bed bugs, nymphs, and their eggs can die almost instantly.

As mentioned in our other articles, bed bugs require three things to survive: carbon dioxide, blood, and warmth. These bugs prefer a habitat with a temperature within 70–90 degrees Fahrenheit.

It is within such a temperature range that bed bugs can fully develop into reproducing adults much faster. However, as temperature increases, the survivability of bed bugs decreases significantly.

Did You Know

Being dirty and having a cluttered bedroom aren’t really the main reasons why you have a bed bug infestation. These insects are attracted to carbon dioxide, warmth, and blood.

Does Steam Repel Bed Bugs?

Steam cleaning is effective in killing bed bugs, including their eggs. However, the effects are temporary and bed bugs can still repopulate inside your property, especially if you are not so keen on reaching the insect’s hiding spots.

Apart from vacuum cleaners, steam cleaners have become increasingly popular among a lot of homeowners in the United States. This special cleaning equipment is basically used to clean and sanitize various surfaces inside your house.

With the use of a steam cleaner, it is a whole lot easier to remove stains as well as spot clean your carpets and curtains. This method is also much better because surfaces dry faster compared to the typical washing with a detergent and water.

You can go for essential oils such as lavender, peppermint, tea tree, lemongrass, and eucalyptus if you are looking for a reliable bed bug repellent.

Read More: Click here to learn more about lemongrass.

The following video will give you tips on how to do steam cleaning properly to get rid of bed bugs.

Does Steam Actually Kill Bed Bugs?

As discussed earlier, steam cleaners are effective in cleaning bed bugs. Depending on your preferred temperature setting, bed bugs and their eggs are killed in a matter of minutes.

Steam cleaners are most effective in removing bed bugs on the surface. On thick fabrics such as carpets and bedding, the steam of the cleaner can still be as effective up to 3/4 of an inch from the surface.

Read More: 5 Best Bed Bug Vacuums & Steamers.

There are many options available to you for home use, such as a Vapamore Mr-100 Primo that will blast an infested area with a surface temperature high enough to take care of your bed bug problem.

But if you don’t want to invest in a quality steamer, professional exterminators can help you with your pest management by using a heavy-duty bed bug steamer.

If you do decide to handle it on your own, make sure to steam clean near baseboards, on upholstery, and around your box springs, headboards, and bed frames, as these areas are some of their favorite hiding places. Don’t ignore drapes either, and make sure to clean a mattress cover using high heat.

Tips For Killing Bed Bugs With Steam

While steam is an effective tool for killing bed bugs on contact, there are some tips to maximize its effectiveness:

  • Move slowly when steaming and allow the steam time to penetrate cracks, crevices, and material folds where bed bugs may be hiding. Quick passes are less effective.
  • Focus on steaming bed frames, headboards, box springs, baseboards, dresser drawers, upholstered furniture, curtains, and anywhere else bed bugs may be harboring. Pay special attention to seams, tufts, and buttons.
  • Use a dry steam vapor unit that produces steam hotter than 200°F at the nozzle. Lower temperatures may not kill bed bug eggs effectively.
  • After steaming, thoroughly vacuum up any dead bed bugs to remove them from the environment.
  • Steaming alone is usually not enough for a major infestation. Combine it with other treatment methods like heat treatment, mattress encasements, insecticides, and monitoring devices for best results.
  • Consider having a professional pest control company steam with commercial equipment, which can achieve higher temperatures and greater penetration than residential steamers.

Proper steam application takes diligence, but when integrated into your bed bug control efforts, it can be a powerful tool to remove these pests from your home.

What Else Should You Consider Besides Steam For Bed Bugs?

Steam cleaning can be applied to supplement vacuum cleaning as a means of eliminating bed bugs. There are certain types of vacuum cleaners that are specially designed for bed bug control.

When using your vacuum cleaner for bed bug control, set the equipment at the highest suction power. Use a crevice tool to effectively go through hard to reach corners and holes.

If you are using a bagless vacuum cleaner, empty the dirt cup into a sealed bag and dispose of it immediately. Vacuum cleaning doesn’t have to be done very often. But in cases of serious bed bug infestation, it helps to suck up those nasty critters at least once a day until you they are totally eradicated.

Made of crumbled fossil deposits of aquatic organisms known as diatoms, DA or diatomaceous earth is a popular non-chemical alternative in controlling bed bug infestation.

What’s good about using diatomaceous earth is that it doesn’t pose any level of risk to the health of humans and common home pets. It can dehydrate bed bugs by absorbing the moisture from the said insect’s skin. Furthermore, the grains of DA are abrasive that can scratch and inflict wounds as bed bugs pass through it.

Read More: Click here to learn more about diatomaceous earth.

This solution is applicable for those who are too tired to initiate a comprehensive bed bug control measure. This technique will require just a few minutes of your time.

Turn your hair dryer on and run through areas where you see some bed bugs clustering together. At the highest setting, a hair dryer can blast heated air of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you’ll have to hold it or hover the nozzle on top of the target area at least for a few minutes to deliver a sure kill.

Using a stiff brush, dislodge bed bugs (adults, nymphs, and eggs) from your mattress. Don’t forget to run through the seams.

Lastly, wrap your bed posts with double-sided tape to prevent bed bugs taking refuge from nearby furniture to climb up to you while you’re sleeping.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with bed bugs is an uphill battle that requires a multi-pronged approach. While steam cleaning alone is unlikely to completely eradicate a full-blown infestation, it can be a powerful tool when incorporated into your overall bed bug control strategy.

The intense heat generated by steam is one of the most effective methods for killing bed bugs on contact, including their heat-resistant eggs. When used properly, steam can reach into cracks, crevices, and material folds where these pests love to hide.

However, steaming should be combined with other proven techniques like vacuuming, heat treatments, mattress encasements, insecticides, and vigilant monitoring. A comprehensive bed bug control plan tackles the infestation from multiple angles for the highest chance of success.

For minor infestations, diligent do-it-yourselfers may be able to eliminate bed bugs using steam in conjunction with other methods. But for severe cases, the expertise and professional-grade equipment of an experienced pest control company is highly recommended to win the war against these tenacious pests.

Ultimately, killing bed bugs requires perseverance, attention to detail, and an integrated approach. When used strategically, the power of steam can be a valuable weapon in your arsenal to reclaim your home from these unwanted intruders.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take steam to kill bed bugs?

Direct steam exposure at high temperatures over 200°F will kill bed bug adults almost instantly, within seconds. For bed bug eggs, it typically takes around 10–15 minutes of constant steam exposure to achieve 100% mortality.

Will a handheld steamer kill bed bugs?

Yes, a handheld steamer can kill bed bugs if it produces steam temperatures over 200°F at the nozzle. However, for bed bug treatment, the steamer needs to make direct contact with the bed bugs for several seconds for it to be effective. Handhelds may not penetrate as deeply into cracks and crevices as professional steamers.

What temperature of steam is required to effectively kill bed bugs and their eggs?

For a complete kill of both bed bug adults and their eggs, steam needs to reach temperatures of around 212°F, or higher. Some sources recommend steaming at 235°F to make sure of penetration. The higher the temperature, the quicker bed bugs and eggs will be killed. Prolonged exposure above 120°F will eventually kill them as well, but takes longer.

Today’s Homeowner Tips
Steam cleaning is effective in killing bed bugs including their eggs. However, the effects are temporary and bed bugs can still repopulate inside your property especially if you are not so keen on reaching the insect’s hiding spots.

If you’re looking for professional pest control help, use the tool below to get estimates from local professionals:

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Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Coty Perry.
Editorial Contributors
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Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management.

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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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