Bed bugs are among the toughest pests to deal with for homeowners. Although they don’t spread any diseases to humans or pets, these insects are hard to live with. They bite at night while we sleep and can be embarrassing when you have guests over.
What’s worse is that your house doesn’t even need to be filthy to invite a bed bug invasion. A single pregnant female hitch-hiking on your pants leg could lead to a full-blown infestation within a few short months.
These critters can live for a few months without having a blood meal so leaving your home temporarily in the hope that they will starve to death is not an option.
Handling a bed bug problem yourself can be difficult. If you’re looking for a professional for help, we recommend these top exterminators:
Heat Treatment for Exterminating Bed Bugs
Heat treatment is a common method that pest control professionals use to eliminate bed bugs. If applied correctly, steam can kill bed bugs in all stages of development.
Bed bugs cannot survive at temperatures above 119 °F while the eggs die at temperatures above 125°F. You will need to maintain this temperature for at least 20 minutes, preferably for up to 3 hours.
For a steam treatment to be effective, you will need to hit a surface temperature of between 160°F and 180°F on the area you are treating so an infrared thermometer will come in handy.
The high temperature should exterminate the bed bugs and their eggs on contact so there is no need to maintain the temperature for a long time once you hit it.
A good steamer will treat bed bugs up to ¾-inches inside the fabric’s surface and up to 8-inches deep in gaps and crevices. If you’re steaming your clothes to kill bed bugs, then your steam won’t have to travel very far so the output distance won’t be as important.
How to Choose a Steamer for Bed Bugs
It’s important to note that there are not necessarily steamers specifically designed to exterminate bed bugs. A home-use steamer that meets the criterion we have outlined below should work fine for small to medium-size bed bug infestations, which is excellent because you can continue using the product for other purposes as well.
Probably the most important consideration for a steamer for treating bed bugs is its ability to produce hot steam. You need a steamer with an output of at least 200° F to hit the minimum surface temperature required to eliminate the bed bugs.
Some of the heat will be lost while steaming so your steamer must have a higher heat output than the target temperature needed to kill bed bugs.
You want to be able to treat bed bugs inside fabrics and in crevices so high steam pressure will ensure that the heat reaches the pests where they are hiding. Bed bugs rarely stay on the surface so you will need all the pressure you can get.
The steam pressure also affects how hot and dry the steam gets. Go for at least 40 PSI, preferably 60 PSI.
Heat-treating bed bugs is hard work and you don’t want to have to refill your steamer any more than you need to. A steamer with a large water capacity will give you more continuous steam time and reduce the number of breaks you have to take to refill your unit.
A knob for adjusting the steam pressure on your steamer will come in handy when you find bed bugs on open surfaces. The high steam pressure you use to reach inside crevices will most likely blow the bed bug away rather than killing it on contact.
Adjusting the steam pressure will also allow you to get deeper into fabrics and crevices.
Once again, heat-treating bed bugs is not an easy or desirable job. The sooner you can get it over with the better. The typical steamer requires up to 15 minutes to boil water before it can produce steam. Shortening this time frame means you can get through your task quicker.
Steamers with higher wattage, direct injection and/or multiple heating elements tend to be quicker in this regard.
You want a versatile steamer that you can use on different floor types and fabrics. More attachments typically mean you can treat more areas effectively.
5 Best Bed Bug Steamers
1. Vapamore MR-100 Primo Steam Cleaning System
If you’re looking for one steamer to buy for life, the Vapamore MR-100 is it. It comes with a Lifetime Limited Warranty for parts and labor on the boiler, heating element, and all internal electronics. The last thing you want to do is spend the money on a nice steamer only to have the manufacturer not stand behind it which isn’t the case with Vapamore.
The MR-100 has a 1.5 liter tank which means about a 60-minute run time. The hose is 6 feet long which means less adjusting the tank around as you’re steaming the room for bed bugs.
This steamer has an adjustable pressure control that can get up to 51 PSI, which means it’s going to be strong enough to penetrate all fabrics and any depth of cracks you need to eradicate a bed bug infestation. This is one of the most important elements of a steamer as bed bugs will try to hide from the heat. With 51 PSI, the bed bugs won’t be successful!
It comes with 21 different attachments and accessories which makes it extremely versatile for both killing bed bug infestations and steam cleaning anything you may need. This includes –
- Steam gun and hose
- Detail adaptor
- Jet nozzle tool
- Detail Scraper Tool
- Nylon grout brush
- Nylon medium duty brush
- Large nylon brush
- Brass metal brush
- Fabric tool cotton cover
- Microfiber floor pad
- Floor cleaning head
- Triangle floor brush
- Carpet slider
- 2 x Extension Tubes
- Clothes/Fabric tool
- Smooth surface squeegee
- Measuring cup
- Fill funnel
- Accessory storage bag
- Replacement O-ring set
- Water level dipstick
2. Vapamore MR-75 Hand Held
Sticking with Vapamore due to their high quality and best warranty available, if you’re looking for something that’s cheaper but still effective, they offer a handheld steamer in the MR-75.
This unit heats up in about 4 minutes and can shoot steam up to 43.5 PSI, which is still stronger than many larger units from other manufacturers. The tank capacity is smaller, about 200 ml and the power cord is shorter at 10 feet, so you may need an extension cord compared to the MR-100.
Since one bed bug can restart an infestation you thought was under control, I highly recommend sticking with Vapamore due to their powerful steam streams. I will talk about some other options below, though in case these don’t strike your fancy for whatever reason.
3. Steamfast SF-370WH
The Steamfast SF-370WH Multi-Purpose Steam Cleaner is one of the more affordable heavy-duty steamers on the market that will help you achieve the same results as a commercial unit when heat-treating bed bugs.
This unit has an output of more than 200°F which should help you reach the surface temperature range you need to exterminate bed bugs. Furthermore, the steam cleaner comes with a 45-ounce water tank that gives you up to 45 minutes of continuous steam. A steam locking switch allows you to steam continuously without getting tired of holding down the trigger.
It is always desirable that you don’t stand around waiting for the water to boil before you are ready to steam. The unit takes a short 8 minutes to get ready for your bed bug heat-treatment. Additionally, an extra-long 15.4 foot power cord ensures that you can use the steamer freely around the house.
4. PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner
The PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner is yet another heavy-duty piece of equipment that compares favorably to the Durapy, and is a little cheaper.
The 1500 watt equipment boils water and is ready to release steam in 8 minutes. The 1.5-liter capacity gives you up to 45 minutes of steam so you don’t have to stop every so often to fill up. The steam heats up to about 212°F which is perfect for exterminating bed bugs.
This model comes with an extra-long power cord so you don’t have to worry about lugging an extension with you all over the house, while the unit itself is compact and lightweight which is a rare combination for heavy-duty steamers. The model also sports a continuous steam feature.
You get 18 different accessories with this steamer which makes it a good investment for doing more than just exterminating bed bugs.
5. Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner Heavy Duty
If you are looking for a powerful steam cleaner to get rid of bed bugs, you can hardly do better than the Heavy-Duty Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner.
This superheated steamer gives you up to 275°F of steam which is perfect for reaching those high temperatures that you need to kill bed bugs on contact. The unit has a large 1.6-liter tank that provides up to 50 minutes of continuous steaming time so you don’t have to fill up the tank multiple times to get the job done.
Dupray Heavy-Duty Neat Steam Cleaner heats up in just 7 minutes to save you time and works on all surfaces where you might have bed bugs. You also get a steam lock feature which is useful for continuous steaming so you don’t have to strain your finger by having it constantly pressing down on the trigger.
You can use this unit for ceramic tiles, kitchen appliances, wooden floors, bathrooms, mattresses, furniture, car interior, and virtually anywhere else you suspect you might have bed bugs.
6. McCulloch Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner
With a combined 9-foot steam hose and 43 psi steam pressure, the McCulloch Heavy Duty Steam Cleaner has enough reach and steam power to get inside those hard to reach areas, cracks, and crevices.
The large 48 oz water tank will give you up to 45 minutes of continuous steam which you will appreciate when heat-treating large spaces. You get 18 accessories for all kinds of cleaning so the unit will have plenty of use even after the bed bugs are gone for good.
You can get up to 250°F heat which is more than enough for heat-treating bed bugs in a variety of places including carpets, furniture, and upholstery. The steam lock ensures that you can keep steaming without having your finger constantly on the trigger.
This is overall a great heavy-duty steam cleaner that will do the job well and give you the upper hand in your fight against bed bugs.
7. PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner
If you think that our list has been dominated by heavy-duty steam cleaners thus far, it is for good reason. These steam cleaners are the most effective at heat-treating bed bugs and are as close as you are going to get to the commercial steamers that pest control professionals use.
With that said, the PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner is a good alternative for budget shoppers dealing with a small bed bug infestation. We might even argue that it works just as well as a heavy-duty steamer…only much, much slower.
This little steamer heats up quickly in just 3-4 minutes and is lightweight so you can take it with you as a travel companion if you are skittish about sleeping in motels and Airbnb’s. The portable device also runs hotter than most comparable handheld steam cleaners with a steam temperature of up to 289.4°F.
This steam cleaner may be too small for your carpets and for doing large sweeps of your home but it’s a great travel companion and offers terrific value for money.
Step-by-Step: How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs with a Steamer
Heat-treating bed bugs with steam is a great way to get rid of the nasty pests and is best used with complementary extermination methods or as preparation for when the pest control professional arrives.
1. Do a Thorough Bed Bug Inspection
It helps a great deal if you know exactly what you will be treating beforehand. Do a full inspection of the house, paying attention to where bed bugs like to hide including inside mattress stitching, in the box spring, and on pillows, cushions, and sheets. Also, inspect all your furniture and carpeting since bed bugs have a tendency to spread quickly especially in the case of a large infestation.
2. Clean the House Thoroughly
Clean the house thoroughly to minimize bed bug hiding places. Clear out the clutter and vacuum your mattresses, furniture, and carpets to get rid of dirt and debris. You may also get lucky and suck up a good number of these pests.
You may also want to consider treating your car for bed bugs while you’re at it.
3. Attach the Steamer Nozzle
The best nozzle to use for steaming bed bugs is the triangular nozzle that comes with the steamer. This nozzle gets close to the surface and heats it sufficiently while also covering a wide surface area to make your job quicker.
Use a microfiber cloth with your triangular attachment if you have one. The microfiber cloth helps to direct the steam to the precise area you are steaming.
4. Start Steaming
Once the steamer has heated up and is ready to go, point the nozzle into a container and start the steamer to get rid of any water. Now you can start steaming.
Work slowly to make sure that the surface has enough time to heat up and that the steam penetrates into the fabric or crevice. Use your infrared thermometer to ensure that you reach the optimum temperature before moving on to the next section.
Alternatively, maintain a slow pace of roughly 12 inches per 30 seconds to make sure you get the bed bugs. The steam cleaner should be on low or medium pressure to avoid blowing the pests away.
Follow the steamer’s instructions on how to relieve pressure and cool the steamer once you are finished.
5. Dry the Treated Areas
Allow the treated furniture and fabrics to dry out or use a fan to speed up the process. Consider wrapping your treated box spring and furniture in thick plastic for at least two weeks to ensure that any surviving pests are killed.
At the very least, consider installing a bed bug mattress encasement to protect the treated mattress from infestation until the bed bug problem has been solved permanently. .
Repeat the process after one week if you can still see bed bugs.
Professional Pest Control
An effective alternative to DIY bed bug treatments is hiring an exterminator to treat your home. Use our tool below to find local pest control professionals in your area who can help:
Steam-treating Bed Bugs
Keep in mind that only the bed bugs that have come into contact with the steam will die. Avoid using a pin point nozzle since this attachment can blow away the bed bugs rather than killing them.
Use protective clothing and eye protection. Stream cleaners get very hot and can cause severe burns on exposed skin. Most of all keep the equipment well away from small children and pets, especially when in use to avoid potential accidents.
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