How Long Do Bed Bugs Live on Clothes?

Article originally written by Cameo Jenkins and taken from abc


Bed bugs and dryer sheets aren’t two things we normally hear together. But with endless lists of household hacks flooding our inboxes and social media feeds, could they be connected in some way? The short answer is that although dryer sheets are on a list of home remedies to combat bed bugs, unfortunately, many of these tactics are ineffective in controlling this very persistent pest.

Despite our insistence that our home could never have bed bugs, these pesky critters do sometimes find their way in. And when they do, many of us are left to wonder how we can efficiently extinguish these bugs. You might wonder if bed bugs could survive a round in the washing machine. Are there products and methods that can kill both bed bugs and their eggs? If bed bugs are living in my home, what are the chances they are hiding in the folds of my clothes?

Let’s separate fact from fiction to answer some of the most common questions about these pesky pests.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live on Clothes?

Bed bugs are capable of living up to two to three months without a blood meal. In colder temperatures, however, these pests can survive up to a year without food, since they are cold-blooded and their metabolism can slow down. Under normal circumstances, bed bugs feed once every five to ten days.

Bed bugs are most active about an hour before dawn, although they can feed anytime, if they are hungry. Once a bed bug feeds, which usually takes about five minutes, it will retreat back to its hiding spot. Because bed bugs don’t like heat, they won’t stay on your body like ticks or lice might.

Since our body heat is too warm for bed bugs and we move too much, these creatures are unlikely to hitch a ride on you or your clothing. These pests are more likely to make their way into your home on a backpack, briefcase, purse, suitcase, mattress or a used piece of furniture. In some cases, we can bring in bed bugs on clothing, so if you are concerned about an infestation, you can always launder items with hot water or dry them with high heat before bringing them into your bedroom.

Can Bed Bugs Survive in The Washing Machine?

Technically, bed bugs can live through a cycle in the washing machine. The truth is that while washing your clothes or linens will kill most of the bed bugs, the heat of drying your items is what will ultimately exterminate any and all remaining bugs. As we mentioned above, bed bugs do not tolerate heat.

Even if a bed bug can survive the spin cycle, machine washing your clothes and linens—and any other machine washable item—is the first step you’ll want to take if you suspect you have these pests in your home. Furthermore, it’s also a strong preventative measure you can take to keep them out in the first place. There are, however, a few specific steps to consider when washing items to rid your home of bed bugs. Let’s explore the specifics of each.

Can Bed Bugs Survive in Water?

Bed bugs can, in fact, survive in water. It simply depends on the duration they’ve been in or under the water, and if they were floating. When washing your clothes it is assumed that bed bugs are drowning, as they are likely under the water for about an hour. That’s why washing your clothes kills most bed bugs living on your clothes and linens. If a bed bug is floating, meaning it has access to air, it can most certainly survive.

In one study, researchers soaked bed bug-infested clothes for 24 hours in cold water without detergent. Although the bed bug eggs survived, all the nymphs and adults were killed.

It’s important to consider that bed bugs that are able to float are typically those who have not had a meal, as they are very light and their bodies can lay flat. While a bed bug can float, its survival is dependant on the temperature of the water. In other words, bed bugs have a much higher chance of survival if they are floating on cold water. In most cases, bed bugs won’t survive much time in water, especially if it’s hot.

What Kills Bed Bugs and Their Eggs?

If you’re facing a bed bug infestation, you need to act quickly to control the problem. While there are many at home remedies you can try, be sure to do your research to know which do-it-yourself treatment will actually work and which ones will waste your time—and your money. Let’s start with a few of these remedies that simply don’t work.


Contrary to what many people believe, placing dryer sheets on furniture or in your closets to repel bed bugs simply doesn’t work. The same can be said for plant oil-based repellents containing pyrethroids or plant oil. Based on research conducted at Rutgers University, no data shows that either method will prevent a bed bug infestation.


Rutgers University conducted another study to show whether mothballs could be used to control or repel bed bugs. The study indicates that after one week, less than 50% of bed bug adults had died as a result of the use of mothballs. The mothballs had no effect the bed bug eggs.

Similar studies tested rubbing alcohol and common house cleaning products. Like mothballs, spraying rubbing alcohol directly on potentially infested areas only killed, at maximum, half of the bed bugs. Furthermore, due to the fact that it is highly flammable, rubbing alcohol should be avoided and not used to prevent or control bed bugs. Bed bugs had an even higher survival rate when tested against house cleaning materials. Researchers from Rutgers University tested a number of disinfectants, and in all cases, bed bugs survived direct spray treatment.


Many people use foggers to control indoor pests, but according to a study done by Ohio State University, they do nothing to control or prevent bed bugs. More importantly, using multiple foggers can put you at risk of other problems, including a house fire.

Now that we’ve discussed methods that don’t work and debunked a few myths along the way, let’s explore some ways homeowners can address an infestation.


Washing and drying your clothes and linens in hot water is an effective way to prevent and kill bed bugs and their eggs. It’s also important to wash and dry any other washable fabrics in your home, including items like couch covers.


While you’re treating your home for bed bugs, one of the more effective ways to keep bed bugs out of materials that have already been washed is to store clothes and linens in plastic containers or tightly sealed in a heavy-duty plastic bag.


As we’ve mentioned, bug bugs do not like heat. So introducing high temperatures can be an effective way to prevent and kill bed bugs. If you want to try the DIY approach, you can steam areas bed bug might hide, including on your sofas, mattresses, bed frames and carpeted areas, too. Keep in mind that extreme heat can potentially damage delicate fabrics.

If bed bugs in your home, vacuuming can eliminate live and dead bugs and their shed skins. Vacuum cracks, seams, zippers, bed trims, upholstered furniture and anywhere you think bed bugs could potentially be hiding.

Bed Bug 911 Is The Answer To Your Bed Bug Problems

Because bed bugs are so difficult to handle using a DIY approach and many common home remedies don’t work, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring a professional to increase your chances of successfully addressing your infestation. Our bed bug extermination process consists of three steps - Cleaning (Prep), Treatment (extermination) and Prevention (planning). This is the most comprehensive and effective treatment for bed bugs NYC.

Check Hygea Natural Pest Control for Do it yourself.


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