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How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Your Clothing [For Good!]

Having a bed bug infestation is never easy to deal with. When you start finding bed bugs on your clothes though, things get to a new level of disturbing. It feels like a violation to potentially have blood-feasting bed bugs on you at all times, plus you run the risk of spreading them to other parts of your house or even your car.

Luckily, there are some effective ways you can combat bed bugs in your clothing. You still need to treat your bed bug problem as a whole, but there are some special extra steps you can take if you find bed bugs in your closet, dresser, or wherever you store your clothes.

Follow these steps to effectively kill bed bugs living in your clothing – for good!

Using Chemicals to Kill Bed Bugs in Clothing

The first question you need to ask as you’re getting rid of bed bugs in your clothes is if you’re willing to use chemicals to eliminate these pests. You can have success dealing with bed bugs either way, but if you’re willing to use chemicals you can be more effective.

If you really don’t want to involve chemicals in the process, feel free to skip to the next heading.

Still here? Let’s talk about Nuvan Strips. Nuvan strips are a pest control product you can put in a closet or sealed container that emits a vapor that kills adult bed bugs (and other pests) quickly. Here’s a quick guide to help you out.

Killing Bed Bugs in Clothing with Nuvan Strips

The way Nuvan Strips work is they need to be in a relatively enclosed area with your clothing for 48 hours to ensure all the bed bugs are dead. They can even kill bed bugs in a car!

The catch is, that you’ll want to air out your clothing for several hours and/or wash them before wearing them again. So make sure you only treat what you can go without for 2-3 days.

The best two ways to deploy Nuvan Strips to your clothing are –

  1. Hang a Nuvan Strip in your closet. Avoid going in your closet if possible for two days, keep the doors shut, and if there are any major gaps at the base of the closet door, throw a towel down there to help seal it up and keep the vapors inside. This might be best for people that have shelves or a dresser in their closet that they also want to treat.
  2. Place your clothes into a plastic bin or large plastic bag and place a Nuvan Strip inside. This method allows you to contain the vapors better but takes up more space and is more work.

One thing to note is that this method only kills hatched bed bugs, it doesn’t kill eggs. In order to kill eggs, you would need to use the Nuvan Strips for 14 days continuously.

This brings us to the next step in the process of removing bed bugs from your clothing.

Washing and Drying with Heat

Regardless if you used the Nuvan Strips to get a jump start on killing the bed bugs, your next step should be washing and drying all of your clothes. Heat will kill bed bugs and their eggs, making this a really important part of the process.

When moving clothes from your bedroom to the laundry, be sure to secure the clothes in sealed plastic containers (bags or tubs work fine) so that bed bugs don’t potentially fall out into other areas of your home.

Also, when putting your clothes into the washing machine you’ll want to be careful not to potentially allow bed bugs to fall out of the container onto the floor.

Use Steam as Needed

If you have garments you can’t subject to the washing and drying cycle, one workaround is to use a steamer to kill the bed bugs. Water turns into steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to kill bed bugs and their eggs almost instantly. Using a steamer on your clothes (and any other items in your house like furniture) is a great way to control bed bugs.

Do Bed Bugs Drown in Water?

You may think that washing your clothes at any temperature is good enough because bed bugs don’t swim, right? Wrong!

flat bed bug

While bed bugs don’t swim, they are capable of floating and surviving going through the washing machine. Some bed bugs may die from drowning, but it’s far from guaranteed.

Also, bed bugs’ eggs themselves can’t drown as they aren’t living yet. This is why you need to rely on heat to kill bed bugs and their eggs from your clothing.

Does Soap Kill Bed Bugs?

The soap itself does not kill bed bugs. While you should still use regular laundry detergent to help remove any blood stains and bed bug feces they may have brought you, it’s really the heat that’s going to kill them.

Storing Your Clothing in Containers

Once your clothes are clean again you’ll feel great, but the battle isn’t over until the last of the bed bugs have been eliminated. Since you’re likely still waiting for all of your other bed bug removal methods to fully extinguish the infestation, you need to store your clothes wisely.

I recommend getting some extra large plastic storage containers to keep your clothes folded in rather than putting them back into a closet or dresser. This will ensure bed bugs don’t make it back into your clothes. You can also use a large plastic bag or garbage bag, but expect wrinkly clothes with that method.

Bed bugs shouldn’t be able to climb a smooth, plastic wall of the storage container but it doesn’t hurt to take precautions like securing a lid tightly on them or even running some double-sided tape around the outside of the container. Any bed bugs that try to pass the tape will get stuck instead.

Other Bed Bugs on Clothing Questions

Can bed bugs travel on clothing?

Yes, bed bugs and their eggs can travel on clothing. Often times people pick up bed bugs on their clothing and luggage when staying at a hotel that’s infested, and then end up bringing the bugs home with them.

Can bed bugs bite through clothing?

Bed bugs can’t bite through clothing or bed sheets, their mouths aren’t made for that. Bed bugs can bite skin only when they’re actually on it, making contact with the skin.

How can I kill bed bugs on dry clean only clothing?

If you have dry clean only clothes that’s infested, you have a few different options. One option is to put them into long-term storage in hopes of starving the bed bugs out. However, depending on the temperature and environment, adult bed bugs can live over a year without feeding!
Another option is to use a clothes steamer on the clothing, heating it up to temperatures that will kill the bed bugs and their eggs.
Finally, you could try calling around to local dry cleaning facilities to see if they accept clothing infected with bed bugs to do cleaning at their facility. You may be unlikely to find a place to take on that risk, though.

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Written by Wesley Wheeler

Wesley has over 10 years of residential and commercial pest control experience dealing with every kind of pest. He ran his own pest control company for 6 years and now shares his knowledge online.

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