According to entomologist Richard Pollack, less than 10% of creatures found in people’s stuff are bed bugs. But what should you do if you’re sure of their presence? Can you wash bed bugs off in the shower?
You can wash bed bugs off in the shower if they stick to your body, as they can’t withstand the water pressure. Bed bugs are weak and have no claws to grip your skin and hair. Your infested clothing and household linens, however, will require other bed bug removal methods.
Although bed bug infestation in American homes has risen, there’s no need to panic. Getting rid of these nasty little critters can be tough and time-consuming but not impossible. Let’s take a closer look at bed bugs and different ways to do away with them.
What Bed Bugs Look Like
Bed bugs are brown-colored insects with flat, oval-shaped bodies sized about an apple seed — about 5 to 7 millimeters (0.20 to 0.28 inches). They feed on animals or humans’ blood; after sucking the blood, bed bugs swell, and their color goes almost red.
They don’t have wings to fly or jump but can move fast on surfaces like walls, floors, and ceilings.
Bed bugs reproduce very quickly and can give birth to three generations per year. Young bed bugs called nymphs can mature in good condition in just one month.
They’re usually active during the night. They bite on any uncovered skin area while sleeping and withdraw blood for about three to ten minutes. At first, the bitten spot is painless, but then it gets itchy.
Where Bed Bugs Come From
Bed bugs spread by contact and can find their way to your house by different avenues.
Upholstery of public transportation systems like the subway is a good place for bed bugs to find new hosts. A visiting friend may carry bed bugs in her bag or clothes. You may even bring them home in your luggage, returning from a trip, workplace, etc.
Another vehicle for bed bug transferring is second-hand furniture. So be cautious when buying used furniture. Make sure to examine every crack and corner before bringing any into your home.
Your neighbor’s place is another source of infestation.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bed bugs don’t like to nest on skin or hair. With their petite flat bodies, they can easily squeeze into tiny spaces and prefer stable, dark, out of sight locations when not feeding.
They usually live in groups in places like sheets, mattresses, bed frames, headboards, and pillows near their food resources. But over time, they can spread to other areas and nest in crevices.
Look for black stains under the beddings, cracks on walls, or furniture crevices, because bed bugs leave behind blood and fecal matters.
How To Eliminate Bed Bugs
When you find bed bugs on your body or hair, you can take a shower to get rid of them, but you’ll have to take a few steps to ensure they don’t remain on your clothes, furniture, and house corners.
Follow these steps to eliminate bed bugs:
- Identify infested areas and items.
- Vacuum any possible area (and throw away the sealed vacuum contents).
- Seal up any infested item in plastic bags for washing later.
- Seal up any non-washable item in plastic bags and put it away for a few months.
- Discard furniture that you can’t treat (use paint and mark them “bed bugs”).
- Seal up open areas that may be bed bug nests.
- Use a steamer on carpets, mattresses, and other furniture.
- Make DIY pesticides and spray them around.
- Get help from professionals.
Bed Bug Removal Methods and When (Not) To Use Them
Bed bugs drown in water after 24 hours. But you can’t fill a large infested area (say a bedroom) with water in the hope of killing them.
Besides, washing infested stuff and areas with cold water is practically useless since it doesn’t drown them. It only removes them from the surfaces.
Bed bugs can’t survive hot water or high temperatures of 140°F (60°C) or above. So, hot water is one of the best solutions to kill these creatures.
To wash bed bugs off your clothes, set your washing machine on hot water and add large quantities of detergent to make it more effective.
Then, let the washed stuff dry completely and, if needed, repeat the procedure.
You can also boil water in a big pot and spray it on infested areas. But be careful not to burn yourself or damage the furniture.
If you feel that washing your delicate clothes and beddings in hot water might damage them, put them in a hot dryer for 30 to 60 minutes, instead. Bed bugs can’t survive high temperatures, no matter if it’s hot water or air.
Using alcohol is another effective way of killing bed bugs. Spray some directly on infested stuff and areas. And don’t mix it with water because it reduces its efficiency.
Despite its efficiency, alcohol isn’t a smart choice due to its bad smell and inflammability. Besides, it kills bed bugs only on contact and has no lasting effect.
Soap and Water
Although it might seem a plausible option, soap water solutions cannot kill bed bugs because these creatures are resilient to soap. However, you can use boiling water to kill bed bugs. And if you like, you can add soap to the water, too, although that isn’t necessary.
Hot Water and Bleach
Bleach in both forms of diluted and undiluted can effectively kill bed bugs. But professionals don’t recommend the latter because it’s very strong and can damage your respiratory system.
Dilute bleach with the same amount of hot water and use a spray bottle to sprinkle it around. This way, it becomes less likely to hurt yourself or the furniture.
Vinegar is very effective in killing bed bugs if used alone. It works the same way as alcohol. You have to spray it directly around the house or on the infested areas.
However, just like alcohol, mixing vinegar with water makes it less effective.
Be cautious in using vinegar, as its large quantities can damage the furniture, too.
Washing items like leather jackets and suede boots is impossible. In this case, you can seal them in plastic bags and put them in a freezer set to 0°F (-17.78 °C) for about two to four days.
When To Call the Professionals
If you’re unsuccessful with your immediate efforts, don’t wait too long to get help from a professional agency. Bed bugs multiply in number within days, spreading all around the house and even outside of it.
Be sure to only refer to licensed exterminators and talk in detail about their bed bug removal strategies. Also, ask if they guarantee the treatment.
It’s possible to kill bed bugs. But it’s naïve to think you can remove them simply by washing them with water.
With the first sign of bed bugs’ presence, make a DIY pesticide with vinegar, alcohol, bleach, or hot water. Then spray it onto the surfaces, hidden areas under the furniture, cracks, closets, and any other dark place.
Wash all your clothes, and put them in a dryer. If you still find bed bugs spreading around the house, call a professional agency before it gets late.
- US EPA: Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control
- Goodhousekeeping: Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
- Webmd: Bedbugs – Signs of an Infestation & How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
- Orkin: What do Bed Bugs Look Like? | Bed Bug Facts
- Bedbugsupply: Can bed bugs live in my hair or on my body?
- Pest samurai: Bed Bugs in Water: Can Bed Bugs Survive in Water?
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