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Steam and Bed Bugs

Updated on October 12, 2017
Bedbugabscond profile image

Melody has volunteered with the CDC and is a member of the Medical Reserve Corps. She brings awareness to public health concerns.

The Might of Wet Steam

Steam kills bed bugs instantly when temperatures are high enough.
Steam kills bed bugs instantly when temperatures are high enough. | Source

Thermal Death Point of Bed Bugs

Steam cleaners between 1,000 and 1,500 watts can kill bed bugs. With the most optimal being the later. All organisms have a thermal death point or TDP. This value describes the temperature at which death occurs after ten minutes of exposure. You do not want to use a steam cleaner on the same surface for ten minutes. Heat is optimum for killing bed bugs, but the temperature of the steam must be high enough to kill them instantly.

Bed bugs have a TDP of 118-122° F. This leads to the spread of misinformation. A temperature of 122° F is often recommended, yet an instant kill requires a higher temperature. Bed bug eggs, take an even higher temperature than their adult counterparts to destroy.

Steam that is 140° F or higher kills bedbugs and eggs instantly. Steam is my favorite way to kill bed bugs. When combining steam with caulking and spraying, bugs don't stand a chance.

Using a steamer is easy. The hardest part is spending the money on a steamer; good ones do not come cheap ( be prepared to spend at least $200).

Steaming is an important part of an integrated pest management plan for bed bug removal. It is safe to use, as long as you take caution not to point to nozzle towards people and pets.

Hot steam bed bugs, germs, mold and a fantastic cleaning device. I highly recommend using steamers for the purpose of extermination. I fell in love with hot steam when working with a community outreach program. I even bought a unit for myself for cleaning purposes.

You can decide if you will fall in love, just like me, by examining the following pros and cons.

Important!

Steam cleaners should be used cautiously, the hot steam can cause burns.
Steam cleaners should be used cautiously, the hot steam can cause burns. | Source

How to Kill Bed Bugs With Hot Steam

  1. Purchase a steamer with temperatures that steam at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure to read as many reviews as possible. For bed bug removal, expect to spend about $150. If you plan to use it for both bed bug remove and continued cleaning, expect to spend between $200 - $350.
  2. Read the unit's directions carefully to maintain safely. Neglecting to do so may lead to injury, damage to the steam cleaner, or to surfaces.
  3. Identify the attachment used for linens. Place it on the nozzle of the steamer.
  4. Clean the following pieces of furniture: dressers, bed, nightstand and coaches.
  5. Next, steam the perimeter of the room. Conscientiously attend to gaps around the trim. Spray cracks, crevices, dressers, curtains and any other place you suspect bed bugs.
  6. Give the unit time to rest between tanks. It needs time to cool down; otherwise, it might overheat or become a fire hazard.
  7. Next spray the floor (if you have hardwood see steamers instructions). If your steamer has a carpet attachment, this is when you use it.
  8. Allow all surfaces to dry before you apply anytime of pesticide, insecticide or other poison.
  9. Repeat as needed.

Steam cleaner safety and cost of units are cons of this bed bug removal tool/
Steam cleaner safety and cost of units are cons of this bed bug removal tool/ | Source

The Cons - Understand the Safety Issues

Hot steam has the capacity to do harm. There is potential for serious injury from the high temperature the cleaners produces.

It might seem extraneous to list safety as a con. The sad truth is that there are lots of people who don't read or follow directions.

The problem with steaming for bed bugs is that most people do not know they are misusing steamers until it is too late.

  • Never, ever use hot steam on an area that has already been sprayed with pesticide. Only spray it BEFORE the pesticide is sprayed.
  • If you steam where chemicals have been placed, you are risking the spread of the chemicals.
  • The hot steam causes chemicals to evaporate and be vaporized into the air.
  • This can cause eye irritation, skin burns and breathing problems.
  • You have to be certain that no spray has been used for at least a month in an area that you want to steam.
  • Steam first; bug spray later.

You might be thinking, "Professionals use steamers after they spray, so why can't I?".

Professionals are licensed and trained on the proper use of all extermination equipment. Some professional exterminators will spray cracks and crevices, to drive out bed bugs. They are the ones that understand the problem.

Then they will steam the bugs because they want to get them on the run. Again, they know to keep the steam far away from the chemicals. I can not stress this enough!

I am a mother, so I need to drill the safety issues into your head before I explain how a steamer fits into your bed bug eradication plan.

The don'ts are being covered first because it is very important to prevent bed bug related accidents or injury.

  • The next danger is pretty obvious. Steam cleaners release incredibly hot steam.

In fact, it is so hot it can cause burns even though clothes. I would know, I accidentally did this once.

  • You should never let a child steam, and should teach them to stay clear of you when you steam.
  • Do not steam near electrical outlets.
  • One last warning about steam cleaners. Do not steam glass when it is cold.It is true that bed bugs can hide in window sills. If you apply hot steam to cold glass you risk craking or breaking the glass.I have heard some people say, "I have steamed my windows in the winter, and nothing happened!" Good for them. Some people have gotten lucky, but others have experienced the cracks and breaks.

I have seen people tell other people to steam everywhere, and not to forget behind electrical face plates. Of course, recognizing how dangerous that can be, forum owners quickly take those posts down.

Yes, bed bugs live in electrical outlets; however, you never want to steam electrical outlets.

Not only is there a dangerous receiving an electrical shock, you may also accidentally melt the plastic covering. This could cause an electrical fire.Instead, remove the electrical cover and wipe the underside with enzyme cleaner.

This will kill bed bugs and eggs, and are bed bug deterrents. The first thought I had after using my new steamers was, "Holy cow, steam cleaners clean better than anything else I have tried!" I went on a cleaning frenzy.

I realized that you can not clean for hours and hours with a steamer. It needs to restt long enough to cool down between rooms. If you buy one just because you want to kill bed bugs, there is a chance you won't understand how to use one.

Hot steam cleaners are amazing cleaning tools, and can kill bed bugs.
Hot steam cleaners are amazing cleaning tools, and can kill bed bugs. | Source

Reasons To Consider Using This Control Method

The safety issues have been addressed. Now comes the fun part. I get to tell you how great steam cleaners are, and how they are one of the best tools to fight bed bugs.

  • If you are using my Bug Checklist, there is a step that says, "Scrub your bed frame/furniture with a wire brush to loosen eggs."
  • Then you see a warning. While some people are perfectly happy to do it that way, risking damage, others might choose to use a steamer instead. If it is varnished furniture, the steam could damage it, too.
  • However, when applicable steam your bed frame, mattress, sheets, and curtains every day. The benefit of steam is that continual use doesn't arise chemical poisoning concerns.
  • Steam kills bed bugs like magic. If you find a nest of bed bugs, you can kill them all, and their eggs, with one blast. Steam even kills those tiny white baby bed bugs that are hard to see.
  • Some people like to steam their beds, and surrounding area, each night before bed.
  • This can keep bugs off of you so you can rest easy. Some people choose to use bed bug killing chemicals, natural sprays, and diatomaceous earth in bedrooms.
  • Then they steam all other areas to prevent bed bug spreading around the house. One problem with this is that steam does not penetrate couches. You can steam the surface Then place diatomaceous earth (and/or traps) under the couch, in the couch, and under the cushions.

Steam works well as part of a bigger plan and is a worthwhile investment. Now it is time to talk a little about steamers themselves. I have wasted money on junk steamers to learn a few important lessons.

Read many steamer reviews before you choose a product.

Do you own any of the steamers above? If yes, then please vote below!

Which steamer is the best all around bed bug steamer?

See results

Best Bed Bug Killing Hot Steamers

The best steamers are premium steamers with a wide variety of attachments.

These steam cleaners are best for whole house cleaning and bed bug killing.

  • McCulloch MC-1275 Heavy-Duty
  • Wagner 915 1,500-Watt On-Demand Power
  • SteamFast SF-275 SteamMax
  • Reliable Corporation E3 EnviroMate System
  • EnviroMate GO Steam Cleaning System
  • MucCulloch MC1385 Delux Canister Steam System (Best Seller)
  • Vapamore MR-100 Dry Vapor Steamer
  • Ladybug Tekno 2350 Vapor Cleaner
  • Reliable Enviromate BRIO EB250 Canister
  • Vapor Boss Vapor Steam Cleaner (Home Depot)

Remember, NEVER steam a surface that has been treated with chemicals!

There are many steamer brands If you think you might be tempted to use it to do household cleaning, then you need to buy a premium brand. My current steamer is the McClloch Deluxe steam cleaning system. This thing is powerful, safe and comes with attachments for everything.

This thing has already outlasted my HAAN, and keeps on going. It cost me about $200 on Amazon and has saved me more than that because I don't have to spend tons on cleaning products.

McCulloch hot steam units are manufactured by McCulloch Motors Corporation. They produce a plethora of other products, such as chainsaws and tractors. They know how to make heavy duty products.

If you only intend to use the steamer to eradicate bed bugs, routinely spray to prevent infestation, and for occasional steaming (once a week) then you can buy a less expensive steamer. Even cheaper McCulloch steamers pack a punch.

Do not spend less that $70 on a steamer that you plan to use to get rid of bed bugs.

While you do not need the most expensive steamer, with all the bells and whistles, then you do need one with the right attachments.

REMEMBER steam can cause serious burns.

© 2012 Melody Trent

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    • marion langley profile image

      marion langley 4 years ago from The Study

      I feel like you have set me up well to get started safely. Quick question...what is an enzyme cleaner and is there a brand you recommend? Thanks for writing!

    • profile image

      Mistress C 4 years ago

      Do I need to empty my bookshelves. Will a steamer ruin my books. Also can I leave all my clothes in the closet while steaming the room.

    • profile image

      Mistress C 4 years ago

      If I'm using a steamer should I empty all mr book shelves. Will the steamer wreck the books. And can I steam the clothes that are in the closet if the room where the bugs have been spotted.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      Nicomp, that's right, the boiling point. The thing about steamer technology is that the point it reaches 212 and the point it comes out the nozzle allows for cooling.

      In the steamer industry, the makers have to make a point of being truthful about the temperature the steam is at the point of exit. The best steamers minimize cooling from the point steam is made and the point of exit.

      That is why you want to use the largest attachment, NOT the longest, and hold the steam as close to the bed bugs as possible. If too much cooling happens, all you are doing is giving them a nice warm mist bath, which won't kill them.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Doesn't steam, by definition, have to be at least 212 degrees F?

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      Thank you Lady E. This is one o those examples of something negative that had a major positive. If I had known the effect cleaning chemicals was having on my son, I would have switched to a steamer years ago. What is important is, now I know! Thanks for reading!

    • Lady_E profile image

      Elena 5 years ago from London, UK

      Very useful to know. I also like your comment above and I'm glad the steamer was a remarkable change for your son.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      You really do have to be careful. Steaming is a good way to kill bed bugs as long as you understand the safety concerns. Thanks for reading!

    • Eric Calderwood profile image

      Eric Calderwood 5 years ago from USA

      I have not heard of this method for killing bed bugs before, but it makes total sense. I am glad that you are conscientious enough to add the safety warnings about steam burns and not using them around chemicals or electrical outlets. Great hub!

    • Bedbugabscond profile image
      Author

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      You know, I am surprised that steamers are not more popular. Steam is not only hot enough to kill bed bugs and eggs, it kills 99.9% of germs,too. The problem with my HAAN, is that I wanted to steam every day.

      My son has asthma, and when I stopped using chemicals and switched to a steamer, there was a noticeable change. Of course the only reason I had experience with steamers is through the real estate business I work for. They use them to disinfect after people leave and to kill bed bugs.

      I ended up buying a better model steamer. Oh, and steam kills all the other nasty insects as well!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Good information to know on these bugs. I am learning lots as I read through your series on these little critters. How would have thought that steam actually does the job?