Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothing?

Do bed bugs get on clothes? If you’re like most people who are concerned about bed bugs, you’ve probably wondered if these pests will live on clothing. Maybe you’ve even wondered whether bed bugs can bite through clothes.

The fact is, there’s a lot of contradictory and even false information going around about bed bugs and their behaviors.

That’s why I make it my mission to share everything I know about preventing and treating bed bugs, and I continue to learn and share all the new information I can on this topic. What I’ve discovered about bed bugs is that they can be found on clothes but must be in direct contact with skin in order to bite.

Are you surprised?

You can have all the information I discovered on this topic, as well. Go ahead and take a look.

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Bed Bugs On Clothes

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

How Do Bed Bugs Get Onto Clothes?

The first thing to know about bed bugs is that they cannot fly or jump. They are not going to leap from the person next to you onto your clothes. That being said, they definitely can be found on clothing. The thing is that it’s usually clothing in your room or in the laundry, not the clothes you are currently wearing. Bed bugs do not prefer to travel on a live host, instead hiding in crevices or piles of clothing.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothes

The most common way that bed bugs get onto clothes is when the clothes are left in the floor or on the bed in an infested room. Of course, bed bugs don’t only hide in beds, so they could get on your clothing from any piece of furniture.

Washing your clothes can definitely help with getting rid of bed bugs that have found their way into your clothes. You can drown bed bugs in hot, moving water. Putting infested clothing in the dryer on high heat for at least 30 minutes will also take care of the bugs. It should be noted, however, that washing can help remove the bugs from clothes. Drying will kill them but not remove them.

How To Get Bed Bugs Out Of Clothes

The problem is that you need to ensure that you are not spreading the pest infestation around when you wash the laundry. If you unknowingly carry bed bugs or their eggs with your dirty clothes to the laundry room, then bed bugs could spread to any other room you pass along the way. Even more likely, though, is that they will take up residence in their final destination--your laundry room--and continue to infest piles of laundry and spread around your home.

Also, don’t think you have to have an existing colony of bed bugs in order for them to get into your clothes. They can sneak into luggage when you are traveling. That means your clothes can be their ticket into your home, if you’re not careful.

Do Bed Bugs Live On Clothes?

As mentioned above, bed bugs do not like to travel on live hosts, unlike some other blood-feeders such as head lice. That means it is unlikely to find them actually living on clothes, unless you’ve left some clothing in a pile for an extended period of time. They much prefer areas where they can hide without being disturbed, and clothes usually don’t fit that description because they get moved around.

Can Bed Bugs Bite Through Clothing?

Can bed bugs bite through clothes? The short answer is no. A bed bug’s mouthparts are not long enough to bite through the majority of clothing. That’s because they only need to reach the blood vessels near the skin’s surface in order to ingest blood. There seems to be some confusion, however, about what this means for preventing bites.

CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

In online forums, you’ll see a lot of people recommending wearing long clothing that covers the arms and legs when you go to sleep. The idea is that bed bugs won’t be able to bite the unexposed skin.

Whether bed bugs bite through clothing can appear to be a tricky question, though, because it seems that bed bugs do not always bite exposed skin. Many people report having bed bug bites under their clothes. The truth is, however, that bed bugs are not biting through the clothes. They are simply crawling underneath clothing and then biting the skin.

What that means for you and the prevention of insect bites is that the tip to wear long clothing to bed may not really be a deterrent for bites. Additionally, bed bugs are quite happy to bite the face and neck. In fact, those are some of the most highly reported areas for bed bug bites.

Bed bug bites don't hurt either, and the physical appearance of a bite can take hours to days to appear on the skin. This means that you may notice a new bite under clothing, but the bite could have in fact been caused in bed the night before.

If you are being bitten under areas of full clothing, maybe also consider other culprits, such as mosquitoes, or even scabies.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs From Clothes

I touched briefly on the fact that you can get rid of bed bugs on clothing by washing and drying the items. I want to give you a little more information, though, on the right way to do this. I don’t want you to have the unfortunate experience of trying to reduce bed bugs in your home and actually spreading the problem around!

The first line of precaution is to isolate the affected clothing items. That means sealing infested clothing in a plastic bag and then sealing THAT bag in another plastic bag--double-sealed. Do this before you ever take your clothes to the laundry room or laundromat. Do not move them to another area in your home to perform this task. Seal them up right where you found them.

Here’s a second tip. If you suspect that you have picked up bed bugs in your luggage, you can seal up the clothing, and the suitcase or bag itself, before you return home. This allows you to prevent bringing the infestation home. Open the luggage outside or in the garage, where bed bugs are unlikely to get out and find a meal or start a colony. Do not open it in your home, and especially not in your bedroom.

How Do Bed Bugs Spread

Then, take the separately sealed clothing out of your suitcase or bag and reseal it until you are ready to clean it and kill any bed bugs inside. Take the sealed clothes immediately to your washing machine. Empty the clothes into the machine and wash and dry them right away.

How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs With DIY Treatment

Hiring pest control professionals can be costly, and while it’s usually the best option, there are some preliminary steps you can take to get rid of bed bugs yourself.

If your problem is isolated to just one bedroom like most small household infestations, try following the steps below:

1. Carefully bag and wash all of your bedding. Let them dry for at least 30 minutes in a clean environment.

2. Clear any clutter around the room. Bed bugs love to hide in piles of clothes, so remove these and wash them before you start cleaning. Don't give bed bugs a safe haven to hide in.

3. Use a high-powered vacuum to clean around the bed to take care of stray bugs and eggs. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter is vital to ensure bed bugs cannot escape once captured. The Shark Navigator Upright Vacuum easily ticks all of the boxes while remaining lightweight and easily maneuverable.

4. Use a specialist non-toxic bed bug spray to clean your bed-frame, headboard, and surrounding furniture. Carefully read the label on any product beforehand to ensure it’s safe for indoor use.

The best bed bug spray I've yet to personally use is the completely natural Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer. It has a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, and most importantly, it's chemical-free and child/pet friendly.

5. Pull your bed away from the walls and place bed bug interceptor cups under each leg. These will isolate your bed and help to prevent the spread of bed bugs. Additionally, interceptors can serve as tools to help you track progress. Ideally, the interceptors should contain fewer bed bugs every time you empty them. My personal favorites are these Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps.

6. Using a bed bug mattress protector to encase your mattress will help to save it if it's yet to be infested, or otherwise keep bed bugs trapped in and around it until they eventually die of starvation. My favorite is the SureGuard Mattress Encasement which is thick, strong, and will help to stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress. A SureGuard Box Spring Encasement is also available.

7. If you wish to be extremely thorough, specialist bed bug heaters can be purchased to raise household items to a temperature that is sure to kill all bed bugs and eggs. My favorite is the ZappBug, which is designed to automatically reach the all-important killing temperature to eradicate all stages of the bed bugs life cycle. Smaller and extra-large sizes are also available.

Summary

Let’s review. You can pick up bed bugs anywhere that you leave your clothing, if bed bugs are present. If you have an existing infestation, they can get into your clothing or laundry.

You can also pick up bed bugs when you are traveling. They may be in hotels, offices, movie theaters, or even vehicles. They are not likely, though, to travel on the clothes you are currently wearing. Instead, they will enter a bag or other luggage.

Another possibility is that they may come back with your clothes from an infested laundromat. The good news is that you can prevent the spread to your home by sealing up any luggage or clothing that is potentially infested and washing and drying everything thoroughly on the highest heat settings the clothing can tolerate.

As far as whether bed bugs can bite through clothes, the answer is generally no, but clothes will not protect you from their ability to crawl onto your covered skin, anyway. They are tiny and flat.

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Olivia

Can bed bugs live in a live in a comforter or blanket as torn??

Tracey

Well I can tell you one thing. They CAN bite through stockings and thin socks! I work in a place that is infested with bed bugs and my coworkers and I get bit constantly! We are the perfect Guinea pigs! They also fall on us from the ceiling. No they dont jump but they definitely seem to fall in the right places (shoulders or chest) this is a nightmare!

Steph

Please help! I can’t seem to find concrete answers anywhere, or anyone with enough knowledge to give confident answers. I’ve sunk $1,500 into eradicating this problem, and I don’t have enough money to sink hundreds more into fighting a problem I can’t prove.

A few weeks ago, I started noticing bites on my outer thighs … a few more every day. They were causing welts on my skin which were nearly impossible to not scratch. One night, I saw a bug on my husband’s back that I couldn’t identify. I picked it up with tweezers, and I think I remember it crushing easily but for some reason, we lost it, so I could never positively identify it… However, after looking up bed bugs, I can say that it resembled a bed bug in the adult stage…long and dark reddish brown. I also discovered one solitary mark on my sheet in between my husband and me…5 minuscule dark brown dots, which look like online pics of dots from a bed bug.

By the time I called the exterminator, I counted 48 bites all over my body…thighs, stomach, back, and arms. (All within just a few days)

The exterminator and I took my mattress and box spring apart looking for evidence of bugs. We found some molting shells in my box spring but no bugs, nests, or blood spots. He studied the molting, and said they look like bed bugs, but he also couldn’t imagine anything else it could be. We didn’t look in the carpet or nearby furniture because I was fairly confident in what they were and I figured if it was something else, tenting would still take care of it. We needed to tent for termites anyway, and I had started to notice an increasing number of brown widow spiders around the outside of my house, so it seemed justifiable, especially since WHATEVER was biting me would surely be killed.

On Dec 19th, We packed up and went to my in-laws for a couple of days. When packing, I washed our clothes, showered, dressed with clothes directly from the dryer, packed clothes in plastic bags directly from the dryer, and brought as little as possible with us. They tented my whole house and set off bombs specifically designed for bed bugs.

My bites started to heal.

We got back home on Dec 21st and I slept on the couch the first night while all of my bedding was being washed. No bites. The second night we slept in bed.

On Dec 23rd, I noticed 3 bites in a row in the bend of my elbow. By the end of the day, I had another set of 3 bites on my upper arm on the inside, and a couple more “random” bites…on on the opposite arm.

By the end of the Dec 24th, I counted 15 bites on my legs and arms. Most of them distinctly in sets of 3.

The tenting should have killed every living thing in my house and under it….soooo?

Also…I’m the only one in my house who appears to be itching. My husband and children aren’t being affected.

On Dec 25th, my husband helped me count the new bites…we were back up to 46.

Since Dec 25th, I had noticed that my bites were finally healing up, and the itching was subsiding. I may have noticed a “new” itchy spot or two, but they didn’t bother me as much so I chalked them up to older bites still healing. After extensive research, I had discovered that bed bug bites can appear up to 2 weeks after the initial bite, so I was hoping that was all I was dealing with.

It is now Jan 7th. I was just starting to relax, but yesterday, 2 bites showed up on my leg. On on my thigh and one near my knee. They don’t itch anywhere near as much as the other bites did, and they didn’t “welt up” as bad as the others did, but they are obviously bite bumps, and if I touch them they do bother me.

In truth, I know I’m now paranoid. My skin itches all of the time even when there are no bumps, bites, or any other apparent reasons. However, these bites are causing me concern. The tenting should have killed the bugs… right? It should have destroyed everything down to the eggs…right?

Am I dealing with a comeback?
Do bed bugs feed in groups? Would it be unusual to have the bites show up in waves? … 48 bites then 46 a week later?
Why are the bites showing up on my thighs, arms, stomach, back…places not “exposed?” The research I’ve looked up said that it should be my ankles, neck, and other “exposed” skin.
Is it possible that the tenting didn’t kill the bugs at all and I’m back to square 1?
Am I dealing with a completely different bug?
Is there any other explanation?
What can I do since I really can’t afford to sink hundreds more into this?
Thank you for your time, and I hope you have time to respond with your experience and expertise.

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