What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?

  • Written By Dan Edwards on January 8, 2018
    Last Updated: December 29, 2020

When bed bugs establish themselves in a home or apartment, it can be challenging to get rid of them successfully. Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to eradicate thanks to their hardy and persistent nature. Not only can they live for up to a year without eating, but bed bugs have also been known to survive in extreme climates, leaving many homeowners wondering which temperatures kill bed bugs most effectively.

While resistant, bed bugs are not completely impervious to temperature change. Using extreme heat or cold is a tried and true way to combat an infestation when done right. Bed bugs are forced to leave a house and take up residence elsewhere, or they become trapped and die. Temperature change is one of the most effective ways to combat a bed bug infestation at any stage.

Can Hot Temperatures Kill Bed Bugs?

While they grow and reproduce best at temperatures around 80°F, bed bugs can thrive across a range of climates for relatively long lifespans compared to other similar bugs.

Once temperatures begin to climb above 100°F, bed bugs start to lose their ability to function. Adult insects die when exposed to an environment of 113°F for 90 minutes or 118°F for 20 minutes.

Eggs are more resilient than live adults, and it takes more effort to ensure that the next generation of bed bugs doesn’t re-infest a home after successful treatment. In order to kill all eggs, they must be exposed to temperatures above 118°F for at least 90 minutes.

Bed bug eggs – CC Image courtesy of British Pest Control Association

Heat is an effective method of eliminating a bed bug infestation in its entirety, even if it has spread throughout a home. Unlike other treatments such as chemicals or traps, heat is able to permeate into every nook and cranny of a house or apartment, killing even well-hidden nests. Heat also sinks into clothing, mattresses, and other common hiding spots.

Using heat treatment eliminates the need to locate every nest within a living space before any eradication efforts. Homeowners can kill every live bed bug and egg within their house in one swift move.

Ways You Can Use Heat To Kill Bed Bugs

Heat treatment is often one of the first solutions that homeowners turn to upon discovering that they have a bed bug problem. Heat is a quick, effective, and relatively safe way of stopping an infestation at any stage, helping you to get rid of bed bugs as quickly as possible.

There are different heat treatments that homeowners can choose from based on their budget and the severity of their issue:

Buying or Renting a Heater

In order to keep a house hot enough to kill bed bugs for a long enough period, a powerful space heater is necessary. Homeowners can buy their own, but many opt for the less expensive option of renting a heater.

During the treatment period, it’s important to monitor the temperature within a house. If any room is not kept hot enough, bed bugs may be able to survive and repopulate the house in a matter of weeks.

Before starting the heat treatment process, homeowners should check the exterior of their house to ensure that there’s no leaks or cracks from which air can escape. Any damages should be sealed with caulking, especially around weaker points such as doors and windows.

If heat is allowed to escape, not only is it a waste of money and energy, but it may bring the house down to a temperature that’s survivable for bed bug colonies.

Special hotboxes can also be purchased in various sizes, which allow you to zip up infested items. The hotbox then heats up everything inside to a temperature high enough to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

My favorite way to heat household items to a temperature that is sure to kill all bed bugs and eggs without needing to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment is to use a ZappBug Heater, which is specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items come out all-clear.

Large and small versions are also available.

Steam Cleaners

For spot treatments or early infestations, homeowners can use a portable steam cleaner to kill bed bugs residing within mattresses, furniture, curtains, or other areas of the home. While steam cleaners are an effective way to kill an individual nest, they aren’t the best tool for tackling a widespread infestation.

If you’re looking for a powerful and reliable steamer for use against infestations and at a good price, the PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner is a great choice. It’s heavy-duty, made to last, and produces a great covering of extremely hot pressurized steam – exactly what you want in order to kill insects and their eggs on impact.

This steamer can be used on a wide number of surfaces and objects, including mattresses, carpets, curtains, clothing, box springs, bedding and baseboards.

Clothes Dryer

Much like steam cleaners, a clothes dryer will not rid an entire house of a bed bug infestation. Dryers can, however, be used to safely remove bed bugs and their eggs from clothing and blankets. The interior reaches a heat that’s able to quickly eradicate every generation of bed bugs lurking in fabrics around the house.

Hire a Professional

Hiring a professional to treat a home spares families the need to purchase or rent a space heater. By enlisting the help of an expert, homeowners can ensure that the pest removal process is quick, painless, and most importantly, safe.

A professional exterminator will know how to set up any necessary equipment and monitor the heat treatment process to ensure that a living space maintains proper temperature levels for a long enough period.

Professional Bed Bug Heat Treatment

Risks Of Using Heat To Kill Bed Bugs

Heat treatment can save time over other pest control methods such as freezing, but it can be costly. Homeowners have to either purchase a heater, rent one, or hire someone to run a heater. While all jobs are different, homeowners can usually expect to pay over $1000 to get rid of bed bugs using heat treatment.

Some services ask for a flat fee when it comes to billing, while others charge by the hour. While this may seem like the more cost-effective option, it may end up being more expensive if there are any setbacks or unforeseen complications.

While the cost of heat treatments is a cause for concern amongst some homeowners, others are more preoccupied with the safety of their family and their property. High levels of heat for prolonged periods of time can be dangerous for the health of humans and pets, so it’s essential that homeowners choose a time during the day in which all family members will be out of the house before scheduling a treatment.

Homeowners should also prepare their house before a heat treatment to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Any foods that may spoil in heat should be removed or stored in the fridge, as should any goods that are at risk of melting. It’s also critical to remove anything flammable such as gasoline or propane to avoid any fires or explosions.

Anything that is removed from a house before treatment should be thoroughly checked for bed bugs before being brought back inside. The presence of just a single egg can give rise to an entirely new infestation.

Finally, under no circumstance should you attempt to mix heat treatment with highly flammable bed bug chemicals, or other high-risk DIY treatments such as using pure alcohol. Make sure to check that there are no flammable chemicals or products before proceeding with heat treatment.

Can Cold Temperatures Kill Bed Bugs?

Like extreme heat, extreme cold can be fatal to bed bugs over time. It causes the fluids and organs within their body to freeze over and cease healthy functioning. Generally, mature bugs can survive for a few hours to a few days when exposed to low temperatures.

Eggs are more resistant to extreme cold and require lower temperatures to eradicate. It’s only after several days at -13°F that both adult insects and eggs die. Even just a degree warmer fails to kill eggs, resulting in a new generation that will quickly spread to infest a house or apartment for the second time.

Ways You Can Use Cold To Kill Bed Bugs

Freezing is an effective way to get rid of bed bug nests, but it’s essential that a cold enough temperature is reached and maintained for a successful eradication. There are a couple of safe and simple methods that homeowners can use to freeze out bed bugs after noticing the start of an infestation.

Dry Ice

Using dry ice blends helps to create an environment cold enough to eradicate bed bugs without leaving any chemical residue behind. Substances such as Cryonite allow cold to penetrate deep into mattresses, couch cushions, and more to kill pests residing both on and underneath the surface. Bed bugs are frozen instantly, making this option a time-effective treatment choice.

Industrial Freezer

Most standard freezers are fine for storing meats and vegetables, but they don’t always get cold enough to kill bed bug colonies. In order to kill bed bugs using cold, homeowners need to reach extreme temperatures that are beyond the capabilities of the refrigerators that are found in most homes. Industrial freezers are often able to achieve lower temperatures, and they offer more space for larger items such as cushions.

Risks Of Using Cold To Kill Bed Bugs

While cold environments can kill both bed bugs and their eggs, it’s not a practical solution to eradicating a widespread infection. It’s essential that a low enough temperature is reached and maintained for long enough to kill both adult insects and their eggs. There’s also the risk of novices accidentally removing bugs from the cold too early, allowing them to survive.

Homeowners can’t realistically keep their entire home at the low temperatures necessary to kill bed bugs for days on end. Such cold environments can damage electronics, delicate artifacts, clothing, and more. When using cold to kill bed bugs, it’s best to stick to localized infestations found in clothes, over cushions, or on other smaller items.

Most homeowners and renters don’t have the equipment necessary to reach or sustain -13°F on-hand, as standard freezers don’t always go that low. Keeping bed bugs in a 0°F environment for four or more days may kill off a colony of bed bugs, but there’s a significant risk that some eggs will survive at these temperatures. It’s often difficult for families to use freezing to get rid of a bed bug infestation without the help of a hired professional, which can be expensive on a tight budget.

Knowing which temperatures kill bed bugs can help homeowners to get rid of nests in the house or apartment. While freezing techniques are best used for small or localized infestations, heat treatments can quickly eradicate infestations that have had a chance to spread.

My Favorite Bed Bug Treatment Products

While getting rid of bed bugs without buying any additional products can be done with very small infestations, I believe that by purchasing just a few additional products, you’ll be so much better equipped, and will be able to stamp out an infestation before it gets worse. Below is my list of essential products.

Bed Bug Patrol - Bed Bug Natural Spray Treatment - 24oz, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Vehicles, Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

Bed Bug Patrol - Bed Bug Natural Spray Treatment - 24oz, Natural & Non-Toxic, Child & Pet Safe. Recommended for Vehicles, Home, Mattresses & Furniture.

Bed Bug Patrol Bed Bug Killer – One of the best bed bug sprays that I’ve yet to personally use. Not only does it have a reported 100% kill rate against live bed bugs in controlled tests, but it’s also child and pet friendly. This product can be used against both light and heavy infestations, and most importantly, it’s laboratory tested and completely chemical-free.

Studies conducted using the treatment showed an impressive kill rate of 83% within just 30 minutes after application, and 98% within the first four hours, leading on to an eventual mortality rate of 100% over time.

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

Queen (13-16 in. Deep) SureGuard Mattress Encasement - 100% Waterproof, Bed Bug Proof, Hypoallergenic - Premium Zippered Six-Sided Cover

SureGuard Mattress Encasement – It’s thick, durable, and is certain to help stop bed bugs of all sizes from getting to, or from, your mattress.

The protector prevents bed bug transportation by using SureSeal technology, and by using an extremely fine zipper that not even bed bug nymphs can impregnate.

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

Bed Bug Interceptors – 8 Pack | Bed Bug Blocker (Pro) Interceptor Traps (Black) | Insect Trap, Monitor, and Detector for Bed Legs

In my experience, the best and most effective bed bug traps are usually the ones that are designed to work in the simplest of ways. I’ve used the Bed Bug Blocker Interceptor Traps extensively and I find they do the job better than any other trap I’ve tried. You also get a very generous 8 interceptors per pack.

Simply place them directly underneath the bed/table/chair legs you’re trying to protect, and watch the bed bugs fall into the traps time and time again with no chance of escape.

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZappBug The Oven 2 XL Large Bed Bug Heater | Real Reviews | Time-Tested | Excellent Customer Service

ZapBugg Bed Bug Heater – Specially designed to kill all stages in the bed bug life cycle, including eggs, without the need to purchase expensive pest control heat treatment solutions.

Simply place infested items into the ZappBug heater and it will automatically reach the all-important bed bug killing temperature, so you can be sure the items will come out free from all life stages of bed bug once the process is complete.

Large and small versions are also available.