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Bed Bugs: Steam Cleaning

By Edited Jul 24, 2016 0 0

There are many companies that recommend steam cleaning to help get rid of bed bugs. However, before you go out and buy a new steam cleaner or you dig yours out from the garage there are several things to know. Steam cleaners can be helpful in a couple of different ways when it comes to getting rid of bed bugs, but you need to make sure that you are doing it in a way that is effective and that you aren't ruining your other efforts at the same time. You should also be sure that you are actually doing something for all that hard work and time. Does steam cleaning really fit into your bed bug elimination plan?

What Does Steam Cleaning Do?
Steam cleaning can kill any bugs that it comes in contact with. This often makes it great to use in areas where it is hard to see the bugs, but they are likely hiding. It also kills eggs making it great to use around the edges of the mattress, box springs, and other areas where eggs can be laid.

The Benefits.
The biggest benefit to using steam cleaning as part of your bed bug elimination plan is that it isn't harmful to you in anyway. You can steam clean your bed, your bedding, your couch, and every other area that needs it without fear of irritation to your skin and knowing that it won't make you sick.

However...
As with many things there is a but and in this case it can be a really big one. Before you rush out and buy a steam cleaner you need to consider the downsides of using them as part of your cleaning plan.

  • Most steam cleaners don't really get hot. Water doesn't have to be really hot to be forced into steam in the right container. Many steam cleaners, particularly those that are smaller and inexpensive don't get hot enough to kill bed bugs or their eggs.
  • In many cases you have to be in very close range in order to kill bed bugs or eggs. Sometimes that is as close as 1" from the live bed bug or the eggs. That makes it effective if you see it, but not so much for other areas where you won't be seeing.
  • Steam cleaning is very time consuming and your time may be more effectively used in other methods such as vacuuming, drying your bedding, and even using sticky traps to catch the bed bugs.
  • Finally, if you have laid down chemicals of any sort or you have paid others to lay down chemicals then steam cleaning is likely to ruin that plan of action. Every time you steam clean an area where the chemicals are you clean them up so they are no longer effective against the bed bugs.

Do the Negatives Outweigh The Positives?
This is really only something that you can answer for yourself. However, there I have two thoughts on it. If you already own a steam cleaner, especially a nice one or you would like to then now is a great time to get it out, before you have actually started a plan. Steam cleaning can be a great way to get it all started. However, once chemicals, borax, or diatomaceous Earth has been laid down I would recommend avoiding steam cleaning.

Step-By-Step Plan to Steam Clean.
Getting rid of bed bugs will require that you do a lot of things to get rid of them. However, here is how you would add steam cleaning to your plan.

  1. Wash anything that can be washed and dried. Everything that you can get away without for the next 6 to 8 weeks should be packed and sealed into plastic bags.
  2. Move out as much clutter as you can.
  3. Steam the entire room from the top to the bottom. Pay close attention to cracks, curtains, window frames (especially if the weather is warm), and along the edges of the carpet. Steam clean each piece of furniture and the carpet. You may want to move along to the next room because the first room needs to dry.
  4. You would then want to vacuum the room. Empty the vacuum out (canister style) or throw the vacuum bag away in a sealed bag so that if any live bed bugs are in there that they are disposed of.
  5. After that you should seal all of your cracks and your mattress and foundation. See the article Bed Bugs: Sealing Their Hiding Spaces to find out how to do this.
  6. Then you have cleaned, killed, and disposed of as many of them as possible. You have also sealed up many of their homes and made your house less inviting. Finally you should lay down borax or diatomaceous earth and any chemicals that you have chosen to give a try.

This is a great plan, but you will still need to wash, vacuum, and continue to fight the good battle to get rid of your bed bugs.

Killing Bed Bugs You See with the Steam Cleaner.
The steam cleaner does kill bed bugs you see, however in most cases this isn't a great way to go. The steam cleaner usually takes about fifteen minutes to heat up. In this time many bugs have the ability to move. There are other methods of catching and killing bugs that you see without touching them.

  • Using a piece of duct tape simply place the tape over the bug and pull it up. The bed bug will be caught good. You can then squish it or if that bothers you (they have a hard shell, a soft center, and if they have recently ate they will be full of blood) then you can stick them in a zippered plastic bag and seal them up and throw them away.
  • Many bed bug sprays are such that they kill on contact and can be used to kill any live ones that you see. However, you will want to make sure that they are safe for use on your bed before you use it on any furniture or bedding. The can or bottle should say very clearly whether it can be used on your bed. If it doesn't say then it can't be used there safely.
  • Another option is to vacuum up live bed bugs that you see. This works well as long as you then dump your canister or remove your vacuum bag and place it in a garbage bag. You should then seal the garbage bag with duct tape to keep them inside. If you wait awhile the bed bugs will be able to crawl out of the vacuum cleaner and you won't have solved anything.

Steam cleaning has its place, but when it comes to bed bug elimination and removal it isn't real high up. You want to make sure that everything you do works together. This means a steam cleaner can be helpful for the first day of action, but isn't going to help you get rid of bed bugs after that.

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