Does Steam Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are an ever increasing menace across the world.  Once you have them in  your home they can be difficult to shift.  For many people, the only way to get rid of bed bugs is to call in a professional pest control firm.  However, there are some methods you can try before picking up the phone to call for help; one is to use steam cleaning.

Steam cleaning your carpets and mattresses will kill bed bugs

This post is about:

  • How Steam Kills Bed Bugs
  • How to Choose a Steam Cleaner For Bed Bugs
  • How to Kill Bed Bugs Safely and Effectively With A Steam Cleaner
More about bed bugs:  find out how to keep bed bugs out of your home and how to tell the difference between flea bites and bed bug bites.

Steam Does Kill Bed Bugs

Steam will kill bed bugs.  In general, bed bugs are extremely well-adapted to withstanding most of the treatments we have to get rid of them.  One weakness they do have high temperatures, so as long as you can catch them before they scuttle away, heat is a good way of killing bed bugs.  A blast of steam is ideal; it’s quick and intense, lessening the chances of the bed bugs escaping.

Choosing a Steam Cleaner

If you decide to treat your bed bug problem yourself using a steam cleaner, there are several factors you should consider.

  • Temperature

In order to kill bed bugs you need a temperature of 120 F.  Any cleaner you are considering purchasing should list its temperature at the tip above 200 F.

  • Dry Steam

Choose a steam cleaner that produces dry steam/vapour to cut down on the risk of mold growing in your home.

  • Large Brush Head

If you are treating a mattress it is a good idea to have a large brush head.  Studies have suggested that small nozzles don’t work as effectively and may just blow the bed bugs around rather than killing them. Many cleaners come with a range of brush heads and nozzles, so you can find one that suits a variety of needs.

  • Large Water Chamber

Once you start steaming it’s best to keep going.  If your water chamber needs to be refilled regularly not only is it annoying, but you may not successfully kill the bed bugs (see below for steaming times).

  • Long Length of Cord

If you have a few places to steam, again it’s useful to be able to keep steaming without the need to stop and start because you have to unplug to move to a different area.

Use Your Steam Cleaner Effectively

As you can probably guess, you can’t just wave your steam cleaner randomly at your mattress and hope to kill all the bed bugs.  You need to systematically target the steam at the bed bugs if you are to kill them.  The length of time needed is as follows:

  • Adult Bed Bugs and Nymphs:  15 minutes
  • Bed Bug Eggs:  60 minutes

As you can see, eradicating the eggs can take a considerable time, probably more than you can sensibly manage.  For this reason I would suggest that you aim to kill off the adult bed bugs and nymphs in a session.  Repeat the steam process at weekly intervals for a few weeks; bed bug eggs take between 6 and 17 days to hatch, so by steaming weekly you should catch them as they hatch.

Between steaming, make sure that you hoover daily around the bed and launder your bed linen at high temperatures.

Be Safe

It goes without saying, but steam is very, very hot!  Be vigilant when you are using a steam cleaner to prevent burns.  Also, whilst steamers are safe to use on fabric, wood, carpets and most areas of the house, keep the steam clear of electrical outlets.  Steam is after all water, and water and electricity don’t mix!


  • Steam at a high temperature will kill bed bugs at all stages on contact.
  • Many steam cleaners can deliver enough high temperature steam to kill bed bugs.
  • One treatment may not be enough to kill off all bed bugs, but repeated treatments may work.
  • Use steam safely!

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