Winter is here and we’re all getting our first taste of this season’s arctic chill. So the time has come to start digging into closets and drawers to fetch out the family’s warmest coats, blankets, sweaters, and mittens. But what are the chances your winter clothes are hiding some unexpected pests? What should you do if you find bed bugs in your clothes?

Can Bed Bugs Live on Clothing?

First of all, it’s unlikely that bed bugs will be transferred to the clothes you are actually wearing. That’s the good news. Bed bugs don’t really like being on a moving host. This is one of the reason they are most often found in beds and overstuffed chairs where their hosts are either asleep or relaxing.

Of course, this is not to say that you can’t pick up bed bugs when you’re out and about. It’s not unusual for people to pick up stray bed bugs from infested movie theaters, airport lounges, or even bus stations.

Basically, if you find yourself in a building with an active bed bug population you may end up bringing home a stray bed bug or two on your bags or other belongings. But this is typically a temporary hideout for the bed bug. They’re only hitching a ride until they reach a more suitable environment.

How Long Can Bed Bugs Live on Clothing?

When people find bed bugs in their clothes it’s usually clothing that has been in storage or left in a pile at the back of a closet. Bed bugs prefer to stay out of sight, and clothes tucking in a dresser drawer or left on a shelf at the back of a closet are perfect hiding places. Nice and warm and out of the way. It’s only when you move the clothes that the bed bugs come out into the open.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Clothing

If you do find bed bugs hiding in clothing that’s been stored away or left piled at the back of a closet you may be wondering what to do. Naturally, you don’t want to ignore the problem. Bed bugs can survive for long periods of time without feeding, so starving them out and just hoping for the best is not an option. You’re going to have to tackle the problem head on.

The first thing you need to do is isolate the problem, and that means bagging up the infested clothes to prevent any bed bugs from scattering throughout your home. The easiest way to do this is to put the affected clothing into plastic trash bags. You’re going to want to double bag them as well. The key is to avoid spreading bed bugs anywhere else.

With the clothes bagged and ready for transport it’s time to decide where you’re going to take them. Short of throwing them away your best bet is to launder them completely. Whether you do this at home or at a public laundromat is your decision.

Washing Your Bed Bug Infested Clothing

One of your the most effective tools for eliminating bed bugs on clothing is your washer and dryer. This is one case where you can actually do-it-yourself.

Once you’ve decided whether you’re going to hit the laundromat or wash everything at home it’s time to get started. Carefully transfer the clothes from the bags to the washing machine.

Once you’ve emptied the bag carefully fold the opening back into the center of the bag and wrap the remainder of the bag around it. Put the folded bag into another bag and seal it closed with tape before disposing of it. Remember, you want to avoid spreading any bed bugs.

Next, wash and dry your clothes on the highest temps the items can tolerate. Heat is a powerful tool when combating bed bugs. So turn the controls to high heat.

While it’s not typically necessary to run the clothes through multiple cycles if you want to be thorough you might consider put your items through a couple of wash cycles before heading to the dryer. Again, once you’ve moved everything to the dryer you want to run it on high heat to ensure that any surviving bed bugs and eggs are entirely eliminated.

Follow Up With a Home Inspection

This is an easy method to remove bed bugs from clothing. However, if you do have a growing infestation in your home there’s a good chance your belongings will be exposed to bed bugs in the future. The best plan of action is to follow through with a professional bed bug inspection of your home. If necessary you may need to schedule a full treatment to eliminate any on-site infestation that may continue to cause problems down the road. The sooner you act the better. Left unchecked a bed bug infestation can quickly get out of hand.

Published by Scott Palatnik

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