Does Washing Clothes Kill Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are a nuisance. They hitch on a ride on your luggage, backpack, clothes and spread like wildfire throughout your home in no time.

These pesky parasites are excellent at hiding under the seams of mattresses, sofa, shoes, the crevices of your walls, and anything on the floor. Lured in by your breath, bed bugs come out of their hiding places at night, feed on you without remorse, and leave after five minutes with their stomach opulent from feasting on your tasty blood. These critters are hard to eliminate. It is best to call a pest control professional and let them handle the bed bug catastrophe in your home.

Before you make a call to a pest control expert, wash your clothes, bedding, linen, or anything on the floor to prepare your home for extermination. But wait! Does washing clothes kill bed bugs?

Washing clothes kill most of the bedbugs of all life stages. But, it is ultimately the heat of the drying that wipes out the remaining bedbugs. Bedbugs hate heat. Thus, washing clothes with hot water and drying them at a high temperature of 112℉ and above for 90 minutes will successfully eradicate bedbugs and their eggs.

How to wash clothes infested with bedbugs:

Bed Bugs

Clothes infested with bed bugs should be:

  1. Sorted 2. Washed 3. Dried 4. Stored.


  • Sort your clothes into separate piles in the infested area to avoid spreading the bed bugs to other areas of your home.
  • Sort clothes according to color, kind of fabric, and washing instructions. Dry clean only, for example, cannot be washed. They can, however, be put into a dryer on high heat to wipe out any bed bugs hiding inside.
  • Place each sorted pile into individual plastic bags and seal the bags with tape or string. To ensure a safe seal, twist the mouth of the plastic bag and shut it before tying it closed.
  • Make sure there are no holes in the bags to prevent any stray bed bugs from escaping.

Spray Clothes with rubbing alcohol:

  • Spray rubbing alcohol on colorfast clothes.
  • Skip this step for non-colorfast and dark fabrics.
  • Rubbing alcohol will instantly kill bedbugs on contact. However, this won’t solve the infestation problem entirely.
  • Rubbing alcohol catches fire quickly. Thus, use it in a place away from fire and smoke.

Washing Clothes:

  • Carefully place each sorted pile into the washing machine. The key is to spill the bags of clothes directly into the washer to avoid the risk of spreading the bedbugs to other areas of your home or the laundromat. Rough handling of these bags can lead to these bugs becoming airborne or fall onto the floor.
  • Before dumping the clothes into the washer, look for the care labels: the temperature, duration of the wash cycle, and so forth.
  • After emptying the bags, put them into a clean plastic trash bag and seal it. Then dispose of it into an outside trash bin.
  • Add your usual laundry detergent into the washer.
  • Wash the fabric at the hottest temperature it can safely handle. Note that it is not the water itself but the heat of the hot water that chokes the life out of these pesky bedbugs!
  • For Dry-clean only garments, skip the washing part as these items cannot be made wet. You can, however, put them into the dryer and heat them at a temperature of 120-140 ℉ to eliminate bedbugs and their eggs hiding inside your clothes.

Drying Clothes:

  • After washing your clothes, put them into the dryer and dry them at a temperature of 112-113℉ for at least 90 minutes. As bed bugs are susceptible to high temperatures, the heat will finish the bedbugs and their eggs off, hiding in the folds of your clothes.
  • Place dry clean items into the dryer on a medium to high setting for about 30 minutes. Drying will wipe out the bugs in your clothes but not clean them, so you may still want to take them to a dry cleaner. But, inform them about the bed bug infestation beforehand, as they might want to quarantine your clothes.

Storing Clothes:

  • Take the clothes out from the dryer and fold them. If you wish to fold clothes on a table, inspect the table for bedbugs to prevent reinfestation.
  • Place clothes carefully in clean and heavy-duty plastic bags and tightly seal them. Do not use cardboard boxes as bedbugs can take a residence inside them.
  • If you are at a laundromat, place your clothes into plastic bags, seal the bags, and do not open the bags until you reach your home.
  • Do not remove the clothes from the plastic bag until you have handled the bed bug infestation at your home.

How to wash delicate fabrics with bedbugs without ruining them:

Put delicate fabrics like cashmere and jackets into the dryer on high heat (71-82 ℃) for about 20 mins. That will knock out adult bedbugs and nymphs inside your clothes.

You can also first wash, air dry, and tumble on high heat.

If you want to protect your clothes from the heat of the dryer, steam your clothes with a fabric steamer after the washing part. That way, your clothes won’t shrink.

Don’t want to wash or dry? Try this!

If you don’t plan to wear your delicate clothes for a long time, put them into a plastic bag and seal. Put packets of silica gel into the bag. Silica gel absorbs bed bug’s body moisture. The desiccant will dry out the bedbugs, causing them to die. To speed up the process, put the bags out in the sun for a couple of days.

If you suspect heat can destroy your delicate clothes, place them in a freezer. Bedbugs die inside the freezer at 0℉. But you have to keep your clothes inside it for at least four days. Besides clothes, you can also place other bedbug-infested items such as shoes, books, and toys inside the freezer to get rid of these nasty insects.

Do I have to wash all my clothes if I have bedbugs?

Yes, to be on the safer side, wash all your clothes to get rid of bedbugs because it is difficult to detect them, to begin with, and worst still, these parasites spread in no time. So, to avoid reinfestation, it is a good idea to launder all your clothes.

Can Bedbugs Survive the Washing Machine?

Yes, bedbugs can survive the spin cycle in your washing machine. Washing clothes with cold water will not kill bedbugs. Drowning them can help, but the bedbugs on the surface of the water will still have access to air, leaving them alive to crawl out of your washer and infest the whole laundry. Use hot water while washing, as it is the heat that kills the bedbugs.

Does washing clothes with bleach kill bedbugs?

Hypochlorous—The active ingredient in bleach is lethal to bedbugs. This acid damages the poor critter’s lungs. Unable to breathe, the bedbug dies. Always look for the care labels and washing instructions on your clothes before using bleach on them. Use color-safe bleach in the case of colored fabrics. Or, use bleach on white or light-colored clothing.

To wash clothes riddled with bedbugs with bleach, follow these steps:

  • Add bleach (liquid or powdered) into the washing machine.
  • Toss infested clothes. You can also place pillowcases and sheets into the washer.
  • The bleach will kill off bedbugs of all stages.
  • Then, put clothes into the dryer at a high temperature of 112℉.
  • The heat of the dryer will get rid of the remaining bedbugs.

Note: Bleach is a strong chemical. Thus, cover your nose with a hanky to avoid irritation.

Does washing clothes remove bedbug stains:

Bedbugs leave stains of their droppings and blood on your clothes. Though regular wash is enough to remove bedbug stains, it requires the following steps to remove tougher marks.

Here’s how to wash away bedbug stains from your clothes:

  • Get an enzyme-based fabric stain remover.
  • Spray it on your clothes for 10 minutes before washing.
  • Then wash your clothes as recommended above.


To sum up, washing clothes is an effective strategy to kill bedbugs. Though it won’t end the infestation in your home, washing your clothes can make things easier by solving a part of the problem.

Follow the instructions mentioned in this write-up to get rid of these sneaky bedbugs and get ready to wear your darling clothes again.