Using a steam cleaner for bed bugs presents an effective and cost-efficient method for bed bug removal. While using a steam cleaner for your space may require some elbow grease, it will be worth it to get the critters out of your bed. In this guide, we’ll review what you should look for in a good steam cleaner, our top 3 steam cleaner recommendations, and how to use a steam cleaner for bed bugs.
Does Steam Cleaning Actually Kill Bed Bugs?
Because bed bugs present such a difficult challenge, you may be skeptical about a steam cleaner’s power to kill them. However, the heat let off by a steam cleaner successfully kills bed bugs at all stages of their life cycle. Some other methods, such as certain insecticides, can only kill adult bed bugs, leaving all the eggs to hatch and reproduce.
Bed bugs can’t withstand temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (around 50 degrees Celsius). Ideally, you should expose all infested areas to this heat for around 20 minutes to ensure you kill all the bed bugs and eggs present. Additionally, killing bed bugs with a steam cleaner leaves their bodies in place, meaning you should follow up with a vacuum to dispose of the dead insects.
Not all steam cleaners are effective against bed bugs, so we’ll discuss later what features a steam cleaner needs to possess in order to kill bed bugs.
Pros and Cons of Steam Cleaning
Steaming cleaning, like all other bed bug removal methods, has its advantages and disadvantages. Choosing the right method for your situation, or the correct combination of methods, can be crucial.
- Effective at kill bed bugs of all life cycle stages
- DIY method which is much cheaper than professional treatments
- Steam cleaner can be reused for typical cleaning purposes
- Doesn’t require the use of potentially harmful insecticides
- Can be difficult to reach all the areas bed bugs hide in
- Should always be used before any chemical treatments as the steam can vaporize the chemical which can be dangerous to inhale
Features of the Best Steam Cleaner for Bed Bugs
Water Tank Capacity
Ideally, you won’t want to have to refill your water tank when steam cleaning every 5 minutes. Also, if you opt for a handheld steam cleaner, you will want to make sure the tank is small enough that it’s comfortable to hold in the air. Steam cleaners with larger water tanks typically take longer to heat up, but the time and effort you’ll save from less frequent refills will make this difference worth it.
It almost goes without saying that you’ll need to make sure the steam cleaner you buy puts off a high enough heat to kill bed bugs. Most high-quality steam cleaners currently on the market put off heat of 120 degrees or greater, and all the steam cleaners for bed bugs on this list can kill the tiny insects.
The higher the pressure of the steam emitted from the cleaner, the deeper into fabric the steam will be able to reach. This helps to kill harder-to-reach bed bugs, giving you a better chance of killing all the bed bugs in your home.
You’ll want to ensure that the steam cleaner you buy comes with multiple attachments or that you’re able to purchase attachments that will fit the cleaner. You’ll require a larger attachment to cover large areas, such as the top of a mattress or carpet, but a smaller head to reach the corners and crevices that bed bugs hide in.
Again, the type of steam cleaner for bed bugs that you should purchase depends on how you want to use the product. If you’re planning to travel with your steam cleaner, consider a hand-held option. On the other hand, if you plan to only use and store the steam cleaner in your home, a canister steam cleaner could be for you. Whatever option you choose, make sure that the power cord is long enough to allow you to reach the necessary areas.
Top 3 Best Steam Cleaners for Bed Bugs
Our Rating: 4.9/5
This heavy-duty canister steam cleaner comes with 18 different accessories and a 48-ounce water tank. This cleaner only takes 8 minutes to heat up and will only need a water refill about every 45 minutes. It also has a steam-ready light to indicate when the steam is hot enough for use.
Our Rating: 4.7/5
Wagner’s 915 Steam Cleaner presents another great option as a steam cleaner for bed bugs. This canister steam cleaner comes with 9 different attachments, including accessories that are extremely helpful for cleaning floor surfaces. Also, this steam cleaner has the same water tank capacity and steam temperature as the McCulloch model, putting these two cleaners in direct competition. While the Wagner cleaner is slightly less expensive, it also comes with a much shorter power cord (6 ft as opposed to the McCulloch 15.7 ft). This means that the steam cleaner will require more frequent repositioning and maneuvering.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
This handheld steamer comes with 9 different accessories and allows you to reach the nooks and crannies that bed bugs live in. If you’re looking for something extremely portable, this option is for you. Dr. Purifier’s Handheld Steamer will be tough to use for long periods of time in large areas. However, the affordable price of this unit may allow you to purchase it as an addition to another steam cleaner.
How to Use a Steam Cleaner for Bed Bugs
Now that you’ve figured out the best steam cleaner for you, you’ll need to know how to effectively use a steam cleaner for bed bugs.
Identify Key Problem Areas
Although you should treat almost your entire house to be safe (depending on the severity of your bed bug issue), finding the areas in which the bugs hide the most is still important. You’ll want to treat these areas you identify extremely thoroughly when you get to the cleaning stage.
Eliminate Bed Bug Hiding Places
Next, eliminate the places where bed bugs hide will make your cleaning process much simpler and help to avoid getting bed bugs again in the future. Generally, keeping your space tidy and clutter-free will give bed bugs fewer spaces to hide. Before you steam clean, you can wash your sheets and clothing on high heat to kill the bugs residing in those materials.
Following the directions provided by your steam cleaner, steam clean your space. Additionally, make sure to avoid electrical outlets and keep the heated steam away from any skin to avoid burns. You may want to use your steam cleaner for bed bugs more thoroughly than for regular cleaning use to make sure the bed bugs are exposed to the heat for as long as possible.
Allow all Treated Areas to Thoroughly Dry
Allowing all treated areas to thoroughly dry before use or another treatment will help to prevent mold.
Follow Up with Other Treatments
Finally, you can follow up steam cleaning with other treatments for maximum effectiveness. First, you may want to vacuum up the bed bug bodies left after your steam cleaning treatment. Then you can check our articles on bed bugs (such as how to use tea tree oil for bed bugs) to find other methods you can use to kill any remaining bugs.
Steam cleaning at a high enough heat has been shown to be 100% effective at killing bed bugs. Also, this method can save you the time, money, and hassle of hiring professionals to clean your entire home. However, if you don’t kill all the bed bugs in your home, you risk being re-infested. We rated the McCulloch MC1275 Heavy-Duty Steam Cleaner as our favorite option because we believe it will be the most useful for the majority of people. This steam cleaner enables you to clean large areas more quickly than handheld options and comes with an extra-long power cord and 18 different attachments. Although this cleaner will certainly kill bed bugs, we always recommend calling a professional if the few bugs in your bed are turning into an infestation.