Bed bugs are a challenging pest to eliminate at home. Laundry dryers provide an effective tool to kill bed bugs lurking in clothing, bedding and other washable items through high, sustained heat. When done properly, dryers can destroy all stages of bed bugs.
This focused guide covers using dryer heat, lint traps, and proper drying procedures to control bed bug infestations. It also shares tips for identifying dead bed bugs in lint.
Why Dryer Heat Kills Bed Bugs
Bed bugs die when directly exposed to temperatures over 120°F for 20-30 minutes. Laundry dryers easily reach internal temperatures of 140°F, hot enough to kill bed bugs and eggs.
Several factors are key for successfully eliminating bed bugs with a clothes dryer:
- High heat – Use the highest heat setting only to ensure lethal temperatures.
- Adequate drying time – Run full cycles of at least 30 minutes once 120°F is reached.
- Direct contact – Bugs must contact the heat source directly. Don’t overload.
- No cold spots – Keep lint filter, vent and outside dryer hot.
- Good airflow – Clean lint screen thoroughly before each cycle.
When these criteria are met, the sustained high heat in a dryer can destroy all life stages of bed bugs through thermal mortality.
Operating a Dryer to Maximize Bed Bug Control
To optimize your dryer for killing bed bugs:
- Wash and dry items from infested rooms separately from other laundry.
- Use the highest temperature setting only.
- Dry only a couple items at a time to allow thorough heat penetration.
- Add a dryer sheet to distribute heat evenly and further reduce bugs.
- Run full cycles for 30-40 minutes after reaching optimal temp.
- Check that exterior vent area stays hot to the touch.
- Remove items immediately after drying and place into sealed bags or bins.
Caution – Bed bugs can survive if laundry is removed warm or wet. Items must be fully dried on high heat for the full cycle length.
Signs of Dead Bed Bugs in Lint
After running infested laundry in the dryer at a lethal temperature, check the lint filter for signs of dead bed bugs:
- Intact dead bug bodies – These will be very small, flat and reddish-brown. Nymphs are under 5mm long.
- Body parts – You may see legs, antennae or other appendages.
- Dark spotting – Crushed bed bug bodies can leave dark brown or black debris.
- Egg casings – Dry, empty shells from hatched eggs may be visible.
- Blood smears – From crushed, fed bugs.
- Tiny shells – Molted exoskeletons may accumulate.
Finding this evidence in your lint confirms dryer heat was effective in killing bed bugs. Be sure to keep monitoring laundry and rooms for any live bugs.
Maintaining the Lint Trap
With frequent drying to control bed bugs, lint buildup needs diligent maintenance:
- Clean the lint filter thoroughly after each cycle.
- Remove any lint stuck in mesh holes using tweezers.
- Vacuum the duct and interior dryer openings often.
- Ensure exhaust duct is unblocked.
Proper airflow is critical for the dryer to reach and sustain hot temperatures needed to kill bed bugs. Keep the lint filter, vent and ducts clean.
Complete Dryer Precautions
When treating items for bed bugs, also:
- Avoid opening the dryer mid-cycle, which drops the temperature.
- Check dryer interior at times for any live bugs. Remove any found.
- Seal openings on the dryer with caulk after cleaning.
- Use a climbing interceptor under dryer legs.
- Keep the dryer 6 inches from walls so bugs can’t crawl behind.
Bed bugs can infest dryers themselves if precautions aren’t taken. Carefully inspect and seal your machine.
Drying Clothes and Bedding
Focus drying on key items from infested rooms:
- Sheets, pillowcases, blankets and covers
- Mattress and box spring encasements
- Clothing, towels, curtains
Wash then immediately dry on high heat for 30+ minutes. Repeat weekly until infestation is gone.
Other Methods Still Needed
While drying laundry kills bed bugs and eggs present, it doesn’t address infestations on furniture, carpets and in walls. Integrate other treatments:
- Vacuum infested rooms and furniture thoroughly.
- Apply targeted insecticide sprays or dusts.
- Install bed bug interceptor traps under furniture legs.
- Use steam cleaners on upholstery, mattresses, carpeting.
- Seal cracks and crevices in walls and furniture with caulk.
- Employ professional heat or freezing services for serious infestations.
Drying laundry alone won’t eliminate a bed bug problem. Use it in combination with other chemical and non-chemical control methods.
Prevent Bed Bugs from Returning
Once eradicated, vigilance is key to keeping bed bugs from re-entering your home:
- Inspect rooms regularly for signs of re-infestation.
- Act quickly at the first sign of bugs – isolate and treat.
- Continue drying laundry on hot settings after treatment.
- Avoid bringing in used furniture or secondhand items.
- When traveling, thoroughly inspect hotel rooms.
- Upon returning home, immediately wash clothing on hot.
Staying alert to early warning signs allows prompt response to any recurring bed bugs before they multiply and spread.
The Takeaway: Drying Clothes to Control Bed Bugs
When done properly, drying laundry on the highest heat setting can kill bed bugs lurking in clothing and linens and is an important part of an integrated treatment approach.
Look for signs of dead bed bugs like intact bodies, dark debris, and eggs casings in lint as confirmation. Maintain the dryer and vent, wash then dry on hot, and combine with other methods for effective control.
Through diligence, monitoring and integrated pest management, you can eliminate bed bugs and keep them out of your home. The clothes dryer provides a useful tool in this fight.