When it comes to steam and heat treatment options for bed bug control, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about steam. For example, while experts tout steam as safe and effective, the truth is that steam alone is not enough to eliminate an infestation or even prevent bites in some cases.
There are also many misconceptions about steam treatments. This article will attempt to clarify these issues, provide additional context around whether to use spot steamers against bed bugs, what kind of equipment you are to come across when you do decide to use steam or buy steam products, and so on.
How Do Pest Control Professionals Get Rid of Bed Bugs with Heat?
There are two main ways to eliminate bed bugs using heat. One is steam, or what you know as hot steam. The other is heat that generates through steam or dry heat. Dry heat can come in the form of an oven, for example. The steam itself comes from machines specifically designed to create it at high temperatures.
The steam kills living insects in direct contact where it hits them. It also penetrates fabric and other areas where bed bugs might reside when used at high temperatures for a sufficient period.
Steam treatment, in general, is less harmful in terms of health risks when compared with traditional pesticides in most cases. These do not include toxic chemicals or long-term exposure to dangerous dry steam.
Familiarize with two of these that you can experience from steam treatments of bed bugs. Here they are:
Bed Bugs Hate Heat
Bed bugs die or give up steam alone efficiently because they cannot resist the heat. It is a common treatment for pests in general because it affects their ability to reproduce, feed, and survive. For example, steam can kill bed bugs remaining after an initial pesticide treatment as well as those hiding within wall voids and other inaccessible areas.
Steam also kills bed bug eggs. This way, you know that steam treatments have been successful in eliminating breeding populations of these crawling insects. It is effective against all life stages of bed bugs – as long as it achieves temperatures between 135 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. That is at the center core of the target area with treatment for at least 90 minutes.
Steam treatment is faster than heat treatment in most cases! It is also more immediate and can do on-site where there are infestations. Whole house steam treatments may take longer. But they do not require you to leave your home during treatment like heat does (particularly dry heat).
The steam will affect pests when they come in direct contact with it or with materials that steam penetrates. Areas, where there is steam, include attics, wall voids, floors and carpets, and furniture.
Steam alone might not work well to eliminate bed bug problems in some cases. It works best when used in conjunction with other methods.
There are many ways to get rid of bed bugs. But one that is safe and effective is steam. You can use a portable steamer on them that will also make the eggs unviable. Once dry, vacuum up any remains for good measure.
Gain insights on six of these that can enlighten you about having steam bed bug treatment. Below is a guide:
Heat Alone is Not Enough
You steam a surface or a room thinking that it will kill bed bugs. But the steam might not penetrate all areas of your home where they linger and hide, such as on beds and furniture. Steam cannot reach some places because you have large bedroom furniture steam blocking it, for example. While it does kill those in direct contact, there may still become lots of others hiding in these difficult-to-reach areas.
Without the help of chemical pesticides, heat can leave a residue that is harmful to you. It is so hard for pests like bed bugs to return when their habitats are clean and clutter-free as well as regularly vacuumed or otherwise inspected for any leftover particles from previous treatments.
Size of Space Matters
The steam from a cleaner is not as intense as that of a machine. This leads to steam penetration into a limited amount of space. You will have better results when you steam larger areas with a handheld steamer or regular machine. That is rather than focusing on spots where your bed bugs are crawling.
Steam kills the vast majority of bed bug eggs when it reaches temperatures between 135 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit (57 and 66 degrees Celsius). But do you know how hot is steam? It can reach such temperature, but only for 90 minutes per treatment.
You should note that dry heat itself does not work well against eggs or those deep in wall voids, upholstery seams and crevices, and other inaccessible areas like cracks and crevices in wooden structures.
Not all Surfaces are Equal
You steam a surface to kill bed bugs when you think it can hold steam. But steam penetration depends on the materials of the surface, whether porous or nonporous and its thickness. The thicker or denser it is, the better steam will penetrate it.
For example, steam will not work well against upholstery fabric with tight weaves and smooth leather. There are no crevices for steam to seep into. Practice caution when choosing where to apply the steam treatment.
Porous fabrics like drapes or other linens may only need 10 minutes of exposure to heat before they reach temperatures that kill bed bug eggs quickly.
Bed Bug Bounce Back
You steam a surface thinking it will kill bed bugs. But steam might not penetrate all areas of your home where they linger and hide. Bed bugs may come from neighboring units or other locations in the house. It is unavoidable that some may survive even after steam treatment, along with their eggs.
Again, steam alone might not become enough to get rid of bed bugs in your home completely. You are more to succeed when you use steam together with chemical pesticides and other methods. Vacuum up any remaining particles using a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner after the steaming.
Bed bugs do not steam into your mattress. They only hide within it. Steam treatment does not kill bed bugs that are deep inside your mattress. Thus, leaving them to continue infesting you and your family members.
As a way out, you can use steam-safe encasement mattress covers on all of your beds and furniture, including those pieces made from leather or fabric upholstery. These will lock steam inside the items where steam would become deadly for bed bugs to survive.
While steam is safe for adults, children should stay away from treatments. They could inhale scalding steam during the process. It also makes sense to avoid using steam directly on mattresses or pillows.
Using steam for killing bed bugs is a good option when you have small items to treat like cushions and pillows. But steam alone will not work against insects living deep inside your beds and other furniture. Using steam can become even less effective than using heat without chemicals.
Steam penetration depends on the thickness of the material and how porous it is. Without monitoring or proper steam treatment, it may prove ineffective against bed bugs that hide beyond steam’s reach. Examples are behind large bedroom furniture, underneath fabric upholstery, and in depths of mattresses and box springs.
Can You Heat Treat One Room at a Time for Bed Bugs?
You steam one room using steamers, spot steamers, or steamers. But also know that bed bugs can easily crawl out of buildings and infest adjoining rooms or units.
Heating the room’s perimeter might cause cracks and crevices to open up, which can lead bed bugs in hiding. The heat will kill them because it masks their scent from you who can otherwise spot one. A single treatment with an effective method like this ensures 100% mortality rates on both adults and eggs. No more annoying reservoir of blood-thirsty populations living off your good times all night long.
Pros and Cons of Steam Spot Bed Bug Treatment
Steamers provide an option to kill bed bugs that is both effective and affordable. Direct the nozzles on steam cleaners at varying surfaces in your home. Apply very hot high pressure fluid with superb precision for targeting areas. These annoying insects thrive around furniture or floorboards near the bedsides of mattresses.
It is not as expensive compared to whole house treatments. No damage to any interior surfaces outside garment bags. Plus, you only need one unit per occurrence – saving money!
Pros and Cons of Whole House or Structure Steam Treatment for Bed Bugs
For steam alone to work against bed bugs, penetration must reach areas where they live and crawl. While steam can flush out and kill these insects in every nook and cranny of your home, this method is more expensive than spot steamers. It does not give you a guarantee for steam’s complete elimination of bed bugs even when you hire a professional exterminator.
But whole house or structure steam treatment can reach hidden areas that other methods cannot get into. Plus, it leaves no pesticide residues which could cause additional health problems down the road.
You will have a professional with you at all times. They will bring their heating equipment, which could have power from electricity or propane tanks, and move around fans to distribute the heat evenly throughout your home.