Can Bed Bugs Survive in Water with Detergent?

When it comes to pesky pests, few beat the horrid bed bug. These nasty parasites can be transferred by contact with infested items or, more commonly, attack when you stay in less-than-ideal dwellings.

Bed bug infestations can come on quickly, and trying to get rid of all the bugs can be difficult.

Key Points:

  • Bed bugs can survive for a long period of time on undisturbed clothing items.
  • It is often difficult to make bed bugs drown in water, as they are able to stay afloat.
  • Washing clothes in the hottest water setting with borax-containing laundry soap can help reduce/kill an infestation of bed bugs.

The first line of defense against any indoor pests, including bed bugs, is to wash any clothing or linens. But is laundry detergent all that is needed to kill these persistent pests, or will hot water, a dryer, and other factors be needed to fully wipe them out?

Find out if bed bugs can survive in water with detergent in the article below. 

How Many Days Can a Bed Bug Survive on Clothing?

Bed Bug

In general, clothing is either worn or stored someplace waiting to be put on or washed. It is unlikely that bed bugs will occupy the clothing we are currently wearing as that could expose them to sunlight and extreme weather condition that they will not be able to survive.

A big pile of clothing in the corner of the room, on the other hand, may become the perfect breeding ground for bed bugs and lead to serious problems down the line. 

Since clothing in closets, suitcases, or just strewn about is less likely to be, disturbed bed bug populations can live for several months to years, assuming a fresh supply of blood meals for the adult females.

If clothing and other fabric where bed bugs are hiding are washed, dryer, or taken into the sun, then the bugs will not survive long, and the infestation can be halted. 

Removing Bed Bugs from Clothes

If you have discovered bed bugs in your home, then there is a good chance they have spread out, and the whole place needs to be treated.

There are signs of pests you can be on the lookout for, like obvious bite marks on your skin and increased sightings of small bugs, but ultimately it is safe to assume the whole home needs to be treated.

Before calling a pest control company to take care of your bed bug problem, you can try these methods for removing bed bugs from clothing. 

Hang in SunlightPlace clothes on a clothesline outside where the sun will heat the fabric, and UV light will burn any pests hidingIf left out long enough, all signs of bed bugs should be gone, and a normal wash will make the fabric safe to wear again 
Steam TreatHeat is one of the best pest controllers out there, and any launderable items can be treated with hot steam to wipe out pestsWhen treated at temperatures of 140° bed bug-infested items will be purged of the pests through the combination of heat and humidity 
Dust with Toxic PowderNon-washable or hard-to-dry items can be hit with dust or powder that is toxic to bed bugs but harmless to humans and animals to kill pests without any lingering effectsPowders like borax and diatomaceous earth can kill bed bugs on dry cleaning or other delicate items, as well as large fabrics like rugs and upholstery via direct contact and systemic methods 
Spray with InsecticideUse a strong insecticidal spray to treat bed frames and the outer layer of furniture that cannot be removed or washed This can actively stop an infestation by hitting bed bug hiding spots as well as lay down a residual repellent that can kill for around 90 days and keeps pests away 
Wash and DryTossing clothes in the washing machine at the hottest temperature or in the dryer after a cold water wash is the best way to ensure no bed bugs are on your clothes A load of laundry with borax containing detergent, hot water, as well as a high-heat dryer run will result in clean clothes and acts as a great pest management approach, especially with outdoor clothes 

Will a Bed Bug Survive being Submerged in Water?

Bed Bug in Water

Placing a bed bug in a glass of water probably will not kill it, and neither will the washing machine with cold water without detergent, as the bed bugs can stay afloat and avoid drowning. Bed bugs that just ate may sink and become submerged in water leading to their eventual demise.

A bed bug cannot survive being submerged in water but can be hard to get under the surface of the liquid in the first place. 

When trying to drown bugs in clothes, you need to consider the tension of the water, the time in the water, and if it is warm water or cold water.

If you have dirty clothes and they have bed bugs on them, make sure you are washing clothes in the hottest setting to increase the chance the bed bugs will die. If a bed bug can avoid being submerged, it can live for several days on top of the water and will most likely be able to escape before drowning. 

Can Laundry Soap Eliminate Bed Bugs?

Bed bug-infested clothes can be washed with borax-containing laundry soap to increase the chance they will die. If you clean clothes on a regular basis and rotate outdoor clothes so nothing goes unwashed for longer than a few months, you will develop preventative measures that keep infestations at bay.

Bed bug clothes that remain unwashed or stuffed in bags or the back of the closet may grow to support a large population that will venture out and discovers your sleeping quarters if left undisturbed. 

What is the Total Time Bed Bugs Can Live in Water?

A bed bug cannot survive in water for more than a few days, as slipping below the surface is fatal to them. Bed bugs can survive by staying afloat and not breaking the surface tension of the water, but on larger bodies of water or places they can not climb out of bed, bugs will grow tired and drown.

If you manage to get the bed bug under the water, use hot water, or have chemicals in the water that kill insects, then the time they can survive is much shorter. 

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