The most common place you’ll find bed bugs is in or near your bed. Otherwise, we’d probably be calling them something else. Bed bugs like to stay close to their host, so they’re typically found within about 20 feet of whoever they’re feeding on during the night. However, they are great travelers, and can be found just about anywhere people frequent. This includes hotels, airports, and even your car. While it’s not very common to find bed bugs in your car, it does happen, and it’s especially frustrating to deal with.
You can’t treat a car the same way you might treat a room; there are too many tight spaces, and too much risk of enclosed exposure to chemicals, for the usual treatment techniques. There are some unique challenges to treating a bed bugs in your car, but it’s nothing you can’t handle with the right attitude and the right plan.
Confirm an Infestation
Before you do anything drastic, you’ll want to make absolute sure that there are bed bugs in your car. If you’ve found some itchy red welts after driving, you may have bed bugs, but those may also be from something else, like an allergic reaction or other type of pest.
Begin by cleaning out the interior of your car. Remove any clutter and debris between your seats, around the floors, and in the center console. This will remove potential hiding places of the bed bugs while you’re looking for them, and will make the treatment process much easier. Next, use an active monitor like Verifi or NightWatch. This will attract and trap any bed bugs in your car within 24 hours.
While you’re waiting for the bed bug traps to do their thing, perform a quick visual inspection for any signs of the critters. Look for small red blood spots, thin black streaks, or shed skins. Be sure to check along any seams in your seats, the corners of your flooring, and inside the glove box and center console.
Once you’re sure that what you’re dealing with is in fact bed bugs, you need to get to treating it ASAP. You don’t want the bed bugs in your car to find their way to your home or workplace, so you need to nip the infestation in the bud. Bed bugs are highly susceptible to heat; exposure to at least 120 degrees will kill them in a matter of minutes, and 180 degrees or more will kill them on contact. There are a couple of great ways we can use this to our advantage.
Start by covering every crack, crevice, nook, and cranny in the interior with a vacuum cleaner. Be very thorough: hit the floor panels, under the pedals, all of the little spaces under the seats. Bed bugs can fit anywhere a credit card can, and you want to suck up as many of them as possible. Ideally, you’ll want to use a HEPA vacuum, as its sealed filter will prevent any bed bugs inside from escaping.
The most effective and important step in any bed bug heat treatment will be using a steam cleaner. The right bed bug steamer will be capable of putting out over 200 degrees of high-pressure steam to kill any bed bugs in your car on contact. Use a fabric attachment with a cloth cover to keep the steam from blowing all over the place; we want the heat to be concentrated where we’re pointing the gun. Go over the same areas you covered with the vacuum, and take care to move the steam nozzle very slowly (no more than one inch per second).
While some articles and videos have suggested heating the interior of the car to kill any bed bugs inside, we don’t recommend this approach. When we tested this by removing the cloth casing of a bed bug heater, we fried the hard drive of a laptop we left inside, and risked damaging the car’s electronics as well.
Now that you’ve eliminated a good chunk of the bed bugs in your car, it’s time to secure your ride from future infestation. The best way to do this is with Nuvan ProStrips. These will kill off the remaining bed bugs within a few days.
Nuvan ProStrips emit an odorless vapor called DDVP, which deeply penetrates just about anything in the area, making it very effective against bed bugs. Simply remove the Nuvan strips from their sealed enclosure and place them inside their hanging holder. Leave one or two strips in the car’s cabin, and one more in the trunk.
Note that DDVP is not safe for people or pets, so you’ll want to handle the strips with gloves and stay out of the vehicle for at least 48 hours. After the treatment, roll down the windows and give the car time to air out, just to be safe. Always adhere to the product label and MSDS to ensure safe and effective usage.