As with many other heat treatments against bed bugs, steam works quite well. Steamers have been very popular these days to unwrinkle clothing, clean tile grout or for all purpose cleaning, but now steam is being used also to treat bed bugs. Bed bugs are very susceptible to heat and will expire at constant temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of the pest control operators we’ve spoken to, the must useful application of steam is for mattress and box springs along with inside cracks and crevices. Steam can also be used on carpeting as well inside cracks along baseboards.
Selecting The Right Steamer:
When it comes to selecting the correct steamer there are several features to look for. In order to treat bed bugs properly with steam, the end tip temperature should exceed at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit to be effective against bed bugs on contact. Not all steamers can achieve this especially those with long hoses allowing the steam to cool before it reaches the tip. We suggest looking for:
- Dry steamers
- Steamers with a tip temperature above 200 degree Fahrenheit
- Steamers with a wide angle attachment and cloth cover for mattresses and to reduce moisture
- Steamers able to operate for at least 45 minutes between refills making is easier to broadcast an entire room
- Steamers with smaller attachments for cracks and crevice
- Adjustable Pressure knob
When using a steamer its important to be careful as steam is hot and can easily burn the skin if not used properly (always adhere to the manufacturers safety guidelines). When applying heat you should move slowly at about 1 inch per second to ensure the area being treated achieves enough concentrated heat to be effective (moving to quickly not work and will just get your bed bugs wet). Always test steam a small area to ensure steam does not damage the application surface.
Difference Between Wet and Dry Steam:
We get this question a lot and the answer may not be as exciting as one would think. The truth is steam is steam and they all involves the use of water. The difference between a dry and wet steamer is a much higher boiler temperature, which reduces the amount of moisture at the tip. Many inexpensive steamers with lower boiler temperatures will expel more moisture and require more time to dry. Steamers with higher boiler points are more expensive, “less wet” and normally have larger water tanks extending treatment range.
One drawback to steam is they use water, which can potentially lead to mold or mildew if treated objects are not allowed to fully dry. One mistake commonly made is applying mattress encasements immediately after treated with steam. Mattresses should be allowed to fully dry before encasements are applied.
A couple steamers to look for in the market is the Vapamore MR-100, Enviromate E3 Dry Steam Cleaner and the LadyBug XL 2300 Dry Vapor Steam Cleaner. Steaming by itself will most likely not defeat bed bugs. For a non-chemical treatment we also recommend climbup insect interceptors, mattress encasements and diatomaceous earth.