Hot water above 130°F (54.45°C) can kill bed bugs on contact because they cannot survive in temperatures above 125°F. How fast they die depends on the water temperature. However, boiling water will kill bed bugs and their eggs instantly.
Boiling water can cause severe burns on bed bugs, which is why it kills them on contact. Those bugs are heat resistant, and any hot water used against them must be heated at 125°F or more. Afterward, bed bugs must be covered or drowned for at least half an hour.
Using hot or boiling water is only effective for washing and removing bed bugs on clothes. You cannot use this for those hiding in mattresses, furniture, beds, or wardrobes. Water can soak those items and cause more damage than good.
How to kill bugs with hot water
Washing clothes in a washing machine set at 120°F for at least 30 minutes will kill bed bugs and their eggs. Adding soap or any recommended gentle detergent can reduce the mortality rate to 15 minutes. However, you need to check the clothing tags to see if washing them at high temperatures is okay.
High temperatures can easily damage some fabrics or even discolor them. This is an important factor to consider when cleaning up a bed bug-infested wardrobe. Manufacturers have a standard label that is always pinned on every cloth, which should be checked before washing.
The good news is that you can still wash bug-infested clothes that are labeled at 60°F. The trick is to increase the exposure duration. Set the washing machine at 60°F but increase the washing time to 60 minutes.
Here is how it works: reduce the time if the water is extra hot. When the temperature is lowered, increase the time. Bed bugs can survive in hot temperatures of 120°F but what kills them is the exposure duration.
To increase their fatality, ensure they are well covered in hot water for a long time. Additionally, dawn soap can kill bed bugs. Therefore, mixing it with hot water in equal parts can work against those pests.
1. Hot water + bleach
Hot water mixed with bleach can kill bed bugs and their eggs quickly because heated water weakens their exoskeleton while bleach dissolves and breaks down their cells. Combine 8 ounces of hot water with 4 ounces of common household bleach like Clorox and spray it on them.
While spraying, do it generously, so they are well covered in the solution. This is a safe, non-toxic way of dealing with an infestation. In fact, you can make a spray with those two and use them against bugs in a mattress and wardrobes.
Common household bleach combined with water can kill bed bugs because it contains chemicals that are designed to dissolve tough stains. These include sodium hydroxide, calcium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide, all toxic to insects on contact.
The quantities of those chemicals are enough to break down the bug’s outer layers. When this is combined with hot water, it blocks an insect’s breathing system. However, bleach and hot water must be mixed in equal proportions. For it to be more effective, increase the bleach quantities.
2. Steam cleaning
A steamer can help get rid of bed bugs by injecting hot water into any material’s hidden parts. This is effective when dealing with bugs hiding in clothes. Getting bed bugs from hugging is difficult, but it is possible. Those can travel in your clothes and end up in your house or vehicle.
Steam cleaning can also be used to remove bed bugs in carpets and heavy upholstery. However, steaming clothes or carpets is not an effective way to use if you want to get rid of bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs can survive temperatures of up to 120°F. This means that steam cleaning will not easily kill them.
3. Pine-sol + boiling water
While it is an effective way to repel them, pine sol can kill bed bugs if they are drowned in it. An effective way to do this is to mix it with hot water and spray it on the bugs. Make a concentrated solution if you want it to be effective enough.
Put your hand gloves on, then simply blend 1 cup of pine sol with 1/2 cup of boiling water in a spray bottle. Spray this mixture on the infested areas to eliminate bed bugs and their eggs. The strong smell from this solution is also enough to remove tiny bugs in bedding if added to the final rinse.
Do bed bugs drown in hot water?
Yes, bed bugs can drown in hot water because high temperatures break surface tension in water. Once they sink, the hot water gets into the tiny holes which they use to breathe. This will instantly chock and drown them to death.
Then water is boiled; it cannot resist anything that lands on it, even if it is light. This is because the particles become more mobile and will let anything pass through them. Bed bugs are light and will not easily drown in cold water because the surface tension keeps them floating.
Additionally, bed bugs are not aquatic. This means that they do not live in water, making them poor swimmers. They have extra tiny legs that are not strong enough to push water as they try to swim. To drown a bed bug, simply throw it into a bowl of hot water and watch it die.
Hot showers can also get rid of any bed bugs that are stuck on your hair. Even though they do not live on the human body, your hair can trap bugs, especially if you sleep in an infested bed. Taking a long hot shower with the right shampoos can help remove those.
Basically, hot or boiling water can kill bugs at all stages of life. However, it is not an efficient way of dealing with an infestation. They hide in dark areas away from humans, and you do not want to soak everything.
Try alternatives like turpentine for bed bugs if the infestation is severe. Additionally, hot water and vinegar can kill bed bugs plus their eggs on contact. Hot water will burn through the layers, while vinegar will neutralize the bug’s cells completely.
Calina Mabel has over 15 years of experience in the field of journalism and communications. Currently, Calina Mabel is the Content Writer for categories such as Cockroach, Ants, Bed Bugs, Mosquito, Rodent, Termite, and Flies on Pestweek.com. She aims to build content for these categories with a focus on providing valuable and accessible information to readers, in order to create the world’s largest knowledge community about Pests.
All content written by Calina Mabel has been reviewed by Emily Carter.