Using a bed bug steamer to kill bed bugs and get rid of bed bugs in your home is environmentally safe and highly effective. Bed bugs cannot tolerate heat above 120 degrees, and a bed bug steamer will kill bed bugs on contact.
Even better, steam can penetrate into hard to reach areas and through the cloth wrappers of mattresses and box springs to kill bed bugs hiding inside as well.
While highly effective, steamers are not inexpensive, but certainly not near as expensive as bringing in a professional bed bug exterminator. Using a bed bug steamer is at the top of the list for do it yourself bed bug treatment options, it works and is safe.
BUT, using a steamer properly, is critical to killing bed bugs in your home, and keeping them from coming back. There are some very specific steps you MUST take while steaming. Not following these critical steps will result in just spreading the bed bugs around your home, making your infestation worse! We’ll walk you through the entire process, and help you find a streamer that will not only kill the bed bugs but one that will meet your budget and needs as well!
Updated February 2018
Let’s get started! In this article you’ll find:
- Advantages of using a Steamer
- Disadvantages of a Steamer
- How to use a bed bug steamer correctly
- Steamer Buyer’s Guide
- Water Capacity
- Amount of water in the steam
- Pressure adjustment
- Best Bed Bug Steamers
Advantages of using a Steamer
The advantages of using a steamer to treat bed bugs:
- Environmentally friendly and “green” option for killing bed bugs
- Steam penetrates and kills bed bugs you cannot see. This includes bed bugs in cracks and crevices, inside of mattresses and box springs, through carpet, and in hard to access areas of your furniture.
- Steam is a “touchless” method of killing bed bugs and will help keep from damaging your furniture. Be aware though, that steam can remove varnish from furniture if you aren’t careful.
- Steam allows you to treat your bed, bed sheets, curtains, carpet and other chemical absorbing items without having to use chemicals.
- A bed bug steamer will not only kill bed bugs but their eggs as well.
- Steam is highly effective at killing bed bugs when used in conjunction with other treatment methods such as diatomaceous earth, and bed bug sprays.
Disadvantages of a Steamer
While using a bed bug steamer is a highly effective bed bug treatment strategy, there are some disadvantages you need to be aware of:
- Not all steamers will work. See our buying guide below for more details on how to select a bed bug steamer that will work.
- Steam is hot – We know this seems obvious, but when using steam as a treatment method, you really have to be careful. Steam can cause serious burns and can penetrate clothing and gloves.
- A bed bug steamer should be used before using chemicals not after. Steam can cause chemicals to vaporize and go airborne. Airborne chemicals can pose a significant risk to your health. Always use chemicals or sprays after using steam.
- Bed bug steamers must be used correctly. This means making sure all areas are steamed. Missing an area will just result in another infestation or result in spreading the bed bugs around.
- Don’t use steam on electrical outlets. You can get shocked or damage your outlet causing a short that could result in a fire.
How to use a bed bug steamer correctly
There are tons of threads on internet forums where people are complaining about how using a bed bug steamer doesn’t work. In almost all of these posts, the bed bug steamer didn’t work because it wasn’t used correctly.
Here’s how to use a bed bug steamer to get rid of your bed bugs:
- Purchase a steamer (see our top 3 picks at the bottom of this article). Remember, not just any steamer will do. You’ll need to purchase one that has the right attachments and produces a constant stream of steam that is hot enough to kill bed bugs. Not all steamers do this. In the buyer’s guide section below, we’ll tell you what you need to know, and even recommend a few of the top bed bug steamers.
- Pay attention to and follow the instructions included with the steamer. Failure to do this can result in damaging the expensive steamer you just purchased, ruining your carpet and/or floor, or even worse severely burning yourself. Steamers are safe if used properly.
- Begin steaming – Steam the floor, bed (mattress and box springs included), trim, walls, cracks and crevices, dressers, curtains and any other place you suspect bed bugs. Making sure you cover all areas and that you don’t miss any. Try to use a section method where you start at one corner and work your way in sections to the opposite corner. Do not over steam and avoid getting the material “wet”. Remember: do not steam electrical outlets!
If in a few days, you still see signs of bed bugs, steam again. If you still see bed bugs after two steam treatments, you should steam one more time, then follow-up with a bed bug spray. Remember though, do not steam again for while after using the chemical! If you want to steam again, call the spray manufacturer and ask them how long you should wait before using the steamer again.
Removing bed bugs using any method, including steam often requires multiple treatments. Don’t be discouraged if you have to steam a room 2-3 times to completely eliminate your bed bug infestation. Multiple treatments are common.
Steamer Buyer’s Guide
There are a number of steamers available on the market, some are far more effective at killing bed bugs than others. To even further confuse matters, some steamers will claim they treat bed bugs, but really won’t. Others don’t claim they treat bed bugs but do! Here are a few things you need to pay attention to when selecting a bed bug steamer:
When using steam to kill bed bugs, you don’t want to be constantly having to refill it with water. You’ll want a steamer that holds around 1.5 liters of water (around a half gallon). This will give you about an hour of continuous steam.
Steamers that hold less and generally less expensive, but you’ll need to weigh out the cost difference vs the inconvenience and time required to steam an entire room having to refill it every 20 – 30 minutes.
One key issue with steamers that require constant refilling is that while you are refilling, the bed bugs are moving. They can and will move into an area that was already steamed once it has cooled down (while you are refilling). Because of this, we highly recommend purchasing the largest capacity steamer you can afford.
Amount of water in the steam
To minimize the amount of water usage and reduce the risk of mold and mildew, you’ll want a “dry” steamer. One that produces steam with about a 5% water by volume. This will still effectively penetrate and kill bed bugs, but also allow the areas being treated to dry much faster, and significantly decrease the risk of mold and mildew.
Effective bed bug steamers have a pressure adjustment. This allows you to adjust the amount of pressure coming out of the tip of the steamer. Pressure adjustment is important so that you can adjust the pressure to fit the surface or item being treated. For example, couches, mattresses, and pillows would require more pressure, while hardwood furniture, carpet and box springs, less pressure.
The risk of too much pressure is literally blowing the bed bugs around instead of killing them. Too much pressure will not allow the heat from the steam to contact the bed bugs long enough before just blowing them around. Many, so-called bed bug steamers, don’t have a pressure adjustment are therefore are often ineffective.
The number of and types of attachments that come with the unit or that are available is important. The attachments will allow you to most effectively put the steam where the bed bugs are to kill them. Important attachments include the clothes steamer attachment and jet tip attachment.
A clothes steamer attachment works great on sheets, curtains, mattresses and box springs. A jet tip attachment is great for getting in corners, trim, and furniture.
Last, but certainly not least, is temperature – probably the single most important consideration. If the steam temperature at the point at which the steam hits the bed bugs doesn’t exceed 120 degrees, the steam will not kill the bed bugs. There are many steamers on the market, but the majority of them cannot produce continuous steam in excess of 120 degrees. Many steamers will “burst” hot steam, but not produce it consistently. The risk here is that you will miss areas between bursts. Missing areas results in a bed bug infestation that remains.
You’ll want to purchase a steamer that produces at a bare minimum 120 degree temperatures at the tip of the attachment consistently. We recommend buying a steamer that exceeds 170 degrees the tip to be most effective. The
Best Bed Bug Steamers
There are a number of steamers available on the market, but only a small number are effective at killing bed bugs. Here are the best bed bug steamers using the criteria from our buyer’s guide:
Best Bed Bug steamer – This is one of the most effective bed bug steamers on the market
Best low cost option, but not as effective