Bed bugs are an absolutely nasty nuisance to acquire, and they’re spreading! Cases of infestation have increased all across the world, as populations become more globalized and we all travel more often.
You can pick up bed bugs practically anywhere, since they’re terrific hitchhikers.
Travel is often the culprit. They lurk in hotel and hostel beds, in the crevices of your airplane seat, and in the baggage compartments. They’re found in mass transit seating, and anywhere there’s a soft surface for them to crawl on and hide in.
You can even get them from going to the movie theatre.
Of course, it’s easier to prevent bed bugs in the first place than to deal with an infestation. So, use caution whenever you travel, keeping clean clothes in ziplock bags and taking care to inspect beds, hotel rooms, and fabric-covered seats wherever you go.
If you’ve already brought bed bugs home, you’re probably feeling quite overwhelmed. They’re very, very difficult to get rid of. You could pay thousands to a pest control company, but that would involve both a lot of money and a lot of pesticides being sprayed in your living space.
Steam is a remarkably good way to get rid of bed bugs, used alone or in conjunction with other extermination techniques.
The extremely high heat kills bed bugs on contact. It also destroys eggs and larvae. You can use it on the vast majority of surfaces, and there are no toxic chemicals involved.
Here’s how to get rid of your bed bug problem using steam cleaning
First, take care of all the preliminaries. Wash all your clothes and bedding on high heat settings, with lots of soap. Dry them on high heat settings, and keep that dryer going longer than you need to.
You want to leave things in that environment for at least an hour, more if possible. Eggs should be destroyed by the laundry soap, and the high heat will kill any adult bugs or larvae.
Once you’ve done that, and reduced the clutter in your space, begin inspecting thoroughly. Look all around your living space, especially in any rooms where you’ve had bites or seen signs of live bugs.
Find where they are
Try and establish where the bugs are hiding. Follow the trails of eggs or blood/excrement, and use a bright flashlight to look in nooks and crannies.
The key places to look are your mattress, pillow, and bed frame.
Be sure to check the headboard, the bases of the legs on your bed, and all the baseboards/walls/floorboards around the bed. Narrowing down your infestation area will help you focus your steam attack!
Use this EPA guide if you need help identifying or locating bed bugs.
First Vacuum, Then Steam
Vacuum before you start using the steam cleaner, since that will help the steam cleaner work best. Cover all the areas where you intend to steam.
You’ll probably get a few eggs in the vacuum, and maybe even a live bug or two. Use bags to contain any bugs and eggs. Wash filters and the bag compartment when you’re done vacuuming.
Seal the bag in a ziplock bag, then get it out of the house ASAP.
Now, at last, you’re ready to steam. You want either a handheld or canister-type steam cleaner for this job. Canister systems are preferable, since they pack a lot more of a punch than handheld units.
Read the directions on your cleaner before you start. Know what surfaces can be steamed, and which can’t.
How to Steam Clean Bed Bugs
Once the machine has warmed up, get to work! Use a rag or old towel to clear accumulated water while the machine heats and when you’re moving between rooms/areas.
This makes sure that only the high-temperature vapor is used, and no excess water is left on surfaces!
Start from the top of the space and work down. You can steam practically anything, as long as you don’t get the nozzle too close or stay too long on any one spot.
Get the walls, ceiling, and baseboards, then focus on the floor and any furniture pieces. Be thorough: you don’t want to miss any nooks and crannies.
You should have already thrown anything washable into the laundry–now cover everything that couldn’t be washed: drapes, upholstery, etc.
Be sure to get in all the nooks and crannies around wood molding, window sills, mattress frames, headboards and so forth. Be super thorough around your bed!
Bed bugs usually stick to an area about 8 feet from the sleeping quarters, unless you have a large infestation.
We’ve found that it’s better to use a midsize nozzle rather than a pointer. You want to be sure you don’t give bed bugs an easy escape, so having some extra coverage helps. Focused pressure can also scatter them rather than kill them.
As you’re steaming, you may see actual bed bugs, or you might be steaming into potential hiding spaces hoping to catch them. If you come across bugs, steam the hell out of them. Take no prisoners!
After you steam one, use gloves and put it in a sealed ziplock bag to be extra sure. Examine the surrounding area very closely to make sure you’ve gotten all the eggs.
Then be on the lookout. You may need to do several treatments with steam before you get all the bugs and eggs in your home.
Most experts also recommend following up with a chemical treatment or something like diatomaceous earth. This is to kill any bugs that evaded the steam treatment.
Do’s and Dont’s
Always be careful to avoid steaming anything electrical. Don’t go near outlets or electronics, and don’t try to steam anything like speakers or power strips
Never steam foam mattresses or pillows, and don’t steam unsealed floorboards either. You’ll warp them. Only do this if you’re desperate, and know the bed bugs are between the cracks!
Big floor attachments don’t always get to the necessary temperatures quickly enough to be practical. You want to use one of those triangle heads, if your machine comes with one.
Take your time while you’re steaming. You need to make sure each inch of steamed space gets to the bug-annihilating temperature range.
Especially when you’re going over an area with concealed hiding spots, you never know what could be lurking just out of sight. Give the steam time to penetrate.
Don’t move more than 1” per second, as a general rule. Stay about 1” from the surface, and don’t use direct contact, in order to prevent damage to surfaces.
Don’t replace bedding or pillowcases until you’re sure they’ve dried completely!
Diatomaceous earth is the least toxic option, since it simply dries out the bodies of any bugs that encounter it.
It’s easy to sprinkle it into floorboards, into corners, and carpets. Just be sure to use a mask when you apply it, and to vacuum it thoroughly after 48 hours or as long as you can allow it to work (it’s a good idea to spend the night somewhere else).
Even if you don’t get everything with steam, it can cut down on the amount of pesticide needed to eliminate them!
It’s not the end of the world if you do a thorough steaming and then use some carefully-placed insecticides to finish the job. Always consult with a pest control expert before you decide on a full treatment plan.
Some general tips
Since steam won’t penetrate all the way through mattresses, and since foam models can’t be steamed safely, use a bedbug-proof liner.
This will keep any bugs in the mattress from getting out, and they’ll eventually starve. Likewise, no bugs will be able to infest your mattress in future. You’ll need to leave it on at least a year to contain any living in the mattress.
These liners are good to have anyway, as a preventive measure. It’s better to spend $100 on one of them than to have to consider throwing out a $1000 mattress!
Never steam areas that you’ve treated with diatomaceous earth or chemicals. Steam will negate their effect, and could lead to harmful vapors. Apply these treatments after steaming as an additional measure, rather than before.
Use a respirator in any case, because steam will vaporize any chemical residues, such as paint fumes, household cleaners, etc.
Use an infrared thermometer to be sure you’re cleaning at killing temperatures wherever you point the nozzle. 160-180ºF is the prime temperature range, and you may need to work more slowly or more closely depending on the type of surface in question.
Not just any steam cleaner will work for killing bed bugs. The listed nozzle temperature should be at least 200 degrees F, and you should always test with a thermometer to make sure that’s accurate. This is going to be time-intensive, so make sure you’re not going to be wasting your time!
There are limits to what you can do with steam. You can expect penetration to 3/4” on soft furnishings, such as couches or mattresses, and 2 3/8” into gaps such as between boards or in corners. The University of Minnesota has a great info sheet here, and it goes into detail about what you can and can’t expect when pursuing this type of treatment.
Finally, always use steam carefully! Be careful of burns, and keep an eye on surfaces when you’re steaming them. Don’t keep steaming if you see them warping or becoming ruined!
Bed bugs are not invisible creatures, but they might as well be considering how difficult they are to find. Their bites also have an anesthetic effect so when they feed, the human host will not feel it right away and will most likely wake up baffled at the sight of red spots and welts already on his skin, which he will most likely chalk up to mosquito bites or just a bout of hives.
But here’s the thing that will tell you it’s not just a case of hives: you will keep on seeing those red bumps. Unless you deal with the infestation, the symptoms won’t go away. You might even have a big infestation problem on your hands if you don’t get rid of bed bugs right away as they can multiply overnight and even get to your other furniture and upholstery.
So how exactly does one eradicate these vile creatures?
You can always throw your mattress out but that isn’t plausible if it’s still in great condition and you bought it for thousands of dollars.
You can drown the bed bugs in chemical solution but it’s also not the most brilliant of plans if you don’t like to sleep on a mattress with chemical residues on it.
The best solution is to get yourself a steam cleaner. The heat from the steam effectively kills bed bugs hiding in the inner layers of your mattress. There’s no need to cut your mattress in half to get to these pests. The steam delves deep in the foams so that the bed bugs are killed.
But there are so many steam cleaners out there. Which one should you buy?
We took matters into our own hands and scoured the market for the best steam cleaners that truly work in getting rid of bed bugs. We chose them based on their efficacy in getting rid of bed bugs, their ease-of-use, their power and their reliability.
These are our top picks:
- Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner
- PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner
- PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner
Let’s learn more about these cleaning machines.
1. Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner — Overall Best Steam Cleaner for Bed Bugs
If you have an infestation on your hands, you will find this steam cleaner helpful with its ability to produce steam with temperature of up to 135 degrees Celcius or 275 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s ideal for bigger mattresses because it has a large water reservoir that allows the machine to produce steam for a longer period of time. It also comes with a 3-year warranty.
- STEAM CLEAN. DEGREASE. DEODORIZE. ANY SURFACE. BETTER.
- POWERFUL STEAM CLEANER: up to 275°F/135°C. Best multi purpose steamer for home, cars and more.
- HEAVY-DUTY & LARGE CAPACITY: Up to 50 minutes of cleaning time per fill up.
- PERFECT FOR FLOOR CLEANING: use any regular towel or cloth, no need for expensive special pads!
- 2-year Limited Warranty / Lifetime Warranty on steam cleaner boiler.
- This steam cleaner really does its work in getting rid of bed bugs. Nothing can survive the heat of the steam it spews out. Along with bed bugs, dust mites and bacteria will also be eradicated.
- It comes with 18 pieces of accessories and attachments – one of the best kits we’ve found in a while. This includes a floor tool, microfiber pads, extension tubes, lance, and brushes.
- The boiler comes with a 3-year warranty.
- You can clean sans the chemicals. It does its work in getting rid of dirt and grime on different surfaces like tiled flooring, furniture, grout, and car interiors as well.
- Many users like how they are able to clean their mattress and the rest of their house without having to refill the tank.
- It feels sturdy. You can inflict some level of abuse to it without it falling apart.
- For all the things included in it plus its cleaning performance, it’s a bargain. It’s better than many more expensive steam cleaners out there.
- There weren’t a lot of negative reviews for this steam cleaner among the users we surveyed, but some did complain about the machine being too big for simple cleaning needs.
- Some bigger attachments like the brushes have worn down faster than expected.
- A bit more expensive than similar offerings in this class, however, it is also our top pick so is likely worth the extra expense.
2. PureClean XL Rolling Steam Cleaner
This is the perfect steam cleaner to get if you are getting rid of bed bugs in a big mattress. It is light in weight, so you won’t have issues operating it and getting to those tight corners. Because of this, it is recommended for older people or those who have injuries as it is not difficult to carry and move around. It comes with 18 pieces of attachments and accessories that you will find useful in cleaning not just your mattress but other parts of your home as well. Overall, this is a great addition to your cleaning arsenal.
- All-Natural Steam Cleaning: 1.5-liter water boiler produces up to 45 minutes of continuous hot pressurized steam to naturally eliminate grease, grime, and stains without harsh chemicals
- 18-Piece Heavy-Duty Set: Includes all the essentials needed to effectively spot clean your home, auto, and floor, with a 16-foot long cord that reaches everywhere both indoors and outdoors
- Safe To Use On a Variaety of Surfaces: Feel confident cleaning a wide range of surfaces including ceramic tile, granite, waterproof wood floor, laminate tiles, car/furniture upholstery, most cotton and wool carpet, and washable wallpaper
- Pufiry and Eliminate: Effectively purify a wide range of surfaces and fabrics from stubborn grime and more using steam that reaches 98℉
- 5 Year Warranty: Portable rolling steam cleaner, a variety of attachments, and Pure Enrichment’s guaranteed 2-Year Warranty. Our customer support team provides daily quality service and peace of mind to millions worldwide all from a brand you can trust.
- This machine really does its work in cleaning stuff. The steam truly gets down in the deeper layers of the mattress. If you have a thick mattress that you want to clean, you won’t have problems with this doing its work.
- It’s just as effective in cleaning other surfaces. There are even customers who used it to clean tiles in their old home and this worked in making the tiles look like new with very minimal effort.
- The power cord is 16 feet in length and makes it easier to reach the headboard of the bed. Since it is long, it also works in reaching higher areas like your wall tiles or windows without you having to switch to another outlet.
- You will like how big the water tank is. The 1.5-liter water reservoir allows you to produce 45 minutes of pressurized steam, so you can clean without running out of steam and without needing to refill.
- It is comparatively light in weight. No hand fatigue when cleaning your heavy mattress.
- This comes with an impressive 5-year warranty. Many customers also commented on how good the customer service was. They deliver missing pieces fast and they address concerns on faulty attachments without delays.
- It has a compact design so it’s not difficult to find a storage spot for it.
- Some users we surveyed felt like the build wasn’t durable. They had to be careful in pressing the extended handle as too much force can break it.
- There are consumers who would have liked the machine to have a window for the water level as it can be difficult to determine how much water is left in the reservoir.
- It doesn’t alert you when it is ready to be used. You have to check it yourself. There are no flashing lights or buttons that will tell you if it has finished heating up.
- There are customers who complained about some parts like the gasket found in the fill valve succumbing to damages even after just a few uses.
- Some also complained about the inconsistent pressure of steam being expelled.
3. PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner — Great Bed Bug Steamer
This portable steam cleaner is perfect for those who want a smaller machine to clean their mattress. It is compact, but it doesn’t compromise on performance. Compared to other steam cleaners, it can produce 30% more pressurized steam. Go for this if you are looking for an effective bed bug steam cleaner that won’t bust the bank as it is one of the cheapest out there.
- Its size is its main selling point. It’s so easy to use. You can work around your mattress with no issues. And because it is light in weight, it won’t tire you out easily.
- It delivers on its promise to produce more steam. It also works in getting rid of pesky bed bugs but is also a work horse when it comes to removing molds, deep-seated stains and grease on different kinds of surfaces. There are also owners who used this to sanitize their pillows and it worked great.
- Don’t like your steam cleaner taking up too much time to heat up? You will love this then. It takes 4 minutes to completely heat the water before it’s ready to be used.
- It comes with 9 pieces of attachments and accessories that you can use to clean all sorts of surfaces like flooring and fabric.
- This steam cleaner can be used easily on tight spaces and corners.
- Many users we surveyed who found this steam cleaner very helpful are pet owners. They liked how this steam cleaner has kept their home free from dog slobber and many other unwanted stuff.
- It comes with a clothing steamer attachment so there is no need to buy this machine separately.
- It has a safety lock. You don’t have to worry about your child getting to it and accidentally spewing hot steam.
- The cord length was not quite long enough in some users we surveyed.
- Some people had trouble following the instructions. They said there were parts that are not clear and weren’t explained properly. There also doesn’t seem to have a lot of information online about it.
- Some people experienced poor steam pressure. There were also cases where the steam produced wasn’t too hot.
- There are those who had trouble getting the attachments to work properly.
These three recommendations are the best for different types of users. But which one should you ultimately pick?
We highly recommend the Dupray Neat Steam Cleaner if you are looking for a heavy-duty, all-around steam cleaner. It’s not the cheapest but it is one of the best when it comes to its disinfecting and bed bug-eradicating performance. The number of attachments included in this also completes your cleaning arsenal, so you don’t have to buy other cleaning products anymore. If you want to get rid of deep-seated stains and grout without having to spend hours scrubbing, you will find this the perfect choice. Getting rid of bed bugs will be a breeze with any of our recommended models, however our number one pick as the best steam cleaner for bed bugs is the “Dupray Neat” thanks to its outstanding performance and affordable price tag.
The PurSteam Handheld Pressured Steam Cleaner is a mid-range steam cleaner that won’t break the bank but isn’t for people who are on a tight budget. It’s not the sturdiest but like the previous recommendation, it’s also one of the best out there when it comes to killing bed bugs in mattresses and cleaning different kinds of surfaces. It’s also easy to use and assemble. The lightweight feature will also appeal to older people who might have issues with lifting heavy objects.
On a tight budget? The PurSteam Handheld Pressurized Steam Cleaner is your best option. It’s cheap but it does not skimp on performance. It still gets the job done, killing those bed bugs and sanitizing your mattress with minimum effort. This can be the perfect option for people who only have a small mattress or house to clean.
Bed Bug Steam Cleaner Buying Guide
Need more help deciding what to get? You would want to take the following factors into consideration to make sure you are getting a steam cleaner that will solve your bed bug infestation problem:
It has to be capable in producing hot steam so that those bed bugs will die effectively without you resorting to the use of chemicals. If the steam cleaner is producing lukewarm steam, you won’t achieve good results.
Ease Of Use
Cleaning your mattress is no joke. If you’ve ever changed fitted sheets before, the feeling is a lot like that. It can feel a lot like running a marathon. Mattresses are heavy as well so make sure your steam cleaner won’t add to the challenge by being difficult to operate.
Check the attachments included. Is there one that will allow you to drive pressurized steam on the surface of the mattress evenly? Make sure this kind of attachment is included to make it easier to clean your mattress. You don’t want to use a small attachment that only cleans one meager spot in a few minutes.
The product is only as good as its customer service. All steam cleaners will fail eventually but in case yours died down prematurely, you would want it to be backed by a good warranty and a good customer service. That’s how you can get the most out of your investment.
Does it feel flimsy? Are the parts falling off at first use? The last thing you would want is to buy one with attachments that break after just one usage. Inspect the attachments and see if they are made from heavy-duty materials.
Now go and hunt down those bed bugs. There’s no reason to co-exist with them any longer.
Armed with one of our recommendations, you’ll be well on your way to conquering bed bugs in your home. Click on the links in our reviews to find out more about any of the models we’ve recommended. You can also head over to our homepage to find more helpful reviews, recommendations, and suggestions covering all your steam cleaning needs.