You probably know how running your clothes in the washing machine with hot water is a surefire way to eliminate bed bugs. However, can we also assume that the same is true for dry cleaning?
So, does dry cleaning kill bed bugs?
Will Dry Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs?
Yes, dry cleaning does kill bed bugs.
Instead of regular soap and water, a dry cleaner uses a specific chemical for dry cleaning. Most of the time, Perchloroethylene or PCE is used, a strong chemical solvent effective in killing bed bugs.
Dry cleaning works best for more delicate clothes. This is because the chemical solvent is non-polarizing and will maintain the original shape and stretch of the delicate items and still clean clothing.
However, it’s not advisable to dry clean your clothes often, as the chemical used is significantly strong and will cause damage and color bleeding in the long run.
How Dry Cleaning Affects These Bloodsuckers
It’s not the dry cleaning machine that ultimately affects the pests. Dry cleaning uses solvents such as chemical perchloroethylene that are effective even against the toughest oil stains. This chemical kills bed bugs.
The combination of heat in the dry cleaning process is also a factor. Bed bugs would not survive being exposed to over 120 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.
However, not all dry cleaners will be using PCE for their clothes. Some will opt to use hydrocarbons or supercritical CO2 instead, which are fairly gentle on your garments. However, they are not strong enough to get rid of bed bugs.
Why You Shouldn’t Wash Bed Bug-Infested Clothes Yourself
We strongly suggest taking your bedbug-infested clothes to the dry cleaners, but we understand how that’s not always possible. Some establishments will refuse to do business or might not have the chemical solvents strong enough to handle a bed bug problem.
If you must dry clean yourself, take care that you don’t spread the bed bug infestation further. Put the infested clothing inside a separate bag, and empty the sealed plastic bags directly into the washer.
Run them through the highest setting once you’re ready to put the dirty clothes in the dryer. You have to watch out for thick and heavy clothes. If you can’t find dry cleaners who can take care of them, it’s best to dispose of them.
Conversely, you might also have to say goodbye to your delicate clothes. If you have infested delicate clothing, they will get damaged when subjected to high heat. It’s better just to throw them out lest they infest your clean clothes. But can you get bed bugs from thrift store clothes?
Chemicals Used In Dry Cleaning
Perchloroethylene is the most commonly used cleaning solvent in most dry cleaners. It is strong enough to clean even the toughest oil stains while still keeping the structural integrity of your clothes intact. This chemical is lethal to bed bugs.
However, research has shown that this chemical poses a serious threat to human health. Without precautions, prolonged PCE exposure can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and even memory loss.
Hydrocarbons are a safer alternative for dry cleaning, but they are ineffective against bed bugs. It is derived from petroleum, but modern hydrocarbons hardly present a risk of fire. Also, because they’re gentler, a longer cycle of dry cleaning is expected.
Supercritical CO2, otherwise known as liquid carbon dioxide, is offering itself as an eco-friendly alternative to dry cleaning services. Because its main component is just carbon dioxide, it’s highly ineffective against bed bugs.
Types of Clothes For Dry Cleaning
Dry clean only clothes will not be able to survive regular washing. Delicate fabrics like silk, rayon, wool, and other fabrics will need to be dry cleaned if they are infested with bed bugs.
Thick & Heavy Clothing
Many dry cleaners are equipped to handle thick and heavy clothing. Bring thick and heavy fabrics, like your comforter, bed sheets, and pillows, to get them serviced.
Is Dry Cleaning Enough to Kill Bed Bugs?
Dry cleaning is enough to remove bed bugs from your clothes, bed linens, and bed sheets, but do note that they won’t get rid of major bed bug infestations. If you have a highly infested home, even if you get most of your infested clothes dry cleaned, it’s only a matter of time before your clean laundry is re-infested.
Bed bugs are also found in your bed frame, box spring, and other nooks and crannies. It’s best to contact a licensed exterminator to get rid of the infestation. Find out if you can get bed bugs from laundromats here.
Alternatives to Dry Cleaning
Of course, we don’t recommend that you bring your clothes to the dry cleaners often as it will weaken the structural integrity of the fabrics. Here are some alternatives you can check out:
Your dryer at home is an effective method in killing bed bugs because of the high-temperature settings.
Some essential oils are highly effective in repelling bed bugs. They are known to despise the scent of lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender.
Note that essential oils will only repel bed bugs and not completely get rid of them.
Steam cleaning is an effective way of getting rid of bed bugs. Steam clean your entire home using high temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat treatment is also used by most bed bug control and pest control companies.
Vacuuming your home is one of the cheapest ways to remove bed bugs. Run the vacuum through your entire home to pick up live bugs and eggs and empty the contents in a sealed plastic bag. But will you get bed bugs from renting a carpet cleaner?
Diatomaceous earth is a non-toxic substance many gardeners use to keep insects away. This proves that they’re highly effective against bed bugs! It works by absorbing the fluids to dehydrate and eventually kill bugs. 
What temperature will kill bed bugs?
High temperatures of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit will be more than enough to kill bed bugs, provided that this temperature is sustained for at least a minute.
Do bed bug eggs live after dry cleaning?
It depends. If the dry cleaner uses PCE, bed bugs will not survive as this chemical solvent is highly lethal. If the dry cleaning place uses hydrocarbons or CO2, they will likely survive these gentler solvents.
Yes, dry cleaning does get rid of bed bugs, especially if the dry cleaning place you go to uses PCE.
PCE is one of the most commonly used chemical solvents used in dry cleaning services and is a lethal substance for bed bugs. However, prolonged exposure to this substance can be hazardous to humans.
Dry cleaning alone will not eradicate them, especially if your entire home has been infested. It’s best to contact a professional pest control company that can keep your living conditions safe while still getting rid of the infestation.
Alene Schill is a property manager from Columbus, Ohio, who has dealt with numerous pest control agencies. She helps families find the perfect homes and knows very well that bed bugs are an ultimate deal-breaker. She enjoys cycling around Scioto Mile during her spare time.