Does the Cold Kill Bed Bugs?

If you’ve ever had to deal with bed bugs or just wondered what the best method is to get rid of an infestation, chances are that you’ve heard heat is very effective. Like most living creatures, bed bugs can’t take temperatures that are too high. But what about the other extreme? Does the cold kill bed bugs? Or more precisely, how cold does it have to be for bed bugs to die?

Does the Cold Kill Bed Bugs

In short, yes, the cold kills bed bugs. Exposure to really low temperatures for extended periods of time is one of the common methods for getting rid of bed bugs. However, it is rarely used as a standalone solution. You will likely need to use methods other than freezing temperatures to make sure the whole infestation in your home has been eliminated.

How to Kill Bed Bugs at Low Temperatures

Killing pests using low temperatures is quite a simple process. All you’ll need are some sturdy plastic bags and a freezer. Place all the items you want to freeze inside the plastic bag and tie it shut. Make sure there are no holes, as that will allow the bed bugs to escape. 

Set the freezer at 0°F at most and put the bag inside. If possible, consider lowering the temperature in the freezer even more. At 0°F, the bag would need to stay in there for at least four days, because the cold takes time to kill the bed bug. This is because bed bugs have a relatively high tolerance to cold when exposed for shorter periods. They have the ability to adjust the freezing point of their bodily fluids. In fact, research has shown that bed bugs can survive temperatures as low as -13°F for a short period of time.

Items That Can Be Frozen

Items that can be treated for bed bugs by putting them in the freezer include:

  • Clothes and linen,
  • Shoes,
  • Jewelry,
  • Pictures (but not paintings),
  • Non-electronic toys,
  • Newer books and documents.

How NOT to Use Low Temperatures to Kill Bed Bugs

Just like there are items that are safe to put in the freezer, there are those that aren’t. These include: 

  • Electronics (especially those that have an LCD screen),
  • Valuable and historic books,
  • Items that naturally contain a lot of moisture,
  • Any highly valuable or irreplaceable belongings.

If you don’t have enough room in your freezer for a bag full of bed bug-infested belongings, you might try to come up with some alternative solutions. However, most other cold-based methods of getting rid of bed bugs aren’t effective:

  • Putting the bag outside in winter. Unfortunately, unless you live in an extremely cold environment (think constant subzero temperatures), it will likely not be cold enough outside to kill bed bugs. What’s more, temperature fluctuations throughout the day and night would hinder the process even more.
  • Lowering the household temperature. Instead of putting everything in a bag and freezing it, you might be considering simply opening all the windows and lowering the temperature in your home to eliminate the whole infestation. Unfortunately, this won’t do anything to bed bugs, as the temperatures won’t be low enough.
  • Using the fridge instead of the freezer. Unfortunately, refrigerators usually don’t have a temperature setting low enough to kill bed bugs, so this appliance is not a good replacement for a freezer. 

Other Methods of Killing Bed Bugs

The cold does kill bed bugs, but it is far from the most effective and convenient solution for a household infestation. Luckily, there are many other methods you can use that will be even more potent. Here are some of them.

Heat Kills Bed Bugs

Much more than the cold, heat is highly effective when killing bed bugs. This is why it is recommended to run your clothes and bed linen through a washing cycle at the highest setting as soon as you detect bed bugs in your home. Likewise, steam cleaners are a great way to apply heat to items that can’t be washed, such as furniture and carpets. 

However, even with this method, certain temperature regulation is necessary. The heat of around 113°F can kill bed bugs, while a slightly higher temperature is necessary for their eggs. This means that the steam cleaner you’re using needs to get even hotter – around 200°F. This is the only way to ensure that the object you’re steaming has a high enough surface temperature for this method to be effective.

Household Cleaning Products

Certain cleaning products we all have in our households can also be used for this purpose. Lysol, for example, is lethal to bed bugs if ingested. You can use it right after steaming, as moisture makes it more effective. However, as a standalone solution, Lysol will likely not be efficient enough.

Vinegar is another product that can be used to aid the process of killing bed bugs. Although it isn’t potent enough to get rid of a whole infestation, you can still use it to keep the problem under control. Simply spray vinegar around all hiding areas, and then on bed bugs themselves.

Bleach is probably the most effective household solution for killing bed bugs. It is extremely toxic for them but can take a while to work. Dilute bleach with water (follow the instructions provided on the bottle for precise measurements) and then spray or dab it on all potentially infested areas.

Bug Sprays

The most straightforward DIY solution for killing bed bugs is using products manufactured for that specific purpose. Regardless of the brand, most such products are based on pyrethrins, pyrethroids, or desiccants. 

Professional Exterminators for Bed Bugs

Not everyone enjoys DIY projects, especially if they have to do with the cleanliness and safety of our homes. So if you would rather leave this task to professionals, we completely understand. Hiring professional exterminators might cost more than buying a bottle of bleach or putting your stuff in the freezer, but it will be a much more effective solution that ensures the infestation doesn’t come back.

Ronald has 25 years of pest control experience under his belt. He scrutinizes each pest control method, product and process. 

Read more here.

Most Popular Articles