Ever seen a bed bug in a sauna? On second thoughts, don’t answer that. Anyone who’s worked with these tricky insects for any length of time knows not to put anything past them.
There aren’t a lot of places bed bugs won’t go. Once we start to colonize other planets, you can rest assured that bed bugs will be coming with us. Those poor Martians.
But this article isn’t about them. Nope, you’re here to find out exactly how to kill bed bugs with steam. So let’s get on with the show.
Does Steam Kill Bed Bugs?
To go back to our earlier scenario, a sauna would be a fairly inhospitable place for a bed bug. That’s because steam does indeed kill bed bugs, and does it very effectively.
More correctly, heat kills bed bugs. Anything above 120°F will kill a bed bug, though it could take a while. Crank the temperature up to 160°F, however, and it’s a different story.
Temperatures this high will kill bed bugs instantly. Even better, they will also kill bed bug eggs. This matters because many pesticides that kill bed bugs don’t kill the eggs, and so are not truly effective at clearing an infestation.
The bed bug’s reproductive cycle is terrifying, and if you don’t kill the eggs, all you’re doing is raising a generation of orphan bed bugs with a vendetta against you.
Steam is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs. And it doesn’t require the use of any toxic chemicals. But it does need a way for you to get the heat from the steam to where bed bugs are hiding. That’s why bed bug steamers are a popular tool in an exterminator’s arsenal.
What to Look for When Choosing the Best Steamer for Bed Bugs
Before you go running out and plunking down cold, hard cash on the first machine you see, consider the factors that determine a good steamer for bed bugs.
Lucky for you, these are listed below. What a coincidence!
The whole point of using a steamer to kill bed bugs is to subject them to extreme heat. So the temperature the steam reaches is a major factor in how effective it will be.
As a general rule, the hotter, the better. Almost any steamer should be able to generate the 160°F necessary to kill a bed bug instantly. But high heats will penetrate deeper into fabrics such as mattresses and furniture, killing bed bugs and eggs wherever they hide.
So look for a steamer that is capable of generating very high heat.
You may think that steam is wet by nature. After all, isn’t it just water vapor? Well, yes. But some steamers are capable of producing a dry vapor.
While these steamers are generally more expensive, they help minimize the amount of water that will end up pooling on your floor. To be clear, all steamers will produce water.
But a dry steamer will produce less than others. And you’ll be grateful for that when you’re running it over your mattress.
Steaming for bed bugs is slow work. A single tank of water tends to go a long way because you’re only using the steam from the water, not the water itself.
But eventually, all tanks run dry. And when that happens, you need to refill the tank with water and reheat it. This will slow your treatment down.
The bigger the tank capacity, the less often you will have to refill it and pause in your bed bug killing labors.
However, a bigger tank will take longer to heat once it does run dry. Think about how much stuff you have to steam, and how long you need the water to last.
High-quality steamers can be heavy. Especially when they’re filled with water. But even dry steamers tend to have steel tanks and other components that can weigh a lot.
If you’re going to be carrying steamers through a large house, especially up and down stairs, you may want to try and get the lightest machine possible. This helps reduce fatigue and keep you steaming for longer.
Time it takes to heat up
You can’t start working with your steamer until it’s hot enough. And every time the tank runs dry, you will need to reheat the water to create the steam.
The quicker your steamer reaches critical temperature, the more time you can spend killing bed bugs. And that’s what we’re all here for.
Things break down. That’s the price we pay for living in an impermanent world. But when you shell out cold cash on an expensive bed bug steamer, it’s hard to maintain a Zen attitude if the thing quickly breaks.
Look for a steamer that carries a generous warranty from the manufacturer. That way you know you’re covered if anything goes wrong.
What’s the Best Steamer for Bed Bugs?
Okay, that’s a lot to think about, you say. So we’ve done a lot of the work for you.
With the above factors in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best bed bug steamers on the market today.
We hate to play favorites but in our humble opinion, the McCulloch is the best steamer to kill bed bugs with. Why? In short, it’s the best value steamer and it comes with serious bed bug killing power at a very affordable price.
Oh, you want details, you say? Well, carrying a two-year warranty, this bed bug steamer claims to be heavy-duty, and means it. Although the McCulloch is certainly not the cheapest steamer out there, it’s not hard to see what you’re paying for with this machine.
It only takes eight minutes to heat a full tank of water and be ready to kill bed bugs. You should get 45 minutes of continuous steam from a full tank. That’s enough to treat at least a couple of beds, a sofa or some other large piece of furniture.
And with a 15-foot long power cord and a 9-foot long hose, you shouldn’t have to move the machine around too much to reach everywhere you need to get to.
Which is a good thing, because this is a large machine. Ten pounds may not sound like a lot, but to do a bed bug treatment correctly using steam can take hours. So it’s nice that the MC 1275 also has wheels to make it easy to transport.
Very few steamers on the market are designed for bed bug killing. Most are intended for cleaning. To that end, a good steamer will generally reach well over the temperature needed to kill bed bugs.
The temperature of the steam at the nozzle of the MC 1275 can reach around 250°F. At that heat, you won’t even need to touch the bed bugs in order to kill. It’s hot enough that the heat will penetrate several inches into soft furnishings and kill bed bugs that you may not even know were there.
All of these features make the McCulloch MC 1275 the best steamer for bed bugs.
Again, the only obvious downside to this machine is its price. But for what you’re getting, it’s well worth it. This is one of the few machines in its price range that can approach the performance of the commercial steamers the professionals use.
You’re saying it wrong. This machine takes its name from a combination of the word ‘vapor’ and the Italian Amore, meaning love. So if you’re feeling fancy when you ask for this at the store, go ahead and correct everyone’s pronunciation. People love that.
Like a Lamborghini, this bed bug steamer doesn’t come cheap. But it’s designed for performance. The MR 100 puts out steam over 220°F. Enough to not only kill bed bugs and their eggs but also enough to penetrate deep into fabrics and cushions to kill those cowardly bed bugs trying to escape.
At 11 minutes, the MR 100 takes a little longer to heat than the McCulloch machine. But a full tank lasts for 50 minutes, so you get a little more steaming time for that extra wait time. Ultimately, it’s kind of a wash.
This steamer comes with a wide array of different attachments to perform different tasks. The instruction manual even includes some tips for killing bed bugs, so the manufacturers are well aware of this use of their machine.
Best of all for bed bug killing purposes, the pressure of the steam that comes out of the machine is adjustable. This is important, because the last thing you want to do is blow the bed bugs away before the heat can kill them.
When using a steamer to kill bed bugs, it’s generally best to use the lowest pressure possible.
But wait, the Vapamore is double the cost of the McCulloch, you protest. Why would I pay more to get the same job done?
The Vapamore (say it with me now!) justifies its high price with a lifetime warranty. The boiler tank and internal electronics are guaranteed to work forever, or else they will be replaced free of charge.
It’s a great thing to know if you intend to use the steamer for a long time, even after you’ve obliterated all the bed bugs in your home.
All in all, the MR100 is an excellent steamer for killing bedbugs. If you’re the kind of person that always wants the top-of-the-line, this could be the bed bug steamer for you.
However, if you’re just looking to get the bed bug killing job done – the McCulloch machine does most of what the Vapamore does for a lot less money.
Not everyone has a ton of money to throw around on special bed bug killing equipment. You may be thinking that if the steamer works well, it will quickly put itself out of a job.
Once the bed bugs are killed, you won’t need it anymore. So why spend more than you have to?
Which is why we’re including the cheapest possible option.
This steamer is most definitely affordable. Not only that, but it’s easy to use. It can be carried around in one hand by even the weakest of us, making it very easy to handle.
Small steamers heat up quicker than big ones. Once you’ve filled the tank and plugged the machine in, it only takes 3 to 4 minutes to reach steaming temperature.
Given that the tank only holds 6 ounces of water, though, don’t expect to steam for long with this machine. Most likely you’ll be refilling and reheating every 15 minutes or so. Which is perfect if you’re steaming a small apartment or studio.
The manufacturer claims that this little steamer can produce temperatures of 210°F, and that it is great for killing bed bugs. But if you find these claims a little hard to believe, you’re not alone.
Cheaper steamers use cheaper components and inevitably produce worse results. 210°F seems like a stretch for a steamer this small, and many customers have been disappointed with the heat that this device puts out.
Steam is a fantastic thing to use for killing bed bugs. And it has other uses, too. It’s also great for cleaning and disinfecting once the bed bugs are gone.
But this great tool comes at a price. Steamers may not be cheap, but if you have bed bugs, they’re most definitely worth it. And spending money on a small handheld steamer may be a false economy. If it doesn’t get the job done, you may as well have spent nothing at all.
Spend the money on a steamer that’s powerful enough to kill the bed bugs wherever they may be hiding. If it gets your home bed bug free without the use of toxic chemicals, trust us – the money you spent on that quality steamer will be well worth it.