Using a vacuum cleaner to kill bed bugs is a recommended tip. If you do, and you don’t empty it, the bed bugs will stay inside your vacuum alive. The only question is how long they can survive.
Vacuuming bed bugs won’t kill them. They can survive inside one for 6+ months without food, and bed bugs don’t need water either. But they won’t choose to live inside your cleaner. Bed bugs will try to crawl out in order to reach a host for a blood meal.
This means you should be careful with a rented carpet cleaner, steam cleaner, or carpet dry cleaner. You could get bed bugs from any one of these items. We explain how bed bugs survive in a vacuum cleaner, and how to kill them if they do.
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Can Bed Bugs Survive in a Vacuum Cleaner?
Vacuuming up a bed bug doesn’t cause them to die. While they are easy to squash, vacuuming them doesn’t damage them enough to kill them off.
So, they can survive inside a vacuum cleaner. But can bed bugs live in one? No, not for the long term. Bed bugs need to live somewhere that they have easy access to a host.
According to the journal Insects, bed bug adults can survive for half a year in regular temperatures without food. But, before they get to this point, they search for a host elsewhere.
Also, living in a vacuum cleaner, it would be hard to get out and get back in. Even if they could, they wouldn’t be near a host. A bed bug would rather live in a mattress or bedding, close to you.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t find any inside one if you open it up. There may be some in the bag from the last time you vacuumed. From here, they can crawl out again, so empty the bag if there may be some inside.
There may also be one or two that got into the mechanism of the vacuum cleaner. This only rarely occurs. When it does happen, it’s because the infestation is large enough that other, more normal harborages are already taken.
Bed Bugs in Carpets
One reason why you might get bed bugs in a vacuum cleaner is if you have an infestation in your carpet. Bed bugs do love fabric, after all. But that doesn’t mean they can comfortably live in a carpet.
There are several reasons why they would rather pick somewhere else. The carpet is an open space. Bed bugs prefer narrow, tight, and enclosed spaces. Open spaces make them vulnerable. You could correctly describe them as agoraphobic.
Bed bugs also don’t like sunlight. They prefer hidden spots where the sun won’t reach them. Whether that’s under a mattress or inside furniture, they prefer a dark spot to anywhere sunny.
So, how do bed bugs end up in a carpet to be vacuumed up? Sometimes they live under the corner of a carpet, or in the area around a hole or tear in a carpet. But note that bed bugs are mistaken for carpet beetles on occasion.
Should You Vacuum to Get Rid of Bed Bugs?
Vacuuming to kill bed bugs is a basic but effective method of control. While it doesn’t kill them, vacuuming gets rid of bed bugs with no mess, no pesticides, and little effort. By disposing of them outside, you kill them. Here’s how to vacuum bed bugs easily:
- Identify where the infestation is.
- Seal off the room so that none of the bugs can escape. This means plugging gaps in the wall, or between the door and the floor.
- Expose the harborage (hiding place) and begin vacuuming. Pick off the bugs one by one.
- Empty the cleaner when you’re finished. Do this directly into the garbage outside. If you empty inside, the bed bugs will re-infest your home.
Getting rid of the bugs outside is a sure way to kill them. Bed bugs can’t survive outdoors. The temperature is too harsh for them, both in summer and in winter. They also aren’t comfortable walking around outside.
These factors combine to mean that if you dump them outside, they will die. Vacuuming is a reasonably effective way to kill bed bugs.
Even so, it’s not a perfect method. You can’t vacuum every bed bug as many (or most) will be hidden in cracks you can’t reach.
And even though a vacuum is strong, it is still difficult to dislodge eggs. It also won’t prevent bed bugs coming back. You should combine vacuuming with other methods.
Can Bed Bugs Crawl Out of Vacuum Cleaners?
Bed bugs can crawl out of vacuum cleaners, although seeing one do so is rare. Bed bugs can climb up the legs of beds, or even up the walls. Climbing out of a vacuum cleaner isn’t difficult.
The issue is that they can’t easily navigate. There’s no light for them to see by, and the smell will be confusing. All they’ll be able to smell is the contents of the vacuum cleaner. Bed bugs usually use smell to navigate, either to find hosts or their hiding places.
They won’t climb out of the vents on the side of the vacuum cleaner. If you vacuum them up, they will be inside the bag. If you have a bagless vacuum cleaner, they’ll be in the storage area where the bag would be. They’ll climb out of the hose instead.
Can I Vacuum after Bed Bug Treatment?
The answer depends on which kind of bed bug treatment you opted for. Heat treatment kills bed bugs immediately. You will have to vacuum to get rid of all the dead bed bugs.
If you paid an exterminator to spray pesticide, there would be some dead bed bugs. But most will still be alive. In response to pesticides, bed bugs may increase their movement and activity. The same applies to DIY bed bug pesticide treatments.
When you do vacuum after treatment, some live bed bugs may be vacuumed up. The best thing to do is to be aware of the issue, because these bed bugs can spread from the cleaner.
Best Type of Vacuum Cleaner for Bed Bugs
A bagless vacuum cleaner may be better than one with a bag. That’s because they can be emptied easily. They either have a sliding mechanism you use to push dirt out, or a simple folding door.
If you used one with a bag, you would have to throw away the bag each time. This would prevent the bed bugs from spreading as easily. But it would also be inefficient, and a waste of money.
Ideally, when you use your vacuum to kill bed bugs, you should empty it outside after each use. This prevents the bugs from climbing out through the hose. This applies both to bagless vacuum cleaners, and those with a bag.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Carpet Cleaners?
Bed bugs are spread between people through their belongings. They hide in your things, and you accidentally take them places. This is an issue with things that are rented/borrowed, or used by many people, e.g., a hotel room.
Many people use carpet cleaners. They’re rarely bought, as they’re expensive and are used infrequently. Most people resort to renting them. Some of the people who borrowed the carpet cleaner you want to rent may have had bed bugs.
But bed bugs have a harder time living in a carpet cleaner than a vacuum. That’s because carpet cleaners use two things that kill bed bugs: water and detergent. They can’t live in the working mechanism of a wet carpet cleaner.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Renting a Carpet Cleaner?
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them from one. If the cleaner comes in a box, they may hide in the box. Or, they can hide in the plastic casing of the cleaner rather than the mechanism.
And if the carpet cleaner doesn’t use water and detergent, they can live inside even easier. Before renting a carpet cleaner, talk to the company you’re renting it from. They can tell you what anti-pest measures they take.
How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Vacuum Cleaners
If you need to check your vacuum cleaner for bed bugs, the most thorough way would be to take it apart. But this isn’t an effective use of your time. You would have to do it every time you vacuum the house.
Any bed bugs inside your vacuum cleaner are likely to be in the bag, not the machinery. That’s because they won’t choose to live in your vacuum. The only time they’ll be inside is if you vacuum them up.
So, if you do, how can you get rid of bed bugs in a vacuum cleaner?
Spray the Vacuum Cleaner with Pesticide
You could spray the outside of the vacuum cleaner with a handheld pesticide. This would have two beneficial effects.
Pesticide can increase activity in bed bugs. You would be encouraging the bugs to get out of your vacuum cleaner.
It also lingers for a long time on surfaces. So, if you spray the exterior, any bug that does come out would have to pass through it. They would then die soon after.
Alternatively, you could opt for heat treatment. According to the Journal for Nurse Practitioners, bed bugs die at 120 degrees. Pest controllers can heat your room or house to this level to kill pests. This would work on your vacuum cleaner, too.
Emptying Content to Get Rid of Bed Bugs
This depends on what kind of vacuum cleaner you have: bagless, or with a bag. If your vacuum cleaner has a bag, you will need to get rid of it to ensure there are no bugs inside. Emptying it won’t do as you may not get them all out.
When you do need to do this, throw the bag away outside. If possible, wrap the vacuum bag in a disposable plastic bag. This will ensure that there is no chance of the bugs escaping.
If your vacuum doesn’t have a bag, empty it the way you usually would. Most bagless vacuum cleaners allow you to see inside the area that collects the dirt. Shine a light around the area to see if there are any left behind.
Store Your Vacuum Cleaner in the Garage
You should store your vacuum cleaner somewhere that bed bugs won’t be as much of a problem. If you stored it in your bedroom, for example, then any escaping bed bugs would get right back into your mattress and furniture.
Where possible, you should store your vacuum cleaner somewhere out of the way. While not ideal, the garage would be better than in any other room. From the garage, the bed bugs would have farther to travel to infest anything worthwhile.
Bag Your Vacuum Cleaner
Even when storing your vacuum in the garage, there’s a chance of spreading bed bugs. You should take extra steps to prevent them from escaping.
The best thing you could do is bag your vacuum cleaner. Bed bugs can’t burrow or gnaw their way through anything. Their mouthparts aren’t the right shape (they have a straw, not jaws).
If you bag your vacuum cleaner in a large, sturdy plastic bag, they won’t get out. It’s possible but difficult for them to climb surfaces like slippery plastic. But if you tie/seal the bag at the top, even that won’t matter.
When it’s time to use your vacuum cleaner again, take it out of the bag. Check the vacuum and bag all over to see if there are any bugs. If there are, squash them or get rid of them outside. There likely won’t be many.
You should use several measures in combination, though, as vacuuming alone won’t cut it. So, use pesticides or heat treatment before vacuuming to kill bed bugs.