Bed bugs will hide in any crack or crevice that they can. This doesn’t just apply to your bedding. It applies to your clothes, furniture, electronics, and even your footwear (boots, shoes, sneakers, etc.) Anywhere that’s secluded and dark is good enough for them to thrive and multiply.
Heat will kill bed bugs in shoes because they die at temperatures above 122 degrees. You can launder them, if your shoes are made from the right material, or put them in the dryer.
Whatever you do, you’re going to have to get rid of the entire infestation. Bed bugs keep coming back until you’ve killed every last one, so just killing the ones in your shoes isn’t going to work.
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Can You Carry Bed Bugs on Your Shoes?
It’s unlikely. If they’re inside the shoe, then you would crush them when you slip the shoes on.
Bed bugs don’t like being on anything that’s moving around. A flea or a mite doesn’t mind because they can hold onto a hair. Bed bugs can’t do that, so they run away from anything that’s moving.
So, if you have a bed bug on the outside of your shoe, they won’t cling on for dear life as you walk around. They’d typically run away as soon as you picked up the shoe or put it on.
However, it can happen. There are forums dedicated to people trying to get rid of their bed bugs. They report that they almost ‘tracked’ bed bugs into their friend’s or family member’s house.
The bed bugs have hidden in the crack between the shoe and the sole.
Do Bed Bugs Live in Shoes?
So, bed bugs won’t jump into your shoes when you’ve got them on. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t live in shoes when you’re not wearing them.
Bed bugs have many requirements for any place they’d like to live, and shoes tick every box.
- Their harborage has to be near where you sleep, preferably within six feet of your bed.
- It has to be somewhere dark, like underneath your bed, or in your wardrobe if that’s where you keep your shoes.
- Their harborage, preferably, should be made of fabric as it’s easier for them to cling onto.
- It has to have cracks and crevices that they can hide in, like the gap between the tongue and the body of the shoe, or between the body of the shoe and the insole.
Crucially, bed bugs will only choose to live in shoes if you don’t move them around or wear them. If you keep a few pairs of shoes under your bed—you never really wear them anymore, and you need somewhere to keep them—these make ideal bed bug harborages for the reasons above.
But if you wear your shoes every day, then the bed bugs won’t have the time to set up their home there. Maybe one or two might sit inside, but you’ll crush them when you put them on, or shake them off when you pick the shoes up.
How Do I Get Bed Bugs Out of Shoes?
The best way to get bed bugs out of anywhere is with heat. Bed bugs quickly die at temperatures higher than 122 degrees. There are a few ways to achieve temperatures like that, some you have to pay for, and some that you can do at home.
Shoes in the Washing Machine
The most effective way of killing bed bugs is by putting them in the dryer or washing machine. If you didn’t know, you could put most shoes in the washing machine. It just depends on what they’re made of.
Polyurethane, PVC, cotton, nylon, and polyester usually are machine washable. Rubber and plastic are too, so that means that the majority of shoes are fine in the wash.
Leather or suede isn’t, and if the shoes are embellished or have satin or silk in their construction, you should avoid washing them too. Leather absorbs water, so leaving leather shoes to soak for an hour in the washing machine will ruin them. Either way, check the care tag to see whether it recommends laundering or not.
Either way, the point is that the washing machine is one of the best ways to kill bed bugs. It can get up to the required heat, which is excellent. Not only that, but the water drowns any bed bugs that might have otherwise survived. To launder your shoes, follow these steps:
- You can prepare your shoes by scrubbing any loose dirt away. This is recommended if your shoes are muddy or grubby, but if all you want to do is kill bed bugs, this step doesn’t matter.
- Put your shoes inside a mesh laundry bag to stop them from getting damaged. They’ll also prevent the laces from snagging in the drum and coming loose, tearing, or even breaking your washing machine. If you don’t have a laundry bag, use an empty tied-up pillowcase.
- Don’t put your shoes in there on their own. Put some clothes or towels in too, to stop them from banging around inside the drum.
- Set your washing machine to a hot setting, for at least sixty minutes. This will kill any bed bugs in the shoes, even any that are hidden away.
Once the wash is done, take the shoes out of the pillowcase/laundry bag and see if you can spot any bed bugs. If there were any, they might be at the bottom of the bag.
If there are some, they’ll be dead. The only issue is that there may still be eggs, so use a tea tree oil spray, bought or homemade, to repel and kill any bed bugs that hatch in there.
Shoes in Dryer
If you can’t launder your shoes, you could consider putting them in the dryer. The dryer does much the same as the washing machine does, just without the water. Almost any dryer can get up to the required temperature to kill bed bugs.
If you want to put your shoes in the dryer, there are a few ways to make sure they don’t get damaged. Line the inside of your shoes with towels or other fabrics to help them dry quicker.
You can also buy a shoe bag, which hangs on the dryer door, keeping the shoes in place. This stops them from clanging around as the drum cycles.
You should avoid putting shoes with plastic in their construction in the dryer. The temperatures get hot enough to melt it. And what about leather shoes in the dryer?
Unfortunately, no, this is a terrible idea. The dryer will dehydrate the fibers in the leather surface of your shoes. This will encourage your shoes to crack, break and age.
Bed Bug Heater
If you can’t put your shoes in the dryer or washing machine, consider paying for heat treatment. This is the most effective way of killing bed bugs. You’ll have to get in touch with an exterminator, because this isn’t something you can do yourself.
It requires specialist equipment, which heats the whole house to 122 degrees—much higher in some cases. It takes several hours to reach the required temperature throughout the house.
The only guaranteed way to kill them is to kill them with heat.
Bag Your Shoes
You could also try bagging the shoes up, or putting them in a box until the bed bugs die. This is one of the first methods that most people try, although it isn’t the most effective. You take the shoes and put them in a sealed plastic bag or box, until the bed bugs die.
The only problem is that it takes bed bugs a long time to die. Bed bugs can take more than a year to die even if they’re in complete isolation.
Because they’re so small, they hardly need any air and won’t suffocate. They don’t need to drink like humans. And they’re so tiny, and get so much sustenance from just one meal, that they can survive without eating for a year.
The only exception is in intense heat or cold. Bed bugs die in extreme temperatures. In the high heat of summer, if the temperature in the bag were to exceed 122 and stay there for an hour, then many of the bed bugs will die.
The bag would have to sit there for a long time, however, for the temperature inside each shoe to actually hit those heights. The same applies to the cold of winter nights, which are alleviated when the morning comes.
Dichlorvos strips are like tiny air fresheners, except they don’t make the air smell fresh. They give off insecticide and are commonly used to protect stored products from insects.
They’re best used in a sealed environment, like a bag or a bin. So if you’re thinking of bagging your shoes to get rid of bed bugs, throw one of these strips in there, and it might kill them.
Do bear in mind, though, that these strips are mostly intended to repel infestations. They won’t necessarily kill an entire infestation. And if the bed bugs are hidden well enough, then they won’t come into contact with the air and the chemicals, so they might survive.
Dichlorvos strips also aren’t supposed to be used by homeowners or consumers, and are intended for use by pest management professionals.
However, they aren’t a ‘restricted use pesticide,’ meaning that it is legal to purchase them. If you do decide to use them, or products like them, follow the instructions on the label to the letter.
Dichlorvos is a strong pesticide, and has been studied extensively. A study in Cancer Causes Control ruled out the risk that dichlorvos is a carcinogen, but that doesn’t rule out other health risks.
If Nothing Else Works
If nothing else works, you’ll have to throw your shoes away. Bag them up in a bag they can’t get out of, and leave it outside with the trash.
You should normally be able to get bed bugs out of shoes, because there aren’t as many hiding places as there are in, say, furniture. But if they laid eggs somewhere in your shoe, they could restart the whole infestation.
This is what people usually find out when they have to move out. Unfortunately, you can’t afford to hold onto belongings that might be infested.
If you do, then any steps you take to try and get rid of bed bugs won’t do the trick. And if you’re moving, then by bringing all of your old things with you, you’re just making it more likely that your new place will get infested.
The good news is that shoes tend to be cheap, unless you have an expensive collection, so getting rid of them isn’t as bad as having to throw away all your furniture.
How to Stop Bed Bugs Getting in Your Shoes
Keeping bed bugs out of your shoes is easy. Let’s take a look at how you can not only get rid of them, but repel them completely:
- Don’t keep your shoes anywhere that the bed bugs can reach. Keep them outside of your bedroom, for a start. Anywhere but under your bed is a good choice.
- Spray your shoes with a homemade or purchased bed bug spray. Sprays like these will kill bed bugs on contact, and they’ve learned to avoid anywhere that’s been sprayed to survive.
- Keep your shoes in bags or boxes. Try keeping them in large, plastic bins with a lid that you can seal shut. Bed bugs might be able to crawl into cracks, but they can’t get through a sealed plastic lid. You could sprinkle a little diatomaceous earth around the lid to keep them away.
- Try sealing the shoes in a sealed bag or bin with some pest control spray or strips. Nuvan (dichlorvos) strips are perfect for this. Keeping your shoes in a sealed bag with these will prevent bed bugs from coming near them, and the chemicals that stick to the surface will repel them for weeks.
You could try and treat your bed bug infestation generally. This is the best option since if you didn’t, the bed bugs would re-infest your shoes.
How to Kill Bed Bugs in Footwear for Good
So, how do you remove bed bugs from your shoes and your room? There are a few ways:
- Heat treatment. This is highly effective, although it is expensive.
- Pesticide sprays. You can either have a pest control operative spray your house for you, or do it yourself. Bear in mind that bed bugs are becoming immune to pesticides, though.
- Mattress and box spring encasements. These wrap around your mattress or box spring, and zip up. They completely encapsulate the mattress so that nothing can get in or out. Since bed bugs usually live in your mattress, this can immediately stifle most of your infestation.
Using one of these three methods is the only way you’ll get rid of bed bugs. Cleaning your shoes on their own is no use. You’re going to need to remove bed bugs from your home completely.