How Does Heat Treatment For Bed Bugs Work? A Scientific Guide

This is the most comprehensive guide on heat treatment for bed bugs.

In this guide, you’ll find out how heat treatment for bed bugs works, its pros and cons, and whether heat treatment is an effective solution to bed bug infestation.

And a lot more.

Keep reading.

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly?

Will an exterminator get rid of bed bugs

Its heat over 120°F kills bed bugs instantly. Bed bugs die when pest control professionals expose the bed bugs to the heat of at least 120°F for a minimum of 90 minutes.

Over the past decade, bed bugs have developed immunity against many pesticides.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention that the immunity against pesticides has led to a massive increase in bed bug infestation rates across the homes in the US.

So, bed bugs aren’t dying despite using pesticide treatment. 

The solution? Heat treatment. 

Direct exposure to heat causes the cuticles and exoskeletons of the bed bugs to break. 

The cuticle is integral to bed bugs’ survival. It protects them from extreme cold too. That enables the bed bugs to survive even in cold rooms. 

When pest controllers expose the bed bugs to the heat of 120°F and above, the cuticles can’t resist it. 

The heat penetrates the bed bugs’ cuticles and exoskeleton and kills the bed bugs. That’s why heat treatment is the most effective treatment for bed bugs.

Today, bed bug infestation is the number #1 pest problem in the US. And the bigger the cities are, the more are the infestation. 

Pest controllers are getting more requests for bed bug removal than ever before.

Past methods of DIY bed bug control and home remedies with bug bombs and bed bug sprays are getting ineffective. 

So, why is it so hard to get rid of bed bugs? Let’s find it out.

Why Are Bed Bugs Difficult To Treat?

There are three reasons for it. 

  1. Bed bugs have developed immunity against conventional pesticides
  2. Bed bugs are stealthy and hard to spot
  3. Bed bugs multiply fast 

Bed bugs are tiny bugs. A matured adult bed bug grows only up to a quarter of an inch in size. 

When their numbers are small, or when the bed bug infestation is at its initial stages, it becomes hard to spot them. 

And they hide in the thinnest of gaps and cracks that you can’t even notice. Experts say that gaps less than the width of your fingernail are more than sufficient for the bed bugs to hide.

On top of that, when bed bugs get their regular blood meals, they multiply fast. 

An adult female bed bug can lay up to 10-12 eggs daily, and in her life span of 2 to 4 months, she can lay up to 500 eggs. 

Each egg takes only a week to ten days to hatch. And within only seven weeks, the larvae from the eggs mature into adult bed bugs ready to breed and spread. 

So, unless you take some drastic steps to get rid of bed bugs from all the corners of your home, bed bugs won’t disappear. 

And half-measured pesticide treatments are not enough.

Most of the time, depending on the severity of the infestation, bed bugs can come back even after three treatments

That makes bed bug heat treatment your only recourse to eliminate bed bugs with certainty. 

Let’s find out what’s the bed bug heat treatment is all about and how it works. 

How Does Bed Bug Heat Treatment Work? The 5-Step Process

How does heat treatment for bed bugs work

Pest management companies use heat treatment when there’s a massive bed bug infestation in homes.

In some instances, when bed bugs hide in hard-to-reach corners and spaces, heat treatment is the only recourse. 

You’ll find out about the drawbacks of heat treatment later in the post.

For now, let’s understand the bed bug heat-treatment process.

#1-It All Begins With Spotting The Hiding Places Of Bed Bugs

Pest controllers start with looking for the signs of bed bug infestation. 

Bed bugs always remain within 6 feet to 8 feet distance from their primary host. So, the signs of infestation and hiding places are where they get their blood meals from or within the infestation range. 

Bed bugs are hitchhikers too. They’ll latch onto things like suitcases, furniture, fabric, and clothing that you move from an infested room and keep in other rooms. 

That’s how bed bugs spread from one room to another.

And this is also the same mechanism that bed bugs spread from one home to another and get into places like cars and even in baby car seats.

#2-Pest Controllers Determine The Treatment Method- Chemical Treatment Or Heat Treatment For Bed Bugs

If bed bugs infestation has not spread far and deep in your home, then the pest controller can use insecticide spray to get rid of them.

These insecticide sprays are not your average over-the-counter bed bug sprays that you find in stores. These are professional-grade bed bugs insecticides that only licensed pest controllers can buy.

But if the bed bug infestation is massive, the pest controller will recommend bed bug heat treatment. 

A massive bed bug infestation is when pest controllers detect the presence of bed bugs, not just in your bedroom or on the mattress.

A severe bed bug infestation is when the bed bugs are present in your entire home. 

They find their traces in places like drawers, in the crevices of headboards and baseboards, carpet, and even inside gaps and cracks of walls, furniture, and electrical outlets. 

In that case, heat treatment with a few pesticide sprays (known as integrated pest management or IPM) is essential. 

So, depending on the severity of the infestation, the pest controller will recommend the bed bug treatment type.

#3-Preparing Your House For Bed Bug Heat Treatment

You’ll have to remove certain belongings to prepare your home for bed bug heat treatment. These are –

  1. Unplugging and turning off electronic appliances and covering them with blankets
  2. Removing heat-sensitive items, for example, expensive artworks, wool and silk carpets, ceramic souvenirs, and taxidermies
  3. Removing live plants and pets
  4. Removing food from the refrigerator and in the kitchen

In many cases, a reputed and reliable pest management company will prep your home for bed bug heat treatment. 

They’ll even pack things up in bags and seal the bags off to protect the sensitive items from heat.

If you’re hiring a local bed bug exterminator, the company might guide you to prep your home yourself. 

#4-The Exterminator Introduces Heat Inside Your Home To Eliminate Bed Bugs

The exterminators will station a heat trailer outside your home that’ll provide the power to the electric heaters inside your home.

They’ll place the heaters inside the rooms. To ensure that heat reaches all the infested places, they’ll also use powerful fans to channel the heat to those places. 

The fans are critical in the heat treatment. They not only direct the heat to the infested places but also, with the help of the pros, they also help evenly heat the objects to the right temperature.

During bed bug heat treatment, the temperature inside the rooms can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The rooms turn hot like an oven resulting in the instant deaths of bed bugs.

The heat treatment lasts for 6-8 hours. Once the treatment is over, post heat treatment efforts begin to monitor if all the bed bugs are dead.

#5-Post Bed Bug Heat Treatment Measures

It’s not over when heat treatment is over. Remember, bed bugs are stealthy creatures, and despite the heat treatment, there might be a few alive. 

And exterminators do follow-ups to ensure they even get rid of the bed bugs that remain unscathed during the heat treatment. 

First, the pest controller will use mattress encasements. Mattress encasements cover the mattress and prevent any bed bugs hiding in the mattress from biting you. 

Second, they’ll use a bed bug monitor. Bed bug monitors are cups-like-thing that pest controllers keep under the bed’s legs. 

It has a sticky interior. So, if the bed bugs that didn’t die want to hop onto the bed by crawling through the bed’s legs, the bed bug monitor will trap them. 

The number of bed bugs in the bed bug monitor will tell the pest controllers if there’s a need for further intervention. 

If there’s any need, they’ll use chemical insecticide sprays on the possible hiding places of the bed bugs. 

Third, the pest controller will take preventive measures to stop bed bugs from coming back. 

Preventive measures include using chemical boundaries around the perimeter of your home and doing follow-ups till you’re sure that bed bugs are dead for good. 

What To Expect After Bed Bug Heat Treatment

Your home may be a bit topsy-turvy after heat treatment. You’ll find your sofas and furniture removed from their initial places and things are a bit messy.

Well, that’s the part of the Process. You’ll have to spend some time rearranging your home after the heat treatment. 

You can enter your home after 1-2 hours of the heat treatment. Some say that you can enter your home immediately.

But if the exterminators used insecticides too, then it’s always safe to enter your home after a couple of hours. 

Rearrange your stuff in the home and don’t begin any cleaning process. It’ll be best if you ask the exterminator if it’s safe to sleep on your bed. 

In most cases, the exterminator will say yes if there has been no to little usage of chemical pesticides.

Expect follow-up visits from pest control professionals. They’ll monitor the situation for a while before they can say, “yes, your home is free from bed bugs.”

Insecticide And IPM Bed Bug Treatment

It’s not completely true chemical insecticide bed bug treatment is a total failure. They’re effective and cheaper than heat treatment when you spot the bed bug infestation at early stages. 

Pest controllers use three types of insecticides to get rid of bed bugs –

  1. An insecticide that kills bed bugs on contact
  2. Insecticides with residual toxicity
  3. Insecticide dust 

The pest controller will spray insecticides that kill bed bugs on contact in places where there are bed bugs, for sure. These are the places where you sleep or remain stationary for a more extended period. 

These bed bug-killing insecticides dry up fast and leave behind no toxicity. They kill bed bugs on contact.

Pest controllers use insecticide sprays and insecticide dust in cracks and voids where bed bugs hide. 

These products have residual toxic effects. They’ll advise you not to touch those places for at least a day or two. 

The pest controllers will also freeze items that bed bugs infested. They can even use heat from the steam cleaner to kill any bed bugs hiding in places like mattresses, carpets, and rugs.

The process of using insecticides, heat, cold, and the follow-up steps is what IPM or integrated pest management is. 

Insecticide treatment and IPM have follow-up visits from pest management professionals (PMP).

Expect at least two visits and treatments from the professionals as it’s unlikely that they’ll successfully eliminate bed bugs in one treatment.

Insecticide treatment takes 30 minutes to 2 hours for each room in your home. So, you’ll have to stay out of your home till it’s over. 

You’d need to give time for all the insecticides to dry up before you can enter your home. The PMP will tell you when it’s safe to enter your home. 

You’ll also need to prepare your home before the insecticide treatment. The pest PMP will give you detailed instructions on preparing your home for insecticide bed bug treatment.

Failing to follow those instructions correctly is one of the reasons for the failure of bed bug treatment. The PMPs can also prepare your home for bed bug treatment at an extra cost.

Word Of Caution: We do not recommend our readers to use insecticides to get rid of bed bugs. Handling insecticides needs expertise, and exposure to them can be dangerous. 

Also, never use bug bombs and foggers. They’re ineffective and risky.

Pros And Cons Bed Bug Heat Treatment

pros and cons of bed bug heat treatment


Heat Treatment Eliminates Bed Bugs In One Shot

If you hired a reliable pest management company for the job and if you’ve followed their instruction, then heat treatment removes all bed bugs in one go.

There can be follow-up visits. But that’s only to monitor the effectiveness of heat treatment and take minor steps if any bed bug shows up.

Heat Is An Instant Bed Bug Killer

Heat kills bed bugs instantly. It kills bed bugs in each stage of their life cycle – nymphs, instars, and adult bed bugs. Heat even destroys bed bugs’ eggs.

Heat Has A Better Reach

Heat reaches inside all the corners of your home and in the cracks and crevices where bed bugs can hide. 

At times, chemical pesticides can’t reach those hard-to-reach places. 

Heat Treatment Doesn’t Leave Behind Any Residual Toxicity

Unlike chemical treatment, heat treatment doesn’t leave behind any residual toxicity. After chemical treatment, you need to know what things you shouldn’t touch in your home. 

Only dead bed bugs are the immediate results of heat treatment.


Heat Treatment Is Expensive

Bed bug heat treatment is one of the most expensive pest treatments around. At times it can be costlier than termite tenting or termite fumigation. 

Average costs can get into mid-four figures for the entire home.

Heat Treatment Is More Effective For Apartments And Condo Blocks

For massive big houses, heat treatment isn’t that effective. If you’ve got an enormous home, then you might need multiple heat treatments for your entire home. 

That’ll shoot up your bill. Also, big homes with big rooms need more time for treatment.

Heat Treatment Doesn’t Guarantee That Bed Bugs Won’t Be Back After Treatment.

Nothing can stop bed bugs from re-appearing. That’s the unfortunate part. 

Bed bugs can come back no matter what treatment you use, heat or chemical treatment. 

That’s why it’s always a wise decision to do quarterly pest control for your home. 

Quarterly pest control catches pest infestation in your home at the early stages. It saves you a lot of money on pest control bills.

What To Look Out For While Hiring Pest Management Company

Many entities offer bed bug treatment is $199. Do not fall in the lure of cheap bed bug treatment.

They never worked and will never work.

Look for established companies to do the job. If you’re hiring local, then check for their local reviews. 

Also, find out how many homes they treat for bed bugs in a month. The more they do, the better. 

Some pest control companies offer a 30-day guarantee. Bed bugs activity can decrease 30 days after the bed bug heat treatment. 

And if the heat treatment wasn’t thorough, there will be a resurgence of bed bugs in your home after a month. 

Not good. 

So, hire companies that offer more extended guarantees and ask questions that reveal more information about them.

In addition to that, there will also be a follow-up process included in the package at no extra cost.

Established companies do not charge extra for follow-up visits to monitor the bed bug situation after the treatment. 

Always hire a pest controller to get rid of bed bugs in your home. And don’t panic if you find bed bugs in your home.

Do not throw away your mattresses or other infested items. You’ll be making things worse by aiding in the spread of bed bugs in your locale.

Don’t use bug bombs or foggers. That’ll only make the bed bugs spread in different areas of your home and hide in more inaccessible places.

Also, refrain from shifting things from one room to another. 

Keeping the things where they’re until the pest controller does an inspection, you stop bed bugs from spreading in different rooms and make their work easy.


Heat treatment for bed bugs works in five steps –

  1. Locating the hiding places of bed bugs
  2. Determining if your home needs chemical treatment or heat treatment
  3. Preparing your home for bed bug treatment
  4. Heating every room of your to kill bed bugs
  5. Post heat treatment measures and monitoring the bed bug activities

In addition to that, you’ve also got a rundown on why chemical treatment is more appropriate than heat treatment at times. 

There’s also a list of pros and cons of heat treatment which you need to keep in mind before getting in the Process. 

Heat treatment is expensive and can create a big hole in your pocket. If you’re short in finances, don’t skip our post on getting rid of bed bugs on a tight budget