Kill bed bugs and eggs without pesticides using heat

A portable bed bug oven can change your bed bug experience from frantic to in-control. In just a couple of hours, it safely kills all bed bugs and bed bug eggs without pesticides, using gentle heat at 115 – 125°.

When you have an infestation you want to use as few pesticides as possible. There are going to be pesticides or fungacides but that’s ok when they are applied properly. You don’t have to use pesticides at all for some of the hard to treat items like toys, car seats, pillows, stuffed animals, some paper items, yarn, craft supplies, some electronics, etc. Heat can damage some things or at least dry them out or loosen glue, but if you want to avoid pesticides wherever you can, heat is the answer!

“I would have purchased the bed bug oven weeks earlier if I had known how helpful it would be.”

What can you put in a bed bug oven?

  • Car seats and booster seats for children
  • Shoes/Boots/Jackets/Coats
  • Purses/Backpacks/Luggage
  • Papers/Books/Folders/Photos/Paintings (heating books and photos may affect the glue and dry paper out, but if you monitor the temperature and time you can minimize damage)
  • Sleeping Bags, cardboard, games
  • Pillows/Cushions/Comforters
  • Chairs (size of heater of course is important here)
  • Stuffed Animals/Toys that cannot be washed
  • Kills bed bugs in vinyl album record jackets and CD Cases (CD’s can be washed and heating can affect their performance – experience speaking)

If you want to avoid pesticides wherever you can, heat is the answer!

There are several sizes of portable bed bug ovens available.  

bed bug oven

Originally invented for heating carry-on suitcases that might be infested with bed bugs after traveling. These heating containers quickly became popular with people who were already fighting bed bugs in their home. They now come in three sizes from carry-on, to a larger size, to furniture size. They are designed for killing bed bugs. The heater spreads heat inside the container and maintains a constant temperature high enough to kill bed bugs and eggs but not damage most items.

Disclaimer: YOU WON’T ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO WATCH THEM DIE in the heater because it will be zipped closed so it stays hot enough. But you may see dead or dried up bed bugs when you are done. Be prepared, it’s unnerving to come face to face with them, even when they’re dead. But it’s much more satisfying than when they are alive!

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How to use a bed bug oven

The bed bug oven allows you to leave your house knowing your purse, backpack, shoes, coats have no bed bugs on or in them them. Using it often during your infestation solves so many bed bug problems. For all the possessions you can’t wash, throw in a dryer, the bed bug oven can treat your items successfully.

Examples are the middle of a folded blanket, the middle of a closed book, the middle of a bag of stuffed animals. You want the tip of the thermostat placed in the part of your things that will take the longest to heat to the killing temperature of 115-120. Bed bug eggs require at least an hour at 120 to die. So no matter what, when the temperature reaches 115, you’ve got an hour from that point. Most heaters include a timer so you can set it to turn off after a specific amount of time.

From the manufacturer

The industry standard recommendation is to treat items for 1 hour once the bag is over 120F. We’ve had no issues treating electronics (although any film cameras should have their film removed before treating), but we always recommend checking with the manufacturers to be safe. You can leave clothing in an opened suitcase, just fluff the clothing a bit to allow air flow and put the included temperature sensor in the middle of the suitcase so you know the hardest area to heat is getting up to temperature. Papers are always fine to treat without shriveling – the temperature of the ZappBug can best be compared to that of a closed car trunk on a hot summer day. Photographs should also be ok but if any are antique/delicate we recommend using caution.

Avoid infesting your car

The bed bug oven allows you to treat items you might bring into your car like backpacks, laptop cases and other complex items you can’t throw in a hot dryer. Some people have put electronics in the bed bug oven, like video game systems. This isn’t recommended but if the temperature is kept at an even 120° it “probably” wouldn’t damage it but I’m not endorsing putting electronics in your bed bug oven. I did. Follow all official directions from the manufacturer.

Electronics – can you heat them up?

Maybe. I’m gonna say that you should follow all manufacturers directions. There are other alternatives to treating electronics and that is the NUVAN strip (also for professional use only). But if you have a sealed container where people and/or animals don’t go your pest control professional can put a strip in that container with your electronics and any other infested items. This takes a couple of weeks because you need to account for live bed bugs laying more eggs and those eggs have to die.

To answer the question, it depends. If you would leave your electronics in your car on a hot day where the heat inside the car could go to 120° then your items would react the same in the bed bug oven. You don’t have to reach those temps in the oven, just sustain 115°-120° F for approximately 45 minutes or so. I’m not telling you to put your electronics in a bed bug oven. It may not be safe or suggested. ***Batteries should be removed before putting electronics in a bed bug oven if you choose to do that.

The pest strip option leaves no residue but must not be used in any dwelling/vehicle where people are present except to place or remove the strip using gloves. The difference is time. You must let the pest strips work for several days at least to catch any eggs that might be layed before all bugs are dead. See bed bug life cycle to understand the bed bug egg laying cycle.

I have heard of people using pods for this type of pesticide. That made me think that if you are renting a pod just for normal storage reasons, you might want to throw a strip in there prior to storing your own things, just in case the prior renter had bed bugs.

The City of New York Public Health suggests these tips for storage and moving your items:

  • Use new packing material whenever possible. If you do use boxes that have been used by others, first inspect them carefully with a flashlight for bed bugs.
  • If you hire a mover or rent a moving vehicle, ask the company if they check for bed bugs and how frequently.
  • If you or your movers use blankets to wrap some furniture, make sure the blankets have been cleaned or sanitized first.
  • If you rent a vehicle, check it yourself before you put your things inside.
  • Before you put things in storage, ask how frequently they check for bed bugs. If possible, look around the storage area yourself with a flashlight. Try to store your things in sealable plastic containers or bags. If a bag rips, seal the tear with duct tape.
  • Check items carefully when you remove them from storage.
  • Wash clothing immediately as you normally would. If you suspect bed bugs, launder washable items in hot water and dry on the highest setting for at least 20 minutes. Dry cleaning and steam cleaning will kill bed bugs in fabrics (including soft luggage) that can’t be washed and dried at high settings.

After your bed bug infestation, it allows you to go antique, garage sale and thrift shopping with confidence you can heat your purchases and they will be bed bug-free. Read and follow all manufacturer or other instructions that come with your heater. ** HEAT CAN ALTER OR DAMAGE SOME ITEMS. IT CAN MELT OR LOOSEN GLUE, DRY PAPER, ETC.

The bed bug oven is lightweight at less than 20 lbs, and portable. When set up it is large enough to hold and heat a standard luggage carry-on at approximately 3 foot long x 1 1/2 feet wide. This means you could even fit most sofa cushions in the bed bug oven; however, it is important to monitor the temperature carefully, as overstuffed items, such as decorator pillows and seat cushions could take up to 4 hours or longer to reach temperatures lethal to bed bugs.

The bed bug oven may come with a thermostat you can read from the outside of the unit and a timer. The thermostat cord goes into the center of what you are heating so the core temperature can be monitored. The center of all the things you are heating is presumably the coolest temperature so you will measure the temperature by heating from the center of your stuff. This ensures that the air around your items inside the oven are also being heated at temps needed to kill bed bugs and eggs.

It is important that the entire contents of the oven reach and maintain the desired temperature for the suggested amount of time to be effective.

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