Will freezing kill bed bugs?
When dealing with an infestation I think we all ask ourselves if we can freeze bed bugs as another tool in our bed bug killing arsenal, and the answer is “Yes, but…”
As we have learned, bed bugs and their eggs in particular, have evolved to be very durable. For such a seemingly useless insect, they are impressive in their evolution. Researchers tell us that bed bugs and their eggs cannot survive when exposed to temperatures over 120° for a period of an hour.
[updated April, 10, 2021]
Can you kill bed bugs in the freezer?
Putting infested items in a freezer can kill bed bugs if some particular conditions are met. Freezing causes ice to form inside the bed bug, causing injury or death. Freezing bed bugs is easy to do. It is important to consider each item you want to freeze because it is possible items that may be damaged if condensation occurs inside the freezer.
The Research from the The University of Minnesota helps us to evaluate if freezing is effective and reasonable for some possessions. Remember even if you successfully treat your things, if you still have an active infestation you need to keep those treated items isolated in sealed bags or containers so they do not get reinfested.
You would need a freezer that stays at or below 00F (-18oC)
Freezer zip lock plastic bags, or larger for the items you want to freeze.
A remote thermometer is helpful to confirm temperature inside the freezer.
What can be frozen?
Most household items can be frozen, including:
Fabric and cloth items that you cannot wash or launder
Books (cold temps may damage or dry pages)
Yarn and craft supplies but not glue or paint or liquids.
Pictures (cold temps may damage or dry pages or damage them if condensation occurs)
Some electronics (without an LCD screen).
What should not go in a freezer?
Electronics with LCD panels
Some antiques, photos or old books which could be damaged by condensation.
Items that cannot be replaced
Makeup and liquid products like cleaners, soap or hair products.
What temperatures and for how long will freezing take to kill bed bugs?
0 degrees to kill bed bugsThe temperature of your freezer is very important. The lower the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
Start counting the 4 day exposure time when the center of the object has reached 0°F.
The items you are freezing should be left in the freezer for at least 4 days, more if possible to ensure no bed bugs survive.
Using a remote thermometer inside the freezer, in the center of the materials being frozen to kill bed bugs will help you know what the temperature inside the freezer is. Bulky items require more time.
Do not use a freezer to kill bed bugs if temperatures are above 0°F (-15°C) as eggs and newly hatched nymphs may survive.
It’s winter, and it’s cold, can I put my stuff outside or open the windows in my home?
It is unlikely that it will be cold enough for long enough to kill bed bugs. Sunlight, humidity, and temperature variations during the day increase the risk that some eggs or bed bugs could survive.
It could work but you have no way of knowing and not knowing could mean you are reinfesting your home with bed bugs or eggs that didn’t freeze. DO NOT attempt to freeze your apartment or house by opening the windows and turning off the heat.
For additional information on using freezing conditions to kill bed bugs please see this paper: Cold Tolerance of Bed Bugs and Practical Recommendations for Control
As you can see in this excerpt, bed bugs were able to survive temperatures of -12°C (my handy converter for Fahrenheit -12°C = 10F°). You can see most kitchen freezers don’t get cold enough to kill bed bugs and typically are not that big so you couldn’t put a lot of things in them anyway.
At the time of my infestation before heat treatment was unavailable in my area, one company was selling a freezing treatment called Cryonite. Cryonite was supposed to kill any bed bugs that came in contact with a stream of freezing air. That means it had to make direct contact with a bed bug to kill it, just like steam and just like a cedar/alcohol-based spray. It’s not hard to kill bed bugs if you can see them. The freezing didn’t penetrate or extend its reach far enough to kill bed bugs hiding in crevices or baseboards. Untrained technicians could easily use too much air pressure and blow the bed bugs around or into another apartment by blowing them under the baseboards into another unit. Disclaimer: I did not use Cryonite but my neighbor with an infestation did and it did not solve her infestation.
During my infestation, I did find my freezer to be a “safe place” I could keep my wallet, keys, purse, and checkbook without having to worry about them getting infested. Check out the article and let me know what you think. If you are wondering how to clean toys and plush animals you still have choices. Read more about bed bug ovens and using the dryer, or no-pest strips are another option for treating unwashable items.
Did this information help you in any way? Let me know what you think in the comments or send me a message using my contact form.