Can Bed Bugs Survive in Water? Or How to Wash Them Away

Getting rid of insects can be hard work. If your mattresses and furniture are infested by bedbugs, you might think: can bed bugs survive in water? Can you drown them instead of using chemicals and thermo processing?

There are numerous myths circulating about this method, so let us break it down and see whether you indeed can just drown the bedbugs.

The short answer is: it depends on the temperature of the water, but there are various methods and ways of extinguishing bedbugs with water.

Do Bed Bugs Like Water?

There are indeed ways to fight bed bugs with water. Still, they will not drown the way mammals or birds would. For those, life is impossible without breathing, but that’s not the case with insects. Not that bed bugs in water don’t die at all: the problem is this method of getting rid of them requires a special approach.

And can you drown bed bugs in it? The answer is no. Normally they prefer dry places, but they don’t die immediately in the water, and if let out, they survive. As for their preferences, you can ask them yourself before the elimination. But we doubt they will answer.

Can you drown bed bugs in the water?

Humanizing animals is good for Disney films, but not in real life. One must think of these bugs as humans to really believe they can drown. Can bed bugs swim in water?

That’s not what I call “swimming,” indeed: being lighter than water, though, they can float. And if they suddenly get out, they can live on. So the answer to “do bed bugs drown” is no.

How long can they live underwater?

Simply drowning them, as we see, is impractical. But if you are just curious how long they can maintain, the answer will disappoint you: they can last for 24 hours easily. That’s not for how long you would keep your mattresses in the water.

So, the answer is: too long. Simply depriving them of air won’t work. You will need extra measures to eliminate the bedbugs with water.

What water kills bed bugs?

Not just do bed bugs die in water: the killing abilities of water can be improved by boiling, warming, or adding chemicals. The results, though, differ seriously.

  • Hot water. That’s the most efficient way to kill them. The temperature that kills the bugs is about 115°F (47°C); not that hot, you can handle it with your hands for a minute or two without getting them burned. It can be achieved in a washing machine or in a bathtub.
  • Cold water. Yes, they can be frozen as well. To efficiently kill the bugs, you need to freeze them down to 0°F (-17°C) for two hours. For this, you can put the infested mattress in water and put the water into the freezer. For large mattresses, though, it will require large freezers, maybe even industrial class ones. In a regular home, hardly will your mattress fit in your freezer.
  • Boiling. This is even more efficient than just applying hot water. Still, boiling a big bowl may be more problematic in a household than machine washing.
  • Water with alcohol. This appears to be an efficient way to eliminate bugs. Alcohol works as a solvent that dissolves the bug’s shell and as a desiccant that sucks water out of adult bugs as well as out of eggs. Pure alcohol has some drawbacks: it requires direct contact, and it’s flammable. But added to hot water, it allows to receive the results faster.
  • Hot water plus bleach. There is no evidence that the bleach itself will kill bedbugs, but combined with hot water, it grants great results. Adding some bleach allows to achieve the results faster than with pure water:
  • Water with soap. It can slow down the bugs and make it easier to pick them up. Then you can manually collect them and drown them in the same water. The soap film will prevent them from moving freely, and soon they will drown. This method, though, works best for manual bug removal.
  • Salty water. In spite of popular views, it doesn’t hurt the bugs at all! Salt does not help to damage the bug’s shell. So it isn’t even worth a try.
  • Water with vinegar. This one seems to work on adults but does not affect eggs, which is unacceptable. More than that, it needs to be applied frequently, so using it makes little sense if any. Oh, and that smell too.

bed bug on white cloth

Methods of killing bed bugs with water

As for methods that work for destroying bugs, here’s what you can do. Not all these methods are created equal, but all of them should be addressed.

Using washing machine

Indeed, the machine you need for this is a washer-dryer.

  1. Put the infested clothes or bedsheets into the drum. Add detergent as usual.
  2. Run a regular cycle for the clothes.
  3. Switch into the dryer mode and dry out. Before drying, separate the clothes.
  4. Wash the machine to remove the remains of the bugs.

For clothes that only need drying, you can skip washing – as required.

Using a bed bug interceptor

Bed bug interceptors are mechanical traps that use the fact that bugs tend to fall from vertical surfaces. To catch bugs from your bed, you need to:

  1. Take four interceptors and coat their insides with talc.
  2. Raise the posts of the bed and put an interceptor under each of them.
  3. Check the interceptors in the morning.

Hardly can one expect interceptors to eliminate all the bugs. They rather work as a detection system, and if in the morning you find some bugs there under the bed, it’s time to take harder measures.

Using boiling water

Boiling water is not efficient against bug bed bug infestation. It implies that you apply boiling water to all the bugs and all the eggs, and it’s never granted if you haven’t located them all.

In addition, boiling water can damage furniture, floors, and sheets. On the other hand, if you want to clean just one bedsheet or some clothes, you can just put it in boiling water for a minute or two.

Using diluted bleach

Though this method is often recommended, it is overrated. Bleach can kill some bugs, but it irritates human skin and mucosa, plus its efficiency is far from perfect.

So we’d not recommend it even if you have nothing else. Along with limited killing capacities, bleach may damage clothes fabric and coloring.

bed bug on needle

FAQ on Bed Bugs in Water

There are many legends about bed bug extinction, so let’s address the most common questions.

Do bed bugs die in the shower?

It depends on the temperature. As you know, the temperature that kills the bugs is about 115°F. It’s quite realistic for a hot shower. The thing is, though, that the physics of shower cannot grant that the water applies evenly. A washing machine will work much better.

Do bed bugs go in bathrooms?

Wiping away with a brush and drowning bed bugs in the bathroom seems a good idea. Yes, they go down with a flow, but some may remain. On the bathroom floor, though, it’s hardly too dangerous. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you intend to clean a certain piece.

Can I flush bed bugs down the toilet?

Well, yes, you can. Though they tend to float, a good flush or two will send them down the drain. And when they get through the sewer and to the septic tank, they end up dead. So, you can send them down the toilet and not bother that they can end up alive and kicking on the other end.

Debugging for Smart and Regular Houses

Of course, there is always an option to call pros. But if you can get rid of bed bugs yourself, there are ways too. Some of them are efficient for clothes and bedsheets, some for rooms and houses, and some are very local.

But all of them can be used sometimes. By the way, we busted a couple of myths. Have you had any experience with these methods of killing bed bugs? If so, tell us in the comments section!

Also read:

Nicholas Martin

Nicholas Martin

I am Nicholas Martin, and I am an entomologist. I combine the insect survey work with the consultation for private pest control agencies. My narrow specializations are both urban pests and agricultural pests. I studied their control over the previous 25 years. More about Nick

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Solve : *
      24 ⁄ 4 =


      Get free quotes from verified exterminators near you

      X
      Pest Control Hacks
      Logo