How to Identify and Clean Bed Bug Stains

Pillow and bed sheets
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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 4 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Unless you are an entomologist or an exterminator, you'll never meet a bed bug that you like. These tiny insects are opportunistic pests that survive by feeding on blood—both human and animal.

Because the bugs are so small and most active in dark spaces, the first sign of an infestation is often mysterious bites or a rash on your skin. However, there are other bed bug signs to watch for in bedding and furniture that will alert you that it is time to take action:

  • Adult bed bugs: Oval, flat, and reddish-brown, they will appear rounded if they have recently fed on blood.
  • Bed bug nymphs: Recently hatched bed bugs are translucent, tiny, and very difficult to see.
  • Bed bug eggs: Milky white and the size of a small grain of rice, the eggs are laid in dark crevices like mattress seams and under furniture cushions.
  • Bed bug exoskeletons: Bed bugs shed their skins at least five times during their life cycle. The skins look like a live bug, but are more translucent and don't move.
  • Bed bug excrement: Tiny black specks or thin black streaks on bedding can be bed bug waste.
  • Blood: Mysterious dried or fresh specks of blood on bedding or furniture are a possible indication that there are active and feeding bed bugs present.

Once you determine that you do have bed bugs, it is essential to take eradication measures as soon as possible. Bed bugs reproduce rapidly and they will never go away on their own as long as there is a source of food (humans). Professional pest control measures are usually necessary. Once the infestation is under control, cleaning the bed bug stains is relatively easy but will require time and patience.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Vacuum with HEPA filter
  • Clothes steamer

Materials

  • Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
  • Large plastic bags
  • Detergent
  • Upholstery cleaner

Instructions

How to Clean Bed Bug Stains on Washable Laundry

  1. Separate Laundry by Color and Fabric Type

    Gather every piece of laundry that could have come in contact with the infestation and separate by color and fabric types. Place the items in plastic bags and seal them tightly until you can wash each bag of laundry. Keep the bags sealed to prevent the spreading of the bugs.

    A few notes as you begin:

    • If you see live bed bugs on colorfast clothing, a quick spray with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol will kill the bugs on contact. It will not eliminate eggs or take care of the infestation.
    • Rubbing alcohol will also help break apart any bloodstains you may see on bedding. Spray the stains before washing as recommended on the care label.
  2. Treat Stains on Washable Clothes

    Stains usually look like tiny, dark rusty dots and can be caused by bedbug excrement or drops of human blood, Most will be removed during a regular wash. However, if the staining is heavy, pretreat it with an enzyme-based fabric stain remover before washing.

    Apply the stain remover and allow it to work for about 10 minutes before washing the fabrics as recommended.

  3. Choose Washer Settings

    Add your regular detergent to the washer's automatic dispenser or drum. Set the washer to the cycle (normal, gentle, bulky items) and the hottest water temperature recommended for each type of fabric.

  4. Load and Start the Washer

    Carefully empty one plastic bag of laundry into the washer, keeping the bag inside the drum as much as possible. Work carefully to prevent scattering the bugs. Start the washer immediately and dispose of the trash bag in an outside bin.

  5. Use the Correct Dryer Cycle

    While washing will remove the stains and flush away most of the bugs, there may be some bugs and eggs that survive. Quickly transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer. Select the highest possible heat cycle for each type of fabric and allow the dryer to run for at least 30 minutes. Ideally, the heat should exceed 120°F to kill both the bugs and the eggs.

    When each cycle is finished, empty the dryer lint filter and dispose of the contents in a sealed plastic bag in an outside trash can.

  6. Protect Clean Laundry

    Unless you are certain that the bed bug infestation has been eliminated by a pest management company or your own diligence, place freshly washed, folded laundry in sealable plastic bags to prevent reinfestation.

How to Clean Bed Bug Stains on Dry Clean Only Clothes

  1. Use a Professional Dry Cleaner

    Clothes and bedding that cannot be machine-washed should be sealed in a large plastic bag and taken to a professional cleaner. As a courtesy, warn the cleaner about the problem.

  2. Pretreat Stains

    If you decide to clean non-washable fabrics at home, inspect the bedding or clothes for stains and pretreat them with a dry cleaning solvent or stain remover.

  3. Use a Steam Cleaner and Vacuum

    clothes steamer that reaches a temperature between 160 and 180°F can be used to kill the bugs and eggs. Follow the instructions for the steamer and treat every surface of the item. After steaming, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture any dead bugs. Empty the vacuum bag or dust container into a plastic bag, and dispose of it in an outside bin.

How to Remove Bed Bug Stains From Mattresses and Furniture

After a bed bug infestation has been totally eradicated, follow the recommended cleaning steps for upholstered furniture and mattress sets as needed.