Bed bugs are more common than you think and are experts in the game of hide and seek. Able to lurk in the smallest of creases, the thinnest of wrinkles and the tiniest of gaps, once they have discovered a cosy place to rest and a tasty place to feed, they will make themselves at home.
Using heat or steam to kill bed bugs
I would therefore recommend investing in a bed bug steamer or cleaner that is specifically designed to collect bed bugs and seal them efficiently so that once they are in, there is no getting out.
Renowned for being incredibly difficult to get rid of and able to reproduce at a startling rate of speed, it doesn’t take long for these tiny pests to become fearsome foes. But when the time comes to fight back against bed bugs, most people seek professional help. However, if you are prepared to put in some diligence and hard work there are a number of do-it-yourself options that can be just as effective and at a fraction of the price.
The best way to eradicate bed bugs is through either heat or steam as these extreme temperatures will not only kill the bed bugs on contact but will also destroy all eggs and larvae. Unfortunately, a quick run around with your everyday vacuum cleaner or steamer will not be enough to completely remove these blood sucking adversaries.
What is the difference between a bed bug steamer and a vacuum cleaner?
The main difference between a steamer and a vacuum cleaner is that one kills them instantly and the other sucks them up alive. Steam cleaners will get rid of bed bugs by exposing them to extremely hot temperatures, ultimately killing them outright. The heat produced is high enough to penetrate through the fabric and linen and into even the hardest of hiding places. Vacuuming, on the other hand, allows you to scoop up the bed bugs through suction before sealing and disposing of them accordingly.
Advantages of using a Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum cleaners are good for collecting bed bugs but unless the cleaner itself emits some form of heat then you are unlikely to kill them upon impact. The stronger the suction, the greater your chances of removing the bed bugs from their hidey holes. I would therefore recommend purchasing a vacuum cleaner that comes with additional attachments, as this not only allows you the flexibility to access those hard to reach areas but provides you with extra tools in which to rub down infected areas whilst scrubbing and loosening eggs and larvae.
I would always advise picking a vacuum cleaner with a bag as bed bugs are resilient and can easily crawl back out through the nozzle. Always ensure that the bag is well sealed and disposed of immediately, before thoroughly cleaning the vacuum meticulously in hot, soapy water.
Advantages of using a Steam Cleaner
As vacuuming alone does not guarantee that you kill the bed bugs outright, I would strongly suggest investing in a steam cleaner. Able to release a lethal dosage of heat, they can penetrate through fabric and into cracks and crevasses, attacking the bed bugs at all stages of their development including the eggs and larvae.
Make sure that you steam methodically so that you cover all areas whilst ensuring that you do not over steam, bathing your bedding in moisture. Also, beware that in order to kill a bed bug, the heat produced needs to be around 160-180 degrees C (200-230 degrees F), so please handle these steamers with care.
Things to consider when purchasing a bed bug vacuum cleaner or steamer
- Cost – Invariably the cheaper something costs the less durable it is likely to be over time. Bed bugs are tricky to eradicate and often take more than one attempt. Although a vacuum cleaner or steamer may be considered to be a costly purchase – especially when compared to other pest control solutions – they are considered to be the most effective method for combating bed bugs long term. Smaller, portable devices tend to be cheaper but are often less robust. You certainly get what you pay for in terms of longevity, so I would definitely recommend purchasing one of the larger cleaners such as the Vapamore MR-100 or the Onnovi as they are more durable and will last you for years. The average price of a steamer or vacuum cleaner is between $50-$300, although this will vary depending on the size of your infestation and your specific needs.
- Attachments – I would always recommend buying a cleaner that comes with a host of attachments to enable you to reach every nook and cranny from ceiling to floor. This will help to simplify the cleaning process and save you time and energy in the long run. I would also look for a steamer that has a large brush head and a vacuum with a strong nozzle suck. This will allow you to cover a larger area in a small amount of time, whilst ensuring that the bed bugs themselves are eliminated rather than pushed or flicked around from place to place and room to room.
- Removable cannisters and bags – Finally, my top tip is to buy a vacuum cleaner that has a removable canister or bag. This ensures that the bed bugs are completely sealed and allows you to dispose of them once the job is complete. This way you can enjoy peace of mind that your bed bugs are tucked up inside the vacuum cleaner and not making a bid for escape back up the nozzle or out of the trash can.
Top 5 best bed bug steamers:
The following are my personal recommendations for the top 5 best bed bug steamers available to buy online. I have rated them by the following options; best for attachments, portability, best steaming capabilities, value for money and deep cleaning ability.
- Best steamer for attachments: Vapamore MR-100
- Best portable steamer: Sunbeam Handheld Travel Steam
- Best steaming system: Conair Extreme Steam
- Best value for money: Pure Clean
- Best for deep cleaning: McCulloch
1. Best steamer for attachments – Vapamore MR-100
The Vapamore has more attachments than you’ll know what to do with (20+), although it does come with a comprehensive guide. There are extension tubes, brushes, scrapers and tools all specifically for combating bed bugs. Able to produce steam of over 200 degrees F, it kills and removes just about anything in its path.
Although a pricey purchase the Vapamore MR-100 is versatile enough to be used all over the home for sanitizing. In fact, I have used it to remove mold from the shower and even in the car to get rid of dubious food stains left over from the grandkids. Plus, with a life time warranty on the main mechanism* and a one-year warranty for accessories, this steam cleaner is good value for money and cheaper that calling in an exterminator.
- Chemical free
- Lifetime warranty
- Includes 20+ attachments
- Childproof locking mechanism for peace of mind
- Cumbersome to store
- Pricey Purchase
2. Best portable steamer – Sunbeam Handheld Travel Steam
The Sunbeam handheld travel steamer is lightweight, easy to manoeuvre and can be taken with you wherever you go. This is particularly good for those who travel constantly and want to ensure they stay in a clean environment. Able to sanitize linen in an instance, it not only kills bedbugs outright but odors too – all in one go.
Quick to heat up, the Sunbeam provides a steady stream of steam for up to 15 minutes, but be warned, if you have young children or pets around then please make sure you remember to turn this appliance off after use as there is no automatic safety shut off. Also, please note, that although this is classed as a portable steamer, you still need to plug it in, in order to power it up.
- 3-year warranty
- Chemical free
- Can sanitize and refresh
- Cost effective
- Some accessories purchased separately
- No automatic shut off feature
3. Best steaming system – Conair Extreme Steam
Conair have produced a number of steamers over the years, all advertised at tackling bed bugs. However, I have found this upright version to be, by far, the most effective of them all.
The extreme steam feature means that the water is boiled both in the base of the steamer and then boiled again in the nozzle before it’s released. Therefore, at the press of a button, a jet of pressurized steam penetrates deep into your fabrics and linen making quick and effortless work of eliminating bed bugs.
- Quick to heat up
- Chemical free
- Switch for controlling the steam
- Adjustable height options
- Great value for money
- Non-retractable cord
4. Best value for money – Pure Clean
For maneuverability the Pure Clean is hard to beat with its rotating wheels and extra-long 16 foot cord. This is great if you have an infestation in more than one room, as there is no need to keep plugging in and setting up, whilst the large kettle like water tank ensures that you can steam continuously for up to 45 minutes.
Although this isn’t the cheapest steamer I recommend, the number of accessories it comes equipped with enable it to be used both indoors and out, making it great value for money.
- Long extendable cord
- 18 additional accessories
- 5-year warranty
- Chemical free
- No indicator for when it is ready to use
- Difficult to store
5. Best for deep cleaning – McCulloch MC1275
Although this steamer may look unimposing, the McCulloch is quite simply a bed bug killing machine. More expensive than other steamers on the market, it has the advantage of not only allowing you the ability to control the amount of steam it emits, but allowing you to change the attachments, depending on how extreme and where your infestation may be.
It also displays a light which indicates when it has reached its optimum temperature, and once achieved you can lock it in place for a continuous jet of hot steam.
- 15ft extendable cord
- 18 versatile accessories
- 2-year warranty
- Chemical free
- 45 minutes of continuous steam
- Expensive purchase
Top 5 bed bug vacuum cleaners available
The following are my best vacuum cleaners for bed bugs which are available to buy online. I have rated them in order, including best for portability, suction, flexibility, best all-rounder and best for large infestations. I hope you find the guide useful in treating your bed bugs.
- Best for portability: Housmile Anti-Dust Mites UV Vacuum
- Best for suction: Euleven Hot Wind Anti-Dust Mites UV Handle Vacuum Cleaner
- Best for flexibility: Idee Handheld Portable UV Sanitizing Vacuum Cleaner
- Best all-rounder: Ovonni Anti-Dust Mites UV Vacuum
- Best for large infestations: Atrix Bug sucker HEPA Backpack Vacuum
1. Best for portability – Housmile Anti-Dust Mites UV Vacuum
Most bed bug vacuum cleaners will only suck away the mites and not kill them. However, the Housmile machine has the functionality to do both. Switch it on and it emits a combination of both heat and UV light which elimination these pests in no time at all.
Plus, when you switch it on, a high frequency vibration means that bugs are beaten into submission, before being carried away through the strong suction nozzle. Lightweight and durable, I recommend this easy to use vacuum cleaner to anyone seeking a quick solution.
- Super lightweight and portable
- Combination of heat and suction means it kills and disposes of bugs
- Easy to clean
- No extra filters provided
2. Best for suction – Euleven Hot Wind Anti-Dust Mites UV Handle Vacuum Cleaner
This vacuum not only looks stylish but can get the job done. Just like the Housemile, the Euleven relies on a combination of heat and UV light to detect and dispose of bed bugs.
The standout feature for me on this model, is the high-powered suction. Able to infiltrate deep into the mattress, it can draw out pests before capturing them in the enclosed filter. Nice and lightweight this is the perfect vacuum to take away with you and enjoy a restful slumber.
- Stylish design
- Super strong suction
- Lightweight and portable
- Easy to manoeuvre
- Small filter
3. Best for flexibility – Idee Handheld Portable UV Sanitizing Vacuum Cleaner
When you need to sanitize up high or down low, the Idee handheld vacuum is ideal thanks to its extendable handle. Whether you want to use it as a handheld or full-length cleaner, its clever design ensures it gets to all those hard to reach places and is easy to store.
Using a UV-C lamp, it emits ultraviolet light that disinfects and kills bed bugs. Although it is not the cheapest of purchases, this vacuum comes with an extra filter and a 1-year warranty.
- Flexible design with extendable handle
- Extra filter supplied
- Easy to clean and maintain
4. Best all-rounder – Ovonni Anti-Dust Mites UV Vacuum
When it comes to all singing, all dancing vacuum cleaners, the Ovonni offers it all. From its sleek cordless design to its UV sterilization and automatic UV shut off facility, this vacuum cleaner sits on the more expensive side but offers a superior cleaning experience.
Its clever ultra violet rays and sterilization system alter the bed bugs DNA before sucking them away. So effective is this machine, that even those buried deep within your mattress and pillows do not stand a chance thanks to the high beating vibrations.
- Super stylish design
- Superior UV sterilization system
- Provides 50 minutes of power
- Very Expensive
Best for large infestations – Atrix Bug sucker HEPA Backpack Vacuum
I have used this machine many a time for commercial properties and will always recommend the Atrix if you have a severe bed bug infestation. This machine is incredibly versatile and offers you all the power of a vacuum cleaner combined with the convenience of a backpack. The only negative to this clever design, is the fact that it is not cordless. It does, however, come equipped with a utility belt which allows you to switch attachments when required.
The Atrix works by using a filter which forces a stream of air through a thick mesh trapping bed bugs and eggs in the process. I particularly enjoy using this vacuum as opposed to others as it allows you to purify the air at the same time, eliminating harmful particles as you go.
- Great for industrial use and extreme infestations
- Powerful suction
- Purifies as you go
- Not cordless
- Must be worn on the back
What to do before treating bed bugs
Although it may be tempting to start cleaning straight away, I cannot stress enough the importance of preparing your room before treatment. By jumping straight in with a steamer or vacuum will only provide you with a short-term solution and is unlikely to successfully eliminate all of the bed bugs.
I therefore recommend that you spend time identifying which rooms are affected and that you start to isolate your furniture. The most common rooms in which to find bed bugs are the living room, bedroom and laundry areas.
Once you know where the bed bugs are lurking you should make it as difficult as possible for them to move around. Move beds away from other furniture and walls, do not let sheets overhang and remove anything stored underneath. Clean your sheets in a hot wash with detergent and once washed, store away in a sealed bag within a drawer.
Once you are sure that you have contained the bed bugs, it is time to begin steaming and vacuum cleaning them away. As bed bugs are notorious for being difficult to eradicate do not expect miracles on your first attempt. Keep repeating this process several times until all signs of any bed bugs, eggs and larvae have disappeared.
In the long run, you can prevent a re-infestation by reducing the amount of clutter you have in each room, ensure that hidey holes such as ripped wallpaper and damaged headboards are repaired and continue to deep clean regularly.
Whilst bed bugs have a reputation for being persistent residents that are difficult to evict, it is not impossible to do it yourself. As long as you start the process accepting that it is going to take time and a lot of hard work, chances are you can sort the problem no matter how big or small at the fraction of the cost of calling in a professional exterminator.
My personal recommendation would be to purchase a steamer or a vacuum cleaner that emits heat, in order to guarantee that you exterminate the bed bugs in all stages of development rather than just by extracting them. Do invest in those which have additional attachments so that you can get into all areas that may not be accessible to a fixed head or nozzle, and remember that just by leaving one bed bug behind can open the door to another re-infestation.