Why use a Dry Steamer?
If you’re serious about getting rid of bed bugs, but you can’t find or aren’t willing to trust a professional exterminator, then a dry steamer is a must. This is the tool of choice for most professional exterminators, and it’s quite simply the most effective way to rid your home of bed bugs, although other tools may also be used in conjunction with a dry steamer.
The reason that dry steamers are so effective is two-fold. First, steam can be used to treat pretty much any area and any material. You can’t really throw your mattress or carpet into the washing machine, but you can use a dry steamer on them. Secondly, bed bugs, like most other insects, simply can’t live when exposed to certain temperatures. As explained below, one of the primary things you need to consider when buying and using a dry steamer is to make sure that the steam is hot enough. Presuming that it is, any bed bugs (and their eggs) with which the steam comes into contact will be killed almost immediately
What do I need to know about Dry Steamers?
Dry steamers look somewhat like old vacuum cleaners, so they appear to be relatively simple and easy to use. For the most part this is true, but there are several things that you need to know, consider, and be wary of when using these devices to rid your home of bed bugs. If you want to skip straight to the steamers we recommend, then check out the Vapamore MR-100, which is among the cheaper dry steamers, and the Lady Bug, which is really the best dry steamer we’ve seen but is probably pricey for that reason.
Temperature. The steam absolutely needs to be hot enough, or you’ll be doing little more than giving your bed bugs a relaxing sauna treatment. If ours is not the only website you’ve read, then you’ve likely heard that the steam needs to reach 120°F (or 45°C). That temperature is a bit misleading because that’s actually the temperature around which bed bugs can no longer survive (and some studies suggest that 60°C is a more certain temperature). If your dry steamer is only heating the steam to that temperature, then by the time the steam reaches the bed bug, it will be many degrees cooler. If you’re buying a dry steamer, then you need to read the manufacturer’s rating of how hot the “tip temperature” is, and you need to make sure that the “tip temperature” is at least 200°F.
Still on the topic of temperature, assuming that you’ve gotten a steamer that is hot enough, you now need to make sure that you use it correctly. In terms of bed bugs, this means that the tip of the steamer needs to be held very close to whatever you are steaming, and you need to move very very slowly. One way to do this is to place a towel or thin cloth over the head of the dry steamer. This will make the steamer hotter and will also make sure that the force of the steam is not such that the bed bugs are simply blown to another location.
Thouroughness. You might be asking why we even feel the need to reiterate this point, but you absolutely must be thorough when using a dry steamer. This means going very very slowly along any surface that you are steaming (as mentioned above), but it also means that you need to pay special attention to crevices and cracks. In addition, you need to steam everything (carpet, bed, sofa, etc.) in the same session, since bed bugs are capable of migration. We are not exaggerating when we tell you that dry steaming a small room can easily take at least 5 hours.
Precautions. Bed bugs are bad, but getting seriously burnt or else sick from mold can be even worse, so here are our major warnings:
Steamers get very hot, so they will burn you or anyone else. Please be very careful.
Dry Steam is an oxymoron and is not technically correct. Anything you steam is going to be at least damp. For this reason, you need to make sure that you have plenty of ventilation in any room that you dry steam. Bringing in a few fans can help. If not, you run the risk of mold developing in any room in which you have used a dry steamer.
Always wear a respirator while using a dry steamer (and we don’t mean one of those silly little masks that nurses where or a dust mask). Steam and heat can activate a variety of chemical residues, from pesticides or even paint. These are not the types of things that you want to be breathing in.
Interference with other bed bug extermination measures. If you have hired a professional exterminator, you need to talk to your exterminator before using a dry steamer. Often, the dry steamer can cause substances such as pesticides to be washed away or else undermined (heat often causes chemical breakdown). We recommend that you use a dry steamer before you use pesticides, rather than after.
Is that it?
Pretty much. If you want to read a bit more, check out the Bed Bug Code of Practice by Stephen Doggett, but the information we’ve provided above is most of what you will need to know.
As far as specific dry steamers to buy, check out the 2 we mentioned above, or else visit our Product Reviews page.