Does Dry Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs? (**A Quick Guide**)

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Let’s face it: we have clothes that can only be maintained through dry cleaning.

But what if you have a serious case of bed bug infestation inside your bedroom that a considerable number of bed bugs have already taken refuge inside your special clothes?

Will dry cleaning be enough to get rid of those nasty bugs? Is there an additional solution that needs to be done?

Continue reading to confirm whether or not dropping your clothes at the dry cleaner will clean infested clothes.

Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

Table of Contents

    How Does Dry Cleaning Affect Bed Bugs?

    If you take a closer look at how dry cleaning is done, dry cleaning isn’t really a dry process of cleaning clothes and textiles after all. It is a sort of a misnomer that you should know about especially if you are fond of buying clothes with a tag that says “Dry Clean Only”.

    First and foremost, dry cleaning is a clothing and textile cleaning process that involves a special type of chemical solvent instead of water mixed with a laundry detergent. This non-polar solvent extracts stains without interacting with the fabric’s polar groups that play a significant role in maintaining the original shape and stretch of the clothes. That is why it is best to launder delicate items or delicate fabrics at the dry cleaner.

    Dry cleaning does kill bed bugs but it’s not because of the special type of machine being used nor the temperature needed to get the job done. The answer lies in the chemical solvent employed.

    There are various types of chemicals used as a solvent for dry cleaning. The most popular is PCE or Perchloroethylene which is the ideal solution for oil-based stains. PCE is a strong chemical solvent that has low toxicity on humans but potentially lethal on bed bugs.

    PCE, on the other hand, has a couple of setbacks such as color bleeding and structure damage. Because of this, some dry cleaning shops use a lighter solvent – Hydrocarbons. This solvent, however, is not potent enough to eliminate bed bugs.

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    Does Dry Cleaning Repel Bed Bugs?


    The chemical Perchloroethylene or PCE vaporizes into the air and doesn’t provide any lingering effect on clothes that can help repel bed bugs.

    Although the said chemical is quite effective in killing bed bugs, it is not advisable to dry clean your clothes very often. The solvent PCE is a significantly strong chemical that can also cause damage to the clothing’s fiber. Simply put, the more you dry clean your clothes, the shorter its lifespan becomes.

    Even worse, recent medical studies and researches have found out that PCE poses a serious threat to human health. The National Toxicology Program has classified PCE or PERC (perchloroethylene) as carcinogenic or as a chemical that has a significantly high potential in causing cancer to humans.

    The following video will give you more tips on how to keep your bedroom bug-free.

    Essential oils are both effective as a contact insecticide and as a repellent.

    However, you must make sure that you dilute the oil first before using it. A concentration of more than 50% can be harmful to humans.

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    Does Dry Cleaning Kill Bed Bugs?


    But of course, as discussed earlier, it all depends on what type of solvent is used in the dry cleaning process.

    Perchloroethylene, otherwise known as PCE or PERC is the solvent that can effectively bed bugs that are taking refuge inside your clothes. However, PCE is a strong chemical solvent that can cause damage to the fiber over time which prompts others to use a milder alternative.

    Milder alternatives include hydrocarbons and supercritical CO2. However, these solvents are considered less effective in cleaning stubborn stains and grimes as well as in killing bed bugs.

    But if PCE or PERC is used, you can expect clean clothes or bed sheets to come out of those sealed plastic bags you pick up from the laundromat!

    What Else Should You Consider Besides Dry Cleaning For Bed Bugs?

    As we’ve established earlier, dry cleaning through the aid of PERC is an effective method in cleaning your clothes as well as in killing bed bugs.

    However, it should not be your main option in dealing with such infestation since PERC can pose a serious threat to your health and your clothing’s integrity over time.

    Fortunately, you can consider these safer alternatives in battling out these stubborn critters:

    Essential oils

    Essential oils are both effective as a contact insecticide and as a repellent. However, you must make sure that you dilute the oil first before using it. A concentration of more than 50% can be harmful to humans.

    Essential oils that can kill and repel bed bugs while keeping your bedroom smelling fresh and appealing are eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, and lavender.

    Read More: Click here to learn more about eucalyptus oil.


    If your clothes are clean or unused but are infested with bed bugs, then there’s no need to get them dry cleaned. You can simply toss them into your dryer and use the highest temperature setting. This will do the trick, as high heat can kill bed bugs!

    Diatomaceous earth

    Diatomaceous earth isn’t something new when it comes to dealing with bed bugs and other types of household pests.

    Basically, DE is made of ground fossilized remains of diatoms. It is rich in silica and highly abrasive. It works by sticking to the bugs skin and absorb fluid causing dehydration.

    DE is non-toxic and can be used inside homes with children and pets. It is also cheap and can be highly effective in your fight against bed bugs.

    Read More: Click here to learn more about diatomaceous earth.

    Vacuum and steam cleaning

    Vacuum and steam cleaning go hand-in-hand in bed bug control. Vacuum cleaning goes first as you try and take out the bugs clustered along the seams and corners of your mattress, box spring, and bed frame.

    Read Also: What’re good steamers and vacuums for bed bug control?

    Steam cleaning on the other hand, comes next to vacuum cleaning. It is a supplementary step that delivers a lethal blow of intense heat to bed bugs that have managed to escape and survive the suction prowess of your vacuum cleaner.

    Essential Guides