Putting infested items in a freezer can kill bed bugs if some particular conditions are met. Freezing causes ice to form inside the bed bug, causing injury or death. Freezing bed bugs is easy to do. All it requires is:
- A freezer that is at or below 00F (-18oC)
- Some plastic bags to put the items you want to freeze into
- A remote thermometer
There are some things to know to ensure that freezing is effective and does not cause damage to items.
What can be frozen?
Most dry household items can be frozen, including:
- Cloth items that you cannot (or do not want to) wash or launder
- Modern books
- Electronics without an LCD screen
What should I not freeze?
There are a few items that require caution when attempting to freeze or that should not be frozen. Do not freeze:
- Electronics with LCD panels
- Historic artifacts or old books of considerable value
- Items that cannot be replaced
- Items that may be damaged if condensation occurs
- Items that contain high moisture or liquids inside
You should talk to a Pest Management Professional about treating these items.
What temperatures are required?
- The temperature of your freezer is very important. The lower the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs.
- Freezers set to 0°F are effective in killing bed bugs, but the things you are freezing must be left in the freezer for at least 4 days.
- If you are worried about ensuring that temperatures are low enough, use a remote thermometer and monitor the temperature inside the items you are freezing.
- 0°F must be reached in the center of the materials being frozen to kill bed bugs. Bulky items require more time. Start counting the 4 day exposure time when the center of the object has reached 0°F.
- Do not use temperatures above 0°F (-15°C) as eggs and small bed bugs may survive.
It’s winter, and it’s cold, can I simply put my stuff outside or open the windows in my home?
Unfortunately, no. It is unlikely that it will be cold enough for long enough to kill bed bugs. Sunlight, humidity, temperature variations during the day increase the risk that bed bugs will survive. DO NOT attempt to freeze your apartment or house by opening the windows and turning off the heat. There is a major risk that structural damage will occur and you will not kill the bed bugs.
For additional information on using freezing conditions to kill bed bugs please see this paper: Cold Tolerance of Bed Bugs and Practical Recommendations for Control