How to get rid of bedbugs: Brits admit they are washing their sheets more to prevent bites

Clean white bedding in a room, on an unmade bed
Britons are washing their sheets more often over fears a bedbug infestation might come to the UK. (Getty Images)

As Paris continues to battle its wide-scale infestation of bedbugs, the UK is feeling the itch to clean their homes and wash their sheets more often in a bid to keep them at bay.

A new study by OnePoll has found that a third of British households are cleaning more often in hopes the critters will stay away from their homes.

The poll, involving 2,000 people, found that 37% are vacuuming more and 32% are changing their bedsheets more frequently.

Fears that bedbugs will infiltrate the bedroom have also seen people putting their sheets through a hotter wash cycle (16%) and using more laundry detergent (13%) in an effort to kill them.

Some people are even more vigilant about ensuring they don’t bring bedbugs further into the house than strictly necessary, with 16% changing their clothes as soon as they get home and 12% removing their shoes at the front door.

Bedbugs colony on the matress cloth
Reports of bedbug cases in the UK have risen since Paris began battling a city-wide infestation. (Getty Images)

After commuters in London began sharing videos of bedbug sightings on the London Underground began popping up on social media last week, Londoners have become increasingly concerned about the issue.

More than half (57%) of Londoners polled admitted they are worried about the bugs getting onto their clothes when they take the Tube.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan told Joe Politics last week: “I want to reassure those listening TfL have one of the best regimes to clean our assets on a nightly basis and we’re speaking to our friends in Paris to see whether there are any lessons to be learned. We don’t think those issues will arise in London, but no complacency from TfL.”

Pest control firms in the capital have reported that they are being “inundated” with calls from panicked homeowners about bedbugs. Tony King, owner of Pied Piper Pest Control, told the PA news agency recently that there was a “bedbug epidemic in West London” and believed that international travel was to blame.

Watch: Flight attendant explains how to check for bedbugs when you're travelling

David Cain, founder of Bed Bugs Limited, added that the number of cases he dealt with had gone up from four to five a week in 2007 to 15 to 20 this year. He said: “They’re not just in people’s beds: they’re on public transport, in doctor’s surgeries, cinemas, restaurants - all over the place.”

A spokesperson for OnePoll said: “It’s clear there’s increasing concerns following reports of bedbug infestation in the UK. They can be a nightmare to get rid of and leave painful bites, so it’s no wonder we’re becoming more vigilant about bringing them into our homes.

“If you think you’ve got bedbugs, the best advice would be to contact your local council or pest control service. While some measures might help, it’s unlikely they’ll get rid of bedbugs completely.”

Laundry tips to get rid of bedbugs

It’s good practice to change and wash your sheets every couple of weeks. However, if you have bedbugs or are worried about them, pest control experts have outlined several ways to combat them when you do your laundry.

Check the label on your clothes and sheets

A hand holds up the laundry care instructions on a clothing label
Check the label on each item of clothing before chucking it into a hot wash cycle - not many clothes can withstand high heat. (Getty Images)

While the general advice for getting rid of bed bugs is to wash all your clothes, towels, sheets and washable fabrics in the hottest wash cycle your washing machine has, not everything can withstand high temperatures and you may end up with ruined clothes.

Before you chuck everything into the machine, first sort your laundry by checking the labels on each item and separating them according to what can be washed at higher temperatures and what can’t.

Bed Bug Specialist recommends sorting each lot of clothes into sealed bags, such as a disposable bag with a seal or tie at the top, to avoid spreading any bedbugs to other places are you transport them to the washing machine.

When you do put the clothes in the washing machine, try to ensure that you open the bag inside the machine to stop any bedbugs from falling outside it and crawling elsewhere.

Wash hot, with detergent

A hand turns up the temperature knob on a washing machine to 40C
Washing on a hot cycle can help kill off bedbugs and their eggs. (Getty Images)

If your clothes and sheets can withstand it, research has shown that washing them at 60C for 30 minutes can kill all bed bugs and eggs. Washing clothes at 40C will kill all adult bedbugs, but only 25% of their eggs, so washing at the higher temperature is preferable if you’re able to.

For more delicate fabrics, dry cleaning is “effective in exterminating bedbugs in all stages”, the specialists say.

You also need to use enough detergent so that it comes into contact with the bugs and their eggs in order to get rid of them. According to Empire Pest Control, using laundry liquid, gel or powder that contains bleach is more effective when combined with hot water.

Tumble dry

Put anything that can be tumble dried into the machine and, where possible, let them dry for at least 30 minutes.

Rinse and repeat

Bed Bug Specialists say: “You can also repeat the wash process again, to increase the chances for maximum success and ensure there are no bedbugs hidden away in some seam that has managed to survive the detergent.”

Additional reporting by SWNS

More information on bedbugs:

Bedbug infestations up 65% - how to get rid of them (Yahoo Life UK, 5-min read)

Bed bugs: Expert reveals tell-tale sign to know if you’ve been bitten (Yahoo News UK, 4-min read)

The UK is facing a bed bug epidemic - experts explain why outbreaks are on the rise (Ideal Home, 3-min read)