Can Carpet Cleaners Spread Bed Bugs?

Updated May 22, 2023

If you’ve bought or rented a second-hand carpet cleaner and now suscept your house was infested with bed bugs, you might wonder – can a carpet cleaner spread bed bugs?

The short answer is “yes,” although it isn’t a common transport for these creatures.

Bed bugs are notoriously good at hiding and creative at traveling. They can get into your house on shoes, clothes, luggage, and even carpet cleaner.

However, the risk of you getting bed bugs from a second-hand carpet cleaner isn’t any higher than the risk of bringing them from your friend’s house (because anyone can have bed bugs).

Don’t panic if you spot bed bugs in your house. Instead, learn how to get rid of bed bugs with a steamer or carpet cleaner and how to prevent bed bug infestation in the future.

How Do Bed Bugs Spread?

To understand whether a carpet cleaner can be the reason you have bed bugs, we should first learn how bed bugs spread.

Despite their name, bed bugs don’t always live in beds. These tiny creatures with flat reddish-brown bodies typically hide in mattresses, sofas, bed frames, cracks in walls, and floors. Bed bugs choose any place with easy access to human blood.

Bed bugs don’t have wings, so they move around by crawling. That’s good news because the bugs need time to spread from one house area to another. However, bed bugs can choose creative ways to get into your home.

Bed bugs can get into your home through walls and ceilings from the neighbors, through pipes, and sometimes, on the shoes of contractors coming into your house or the luggage you bring from the hotel.

In other words, someone might bring bed bugs into their house without even knowing it. Carpet cleaners aren’t an exception. Bed bugs can crawl into the appliance or travel to your house on the contractors’ clothes from a different home.

The problem might also occur if you buy a second-hand carpet cleaner. Bed bugs often go undetected if the infestation is mild, so people you purchased from might have no idea about the “gift” that comes with their carpet cleaner.

Can Bed Bugs Live in Carpet Cleaners?

Bed bugs often hide in high-pile carpets because it’s a perfect place to bite human legs and hide. If you rent or buy a vacuum cleaner that has previously sucked in bed bugs from someone’s carpet, your home might become infested.

A vacuum cleaner can spread bugs because it doesn’t kill them. However, if you rent or buy a carpet shampooer or steamer, an infestation is much less likely.

Steam and hot water are too hot for bed bugs to thrive. These creatures won’t live in an actively used carpet cleaner. They can still travel to your home in an inactive carpet cleaner that stayed in someone’s garage for a while, but even that’s unlikely.

See, bed bugs live as close to people as possible. These bugs are unlikely to choose a carpet cleaner as their home because crawling out of it and finding food is too time-consuming. Someone’s mattress or sofa is a much better spot.

In other words, you are unlikely to get bed bugs if you buy or rent a second-hand carpet shampooer or steamer unless the person kept it next to their bed and never turned it on.

A more severe concern is contractors coming into your house after they were elsewhere because you can’t be sure they’ve cleaned their clothes and shoes. Everyone visiting an affected area is at risk of becoming the transport means for bed bugs.

Can Bed Bugs Lay Eggs in Carpet Cleaner?

It’s easy to spot and kill mature bed bugs, but not their eggs. You might wonder – can bed bugs lay eggs in a carpet cleaner? The good news is that finding bed bug eggs in a carpet cleaner is highly unlikely.

Bed bugs usually lay eggs in bed mattresses and furniture cushions because they are dark, hard to reach, and close to the human or animal they are feeding off. A carpet cleaner might be dark and safe but far from their feeding source.

Occasionally, bed bugs might choose less conventional places to lay their eggs, like bed frames, floor crevices, or under mattress tags. Still, a carpet cleaner is far too unusual.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can kill adult bed bugs and forget about the problem. If you happen to bring bed bugs to your home with a second-hand carpet cleaner, you must treat all areas in your house to prevent parasite spread.

The problem is that you likely won’t notice infestation immediately because bed bugs hide skilfully. By the time you see the first bites, bed bugs will already spread to other areas of the house.

The bugs won’t stay in the carpet cleaner because it isn’t a favorable living environment. Instead, they will move to the closest piece of furniture they find, such as your couch or bed.

If you suspect you’ve brought in bed bugs with a rented carpet cleaner, treat your entire apartment to ensure no eggs are left. Baby bed bugs can live for several months without food, so killing adult bugs won’t help get rid of them.

If you get rid of 90% of bed bugs, the remaining 10% will still mate and lay eggs. After a short time, there will be more bed bugs in your home than ever.

Should You Sanitize the Cleaner Before Use?

Although the risk of infesting your house with bed bugs from renting a carpet cleaner is low, it still exists, and you might be wondering how to prevent it. Sanitizing a second-hand carpet cleaner is always a great idea, and not solely because of bed bugs.

Learning how to kill bed bugs before you begin sanitizing the appliance is crucial because these creatures can be very persistent. They hide skillfully and can resist temperatures as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can disinfect each element of your carpet cleaner with rubbing alcohol, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide, but you might still miss some tight areas where bed bugs hide.

A better way to ensure no bed bugs are left inside the appliance is running it on the highest heat setting. Then, wipe all external components with disinfectant. Heat will kill bed bugs and their eggs.

If some time has passed after you’ve brought the appliance home and you suspect it might have been infested with bed bugs, inspect other areas of your home.

If you notice tiny black specs on the furniture, clothes, cardboard boxes, and other clutter, don’t forget to treat these areas with heat, too. For instance, if bed bugs have moved from the carpet cleaner to the cushions, wash cushion covers in hot water.

Alternatively, you can freeze the covers for several days. Regardless of your preferred method, treat all potentially infested areas because bed bugs can spread quickly.

Will a Carpet Cleaner Kill Bed Bugs?

Contrary to their name, bed bugs live not solely in beds. Bed bugs can live in carpets, too. If you found bed bugs in the carpet, you might wonder whether a carpet cleaner can kill bed bugs.

The answer depends on the type of cleaner you own. The traditional carpet shampooer works by pumping water into the carpet and extracting dirty fluid with a high-powered vacuum.

Theoretically, such cleaners must kill bed bugs. However, it depends on the water temperature and cleaning solution. If the water isn’t hot enough (below 115 degrees Fahrenheit) and you use a mild, eco-friendly cleaner or no cleaner, bed bugs might survive.

Bed bugs will sink if fully submerged in water, but a carpet cleaner doesn’t pump that much liquid into the carpet. Furthermore, bed bug eggs can survive over 24 hours underwater. Even if you kill adult bed bugs, the problem won’t go away.

On the other hand, if the water is hot, bed bugs have no chance. Add a strong carpet cleaning solution, and you can forget about the problem.

If you have a steam carpet cleaner, bed bugs are unlikely to survive. However, you must spend enough time steaming the carpet thoroughly.

Bed bugs are fast – they move three to four feet per minute, which is equivalent to the speed of an adult human sprinting relative to their size. The bugs can sense heat incoming and move to a safer area of the carpet.

You want to clean the carpet with a steamer several times, covering the same area over and over again to ensure no bugs or eggs are left. Don’t forget to clean underneath the carpet, paying extra attention to the seams.

Bed bugs are notorious for hiding in places you would never think of, and many people fail to resolve their bug problem because they neglect areas under their carpet, mattress, or couch cushions.

Remember that pest control firms exist for a reason. Getting rid of bed bugs isn’t easy, so don’t hesitate to call the professionals if you struggle to resolve the issue on your own.

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