“Good night and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” This is something that is often said while tucking a child into bed, but bed bugs are not a joke. Bed bugs are tiny, almost microscopic insects that live by feeding on human blood. They can cause a number of health problems from simple skin rashes to serious allergic reactions.
So it isn’t quite surprising when a bed bug infestation in a household is taken very seriously. Besides causing a lot of inconvenience, a serious infestation can be quite hard to manage and would likely require the services of a good pest exterminator.
Pest exterminators, however, make use of toxic chemicals to rid a household of bed bugs. This again can lead to a number of health problems, especially if someone in the household is sensitive to chemicals and toxins. As harmful and potent these chemicals may be, they still do not ensure that your household will actually be rid of the bugs.
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What Are Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are tiny, almost microscopic insects that feed on human blood. They are found in an outside environment but may latch on to anything and eventually be brought into a household.
A common example would be a home infestation that starts after a resident stays in a hotel room with bed bugs and eventually brings those bugs with them back into the household.
Bed bugs undergo five stages of growth after being hatched. During development, bed bugs usually have to continuously feed in order to shed their skin.
This is known as “molting.” When they reach full growth, they usually feed every three to seven days. Despite their normal feeding cycle, bed bugs are able to survive without feeding for several months.
Due to their minute size, bed bugs are able to crawl into very narrow spaces and crevices. Full-grown bed bugs are so small they can be easily ignored. They are more active at night when people are asleep. Their bites are painless, which is why the bites are usually noticed in the morning when they have already formed rashes and are itchy.
What to Look for in a Steamer for Bed Bugs
Steamers are not designed to exterminate bed bugs, especially in the case of severe infestations. At their best, home steamers will work only for mild to moderate infestations.
Other than controlling bed bugs, home steamers can be used for other purposes depending on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
There are things to watch out for, however, if you intend to buy a home steamer that is designed to keep your house bed bug free. What features should you look for when choosing a steamer for bed bugs?
The most important feature to consider in a steamer for bed bugs is heat. Bed bugs cannot be eliminated nor controlled by cold air. In fact, steam coming out of the steamer should reach a temperature of at least 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
This should be the temperature after the heat loss resulting from the release of steam into the air. It would, therefore, be better if the temperature of the steam goes above 200 degrees.
In addition to the temperature of the steam, the steamer should be able to produce high steam pressure. It is through the force resulting from high steam pressure that bugs hiding in crevices and very narrow spaces can be forced out and exposed to the heat of the steam.
Bed bugs rarely stay on exposed surfaces, hence the importance of high pressure in order to forcefully expose bed bugs to open surfaces.
It is also high pressure that contributes to the temperature of the steam, as well as its dryness. The recommended pressure for steamers runs in the range of 40-60 psi.
When doing household chores, it is best to avoid interruptions as much as possible. The same thing applies when trying to treat bed bugs with steamers. The less interruptions, the better. It is therefore advantageous that the steam cleaning unit come with a tank large enough to hold water that won’t require you to repeatedly stop for refills.
This allows you to finish the work in the shortest amount of time possible.
A control knob or dial will come in handy by allowing you to be able to adjust the steam pressure whenever needed. Too much pressure in a small environment might just blow away the bed bugs without killing them. Too little pressure won’t force the bugs to crawl out from the crevices in which they hide.
Given these two scenarios, it would be best to have a control knob that can easily adjust the pressure depending on what the situation calls for.
When treating your household for bed bugs, you definitely want to finish the task in the shortest amount of time possible. It usually takes at least fifteen minutes for the water in the steamer to heat up.
In order to make sure that the heater you plan to buy can heat up as quickly as possible, look for a heater that has a high wattage as well as multiple heating elements. It would also help if the steamer can heat up using a direct injection system in order to hasten the heating process.
Steam cleaners can either be full-sized or portable. Although handy, portable cleaners will not come with the attachments that are normally provided with full-sized steamers.
Attachments come in handy in situations where cleaning can pose some difficulty. For example, there are attachments designed to allow you to gain better access to high, hard-to-reach areas. There are also attachments designed to reach very thin crevices where bugs would most probably hide.
Large- and small-sized heads make cleaning convenient for areas of different sizes too!
Features of an Effective Steamer
What should you really look for in a good steamer?
Very Hot Steam
A truly effective steamer should be able to produce steam that has a temperature of at least 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature below that will not do much in terms of eliminating bed bugs or their eggs.
The steamer should have nozzles that will provide coverage for a broad area. Using narrow nozzles increases the workload since you would have to go over a small area several times just to make sure that you have covered all the spots.
It is recommended that the nozzle be at least half an inch wide to allow for proper passage of steam.
Since steam produces moisture, you want to look for a steamer that can generate steam as “dryly” as possible. In other words, what you would want is dry vapor.
Steamers that generate steam that is too wet will leave your things wet as well, giving way to molds. Eliminating bugs while replacing them with molds is a situation which you definitely do not want.
Larger boilers equal lessened heating time, which results in a faster working time. Large boilers are also ideal in situations where you have larger areas of infestation since reducing heating time gives you more time to cover more areas.
Price and After-Service
Everything works within a budget. Buying a steamer is no different. While professional steam cleaners may be more efficient, they are also more expensive.
However, if you foresee the need for professional models due to frequent infestations, it would be better to invest in a professional model.
Make sure that the manufacturer provides after-sales service as well in case repairs are needed in the future.
When choosing a steamer, the first thing to consider is your budget. Setting a price range helps eliminates models that exceed your budget, which can also help in lessening the confusion.
Most manufacturers suggest using slow and methodical movements while using the steam cleaner. This is because quick motion can affect the temperature of the steam coming out, which in turn defeats the purpose of the steamer. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations in order to maximize the performance of your steamer.
Some steamers are designed to do more than just exterminate bugs. Check the steamer’s other functions as well.
Check the tank of the steamer. A bigger tank means less time wasted on refills.
For safety purposes, place a mat or towel beneath the steamer in case of leakage.
Lastly, bed bug extermination methods may be pretty hard to determine and solve. If you are truly in doubt, it is always best to consult a trained professional.