How do you kill bedbugs in a car?

How to get rid of bedbugs in your car

It’s bad enough to have to worry about bedbugs in your home, but what about in your car? Even if you get rid of the bedbugs in your house, but some remain in your car, you could easily carry them back into the house and start the whole process all over again. That is why you have to be extremely careful (and diligent) when dealing with a bedbug infestation – to make sure that you get rid of the bugs everywhere.

Let’s learn a little bit about bedbugs in the car.

Can you get bedbugs in your car?

There are a lot of reports of people getting bedbugs from vehicles, such as taxis, buses, or planes – which makes many wonder – do I have bedbugs in my car?. Unfortunately, the answer is that it is entirely possible. Bedbugs are most commonly found in sleeping areas, within 8’ of a bed. But, that is simply because that is an easy place to get a meal. They are often found in other places where there are people to bite, such as cars.

Bed bugs can very easily attach themselves to clothes, luggage and even pets. If you have been exposed to a bedbug infestation in your home or office, you may have carried a bedbug into your vehicle at some point. Adult bedbugs are about the size of an apple seed, so they can certainly travel unnoticed. Bedbug eggs and larval stages are of course much smaller (and the eggs are extremely sticky), so it’s even easier to carry them to the car.

Once you sit down in the driver’s seat, they can detach and roam around the vehicle, and ultimately, reproduce [A single pregnant female can lay five eggs per day – around 200 to 250 eggs in her lifetime – and she can procreate with her offspring.] Bedbugs also create thousands more offspring than they really need, as an evolutionary defence mechanism. So, even one pregnant female or a few bedbug eggs in your car can lead to a real problem.

Moreover, there are a ton of hiding places for a bedbug in the car. They can hide under the carpets, in crevices in the dashboard, in between or under seats; they can even crawl into a tiny tear in a seat cover. It can be very hard to even know if you have them – until you start noticing bedbug bites on your legs after a car ride.

Can bedbugs survive in a car?

So, if you find that you do have bedbugs in the car, is it something that you need to worry about, or will the problem just work itself out? The answer is, it depends.

Do bedbugs die in the car in winter?

Unfortunately, bedbugs can easily survive low temperatures. In fact, although they tend to prefer warmer climates, bed bugs can actually survive for longer without a meal in cooler climates. Furthermore, they are extraordinarily resilient (if you are interested in the science behind it, bedbugs are actually able to protect themselves in the winter by lowering the freezing point of their body fluids.

Science Daily reports that a bedbug must be exposed to -16 degrees Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures that are sustained for at least 80 hours before it will die. In other words, you could kill a bedbug by leaving it in your freezer for 3-4 days. But, unless you live somewhere really cold (and that stays cold for long periods of time without warming up), your car is likely going to get above that temperature – even if just for a few hours in the afternoon. If the temperature inside the car is even just a few degrees above 3.2F, the bedbugs can survive for weeks and weeks.

bedbugs in the car

Do bedbugs die in the car in summer?

Some people wonder whether bed bugs can live in a hot car at all. Unfortunately, they can. Mature bedbugs will die when exposed to temperatures greater than 113 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 45 degrees Celsius). As anyone who lives in Florida or Texas can attest to, the temperature on the inside of a car can quickly exceed and sustain 125 F (52 C) on a sunny summer day, even when parked in the share. This is more than enough to kill bedbugs.

How then, you may ask, can bedbugs survive in the car? The answer is that bedbug eggs can survive this level of heat. So while the bedbugs in the car may die from the heat, the infestation will remain. You may think that the problem has been resolved when you stop getting bedbug bites after a car ride – but bedbugs eggs will hatch in about 6 to 10 days. Within 1-2 weeks, you will start noticing them once again.

kill bedbugs in car

How to get rid of bedbugs in a car?

The steps for getting rid of a bedbug infestation in your car are very similar to the steps for getting bedbugs out of the house, with a few key differences.

First, you have to make sure that you take everything out of the car that you possibly can. This will eliminate possible hiding places, and reduce the risk that you miss a bedbug that restarts the infestation. Time to get out the big black trash bag and clean out all of the empty Starbucks cups that have fallen on the floor and below the seat. Even make sure that you get all of the trash out of the trunk. If you have seat covers, steering wheel covers, infant car seats, etc., make sure to take that out, too.

Anything that can be laundered (blankets, etc.), wash them and dry them on HIGH heat for at least 30 minutes after it is completely dry.
Anything that cannot be laundered, check if you can steam clean it (be sure to select a steam cleaner that is capable of producing 200 degrees+ of high-pressure steam in order to effectively kill the bed bugs in your car cushions) or apply diatomaceous earth/CimeXa (discussed below).

Some people recommend placing them in black plastic bags in direct sunlight, but remember, you need sustained temperatures of 113 degrees Fahrenheit or more to kill bedbugs, and it is tough to reliably ensure this!

Vacuum and shampoo the floor mats and seat covers and leave them out in the sun to dry.
car rug shampoo for bedbugs
Best carpet shampoo for bedbugs in cars

Next, give the car a thorough vacuuming. This will effectively get rid of exoskeletons, eggs, and mature bugs – but only where you can reach with the vacuum attachment. If you don’t want to use the same vacuum that you use inside, here is an inexpensive portable shop-vac:
shop vac for bedbugs in the car

  • 9 ft. power cord
  • Washable 1 gallon reservoir
  • Plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter socket
  • Includes 3 attachments
  • Check price

Finally, spread a bedbug killer like diatomaceous earth or Cimexa. These are toxic to bedbugs, but they are dessicants, not poisons. They kill bedbugs by drying out their exoskeletons, but are not dangerous to mammals in small doses when applied properly (you must use proper ventilation and a mask, and follow all manufacturer warnings and instructions).

Pay extra attention to the cracks and crevices that the vacuum attachments could not reach. Vacuum again frequently to remove the dust and insect carcasses, then reapply the powder. Be sure to thoroughly vacuum up all of the powder before using the car again.

Diatomaceous Earth vs. CimeXa

An analysis of two common mechanical (non-poison) bed bug treatments
 Diatomaceous EarthCimeXa
Imageis diatomaceous earth better than cimexa?is cimexa better than diatomaceous earth?
MakeupFossilized diatoms (silica based single-cell algae)Amorphous silica aerogel (99.5% silicon dioxide)
Method of killingAbrasion of the waxy cuticleDessication/ dehydration
Percent killed within 24 hours (laboratory)10%98%
Time for 100% mortality (laboratory)10 days1-2 days
Mortality after 1 week (field)12%82.3%
Mortality after 4 weeks (field)8%98.1%
Safe for humansYesYes
Safe for petsYesYes
LinksCheck priceCheck price

*Follow all manufactures instructions in order to ensure safe use for humans and pets. A lot of people prefer DE because it is technically “food-grade” (it is often taken for treating high cholesterol levels, constipation, and for improving the health of skin, nails, teeth, bones, and hair.) Others prefer CimeXa because it tends to kill bedbugs much more quickly and completely. Here is a full comparison of diatomaceous earth vs. Cimexa.

Can you bomb your car for bed bugs?

We don’t recommend it. If you’re going to deal with any poison treatment that could be toxic for humans, it’s better to leave that to the professionals.

get rid of bedbugs in your car

Could a rental car have bedbugs?

Yes – for all of the same reasons stated above, it is possible that a rental car could have bedbugs. Here is how you inspect a car to determine if there are bedbugs
(remember, this is not a surefire method as there could still be eggs that are not easy to see – but it is one way to reduce risk):

  • Remove all trash and clutter.
  • Look for live bedbugs, paying particular attention to seams in your car seats, under the seats, in the glove compartment and the console.
  • Look for other signs of bedbugs, such as dark spots, shed exoskeletons, or blood stains
  • Press double-sided tape against the seats, floor mats and rugs. If you don’t have double-sided tape, you can use regular packing tape and loop it around your hand so that the sticky side is facing out. Check the tape for bedbugs, exoskeletons, or eggs.
  • Drag a credit card through tough-to-reach spots to expose anything not otherwise visible
  • Tiny, red welts after driving (hopefully, you’ve already found them before this!)

How NOT to deal with bed bugs in the car

We do NOT recommend doing any of the following to get bed bugs out of your car:

  • Using any pesticides or poisons in a method contrary with the label and manufacturer’s warnings
  • Gassing the car. We do not advise trying to use chemical pesticides or fumigation inside of your vehicle by yourself. If you are dead set on getting your car fumigated, please consult with a professional exterminator first.
  • Putting bedbug traps in it and hoping for the best. We highly advocate using bedbug interceptors on your bed. This is because the bugs are motivated to get onto the mattress for a meal, so they try to climb up the legs of the bed and get stuck in the trap. If you put a trap in your car, but you are not inside the car, the bedbug will have no reason to crawl into the trap.
  • Getting it detailed and hoping for the best. Car detailing is great for keeping a car spotless, but they only clean what they can touch. This is not a good way to kill bedbugs that are hiding in cracks, crevices, seams, and hard-to-reach areas.
  • Leaving it out in the sun and hoping for the best. This is not a guaranteed way of killing bedbugs unless you live somewhere very hot.

kill bedbugs in a car

It is a good idea to take precautions against bringing bedbugs into your car. This might mean driving right by that tempting secondhand furniture on the side of the road – is it worth it? Additionally, be sure to carefully inspect any sleeping areas while traveling, use a luggage rack at hotels instead of putting your luggage on the floor or bed, and take a very close look at all of your luggage and clothes prior to heading back home.

Remember, bedbugs CAN spread from your car to your house. So, this is not something to ignore. Once you have treated your car for bedbugs, it is smart to take some preventative measures to keep them from getting into your house – in case you’ve missed any. For that, you can check out our other guides on inexpensive bedbug bed post interceptors and bed bug mattress covers.

Thank you for reading about killing bedbugs in your car! Please refer to all manufacturer instructions and warnings when using a bed bug control product. This website is an independent resource. This site receives compensation from the Amazon Affiliates program, which allows us to run this site at no cost to you. Your purchase price and this review are NOT affected. This website receives NO compensation directly from the manufacturers of CimeXa, Diatomaceous Earth, or any other product. We do not necessarily endorse any bed bug products that may appear on the 3rd party ads on this site, which will be clearly marked as such. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies or omissions, or any new information that has been released since the time of publication, or your actions taken as a result of any of these things. Content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for consulting with a professional. If you have any doubts about your ability to safely utilize any of these pest control methods, please consult a professional bed bug exterminator before attempting them. You can find a trusted local exterminator online. Read more about us here.

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