So you want to de-infest a bunch of stuff, and you want to try doing it with cold?
In colder climates, freezing might be a way to de-infest furniture and other belongings. Bed bugs and their eggs can be killed by very low temperatures, but it is difficult to achieve them without using a deep freezer. Temperatures below 0°F (-18 C) for one to two weeks are generally believed to be needed to reliably kill all life stages. Fluctuating winter temperatures which often extend above this level are probably less effective and are currently being studied by Dr. Steven Kells at the University of Minnesota. Overall and throughout much of the country, heating tends to be a faster, more reliable option than chilling.
Your own home freezer is not going to be cold enough, and even if it was, it would have to remain closed for the duration.
Relying on Mother Nature has failed for some. We’ve had some reports that “leaving things out in the snow for a month” did not work, and this is probably why. Add the fact that what you packed may insulate the bed bugs to a degree (just as a comforter can insulate them in a dryer) and you may be very disappointed.
If you have access to a below O Fahrenheit (-18 C) freezer (check the temperatures), book it for two weeks. It will probably work as per Dr. Potter’s words. Be sure and let us know.
Warning: I would not freeze electronic items. You can ruin the item, and you might even electrocute yourself later.
If you can offer below zero degree F freezing space, feel free to leave a link to your site in the comments below.
(The following was a forum response by nobugsonme, in this thread, to a poster whose PCO suggested sticking things in the freezer for a day to kill bed bugs.)
How cold does your freezer get? Do you intend to open it during the time you are freezing this stuff? How thick is the stuff?
No one can tell you what will work for sure with your freezer. How long freezing bed bugs takes depends on these kinds of factors.
Here’s something else to consider: entomologist Lou Sorkin froze bed bugs. He has a seriously cold freezer. This is what he said:
“I had them in a freezer at -29dF (-34 C) for 4 hours and some 1st instars lived. But [in] 5 days they also died.”
(Taken from the Yahoo Bedbugger Group, click here and join to read message 3739).
Your home freezer is bound to be much warmer than Lou’s professional one.
Also, Lou said in another message that I can’t locate right now, that when he removed some bed bugs from the freezer after shorter period (which I think was within a day, maybe shorter), they appeared dead, and then defrosted and were still alive.
Lou’s data suggests 5 days works if your freezer reaches -29 degrees (-34 C) F. But we have suggested freezing for weeks to be safer, if it does not get that cold.
And freezing does not mean placing it in a freezer you use all the time. If the door is opening and shutting, the temperature will rise each time the door is opened.
Some people have bought $200 box freezers to freeze important stuff. Pricey, but so is tossing shoes and important things out. Putting the stuff in and leaving it undisturbed for two weeks seems promising, but if the freezer does not stay below 0 degrees F, be warned: we really do not know how long it will take to kill bed bugs at other temperatures.
Attention: the above FAQ was written before the invention of a tool which many readers will find useful. The Packtite allows people to easily use heat to remove bed bugs from items such as unwashable clothing, books, papers, shoes, etc. You can read more in the Packtite FAQ.