How Long Do Bed Bugs Live In A Plastic Bag? [Answered]

Bed bugs living on the inside of a plastic bag

“How long do bed bugs live in a plastic bag?” is a question that’s asked quite often, and we understand why. Many homeowners have either heard (or hoped) that sealing bed bugs in a plastic bag is an efficient removal method.

But the situation is a little more complicated than that.

This guide goes into the viability of using plastic bags for bed bugs, and the likelihood of them living inside of these plastic prisons.

Let’s get started.

Can Bed Bugs Live In Plastic Bags?

For quite some time, people have been using plastic bags as a place to put bed bugs (and the sheets or clothes that they’ve infested). Not only is this a way to get them out of their living space, but many consider it to be a viable method to kill them. The thought behind keeping bed bugs in a plastic bag is that the insects that are trapped inside will starve and eventually die from lack of oxygen.

But does this actually work?

It’s important to look at the research before you consider making this your go-to method of getting rid of nasty bed bugs. You see, pest professionals caution that the small size of a bed bug makes them difficult to capture, and if they are placed into a plastic bag, these tiny insects only need a small amount of oxygen to survive (and that’s an understatement).

Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Killer

  • Kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs
  • Use spray as a spot treatment around bed frames, mattress seams/tufts/folds, and baseboards
  • Kills even the toughest bed bugs
  • The continuous spray Comfort Wand easily gets into hard-to-reach areas

Therefore, bed bugs can and do remain alive even inside a plastic bag that is sealed tight. But that doesn’t mean the plastic bags you have are useless when it comes to getting these critters out of your house! Read on to learn more.

How Long Do Bed Bugs Live In A Plastic Bag?

Many experts agree that bed bugs can live up to a year (and perhaps longer) while sealed in a plastic bag. These insects don’t need much food and oxygen to survive, so you can’t trust this method to be a primary source of bed bug removal.

Bed bugs will go into a dormant state that helps them stay alive as they will require little to zero food in this condition. That means these pests can live up to and beyond a year’s time even when trapped within a plastic bag. Many make the mistake of thinking that they’re starving or suffocating the bed bugs they keep in bags, when they’re actually quite comfortable (they can live for a long time without feeding).

One ned bug living for a long time inside a plastic bag

But that doesn’t mean you can’t make good use of your plastic bags if you have a bed bug infestation.

Plastic bags are a handy way to transport infested clothing and bedding to the laundry area without cross contaminating other rooms in your home or business building. Bed bugs can spread and transfer rather fast, so separating them from the rest of your home is important.

Be sure to carefully dump the items directly into the washer. Then immediately get rid of the bag outside in your trash bin.

Quick Tip: Plastic bags are also useful to protect clean clothes and other belongings that haven’t been infested with bed bugs as of yet.

Ways To Make This More Effective

While the use of plastic bags to kill bed bugs is likely to fail on its own, there are ways to make this process more effective that every person with a bed bug problem should seriously consider. You can significantly shorten the amount of time a bed bug can live in a plastic bag by taking things one step further.

Some examples of methods that you can combine with plastic bags to help solve your bed bug problem include use of high heat or extreme cold temperatures, vacuuming your home more often on a regular basis, and using a better steam cleaner among others. 

Of course, if you have an infestation problem that has evolved past the point of DIY methods like the ones listed below, it’s usually a good idea to talk to a pest control professional.


It’s recommended to wash any infested clothing, bedding, towels, and other soft belongings in hot sudsy water then drying them on the highest heat possible. 

Afterwards, keep these clean items inside of strong and lid locking plastic totes or sealed heavy-duty plastic bags while you continue the aggressive necessary treatments. Depending on the degree of the infestation and your commitment to the process, it can take weeks, months and even a year to fully get this bed bug problem under control.

Quick Tip: Some individuals swear by the old plastic bag in the sun treatment for bed bugs. This has been known to work in some instances, but it requires a significant amount of sun exposure, the right climate, and consistent repositioning of the plastic bag to see the best results.

Seal Off Air

As already stated, sealing off the pest’s supply of oxygen rich air can indeed work under the precise conditions that a lab may have. But doing so in a standard plastic bag is not as realistic. As we mentioned before, bed bugs can live in a plastic bag for quite a while without much oxygen.

But sealing up the plastic bag tightly should still be your goal. Cutting them off from air will never hurt your cause, and it also goes hand in hand with your ability to keep these insects quarantined from the rest of your home.

Quick Tip: It’s also important to note that the stage of the bug is also going to have an effect on how effective these treatments will be. Eggs will hatch in 7 to 10 days or so depending on the environmental conditions and exact bug species. 

Newly hatched baby bed bugs (also known as nymphs) require more frequent feedings and will usually die faster when effective remedies to eliminate the bed bugs are done concurrently. 

Freeze Them Out

Along with exposing them to heat temperatures of up to 120°F (or more) when in the sun or inside a dryer, we also recommend using extreme cold temperature exposure as well. 

Ortho Home Defense Bed Bug Killer

  • Kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs
  • Use spray as a spot treatment around bed frames, mattress seams/tufts/folds, and baseboards
  • Kills even the toughest bed bugs
  • The continuous spray Comfort Wand easily gets into hard-to-reach areas

Sealing bed bugs in a plastic zip-lock bag and freezing them in a freezer for about 5 days can help to weaken the bugs and hopefully help to kill them over time and with aggressive pest control measures.

Vacuum Regularly & Often

The size of a bed bug is typically about the size of an apple seed, and these creatures can be damaged or killed by aggressive vacuuming on a regular basis.

But remember, it’s best to use a bag inside of your vacuum rather than an open collection chamber. 

This is because bed bugs can live well inside of a vacuum too. Immediately empty your vacuum cleaner bag into a sealed plastic bag and place it outdoors away from the places people congregate.

Use A Good Steam Cleaner

A good steam cleaner can heat up to 150°F and is an effective method of killing bed bugs in their tracks. These machines can loosen and lift up eggs and adult bugs in soft belongings and items such as carpets, upholstery, mattresses, drapes, and more.

Be Careful To Avoid Transferring Bed Bugs To Other Locations

It is essential to nip a bed bug problem in the bud when it’s in the early stages. These pests like to stay close to where their human hosts sleep. This is when they feed on the hosts, leaving you with those slightly raised bumps that itch (especially at night).

This is why it is crucial to avoid transferring these small bed bugs to other locations, making a small problem turn into a huge disaster. Using plastic bags can be helpful because you can use them to quickly take any affected clothes, towels, or linens away.

Quick Tip: Be wary of leaving towels and clothing lying on the floor where bed bugs may be lurking. If they’ve been anywhere near the source of your bed bug issue, put them in a plastic bag as well.

Call For A Professional Pest Exterminator

If all else fails, calling a professional pest control expert is always an option. This is the most effective method of getting rid of a bed bug infestation (although it’s also the most expensive).

To make things a little easier for them, do what you can by putting any affected clothing, sheets, etc. into plastic bags and getting them out of your home. This can save you money in the long run!

Can Bed Bugs Eat Through & Get Out of Plastic Bags?

Bed bugs don’t have a mouth that allows them to bite their way out of a plastic bag. They don’t have teeth or anything that can chew!

Instead, they have a long tube-like sucker needle much like a mosquito. They use this to suck up the host’s blood through this tube for nourishment.

These pests cannot scratch or chew their way through a good plastic bag. However, some grocery store bags made of plastic have smaller holes designed to avoid pets and small children from accidentally suffocating should they get a hold of these plastic bags.

Since bed bugs are so small, they only need a sliver of space to slip through. Using a sturdier type of plastic bag can help, sealing the top with tape and using care when near these bags can help prevent them from escaping.

The Verdict: How Effective Is This Method?

After all this, you are likely wondering what the end verdict will be. Is it possible to use plastic bags to kill bed bugs in an efficient and effective manner? The answer is complex. 

By now it should be obvious that this can’t be your first or only method for eliminating bed bugs. However, you can combine the use of plastic bags with other methods to give you the results you want.

The use of extreme hot or cold temperatures, regularly cleaning the infested areas and taking care to avoid cross contamination can give better results. 

At the end of the day, we think plastic bags can be quite useful when you’re trying to get rid of these persistent insects. We’ve used them more than a few times ourselves! But you’ll need to do a little more if you want to eradicate the bed bug population in your home.


When it comes to how long bed bugs can live in a plastic bag, the time frame is likely too long for your comfort level. That’s why you need to pair plastic bags with other forms of removal for maximum effectiveness!

If you have any questions about the length of time bed bugs can live in plastic bags, or the best ways you can use plastic bags to deal with an infestation, send them to us. It’s always an honor to help out our loyal readers.

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