You’ve probably heard a lot about the spread of bed bugs recently. If it seems as if they’re becoming more common, they are. They, like many other pests, have become resistant to some pesticides that are typically used to get rid of them. As their numbers grow, so does the number of supposedly cheap, easy fixes for the problem. One suggestion making the rounds on the internet is the use of fabric softener sheets to repel the bed bugs. But does this approach really work as BedSheetadvisor?

What Universities Say About Using Dryer Sheets as a Repellent

Dryer SheetSurprisingly, opinions seem to be divided on this question. Some university studies have found that some insects are repelled by dryer sheets. According to About.com, weevils, some mites, beetles that tend to infest food and German cockroaches do tend to stay away from Bounce brand fabric softener sheets. They also point to a joint study conducted by Kansas State University and the University of Illinois that seems to indicate that adult fungus gnats react in a similar manner to the softener sheets. Bed bugs were not among the bugs said to respond by avoiding the sheets.

An article from the University of Minnesota web site doesn’t report on research; instead, it advises students on how to launder items to kill bed bugs and prevent them from spreading. It asserts that some bed bugs will die during washing, but the heat of the dryer is very effective if the dryer is run at the highest possible temperature for longer than half an hour.

What Sanitation and Pest Control Experts Say About Using Dryer Sheets as a Repellent

A logical place to look for an answer other than research studies would seem to be in the fields of sanitation and pest control. Houston JunkGuys, a junk and trash hauling service in Houston, Texas, states on their web site that bed bugs not killed during laundering should be removed from mattresses or other surfaces by picking them up with pieces of duct tape, after which fabric softener sheets should be placed between clean bed sheets and the mattress, inside pillow cases, and in any area in which clothes or linens are stored.

Exterminators tend to disagree. A technician for Dead Hot Bugs in Columbus, Ohio, which specializes in heat treatments, is the author of the Big Bed Bug Blog. He states categorically that dryer sheets do not repel bed bugs, although he’s seen many clients who tried this approach. It always fails. Arrow Services, a leading Midwestern pest control company, has posted a quick fact sheet about bed bugs online, in which they state that dryer sheets do not shy away from fabric softener sheets. The only thing that will help, they say, is professional chemical treatment. Arrow does point out, however, that while the chemical treatment kills bed bugs on contact, it will put an end to an ongoing infestation.