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News Flash! Dryer Sheets Do Not Repel Bed Bugs

By Chris Williams on November 9, 2016.

I read on the Internet that clothes dryer sheets like Bounce can be used to repel bed bugs if you just rub them on your clothes. I bought some to use under my mattress cover. Do you think the dryer sheets would work on my bed as well? L.L., Dedham, MA

Let me start by saying that there is no scientific evidence that dryer sheets have any effect on bed bugs or their behavior. This urban legend started because a director in the Mercer County Board of Social Services in Trenton, New Jersey somehow got the idea that bed bugs would cling to the dryer sheets and could then be removed from employees’ clothing. This county welfare office has occasional bed bug sightings since its walk-in clients are more likely to come from homes or shelters with bed bug problems, and bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers. As a result, the office is on a regular extermination schedule.

In Most Offices, Bed Bugs Are Temporary Pests

One thing the welfare office should know is that full-blown bed bug infestations almost never occur in offices or schools, or sites that don’t have beds or sleeping people (see A Bed Bug in an Office Does Not Mean an Infestation). Without being able to suck blood at night from people, bed bugs can’t reproduce or thrive. That doesn’t mean their presence doesn’t freak out employees. Diligence is called for since the occasional bed bug hitchhiker can be carried, in turn, to someone’s home or to another site.

In an attempt to be “proactive,” a box of dryer sheets was placed in the welfare office’s bathroom, along with a sign that said, “DRYER SHEETS ARE TO BE USED TO WIPE DOWN YOUR CLOTHING IN THE EVENT THAT YOU ARE EXPOSED TO BED BUGS.” The local newspaper reported on the nifty homegrown, pesticide-free way to repel bed bugs and the idea was picked up by the Internet. You know the rest of the story.

This “Urban Legend” Has No Merit

Procter & Gamble, the company that makes Bounce Dryer Sheets, issued a statement, “P&G has no scientific evidence that Bounce Dryer Sheets kill bed bugs and therefore don’t recommend our product for use in this purpose.” Rutgers University bed bug researcher, Dr. Changlu Wang, agreed that using dryer sheets to repel bed bugs is a “money-wasting” method of bed bug control. Actually those dryer sheets don’t have to go to waste because there’s always laundry!

Want to read more about strange urban legends involving pests?

Photo Credit : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #9820.| Public Domain

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