There’s really nothing you can do when hiking through tick infested areas. You can wear the right clothing, use bug spray and soak everything in permethrin and still end up with ticks on your clothes. So what can you do about it?
Do Ticks Die in The Washer and Dryer? Ticks will die in the washer and dryer if you use the high heat setting. Ticks can survive on clothing for days so you need to wash and dry your clothes immediately after getting home. A 15-20 minute cycle in the dryer will dry out and kill ticks fast.
Whether or not ticks dry in the washer and dryer depends on your temperature settings. With the right cycle you’ll be able to kill ticks in minutes.
Killing Ticks In The Washer and Dryer
According to the CDC, you can kill ticks by washing clothing in hot water or placing them in the dryer for 10 minutes. Just make sure you’re using the high heat settings. You might want to check the care tag on merino wool hiking gear.
Make sure you wash and dry your clothes immediately after finding ticks. Ticks rarely infest houses, but they can live for 2-3 days in the hamper so you don’t want to take any chances. You might want to check out my post on dealing with ticks living in carpeting for more info.
Killing Ticks In The Dryer
Using a dryer to kill ticks is the preferred method by the CDC. All it takes is 15-20 minutes on high heat to kill ticks hanging onto your clothing. Some experts claim it takes less than 5 minutes, but better safe than sorry.
Personally, I just run a regular hot water wash cycle when dealing with ticks. Your clothes are dirty so why not wash them. It all depends on how much time you’re willing to spend.
How to Get Rid of Ticks in The Washing Machine
You need to use hot water when trying to kill ticks in the washing machine. Cold and medium temperature water won’t effectively kill ticks. Follow your regular washing instructions, but make sure the water temperature is above 130 degrees.
Head straight for the dryer if you don’t have time to finish a complete wash cycle. It shouldn’t take long to kill ticks in the dryer. You can always come back later to wash up.
Do Ticks Drown in a Washing Machine?
Ticks won’t drown in the washing machine, but they should die if you’re using the high heat setting. Ticks thrive in moisture so they can survive for days underwater.
Getting the water temperature above 130 degrees is the only surefire way to kill ticks. If your water isn’t hot enough a high heat dryer cycle will finish them off.
Does Laundry Detergent Kill Ticks?
Does it matter what kind of laundry detergent I use? Laundry detergents and dryer sheets have not been proven to kill ticks. Use whatever type of laundry detergent you would normally use.
Shower and Check your Body For Ticks
After tossing your clothes in the washer and dryer you should consider heading up for a shower. Taking a shower within 2 hours of being outdoors significantly reduces your risk of tickborne illness.
Ticks can be washed off in the shower if they haven’t started feeding yet. This is the perfect time to check your body for ticks feeling around for slight bumps. Check along your hairline, behind ears, underarms, knees, elbows, ankles and waistline. Ticks like to feed in wet dark environments.
If you feel a tick you’ll need to remove it with a pair of tweezers. Grasp firmly and slowly pull out the tick without crushing it. Try to get everything out and use soap/water to clean the affected area.
It takes 24 hours for the tick to start feeding so you shouldn’t have to worry about Lyme Disease and other tick borne illness. Infection at the wound is your biggest concern so wash thoroughly. Check out the following video for more information.
Keeping Ticks Off Your Clothes
Keeping ticks off your skin and away from your clothes is 99% of the battles. Ticks can’t fly or jump so they aren’t like other biting insects! They just hang out in tall grass and wait for animals/humans to brush against them.
Try to avoid tall grass, shrubs, and thick vegetation. Wear long pants, thick socks, and a long sleeve shirt to minimize the chance of getting bitten.
Remember that ticks can live for days on clothing and they’ll crawl around searching for exposed skin. Cover up your ankles and check everywhere your pant/shirt line. Pay special attention to your ankles and behind your neck along the hairline.
Use Bug Spray and Treat Clothes With Permethrin
Bug sprays containing DEET are by far the best tick deterrent. I really like the OFF! Deep Woods Bug Spray. It’s cheap, effective and it’s easy to find.
You might also want to consider spraying your clothing with permethrin sprays (my favorite). I always spray down my gear with Sawyer Insect Repellent before going on camping and backpacking trips. It’s safer than DEET and also helps with chiggers, mosquitoes, and mites.
Don’t Forget About Your Pets
Since dogs and cats are close to the ground (plus they’re nosy) they’re more likely to pick up ticks. You need to apply a flea and tick repellent like Frontline Plus. Regular Frontline doesn’t work against ticks so pay attention to the label.
Some people prefer natural tick repellents containing peppermint oil, but they don’t work as well. I wouldn’t go that route unless your dog has complications with regular tick treatment.
It’s just not worth risking your dogs health with less effective treatment options. Obviously, I’m not a vet so you might want to talk to them about safe alternative treatment options.