Dry First To Kill Ticks
Tumble dry your clothes, on high heat (without washing them), as soon as you come back inside. For dry clothes, 10 minutes in a gas dryer, 15 minutes in an electric dryer. For damp or wet clothes, at least 60-90 minutes in any dryer.
Clothes Too Dirty To Dry First?
Wash dirty or muddy clothes in hot water (130°or higher) – cold or warm water will not kill ticks. Then, put clothes in dryer for 60 minutes (high heat) to 90 minutes (low heat), or until completely dry.
Note: If you are unable to wash clothes in hot water, be careful handling them between the washer and dryer, as there could still be live ticks on the garments.
The Science Behind Drying
While immediately throwing your clothes in the dryer might sound like a strange suggestion, there are studies supporting this practice.
Previously, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended tumble-drying clothes, on high heat, for an entire hour after being out in nature.
However, this timeframe was eventually revised down to 10 minutes, after an experiment by a high school student from Braintree, Massachusetts named Jacqueline Flynn challenged the hour-long recommendation.
Flynn’s experiment came about in 2013, after a tick-collecting excursion in the woods. She was wondering about the best and quickest way to remove stray blacklegged ticks from her clothing. And, while she knew about the CDC hour-long recommendation for drying clothes, she felt that the heating/drying timeframe seemed excessive, because of the surface area tiny bug’s body. Ticks are so tiny. Did it really take an hour of heat in a tumbling dryer to kill them? So, she decided to test the practice, and her conclusion was that it would take five minutes at low heat to kill blacklegged ticks.
Flynn not only won first place in her high school science fair for her experiment, but also caught the attention of CDC tick experts, who were impressed with her methodology. Before the CDC recommendations could change, though, the issue required more testing. One big point that needed to be explored was if Flynn’s method would work on blacklegged ticks in earlier stages of development, since she had just tested the drying timeframe on adult of the species.
Then, in 2016, Dr. Christina Nelson – one of the CDC experts who contacted Flynn after her experiment came to the agency’s attention – led a study on the effects of drying on blacklegged ticks at all stages of development. Dr. Nelson’s group concluded that drying clothes on high heat for six minutes would kill all blacklegged ticks present on garments – regardless of the bug’s stage of development.
The CDC ended up recommending a 10-minute timeframe for drying as a safety measure, because the other species of hard ticks known to transmit diseases – the American dog tick and the lone star tick – are more robust than the blacklegged ticks and could require longer drying times.
Remember, though, that these drying times are for clothes that are already dry and are simply being thrown in the machine to eliminate ticks. If your clothing has been washed or gotten damp or wet in some other manner, then you should leave them in the dryer for significantly longer – 60 minutes (high heat) or 90 minutes (low heat).